As summer approaches, area eyes are turning to Fire Island for some warm-weather fun. While not all of the go-to options for good times have reopened for the season amid social distancing guidelines, several favorites have.
Jacquelyn Piazza, owner of Cherry’s On The Bay in Cherry Grove, says she saw about a quarter of her usual crowd when the bar reopened for outdoor dining the first weekend after Long Island entered Phase 2. "We've seen a rise in the amount of people coming over but we need the trend to continue … People are eager to feel some normalcy now that summer has started and I feel confident that with taking proper precautions people can come out to Cherry Grove and enjoy themselves in a fun and safe environment.”
Here's what you need to know about spending the day on Fire Island.
For most, a ferry is the only way to cross the Great South Bay and while the vessels are running, all who would like to board must wear masks. Customers are also asked to social distance when possible. Current schedules are lessened compared to previous years; the latest ferries from Bay Shore (99 Maple Ave.; 631-665-3600, fireislandferries.com) to any of its destinations are leaving at several different times, boats to Cherry Grove (41 River Road, Sayville; 631-589-0810, sayvilleferry.com) are making final Saturday departures at 9:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. to the Pines) and the last Saturday or Sunday ferry to Davis Park leaves Patchogue (80 Brightwood St.; 631-475-1665, davisparkferry.com) at 8:50 p.m. Check schedules before departing. Round-trip tickets for ages 12 and older out of Bay Shore are $21; $18 from Sayville to the Grove or the Pines; $20 out of Patchogue to Davis Park.
A meal on Fire Island is best enjoyed outdoors — and that's your main option as indoor dining remains off-limits for now. Head to Kismet to hang in the courtyard at Surf’s Out (1 Bay Walk; 631-583-7400, surfsout.com), which has opened for casual dining plus waitress service on the deck, or drop by the neighboring Kismet Inn (1 Oak St.; 631-583-5592; thekismetinn.com), which is offering limited seating on its deck.
Among the options in Ocean Beach include, Maguires Bayfront Restaurant (470 Bay Walk; 631-583-8800, maguiresbayfrontrestaurant.com), which is taking reservations for outdoor dining, as is the Island Mermaid (780 Bay Walk; 631-583-8088, islandmermaid.com) and Matthew's Seafood House (935 Bay Walk; 631-583-8016, matthewsseafood.com). Rachel's Restaurant and Bakery (325 Bay Walk, Ocean Beach; 631-583-9552; rachelsfireisland.com) — known by many for its French fries — has sidewalk seating in place, as does CJ’s (479 Bay Walk, Ocean Beach; 631-583-9890, cjsfireisland.com) and Castaway Bar & Grill (310 Bay Walk; 631-583-0330, castawaybarandgrill.com).
Ocean Bay Park is also a choice to consider, with outdoor seating available at Schooner Inn (57 Bayview Ave.; 631-583-8498, schoonerinnfireisland.com). And while the Sunday Funday parties at Flynn’s (1 Cayuga St.; 631-583-5000, flynnsfireislandny.com) are on hold, limited outdoor seating is being offered (and Rocket Fuel cocktails are being served).
Known for its drag entertainment, Cherry’s On The Bay (158 Bayview Walk, Cherry Grove; 631-597-7859, cherrysonthebay.com) is doing both outdoor dining and live music events. Call for schedule.
The Island Breeze (178 Bayview Walk, Cherry Grove; 631-597-9111, theislandbreeze.com) is also doing al fresco dining. For one of the only chances to dine within direct view of the Atlantic Ocean, Sand Castle On The Ocean (106 Lewis Walk, Cherry Grove; 631-597-4174; fireislandsandcastle.com) is accepting lunch and dinner reservations. For views of both the bay and ocean, try Casino Cafe (1 Trustee Walk, Davis Park; 631-597-9414, casinobarfireisland.com).
While Fire Island beaches are mostly open to all comers, with the current health guidelines, come prepared with masks and be ready to observe distancing rules. Fire Island beaches are attached to communities, which could affect what is considered acceptable. Not all hamlets have lifeguards, while others aren’t activating their lifeguards until later in June. Check posted signage before hitting the surf.
The Fire Island Lighthouse (1 Burma Rd., Fire Island National Seashore; 631-661-4876, fireislandlighthouse.com) is an amazing sight at a height of 168 feet. The tower at the lighthouse is currently closed, but you can still get pretty close to it if you’re willing to walk from either Kismet or Robert Moses State Park, which should make for a sensational snapshot. The lighthouse’s outdoor Terrace Gift Shop is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be selling merch as well as snacks and drinks.
Sunken Forest Preserve is set behind sand dunes and has some trees estimated to be close to 300 years in age. To travel there directly, the last ferry to Sailor’s Haven from Sayville runs at 4:30 p.m. (sayvilleferry.com) Monday thru Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday—but the forest is only about a 1.5-mile walk from the Cherry Grove dock, should you plan to start your hike there.
With virtually no cars permitted on Fire Island (save official vehicles and residents with the proper paperwork), there are safe opportunities to pedal around the picturesque communities. It should be noted though, there are rules, including an 8 mph posted speed limit in most places. You’ll need to be ready to ride among pedestrians, so when approaching a walker, ring your bell or give a hardy “on your left” call.
In Ocean Beach, Ocean Beach Hardware (482 Bayberry Walk; 631-583-5826, oceanbeachhardware.com) rents out bikes for the day or the week; cycles are also available for rent at Kismet Bike Rentals, also known as “The Bike Guy” (41 Maple Ct.; 516-220-1764), Corliss Bike and Supply in Fair Harbor (62 Bay Walk; 631-583-5769, corlissbikeandsupply.com) and the OBP Bike Shop (1 Champlain Walk, Ocean Bay Park; 631-583-5111, obpbikes.com) — rates are $25-$50 on average, depending on the bike you choose.
Be sure to check local codes on where bikes can be wheeled, as communities like Ocean Beach, Cherry Grove and Saltaire are among places where restrictions exist. Any posted rules should be observed.