The Heart of Fire Island

There are few restaurants and no cars, and many homes still have rotary phones. Fire Island, just 60 miles from Manhattan, quietly but fiercely maintains its right to live in the past. And that’s why its future looks so bright.
By Peter Greenberg

At night, I will meet up with other residents and order a draft beer at Houser’s Bar in Ocean Beach, established in 1930. The pool table and the precarious dart board haven’t changed in 40 years. The floor sags in places, and there is no dress code—just common ground among friends, and another spot on Fire Island that feels like home.

GET HERE
Fire Island is accessible via ferry or private vessel. Fire Island Ferries provides service from Long Island to Ocean Beach, Seaview, Ocean Bay Park, Fair Harbor, Dunewood/Atlantique, Saltaire, and Kismet; fireislandferries.com.

STAY
THE PALMS HOTEL FIRE ISLAND
On an island of casual beach cottages, The Palms Hotel stands out as a more upscale resort. In its Palms Bay East annex, rooms include kitchenettes. Rates start at $245; 631/ 583-8870 or palms hotelfireisland.com.

GROVE HOTEL
Situated in Cherry Grove’s eclectic down- town of boutiques, bars, and restaurants, the Grove’s rooms may be small and basic, but you’re within walking distance of all the action and the beach—with very reasonable prices year-round. Rates start at $75; 631/597-6600 or grovehotel.com.

FIRE ISLAND HOTEL & RESORT
This historic property in Ocean Bay Park (an area of mostly vacation rental homes) used to be part of a Coast Guard station; it has plenty of cozy charm, plus a heated pool. Rates start at $235; 631/583-8000 or fireislandhotel.com.

EAT
THE HIDEAWAY
Go for the seafood, linger for the bayside views on the deck. The Hideaway in Ocean Beach is one of the pricier options on the island, but well worth the money. Start with mussels with saffron chorizo, and then move on to the Berkshire pork chop with bourbon sauce; 631/583-8900 or housersfireisland.com.

CHERRY LANE CAFÉ & RESTAURANT
Cherry’s is a classic Cherry Grove institution. With a dance floor and decent cocktails, it can get crowded at night. By day, it’s a great spot to sit on the deck with a drink and a bucket of shrimp, clams, and mussels—or satisfy late-night weekend cravings with a basket of fried calamari; 631/ 597-7859 or cherrysonthebay.com.

THE KISMET INN RESTAURANT AND MARINA
This quirky beachside staple has been around since 1925 and still serves just what you want afer a day at the beach—seafood both fresh and fried. The blackened mahi mahi and the baked clams shouldn’t be missed; 631/583-5592 or thekismetinn.com.

LE DOCK
In the tiny hamlet of Fair Harbor, Le Dock puts an Asian twist on fresh calamari, tuna tartare, and sof-shell crabs. The intimate dining room isn’t inspiring, but the bay views outside are stellar; 631/583-5200.

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