East Hampton, New York
Strolling along the broad stretches of white sand, listening to roaring waves and passing the glorious mansions of Lily Pond, it's easy to forget that East Hampton is an extension of New York City's Brooklyn and Queens.
In the early 20th century, this remote farming village began attracting wealthy families and successful artists seeking refuge from nearby New York City. The 1950s saw the arrival of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Truman Capote. The '80s greeted Steven Spielberg and Lorne Michaels. And the '90s made way for Jennifer Lopez and rapper Jay-Z. The upper elite of American society life still resides in East Hampton, but these days you'll also knock elbows with Martha Stewart at the bakery (when she isn't making her own scones) and maybe catch a glimpse of P.Diddy and his entourage around town.
So what has changed since the farmers stopped milking? Fancier restaurants, longer lines and the addition of velvet ropes. What hasn't changed? The charming, small-town feel, the beautiful scenery and the serenity. And you don't have to look too hard to find the primary timeless attraction that lured such beautiful people here over the years -- the majestic beaches.
The scenery of East Hampton is something out of a tabletop picture book. Along Main Street, working windmills from the 18th century stand tall, towering elm trees shade passersby and the Town Pond with its swans and a 300-year-old cemetery add to the elegance. There are incredible colonial homes -- many of which are historic landmarks -- the first prep school in the States, Guild Hall (one of the premier art institutions on Long Island), and a pint-sized, 1-room schoolhouse. At the end of Main Street past sprawling yards and fences surrounding huge homes is Main Beach, where perfect white beaches and incredibly tasty lobster rolls await enjoyment. If you don't dig the surf, roam through thousands of acres of white pines in Northwest Woods. And if you just don't want to deal with Mother Nature, take part in gallery hopping, antiquing and shopping -- not to mention celebrity spotting.
East Hampton is the perfect summer getaway, but the town is equally beautiful, calmer and much more serene during fall and winter. Without the hipsters and crowds, the village is brought back to its original charm. You can still enjoy the beach without harmful rays and dine in the restaurants that wouldn't give you a table before Labor Day, though you probably won't see Robert DeNiro or Tom Hanks.
Where to Stay
Best Bed & Breakfast
The Mill House Inn
Web site: www.millhouseinn.com
Proprietors Sylvia and Gary Muller got it just right when they chose to dress the beds in each of the 8 rooms of their Inn with fine linens and heavenly down pillows. This 1790 colonial house is decorated with gorgeous antique furniture and comes complete with whirlpools and gas fireplaces. Classic leather sofas, exposed beams and The New York Times keep visitors cozy and content in the living room. But the best part of Mill House is breakfast. With over 20 choices on the menu, it's a good idea to share a few different dishes. The smoked Atlantic salmon served with an asparagus, salmon and goat cheese salad and crispy fried potatoes is divine. The fresh mozzarella, pesto, Parma ham, spinach and roasted pepper frittata approaches perfection. And the eggnog brioche French toast with créme Anglaise and sautéed apples is fluffy and delicate. Flip over the menu for a complete list of the area's daily events.
Best Elegant Inn
The Baker House 1650
Web site: www.bakerhouse1650.com
The Baker House 1650 is a beautifully restored English manor house with expansive fireplaces and a formal English garden that houses a 200-year-old wisteria vine. Incredible care has been given to the 5 guest rooms and is evident through the William Morris fabrics and wallpaper, thick comfy robes, fluffy beds, claw-foot tubs, antique chests and wicker sofas. Some of the beamed ceilings and paneled doors are remnants from the 16th and 17th centuries. Try and book The Maidstone room; it overlooks the garden and has a fireplace and 2-person whirlpool tub. Take advantage of the inn's spa, which features an indoor lap pool, sauna and steam shower. In addition, you'll be a stone's throw from the Town Pond, where you can cavort with swans.
Best Family Hotel
East Hampton House
Web site: www.duneresorts.com/ehhouse.html
From the outside, the East Hampton House looks like an attractive, better-than-average motel. Behind the white brick building, however, visitors will be pleasantly surprised to find 5 acres of beautifully manicured gardens, private tennis courts, a heated swimming pool and children's play area. There are 52 units ranging from 1-room studios to 2-room suites, each with private sun deck or patio, air-conditioning and cable TV. During the summer, a substantial continental breakfast is served and the main shopping area and beach are only minutes away. East Hampton House is open year-round and is very popular, so book as early as possible
Best Budget Accommodations
The Dutch Motel and Cottages
Web site: www.thedutchmotel.com
This is a fabulous place to stay regardless of whether you are a budget traveler. Each of the 28 units has a full kitchen, kitchenette or refrigerator, cable TV and air conditioning/heating. The rooms range from studios to cottages with amenities such as Jacuzzis, fireplaces and private decks. The cottages are well worth the extra money. The Dutch Motel will supply non-resident beach passes but not beach towels, and this is one of the few places in the area that allows pets. There are certain restrictions, however, so check with management before packing Rover into his cage.
Food & Drink
Where to Eat
With its casual name and remote residential location, Wolfie's Tavern is a welcome change from the overly coifed, fancy-clothed, are-you-on-the-list establishments in the center of town. Authentic local haunts often intimidate renters and hipsters, which in this case is a good thing. Wolfie's is no dive -- the words "East Hampton" and "dive" don't exactly fit together. The bar is clean and spacious and filled with well-groomed, Beach Boys-type fellows. Classic rock plays on the stereo and the drinks are pretty hefty.
Best Waterfront Atmosphere
East Hampton Point
Web site: www.easthamptonpoint.com
East Hampton Point is one of the most romantic settings on the East End. The view of Three Mile Harbor perfectly complements the simple and understated decor of the restaurant. Guests are quickly enamored by favorites like the seared local sea scallops over sweet corn polenta, with pancetta and watercress salad topped with a porcini thyme nage, a wine-infused broth. There's no time like a trip to the Hamptons to indulge in something as rich as the grilled 16-ounce dry-aged New York strip steak with potato au gratin, roasted peppers, basil, haricots vert and crispy onions. The Point also boasts an outdoor deck with a cheaper menu.
Best Local Seafood
Web site: www.thelaundry.com
Since 1980 its name has grown synonymous with extraordinary East Hampton food, and local celebrities, artists and writers have been calling it their hangout for years. Don't be surprised to see Chevy Chase, Billy Joel or Alan Alda bellied up to a table. The restaurant has been so popular that it became the first in the seasonal Hamptons to stay open year-round. The restaurant takes its name from its heritage: in the early 1900s, the location was home to an old steam laundry. These days, patrons will find a warm, cedar interior and an ever-changing array of dishes that reflect the freshness of the menu and its local flavor. Specials include jumbo lump crab cakes served with avocado salsa and chipotle vinaigrette and grilled organic Scottish salmon with heirloom shell beans, Tuscan kale, pancetta and a tangy horseradish vinaigrette.
Best Family Restaurant
Web site: www.turtlecrossing.com
Just as many East Hampton inns do not welcome children, more than a few eateries will not tolerate the little ones. At Turtle Crossing, however, no one seems to notice. This unassuming East Hampton joint offers mighty fine barbecue and was named the Best BBQ on Long Island by The New York Times. A bowl of smoked barbecue brisket chili with a slab of sweet cornbread is a wonderful, well-flavored starter. The Oh Yeah! rack of smoked barbecue ribs is a sure winner, and the chocolate pineapple bread pudding with raspberry sauce is an excellent way to end a messy and heartburn-inducing feast. The entire menu is available for takeout as well.
What to Do
Best Kid Stuff
Old Hook Mill
Built by Nathaniel Dominy IV in 1806, the wind-powered Hook Mill incorporates the original main post of a 1736 mill built on the same site. This is 1 of the best surviving examples of the windmills that once dotted the East End's landscape, grinding grain and sawing lumber. In the early 1900s the village of East Hampton purchased the mill, which was restored to working order in 1939. It operated seasonally into the 1950s and is now maintained by the village. An amazing specimen of wood technology, the mill is open to the public for tours during the summer.
Best Day Trip
Montauk Lighthouse and Museum
Web site: www.montauklighthouse.com
First president of the United States George Washington chartered this lighthouse in 1792. Located at New York State's easternmost tip, its initial purpose was to warn ships approaching the large landmass in order to prevent shipwrecks. The lighthouse stands about 69 feet above sea level on Turtle Hill, the hill where Montauk Indians once lit fires to call warriors to council. An excellent museum in the keeper's dwelling displays historic artifacts, reproductions of Coast Guard Vessels and a video, narrated by none other than Dick Cavett. Climb the 137 spiraled steps to the top of the lighthouse for an incredible panoramic view. Rumor has it that the Montauk Point Lighthouse -- not the Statue of Liberty -- was the first landmark to greet generations of immigrants.
Best Abstract Expressionist Appreciation Activity
Pollock Krasner House and Study Center
Web site: naples.cc.sunysb.edu/CAS/pkhouse.nsf
Visitors with an artistic edge can check out the farmhouse once shared by the gifted and often emulated abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner. Walk across the paint-covered floor on which Pollock placed his canvas (he chose to paint on the floor rather than the wall). Explore the couple's personal possessions including furniture, Pollock's stereo system, hundreds of jazz records and the artist's personal library. The Study Center houses an art reference library built around the personal papers and catalogues of artists and historians who played an integral role in the birth of the abstract expressionist movement.
Best Excuse To Booze During the Day
Long Island Winery Tours
Web site: www.wolffer.com
Viticulture is a big business on Long Island's East End, and visitors will certainly gain a better appreciation of the bottle after touring one of its new, successful wineries. More than 22 years ago Hamburg-born Christian Wolffer decided to transform a 14-acre potato farm into a winery. The estate now spans a whopping 170 acres and includes the 100-acre Sagapond Stables and Equestrian Center, Wolffer farm, and the newly opened farm stand that sells Wolffer cheese (a flavorful Swiss) and more than 12 varieties of wine.
The Wolffer Estate is just 1 of more than 20 wineries in the area. For information, maps and other details about East Hampton wineries, contact The Long Island Wine Council at 631-369-5887 or visit www.liwines.com.