As summer approaches, area eyes are turning to Fire Island for some warm-weather fun—and as pandemic protocols begin to abate, signs are pointing to a partial return to the seasonal dining scene and entertainment typically found across the Great South Bay.
Jacquelyn Piazza, owner of Cherry’s On The Bay in Cherry Grove, said last year 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 in 2020, a time she feels was one where the public were being "understandably cautious," but now she says "the biggest difference I’ve seen in 2021 is people’s eagerness to get back to normal."
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, just like in 2020. Customers are also asked to social distance when possible. Check the schedule for the latest ferries from Bay Shore (99 Maple Ave.; 631-665-3600, fireislandferries.com), Sayville(41 River Road, Sayville; 631-589-0810, sayvilleferry.com) and Patchogue (80 Brightwood St.; 631-475-1665, davisparkferry.com).
A meal on Fire Island is best enjoyed outdoors. Head to Kismet to dine at the Kismet Inn (1 Oak St.; 631-583-5592; thekismetinn.com), which sunny seating on its deck and extra tables placed on the sidewalk along its western boundary, or consider Fire Island Tap (177 Pine St.; 631-583-9463), which will be serving pastries, cheese plates, sandwiches and flatbreads daily starting Memorial Day Weekend, as well as beer, wine and coffee.
Among the options in Ocean Beach, Maguires Bayfront Restaurant (470 Bay Walk; 631-583-8800, maguiresbayfrontrestaurant.com) is currently requiring reservations for groups of six or more (with a $50 deposit for eight or more), while parties of less than six are being seated on a first-come, first-serve basis—and watch out as the spot’s signature "Lobsterpalooza" ($31.75 three-course dinner with either a 1 1/2-pound lobster or prime rib main) will be available every Thursday into the fall starting June 10, and its happy hour will be on weekly Monday through Friday on its bar deck.
The Island Mermaid (780 Bay Walk; 631-583-8088, islandmermaid.com) is not only returning with dining but is also set to hold some public events like a drag queen-led bingo night, while Matthew's Seafood House (935 Bay Walk; 631-583-8016, matthewsseafood.com), The Albatross (320 Bay Walk; 631-583-5697, dontswingthelights.com) and The Landing at Ocean Beach (620 Bay Walk; 631-583-5800) are also area options. Rachel's Restaurant and Bakery (325 Bay Walk, Ocean Beach; 631-583-9552; rachelsfireisland.com) — known by many for its French fries — has seating set up on the village green, while CJ’s (479 Bay Walk, Ocean Beach; 631-583-9890, cjsfireisland.com) also has outdoor seating. Both Dockside Brick Oven Pizza and Deli (778 Bay Walk; 631-583-0303, docksideobfi.com) and Beacharia (786 Evergreen Walk; 631-583-0387, beacheriaob.com) have pizza at the ready, and Scoops (310 Bay Walk; 631-583-5173, scoopsob.com) is a choice spot for ice cream and other sweets.
Ocean Bay Park is also a choice to consider, with the Schooner Inn (57 Bayview Ave.; 631-583-8498, schoonerinnfireisland.com) set to open by Memorial Day Weekend, with lunch and dinner available daily plus a popular happy hour Mondays through Fridays, Prime Rib night Thursdays and Friday bingo that grants a bicycle as the grand prize—and its adjacent pizza and ice cream shops will be open as well. As for the area’s iconic Flynn’s (1 Cayuga St.; 631-583-5000, flynnsfireislandny.com), it’ll be back for its 85th year.
Fire Island Pines is primed for a strong summer scene, with dinner being served Wednesdays thru Mondays at the Pines Bistro (36 Fire Island Blvd.; 631-597-6862, pinesfi.com), while Pines Pizza (36 Fire Island Blvd.; 631-597-3597, pinesfi.com) is open daily starting at 11 a.m. and Canteen (Harbor Walk.; 631-597-6500, pinesfi.com)—with its dockside view, is serving food every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Brunch is once again happening at Blue Whale (70 Picketty Ruff Walk; 631-597-6500, pinesfi.com), as is its daily Low Tea afternoon gatherings and live piano nights on weekends. As for the Pavilion (36 Fire Island Blvd.; 631-597-6500, pinesfi.com) party space, its event schedule for 2021 remains to be determined but is welcoming guests to nightclub nights at 11 p.m., while the Sip 'N Twirl (36 Fire Island Blvd.; 631-597-3599, pinesfi.com) nightspot is also back in action starting at 6 p.m. daily.
Known for its live entertainment, Cherry’s On The Bay (158 Bayview Walk, Cherry Grove; 631-597-7859, cherrysonthebay.com) is doing lunch, dinner and brunch on weekends from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., as well as bingo nights, live music and its signature drag shows. Cherry Grove Pizza (179 Ocean Walk; 516-597-6766) is clearly a place for a slice, but watch its social media for when the kitchen cooks up special dinners like pasta, pork chops or surf-and-turf. The The Island Breeze (178 Bayview Walk, Cherry Grove; 631-597-9111, theislandbreeze.com) is serving entrees, apps and snacks, and Top of the Bay Bistro (1 Dock Walk, Cherry Grove, topofthebaycherrygrove.com), with its beautiful bay views is open and running. Sand Castle On The Ocean (106 Lewis Walk, Cherry Grove; 631-597-4174; fireislandsandcastle.com) is reopening on May 14 and recommending lunch and dinner reservations to parties of no more than ten guests. For views of both the bay and ocean, try Casino Cafe (1 Trustee Walk, Davis Park; 631-597-9414, casinobarfireisland.com), which has made some additions to its grill menu for 2021.
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; 631-583-5901, fireislandlighthouse.com) is an amazing sight at a height of 168 feet. The tower is once again open for tours daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.— bring masks and prepare to socially distance—and you can walk from either Kismet or Robert Moses State Park, which should make for a sensational snapshot; the lighthouse’s outdoor Terrace Gift Shop and the first floor of its museum are also open daily.
Sunken Forest Preserve is set behind sand dunes and has some trees estimated to be close to 300 years in age. The best way to travel there directly would normally be the ferry to Sailor’s Haven from Sayville (sayvilleferry.com), but currently the boats aren’t making the run—so until the trips are scheduled again, you’ll need to make the approximately 1.5-mile walk from the Cherry Grove dock, should you plan to hike there.
With virtually no cars permitted on Fire Island, 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).
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.