To get to the Hamptons, travelers pass by a town that shares their name but not always their identity: Hampton Bays, a fun-loving hamlet with more waterfront restaurants, and quieter beaches, than its namesakes.
Start with an afternoon swim in the ocean at Ponquogue Beach, on Dune Road just over the Ponquogue Bridge, before heading to East End Jet Ski (631-728-8060, eastendjetski.com) for a whirl around Shinnecock Bay. Rainy day? Rummage for vintage jewelry or kitschy lamps at Good Ground Antique Center (631-728-6300, good-ground-antique-center.business.site).
Anglers catch plenty of fish in the Shinnecock Canal, which bisects the South Fork’s narrowest point; find some of it at Out of the Blue Seafood (631-728-3474, ootbseafood.com), a market-slash-restaurant where seafood is smoked on premises. From there, you can practically walk to Cowfish (631-594-3868, cowfishrestaurant.com) a hilltop hangout with a massive outdoor bar and killer views over Shinnecock Bay.
If you have stamina, hop on the free RumBarge for the seven-minute canal ride to Cowfish’s sister restaurant Rumba (631-594-3544, rumbahamptonbays.com), a bayside Caribbean restaurant with great rum drinks, for dinner. It’s located in a former fishing station on Canoe Place Road, once known as “flat fish alley.”