East of East Hampton is the small hamlet of Amagansett. This unique enclave is for those who place a high value on enchantment and appreciate the subtle pairing of quiet with the understated luxury.
The drama here is nature's own, starting with the Amagansett Wildlife Refuge. Within this 36-acre protected area is one of the Island's very rare undeveloped coastal beaches, which is distinguished by their unique double dune system. The primary dunes are a barrier reef to the Atlantic Ocean. The secondary dunes proliferate with flora, from Cape Cod-like cranberry bogs to rare varieties of orchids. Spend some time looking out on this extravaganza and you will feel like you have found the missing piece to the puzzle.
Main Street separates the sprawling farmlands to the north of Amagansett and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The mix of quaint and chic establishments, plus the legendary Farmer's Market on Montauk Highway, are well-known on the East End and well beyond. For those that live in Amagansett, it is just the neighborhood.
Casual isn't a look in Bridgehampton. It's a life style.
Grab your shorts and a t-shirt, throw on the SPF 15, and let the day happen. The hardest work in Bridgehampton is deciding which fabulous white-sand ocean beach you want to go to: Sagg Main, W. Scott Cameron, or Mecox. On the way you'll see stretches of verdant farmland, including Channing Daughters, one of the South Fork's three superb vineyards. Bridgehampton is about letting the relaxed, fun-loving side of yourself take over. It's about seeing yourself in different lights. If you need an actual manifestation of that, visit Dan Flavin's fluorescent installations at the Dia outpost in town. Or look at your kids' faces when you take them to the Children's Museum, with a quick stop at Candy Kitchen for home-made ice cream before returning home. It's impossible to talk about Bridgehampton without mentioning the annual Hampton's Classic horse show, the Mercedes-Benz Polo Challenge, the chamber music festival, and the antique shows. But that said, imagine yourself there in great shape, just the right amount of tan, and in your comfortable jeans.
Located at the South Fork's midpoint, East Hampton has the woods, the Springs, five ocean beaches, and a celestial light that is particularly divine at sundown.
Living here means knocking elbows with celebrities from the arts, business, and politics and with the village residents who embody East Hampton style. And walking down Main Street is an exercise in beauty: from the 200 year old elm-shaded lanes, to the world-class village shops and the historic buildings.
Everything in East Hampton resonates. When you marvel at the view, you know that renowned artists Childe Hassam and Willem De Kooning were inspired by it, too. There is the thrill of Georgica Pond and its estates, the frisson of Grey Gardens, and the down-home quality of the East End Organic Community Farm and its roadside stand. Ride your horse, body surf the waves, dine al fresca, bring your friends and family together. Live your life.
East Hampton sets the bar. East Hampton is excellence without compromise.
Drive past the ocean-facing towns of Southampton, Water Mill, and Bridgehampton and you'll find the beauty of the bay "north of the highway": Sag Harbor.
Main Street is a picture-perfect vision of what an ideal town should be: leisurely, family friendly, featuring unique boutiques, and top restaurants. Add to that the cultural caché of the Bay Street Theatre with the celebrity cache; American Hotel and you have a formula for the good life.
Sag Harbor's pedigree as a major whaling port during the 1800s is evident in its architecture, which has been meticulously preserved by its house-proud owners of today. Walk down Sag Harbor's streets and you'll see grand Greek Revival mansions, old Victorians with all the gingerbread, charming cape cottages, and authentic saltboxes.
Warm weather mariners have an embarrassingly rich array of marinas, yacht clubs, and docks to choose from. Sag Harbor's shores, with the vista of Shelter Island in the background, provide sand and pebble beaches with gentle waters. Those who hear the siren's call know that home is where their heart is: Sag Harbor.
In 2006 Sagaponack was ranked number one on Forbes.com's list of the most expensive zip codes in America.
Sagaponack's classic shingled mansions on wide open spaces is one good reason why. This luxury of land contributes to unexpected juxtapositions, such as horses cavorting in a pasture next to beach. Choosing a beach can be a dilemma. Gibson Beach or Sagg Main Beach? The beautiful ocean beaches are everywhere here. And so are the beautiful people.
Sagaponack is among the most private of Hamptons' hamlets. The word "town" is a euphemism that refers to the post office and the Sagg Main General Store. Get a sandwich, mail a letter -- really, what more do you need? Sagaponack is about how you live, and everyone in this zip code has that down.
Add Wolffer Vineyard to the good life in Sagaponack. Sit out back, enjoy a tasting, and look out onto 55 acres of prime grapes. It feels like the Italian countryside. Yet another reason to toast Sagaponack.
History describes Southampton as a village known for its quiet elegance, magnificent estates, and fabled residents. It is a reputation that still fits Southampton today.
Of all the South Fork's Hamptons, it is Southampton that still exudes a gentility that you can feel from Main Street to Peconic Bay to all seven miles of oceanfront south of the highway. It's worth noting how you feel teeing off at the Shinnecock Golf Club, the oldest private 18-hole golf course in the United States. Or shopping in town, where the Parrish Museum, a landmark destination for American art lovers, is as much an anchor as Saks Fifth Avenue.
Southampton is all high-end. But it's not all high-brow and high-priced. There is the foodie pleasure of a BLT at Silver's restaurant or anything at Tate's Bakery. The magic of finding a secret cove and making it your special place. Or sitting out back and having a barbecue with your friends. In Southampton, you can do it all.
Loving the Hamptons is easy to do. Getting there, especially during peak months, can be a horror. But if you live in Wainscott, the bauble-sized outpost south of the highway and west of Georgica Pond, you can make the trip in a half hour.
All you need is a helicopter, which is the preferred mode of transportation of so many who live here. The convenience of East Hampton Airport is one of the amenities you can take for granted. So are the pristine sand beach, the roaring chant of the Atlantic, and the fabulous beach homes Wainscott is known for.
A visit to Wainscott is not complete without a detour to the Seafood Shop, where the piscatorial delights include possibly the best lobster roll ever. Then go around the corner to Breadzilla, where every handcrafted calorie yields a magic moment that is better than Proust could have imagined.
The American Revolution is modern history to Water Mill, where grist for its water-powered mill was first ground in 1644. But it was the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road, in 1875, that shaped the Water Mill of today. That's when the rich and mobile of Manhattan turned this farming and fishing community into a rustic yet refined playground for the well-to-do. Things haven't changed much since then. The mill still works and the wealthy still flock to Water Mill.
The hamlet has three magnificent beaches: Flying Point, Mecox, and Dead End. And there are still huge areas of woodsy wilderness, like the 148-acre Laurel Valley Country Park. Robert Wilson's Watermill Center, where the avante garde visionary develops new work in collaboration with students and professionals, is the East End’s newest cultural mecca.
More mundane, yet still brilliant, are Hampton Coffee and the Green Thumb farm stand, which are conveniently located next door to each other on Montauk Highway. Hampton Coffee does make the island's best and its down-home food is lip-smacking good. Green Thumb, with its 300 varieties of locally grown organic produce, is the best explanation of why slow cooking is so darned delish.