When my friend offered up her family’s beach house for a weekend getaway on Fire Island, I quickly set aside my beach towel and sun hat as motivation to get to Friday. Up until this point my perception of Fire Island was shaped by (1.) a scene from the ridiculous movie What Happens in Vegas when Cameron Diaz dramatically runs away from Manhattan when she realizes she’s in love with Ashton Kutcher and (2.) that Will and Jack often vacationed there in Will & Grace. Based on these two things, my expectations were somewhat nondescript, but I’m always game for the beach so I continued excitedly packing my bags.
The first thing my friends asked when I said I was journeying out there was, how does one even get there!? Planes, trains and automobiles, of course! (Slight exaggeration on the plane bit, but if you have the money I’m sure it’s an option.) Since Fire Island is a barrier island nestled five miles off the coast of Long Island, we took the hour-long LIRR train ride to the Bay Shore stop, and then boarded a $4 shuttle bus to take us to the Fire Island Ferry. The 30 minute ferry ride afforded us views of a sparkling sunset and opportunity to marvel how we just took three modes of modern mass transit in a measly two-hour period to arrive at Ocean Beach.
Ocean Beach must be one of the most adorable, time-stamped towns I have ever seen. Right next to the ferry port are wagon racks, and since no cars are allowed on the island each family simply loads their baggage onto their wagon and shleps kids, bags, and dogs back to their 1960’s and 70’s decorated homes. All the streets are wide pedestrian and bike-cruiser sidewalks, and if the day is clear you can stand in the middle and see the beach from both sides of the quarter-mile wide island. Most of the homes look quaintly dated with wood-paneled walls, which are properly adorned with seashells, fish and various aquatic tchotchkes that some grandmother collected 45 years ago and nobody dares to throw out.
The town is equally as cozy, offering a few bars, ice cream shops and jewelery makers that have been in business for decades and provide quite a contrast to the commercialization that has hit the Hamptons the past few years. My friends and I went out for dinner in town on Friday night and stopped by a bar for a drink and a round of darts. We were under the pretense this was a family town and most places would close up shop early. We could not have been more wrong. Shortly after our arrival, the bar erupted in a fury of ex-frat-dawgs and their female counterparts and it became readily apparent this was a mecca for young professionals escaping the city. The scene unfolded like a typical frat night out, replete with shots, dancing, strobe lights and drunkards eating pizza while clinging to lampposts for support. Though the town itself was reminiscent of my parent’s generation, the nightlife screamed college and, though a blast, at one point I felt undeniably old. Maybe that’s just because I was still the loser wearing my work chinos.
As far as the beach goes, Ocean Beach was beautiful. Since the island is 31 miles long, it is easy to walk for miles uninterrupted, in search of colorful sea glass and seashell treasures. The Atlantic was frigid as ever, but I’m convinced water that cold rejuvenates the body and soul in some fashion. Keeping with the frat culture from the night before, there was also no shortage of frisbees, footballs and even boccee balls being tossed around, making for a good beach activity scene. I’ll definitely be back—but probably sans chinos next time.
Note: Sadly, this trip meant I would be skipping out on my highly-anticipated Run Amuck competition—Number 5 on the Summer Bucket List, but given a weakened knee/hip situation, skipping the race was probably the best. The good news is that I crossed off Number 7, and got to work on Number 25 (with a little sunburn, of course). Thanks for the weekend vacay, diligent post-reader, Jenna!