So what if you don't have the keys to a house on Fire Island? You still can head there for lunch and an afternoon on a pristine beach.
Hop on a ferry from Bay Shore, Sayville or Patchogue for a half-hour ride on the Great South Bay. Dine al fresco at one of Fire Island's close to 30 restaurants. And if you want to skip the ferry ride altogether, Kismet is close enough for a robust walk to and from Robert Moses State Park Field 5.
FOR A PEACEFUL GETAWAY ...
Le Dock offers what is arguably some of Fire Island's best food. Sit outside, where kids will bicycle by your table and families arriving on the ferry will trundle by with red wagons. Or choose indoors, in the airy dining room with whirling ceiling fans. Lunch dishes include the 10-ounce square-shaped Dock Burger, grilled Black Angus beef with sharp Cheddar and prosciutto on a ciabatta roll ($16) or shrimp salad on focaccia with a side salad ($13). For dessert, try a cone at the nearby, whimsically named "Unfriendly's" ice cream window.
DRAWBACK If you're planning to hit the beach before or after lunch, know that Le Dock's restroom is the only facility you can count on. Public bathrooms are supposed to be open when lifeguards are on duty, but they sometimes are locked.
FOR A "DOWNTOWN" FEEL ...
HEAD TO The Landing at Ocean Beach, 620 Bay Walk
INFO 631-583-5800, thelandingob.com
Ocean Beach is often called Fire Island's "capital" because, unlike Fair Harbor or Davis Park, where there's only one sit-down restaurant in town, Ocean Beach has more than a dozen choices. The newest is The Landing, which opened May 17 in a location that had been shuttered for about a decade. It offers indoor and deck seating. Lunch choices include a Reuben sandwich ($12), fish and chips ($12) and an appetizer of lamb skewers ($12). For dessert, try the Ocean Beach Trading's bakery counter across the street, which offers gourmet cupcakes such as a "s'mores" concoction of graham-cracker cake, chocolate frosting and marshmallow fluff for $4.25.
DRAWBACK At The Landing, the lunchtime view might include the freight ferry. It arrives Monday through Saturday at about 11:30 a.m. and can be parked dockside for up to 90 minutes while the crew unloads pallets of cargo.
TO AVOID THE FERRY RIDE ...
HEAD TO Surf's Out, Bay Walk in Kismet
INFO 631-583-7400, surfsoutfireisland.com
Park at Robert Moses Field 5 and you can walk to the Fire Island Lighthouse and work up an appetite by climbing to the top. Then, continue along the sand path or the ocean for about 20 minutes (if you choose the ocean route, be prepared to pass through the clothing-optional beach) and hang a left toward Kismet's bayfront. Lunch can be had indoors or out at Surf's Out. Lunch choices include themed sandwiches - the "Tankini Panini," for example, is a Parmesan-crusted chicken cutlet ($14), or the "Shrimp 'Rich-Boy'" has spicy fried shrimp, lettuce, tomato and rémoulade on a roll ($14). Sushi is also available.
DRAWBACK Alas, you have to walk back to the car.