Planning a Kismet, Fire Island vacation: Find serenity via a beachfront escape

Oak Street in Kismet, Fire Island, June 16. Credit: Linda Rosier

Ferries arrive and depart from the Great South Bay as Stacey Tadler watches from a chaise lounge on a private bay beach at the Boatel in Kismet.

“This is the life, right?” asks Tadler, 60, of Bay Shore, an outpatient physical therapy aide. “This is what you work hard for, to enjoy. It’s a different world here, you just enter into serenity.”

Kismet is the westernmost community on Fire Island. When visitors disembark from the ferry, they're met by a bustling area with two restaurants, an ice cream shack, a boutique and a market. Benches in a circle around a flagpole let people relax beside the adjacent marina. 

Alex Mandel, of Kismet, and his daughter, Kyle, ride the ferry from Kismet to Bay Shore on June 16. Credit: Linda Rosier

From there, it's a walk to the other side of the narrow barrier island to reach the oceanfront beach. Years ago, Kismet was known for houses shared by friends seeking a party vibe, but the community has morphed into more a family atmosphere. 

Be forewarned: the restaurant bathrooms are for patrons only. While most people in Kismet own a beach house or rent them for weeklong stays, there are two hotel possibilities for people who just want to be there for a few nights.

The preview:

Walking to Kismet

Day-trippers who want to explore Kismet can park at Field 5 of Robert Moses State Park for $10 (631-669-0449, and then stroll the boardwalk nature trail that leads from Field 5 to the Fire Island Lighthouse.

Fire Island Lighthouse and museum is open for tours. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

If you wish, make a stop there to climb its 182 steps, stop into the gift shop with its lighthouse-themed merchandise, see the interactive keeper's quarters museum, visit the lens building next door, and make a pit stop in the public restrooms. $10 to climb, $5 ages 12 and younger. Children must be at least 42 inches tall to go up. Then continue on another 20 minutes or so to reach Kismet along the Burma Road — the sandy spine of western Fire Island. Chances are you'll see deer that roam the island during your walk. (631-321-7028,

Too tired to walk back? Fire Island Pedicab offers rides pulled by a bike rider back and forth from Robert Moses along the Burma Road to the lighthouse for $5 a person each way, or back and forth to Kismet for $10 a person each way, 9 a.m. to park close daily through Labor Day. Visit the Fire Island Pedicab booth at Field 5 or call/text for a ride back. (516-402-4175,


Navigating the ferry

Fire Island Ferries in Bay Shore takes passengers to Kismet. Drive and park in nearby paid lots. The closest Long Island Rail Road stop is Bay Shore. Round-trip ferry fares are $25 ($13 ages 2 to 11). (99 Maple Ave., Bay Shore, 631-665-3600,

Travel tip

For those in a hurry: The Fire Island mTickets app will help you secure your ticket before you leave the house.

The dish:

Where to eat in Kismet

There's a friendly rivalry between Kismet's only two eateries, says Casey Cole, a server and daughter of Ashly Cole, co-owner of The Kismet Inn. “Like The Krusty Krab and The Chum Bucket,” she jokes, alluding to the dueling restaurants in the children’s cartoon program “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

The Kismet Inn, now in its 99th season, is next door to the community's only other restaurant, now called Dive. It used to be called The Out many years ago, so that visitors could choose between the Inn and the Out.

At the Kismet Inn, the interior walls are lined with enormous fish. “We have more taxidermy here than anywhere on the island,” boasts Ashly. Whirling ceiling fans cool the interior, or visitors can dine on the outdoor deck. The family-owned restaurant serves local seafood for lunch and dinner; its big seller is baked clams. “We sell more of those than we do chicken wings,” he says.  A private marina for customers allows diners to arrive by boat and stroll to the restaurant. (1 Oak St., 631-583-5592;

The dining room at Dive evokes a retro '70s So-Cal vibe, and there’s an outdoor deck as well. Dive is a beach bar that serves upscale continental food with nods to Indian, Mexican and Thai cuisine, says chef Liam Beardslee. There’s also sushi. Frozen drinks include the strawberry daiquiri, Miami Vice and Rocket Fuel. Come for live music Friday-Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. While the music shuts down (“We cater to the day-drinking crowd,” Beardslee says), the venue stays open till midnight or 1. Check out the open outdoor area where the bands play, with Kismet painted across a wall in a mural that features pastel-colored scenes from the lighthouse and the beach. (1 Bay Walk; 631-583-7400,

The scoop:

Grab an ice cream cone

This building near the ferry dock used to be the Pizza Shack, but the pizza operation has this summer moved inside the grocery store. The Pizza Shack has been re-christened simply The Shack, and it now serves ice cream, shaved ice and Kismet Coffee. Enjoy the goodies sitting at outdoor picnic tables, some of which are shaded by umbrellas. The Shack is owned by the same people who own the Kis-Mart grocery store.  

The scene:

Market shopping

Jeanne Giarrantano, of Islip, tries on a sweatshirt at The Red Wagon on the ferry dock in Kismet on June 16. Credit: Linda Rosier

A tiny boutique greets visitors as they disembark from the ferry. At The Red Wagon, all manner of beachy paraphernalia is tucked inside, including coasters and ornaments featuring red wagons, that unofficial symbol of Fire Island, candles that say, “Smells like rocket fuels, boardwalks and missing the last ferry” and T-shirts, sweatshirts, sunglasses and beach bags. (Ferry dock, 631-583-0080)

For produce, staples, clothing and candy, there's Kis-Mart. It also offers a deli and the aforementioned pizza. Order at the walk up window and sit on tables on the Kis-Mart front porch. (179 Oak Walk, 631-583-8449)

The overnight:

Hotels for an extended stay

If you’re not renting a house for a week or more, you’ve got two choices of places to sleep in Kismet.

New this year is The Moonrise Motel. The fully renovated property used to be the Margarita Villas. The five units include two one-bedrooms, two two-bedrooms and one three bedrooms. Rooms include beach chairs and umbrellas, TV and a refrigerator. Rent bikes for $20 per adult and $10 per child for each 24-hour period. Rooms have nightly minimums and rates start at $548 a night in season. Adjacent to the motel is Bar Aquatic, a cafe bar serving panini, salads, flatbreads and drinks. Bar Aquatic is also open to the public. (177 Pine St.,

The Boatel features 11 rooms (10 waterfront overlooking the Great South Bay and one in the garden). Enjoy personal decks bayside and shared grills, picnic tables and outdoor shower on the grassy lawn. Shared laundry is available. Each room has a king-size bed, a pullout queen couch, a mini kitchen and a private bath. Renters must be 25 years old or older; quiet hours begin at 11 p.m., says co-owner Dwayne Diesu. Rates start at $495 (weekdays) and $575 (weekends) with a three-night minimum; ask for the corner Sunset Suite for $95 a night more. Bike rentals are available for guests only for $20 a day. (110 E. Lighthouse Walk, 833-342-6283,


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