8 Romantic Things to Do On Fire Island NY Along the Wild Atlantic Ocean

Cars are not allowed on most of Fire Island, where Mel Brooks, Tina Fey, and John Lennon summered, and Maurice Sendak wrote: “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Thirty-one miles long and just 1,300 ft. wide, this barrier island, 26 miles of which consists of the Fire Island National Seashore, helps to protect the South Shore of Long Island NY, from the temperamental Atlantic Ocean.

Bay view, Fire Island NY
Bay view, Fire Island NY

Fire Island is the regular guy’s Hampton’s, the New Yorker’s “Vineyard,” and it’s just a 25-minute ferry ride from either Bay Shore or Sayville on Long Island, depending on the community you intend to visit.

The island is flanked by two beach Parks: Robert Moses State Park on its western end, and Smith Point County Park on what was before Superstorm Sandy cut the Fire Island in two, its eastern end. There’s vehicle access to both parks via the Robert Moses Parkway and William Floyd Parkway to Smith Point, but cars are not allowed in the residential communities in between. Ergo – the Fire Island Ferries.

To beat the crowds, plan to go in late April, or early May, when the weekend ferries, which ply the Great South Bay from the mainland, expand service. It may not be warm enough to boogie board. But it’s plenty pretty and perfect for surf casting.

As Fire Island is smack on the Atlantic Ocean, it’s oh so romantic year round. And so it’s included on the Getaway Mavens Best Romantic Getaways in New York State.

Community of Seaview rules, Fire Island NY
Community of Seaview rules

WHICH HAMLET? Moving West to East, eight communities are accessed from Bay Shore ferries: Kismet, Saltaire, Fair Harbor, Dunewood, Atlantique, Robin’s Rest, Ocean Beach, Seaview, and Ocean Bay Park.  From Sayville, catch the ferries to Point of Woods, Cherry Grove and The Pines.

Ocean Bay Park Ferry Dock, Fire Island NY
Ocean Bay Park Ferry Dock

Most day-trippers and tourists go to Ocean Beach, which has the most amenities, the island’s only boutique hotel, and plenty of restaurants and shops.

While Fire Island was once code for gay (at least according to Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, which was banned from using the word “homosexual,” so would swap it out for “Fire Island”), the LGBT neighborhoods are concentrated in Cherry Grove and The Fire Island Pines.

Most of the other hamlets have their own identities, from insular to boaty; family to inclusive. Check here for a snippet on each one. Each community has its own ferry, so be sure to get on the right one!

Fire Island Ferries

You’ve figured out where to go. Now, on to the ferries. Parking is $12/day Mon-Thurs. $20 per car per day Fri-Sun and ferry round trip is $26 per person. A few years ago, ferry tickets were cash only, when going back to a simpler time began at the ferry dock. Now, you can purchase your fare online.

Fire Island Ferry to Seaview from Bay Shore NY
Ferry to Seaview from Bay Shore NY

In late Spring, you’ll most likely join a bunch of summer residents, each with backpacks, rolling luggage, some boxes and a dog or two: In other words, with stuff normally packed in the trunk of a car.

Cars, as I’ve mentioned before, are not allowed in the residential areas of Fire Island because the whole point of being there is the Atlantic Ocean beach. And even if you rent a house on the bay-side, it’s at most a 1,300 ft. walk.

When you disembark, you’ll notice a “Wagon Park” steps from the ferry dock, with privately owned wagons locked up like bikes. This is how the locals move stuff around.

Wagons waiting at Fire Island ferry dock
Wagons waiting at Fire Island ferry dock

Best Things to Do In Fire Island


Walking Fire Island NY
Walking Fire Island NY

Beach It

Fire Island Beach off season
Fire Island Beach off-season

You’ll find Fire Island’s pristine beaches nearly empty in the Spring. Come summer, though, the place teems with home owners, seasonal renters, and their guests doing the things beach-goers do: swimming, surfing, and sunbathing.


Surf casting, Fire Island Off Season
Surf casting, Fire Island Off Season

Ride Bikes

Bikes on Fire Island NY
Bikes on Fire Island NY

Get Close to Wildlife 

Fire Island deer are particularly tame.

Tame deer on Fire Island NY
Tame deer on Fire Island NY
Sunken Forest, Fire Island Photo Credit, Finnbogi Helgason on Flickr
Sunken Forest, Fire Island Photo Credit, Finnbogi Helgason on Flickr

Sunken Forrest Preserve

In the middle of Fire Island, this 50-acre preserve sits below sea level and features dunes and gnarled, tough foliage and beachwood while it’s still growing.  Stroll on boardwalks through this singular place. If you come to Fire Island just to visit the preserve, take the Sailor’s Haven ferry from Sayville, NY, which runs from May – October.

Fire Island Lighthouse, Just East of Robert Moses SP 

In the early 1900s, the Fire Island Lighthouse was the first sign of land for immigrants to the United States. Still in operation, it now serves as a museum and tourist attraction, open daily from 10-4. You can get here by driving to Robert Moses State Park, parking in its westernmost lot (Field #5), and walking 3/4 of a mile to the lighthouse. Or by taking a water taxi from Kismet.

Smith Point County Park

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused a beach breach, cutting Smith Point Park off the rest of Fire Island. However, you can still access this popular County Park by car via the William Floyd Parkway. In July 1996, TWA Flight 800 exploded offshore over the Atlantic Ocean 12 minutes after taking off from JFK.  There’s a memorial to the 230 passengers who lost their lives that day.

Restaurants on Fire Island NY

Restaurants range from clam shacks to pizza parlors to sports bars with no big culinary buzz about any one place. CJ’s  (“Home of the Rocket Fuel”) and Castaway Bar & Grill are popular choices in Ocean Beach.

Some regulars believe that you can find the best restaurants in The Pines. I’d say go with your gut on this one and experiment. You’re parting from your own grill for the beer on tap, fresh seafood, and good times, anyway.

Where to Stay on Fire Island NY

New house, Fire Island NY
New house, Fire Island NY

You can rent a house through VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) for as few as three days. Rates average $2,000-$30,000 per week depending on season, size of home and location.

The Palms Hotel. It’s a cute boutique right on the beach. Rooms are very small but witty and shore-comfy.


  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.