My Travels to Fire Island, New York
Last weekend my travels swept me away to one of my most cherished spots; Fire Island. It is so near and dear to me on so many different levels. Maybe it’s the fact that when you are there you are enveloped in nature, surrounded by nothing except sand, sun and sky. Maybe it is because there is absolutely nothing to do but relax and take in the incredible landscape of this magical island that is close to NYC, but feels as remote as the Caribbean.
Fire Island is located 58 miles from Manhattan, including the 7 mile ferry ride (that’s me and my mom on the ferry) from the South Shore of Long Island. It is only 32 miles long and averages less than a mile in width. It is like a sand bar floating in the ocean, which makes the light so spectacular and the sunsets so colorful.
Maybe my love for Fire Island is also related to the fact that no cars are allowed on the island (its way too small). In fact, there aren’t even any roads, just sidewalks and mini boardwalks. Your only forms of transportation are to walk or ride a bike, making it feel like a throw back to a simpler time– and that’s just the point.
I love the way my senses fill with purely natural sights, sounds and scents as soon as I step onto the dock. All you see are smiling and waving faces greeting guests, totting wagons to transport their belongings to their house. The intense light reflecting off the surrounding water is almost startling, as is the intense green of the high grasses and the big sky since there aren’t any high buildings. Your sense of smell is stimulated by the scent of sea salt. Lastly, I can’t help but notice the absence of noise – and just how quiet it is.
The majority of the structures on Fire Island are private homes. There aren’t any large scale resorts – so renting a house is the best option for a comfortable stay. We had the good fortune of staying at a friend’s house that was incredibly located right on the beach in Ocean Bay Park.
With a completely open floor plan, 3 spacious bedrooms, including a master bedroom with a private deck overlooking the beach, it was a great set-up for maximizing the sun, barbecuing and toasting to many more fun times ahead.
Another reason I find the island so spectacular is the 32 miles of pristine, powdery white beaches, with amazing sand dunes. Here you will enjoy completely unobstructed views. It is just beach and dunes as far as the eye can see. The other natural habitats to explore are hiking trails, a “sunken” forest, the tallest lighthouse in Long island and great bird watching.
Pick the Right Place
There are 17 different communities on Fire Island, each with their own distinct personality and vibe. Some are very family friendly, some are very single friendly. some are known for their great nightlife and outdoor bayside dining. Others are completely remote. The LGBT community can enjoy Cherry Grove – a high energy place with loads of entertainment or The Pines which has some of the most architecturally interesting homes on the island. So choosing the right town is essential to getting the most out of your time on the island.
Mostly, this island is so near and dear to me is because it is where my husband and I met 33 years ago, on July 4th weekend in 1983. And its not just us, we know lots of couples who first met on Fire Island. I think the fact that no “shoes are required” during your time on the island makes people feel relaxed and open – a great state of mind for meeting new people.
Helpful Hints and Details for Visiting Fire Island:
- Learn more about the different communities to select the right one for you
- Transportation to Fire Island via public transportation is provided by The Long Island Railroad and runs from Penn Station, to Bayshore – approximately 1 hour and 20 minute ride. View schedules here
- Taxi’s will be at the station to take you to the ferry
- You can drive to the ferry in Bayshore, Long Island and park your car in a lot.
- View the Fire Island Ferry Schedule
- Get details on renting a home on Fire Island
My Travels to Long Beach, Long Island
While most of my Jersey pals were headed off to Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore to celebrate the July4th holiday, my travels to me to hang out with friends in Long Beach, Long Island. Long Beach sits on the south shore of Long Island just passed the Rockaways and Atlantic Beach – only 35 miles from Midtown Manhattan. It is kind of like Asbury Park meets Montauk. It has a very urban feel like Asbury Park, NJ – but there are serious surfers and year round residents like there are in Montauk, NY.
The beaches are much deeper than most Jersey beaches and yes it has a boardwalk – but it doesn’t have cheesy games or food stands. The 2 mile boardwalk was re-built after Hurricane Sandy and has a wide center lane just for bikers.
It is a great spot for New Yorkers seeking a retreat without the need for a car. The Long Island Railroad goes from Penn Station to Long Beach in about an hour and its such a narrow strip you can walk or bike everywhere.
We had our own room with bathroom at an Air BNB on West Beech Street. It is in one of the large old stucco beach houses with a tiled roof and two porches. We even got complimentary breakfast every day and the use of a separate full kitchen just for guests.
The address is 131 West Beech Street and you can see more here. Just a 2 block walk to the beach and into town, the location could not be better. Even on the busiest weekend of the year, the beach is so spacious it never got crowded. You are welcomed to eat and drink on the beach – just not alcohol.
There are plenty of bars on the West End if you are looking for some night life. For us, we were happy to barbecue and dine out at Lost and Found – an amazing foodie experience.
My Travels to Islamorada and Key West
If you love sun, sand and water, but want to stay state side, than a vacation down to the Keys is an incredible trip. Key West is the southern most place in the continental United States and my travels took me there in June. It is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gulf of Mexico and makes for breathtaking landscapes.
The Keys are a series of islands running south from Miami and accessible through extension bridges. The islands sit on rock, so the shores are less sandy and deep as beaches on the West Coast or in the North East. The rock acts as an environmental barrier. The water is incredibly shallow with densely populated underwater grasses, coral, Mangroves and other wild life. This protects the shores from hurricanes and other severe storms. Key West doesn’t get hit because of these “barriers.”
It is possible to fly into Key West International airport, but I highly recommend flying into Miami and taking the drive down Route 1 because it is nothing short of spectacular. On the northern end, the highway narrows to a 2 lane road – one lane for each direction, surrounded by the Gulf on one side and the Atlantic on the other. If feels like a drive through the water and is just amazing. We rented a convertible and it made the 3 hour ride feel like we were already on vacation.
If you a fan of the Netflix series, “Bloodline,” you should recognize this Inn on the left. The series takes place in Islamorada which is the mid point on the way down to Key West and a perfect place to enjoy lunch. Islamorada is officially known as the fishing capital of the world with a huge number of marinas, exclusive resorts and where
The Inn is graciously situated in a cove looking with unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean. It has a really nice restaurant with outdoor seating.
But we were looking for a little more activity so we continued South on Route 1 to Key West. Key West is the largest of the Keys. Water sports, dining, night clubbing, Mo-Ped riding and shopping are just some of the featured activities.
There are several areas worth exploring in Key West. The first is the central business district or “downtown” where there is great shopping, dining and bars. Most of the establishments are on Duval Street with many off shoots – smaller streets with boutiques, home made ice ream parlors and the like. All of the buildings are traditional Southern style, with large columns, front porches and palm trees everywhere.
The second is Mallory Square. This is a pier at the tip of Key West and is best known as being the best place to watch the sun set. The sunsets change seasonally and in the early part of spring your can literally watch as it dips below the horizon. When I was there in June, it sets behind an island and we wouldn’t couldn’t see the horizon. It is still a spectacular view and fun excuse to party.
The third is the historic district. This is the residential part of town and driving around makes you feel like you took a step back to another slower paced, easier time. You can see some of the oldest homes in the entire state and you can easily picture Mint Juleps being drunk on the front porches of these incredibles houses.
My Favorite Places to Go in Key West Off the Beaten Track:
Based on a recommendation from a local resident, we took our Mo Peds and went for breakfast at Five Brothers on Southard Street. The locals vote it the best Cuban coffee and Cuban sandwich in all of Key West and I have to agree it was indeed delicious. There are no tables so you get your order in a brown bag and take it outside and sit on the plastic chairs to enjoy the most delicious Cafe con Leche and a crisp Cuban sandwich that practically melts in your mouth. They don’t have their own website but you can learn more about them here.
Another local hangout for great casual dining on the beach is Salute’s. Be prepared for patrons to have their dogs in tow and to wear nothing more fancy than shorts and flip flops. The food is a unique mix of Italian, Caribbean and a bit of French thrown in. Prices are very reasonable and it is a great place to dine and watch the sunset. The chef is also the owner of Blue Heaven – a more expensive restaurant serving a mix of Caribbean and and Southern style dishes. You can view the menu here.
By the last night, having eaten a plethora of shrimp, and other indigenous fish, I was ready to try Key West sushi. I found Ambrosia – walking distance from our hotel to be an excellent choice. The sushi was creatively presented and incredibly delicious. The decor is super modern and is in the lobby of the Santa Maria Resort over looking the courtyard and pool, which makes it an incredibly dramatic setting at night.
Overall, for a 3-4 day jaunt, Key West is definitely worth a visit.
My Travels to New Orleans
My travels took me to a 3 day business conference in New Orleans, Louisiana in February. I must admit, I was completely surprised to find such a large city full of many different districts, each with their own flavor. My previous misconception was that the only real area worth a visit would be The French Quarter, and it would be two blocks long, touristy and run down.
Instead, I found a city brimming with culture, wonderful food, luscious landscapes and a variety of neighborhoods. Boy, was I wrong.
New Orleans is a sort of French Miami, with boundless energy, art, music and food. What could be bad? There are lots of neighborhoods to explore from the French Quarter (though Bourbon Street is the least interesting street in the Quarter), the Garden District, the Warehouse District (think SOHO before it became a mall) and Uptown (more like Madison Avenue except more interesting. There were absolutely no signs of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation 15 years ago.