"We don't come in and fluff your pillow and put a mint on it," says owner Greg Pecoraro. "That's not what it's all about."
What a getaway to Fire Island is about is a 20-minute ferry ride that transports passengers to another world, a simpler world without the cars they must leave behind on the mainland. Fire Island is 32 miles long, but it's no more than a mile across, from ocean to bay. Unlike the pretentious Hamptons, most of Fire Island's 17 communities are down-to-earth places where adults pass the days playing Kadima on the sand or Scrabble under their beach umbrellas, and kids sell hand-painted seashells and lemonade from the red Radio Flyer wagons their families use to cart groceries from the general stores.
"You could be at the bar next to a billionaire and you'd never know. They didn't drive up in their Rolls-Royce or Bentley. They rode up on a rusty bicycle with one side of the handlebars missing," Pecoraro says. "That's the charm of this place."
That charm comes at a hefty price, in part because of supply and demand; there simply isn't an abundance of rooms on the island. Most Fire Island rentals are summer homes owners sublet by the week or month. Only a handful of hotels will rent for shorter-term escapes.
Here are some of the main hotels on the island:
Want bustling hubbub and barhopping? Choose Ocean Beach, the biggest community on Fire Island.
Where: 168 Cottage Walk, 631-583-8870, palmshotelfireisland.com
What you'll find:The Palms is the most sophisticated of the Ocean Beach establishments, with Manhattan-style modern decor of white duvets, pop art by Roy Lichtenstein and wispy, sheer cloth draped above beds. Be prepared for some compact rooms -- for instance, there may be a king-size bed but no night tables because of tight space.
The Palms offers five boutique locations -- The Palms Main off the village green, The Palms Bungalow at the edge of town, an apartment-style Presidential Penthouse Suite above a store that sleeps 10, and two bayfront buildings, Palms Bay and Palms Bay East.
The Palms Main has a lobby with a Starbucks window, and an outdoor patio with red couches and chairs under umbrellas. Patrons can sign out complimentary beach chairs, umbrellas and bicycles. Palms Bay has a private beach area with two round chaise beds and couches, barbecue grills and kayak rentals.
The Seasons Bed & Breakfast
Where: 468 Dehnhoff Walk, 631-583-8295, bluewatershotel oceanbeachfireisland.com
What you'll find: Booking a room at The Seasons is like booking a room in a house. Bathrooms are shared, as is the living room with wood-burning fireplace and flat-screen TV. A patio has clever tables made from surfboards. "Some people like the quaintness of this," manager Elaine Brewster says. The Seasons is affiliated with The Blue Waters; guests have breakfast at its deck garden, for instance.
Blue Waters Hotel
Where: 642 Bayberry Walk, 631-583-8295, bluewatershotel oceanbeachfireisland.com
What you'll find: This hotel atop The Landing restaurant, close to the ferry dock, has 19 basic rooms with private baths, blue plaid bedspreads and flat-screen TVs. Five rooms have bay views; the majority have one double bed and one single bed. Guests partake of the included buffet breakfast, which might include cornbread pudding or egg souffle, in a charming, second-floor outdoor deck garden with a driftwood fountain. Bicycles, beach chairs, umbrellas and towels are complimentary. The Blue Waters also has separate Bay House apartments for rent with a two-night minimum.
The Fire Island Hotel & Resort
Where: 25 Cayuga Walk, 631-583-8000, fireislandhotel.com
What you'll find: This former Coast Guard Station turned hotel has the vibe of a Caribbean vacation spot. Ground zero is the built-in swimming pool -- a rarity at Fire Island hotels. "It's a great attraction for the kids," says manager Patty Loesch. Live guitar music poolside spices up weekend afternoons. Enjoy frozen drinks served in plastic cups. Adirondack chairs dot the lobby; the hotel has a restaurant area called Hurricane's. The 41 rooms range from standard hotel fare for two to cabins that sleep up to six and have a kitchen. The hotel will shuttle suitcases from the ferry dock to the hotel and back. Umbrellas and chairs rent for $5 a day each.
FIRE ISLAND PINES
The Fire Island Pines is a primarily gay community, along with the neighboring community of Cherry Grove.
The Madison Fire Island Pines
Where: 22 Atlantic Walk, 631-597-6061, themadisonfi.com
What you'll find: The guesthouse's clientele is overwhelmingly gay male. The contemporary-style house offers floor-to-ceiling windows, a second-floor wood deck, an outdoor swimming pool area with chaise lounges and a gazebo-covered hot tub. The kitchen and living room/ dining room area is shared. Breakfast is included; Monday through Friday, it's a continental fare of bagels, fruit and yogurt; weekends, add eggs. A spiral staircase leads to second-floor bedrooms with flat-screen TVs, free high-speed Internet and private baths. Small dogs are welcome in a couple of rooms. Every three weeks, the house's Madison Art and Fashion Summer Series showcases a different artist's works on the walls.
By weekend, Kismet is a hopping party spot in the shadow of the Fire Island Lighthouse. On weekdays, it's sleepier, offering more peace and quiet.
Where: 177 Pine St., 631-583-5325, margaritavillasllc.com
What you'll find: Margarita Villas has the air of a summer camp bunk -- most of the beds are singles, and none of the sheets match. But each efficiency-style unit has a living room and kitchen and its own deck area with barbecue grill. Outdoor showers and washer-dryer are shared; rooms have air conditioners. Patrons can rent beach chairs and umbrellas for $10 a day each and bikes for $20 a day.
Owner Pecoraro rents the four units in two ways: either Friday and Saturday nights, or a midweek block. He calls the first type of renter the "weekend warrior," and the Sunday- through-Friday people are more likely families looking for a getaway.