Navigate the posh enclaves of the Hamptons like a local with writer Kate Betts' guide to the best and lesser-known spots to dine, shop, and relax.
Writer: Kate Betts
1 of 6Photo: Pete Turner/Getty Images
Stunning Waterfront Views
Everyone has their postcard-perfect picture of the Hamptons—an indelible first image of the Atlantic's ferocious waves crashing on East Hampton's Main Beach, or the pastel evanescence of Napeague Bay at sunset. Where else in the world do verdant lawns and boxy privet hedges creep so near to the glistening sea? No wonder this landscape—and the light it reflects—has attracted so many generations of artists, from 1891, when American impressionist painter William Merritt Chase started the Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art, to the 1950s, when Jackson Pollock and later Willem de Kooning immortalized it in their work.
2 of 6Photo: Dan Josephs
Times have changed. These days, instead of donuts and penny candy at Dreesen’s, visitors buy $5 ice-cream cones at Scoop du Jour. Places change, perhaps more than people. But if you know your way around this end of Long Island, there are still countless simple pleasures and secret spots to discover.
3 of 6Photo: Ericka McConnell
With farms being the traditional natural resource of the area, many of the East End's best-kept secrets involve fresh food. East End residents and visitors will go to extremes to track down the best ingredients and produce. Most of these farms have been in the same families for generations, which is what makes them so good.
Other pretty places to visit include Sag Harbor’s Egyptian Revival--style Old Whalers' Church, with its grand white facade and prim, peeling pastel interior; Gardinier’s Bay in Springs, and the modest wood-frame house and studio on Accabonac Creek where Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock lived and worked.
5 of 6Photo: Annie Schlechter
A hike along Mashomack Preserve's 20 miles of trails circumventing the coastline is a perfect precursor to an indulgent dinner at Terry and Lisa Harwood's nearby Vine Street Café. Pack a picnic from a not-so-secret spot in Sag Harbor: Cavaniola's Gourmet, where Michael and Tracey Cavaniola sell artichoke-and-Asiago panini, freshly fried potato chips, and bread pudding in a jelly jar.
In Sag Harbor, Bay Burger owners Joe and Liza Tremblay bake their own buns and grind their own beef. They even make their own ice cream, in flavors like Cookie Jar, Mud Pie, and Black Cherry. Each pint comes with the perfect tag line: "It's from the Hamptons, so you know it's rich."
6 of 6Photo: Gordon M. Grant
Thriving Art Community
Another longstanding and vital part of East End communities is their artists, with many in residence (Cindy Sherman, Donald Sultan, April Gornick, Eric Fischl) and new art centers popping up in random places. Who can miss the enormous barn-like Herzog- and de Meuron--designed Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill? Not everything is overscale, though. Former ballet dancer Edsall Williams cultivates an intimate crowd at The Fireplace Project, a contemporary gallery in a onetime garage across the street from the Pollock-Krasner House. Shows for artists such as Martin Oppel, Hernan Bas, and Aaron Young have attracted high-wattage locals like Edward Albee, Paul McCartney, and Gwyneth Paltrow.