When locals are asked which celebrities have homes in town or what stars they’ve seen out and about, it takes a while for them to answer.
A popular family-owned Italian meat shop features a “special” to feed four for less than $30 — a bucket of spaghetti and meatballs and a bucket of chicken wings.
The head of a beautification association proudly shows a visitor a quaint flower basket hanging in the downtown shopping area and decorative plantings along center medians.
Sound like the Hamptons? Probably not to many people, but it is.
The place is Hampton Bays, a gateway to the Hamptons for motorists making their way to the East End. But because nothing of the hamlet can be seen from the main two-lane road, some people don’t even know it’s there. It could be the place to visit this summer for those seeking a Hamptons beach town experience — sans the paparazzi stakeouts, expensive restaurants and overload of seasonal visitors.
Getting there also doesn’t require the long, arduous trip along Route 27 East that’s usually involved in getting to Hamptons destinations miles beyond Hampton Bays such as Bridgehampton or Montauk.
Yes, Hampton Bays had a few years when it was the place visitors wanted to avoid after rowdy summertime crowds took over in the ’80s. But all that’s changed now, according to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and others, who say the hamlet is experiencing a very successful reincarnation.
“We’ve invested heavily into Hampton Bays in the last few years,” Schneiderman says. “There’ve been park improvements, road improvements, historic facilities improvements and beach improvements.” He notes there’s no other place in the Hamptons that is surrounded by more water, making it the perfect place for swimming, scuba diving, boating, jet skiing and fishing.
Indeed, almost a third of the 12.9-square-mile area is water. It’s surrounded by the Great Peconic Bay to the north and the Shinnecock and Tiana bays to the south.
“You can call us the Happy Hamptons,” says Susan Von Freddi Gassman, the local beautification association president and a longtime resident of the hamlet. “It’s for people and celebrities who want to come to the Hamptons without all of that other stuff.”
It’s also much closer than the other Hamptons communities if you’re coming from the west.
“You can get here and be having a good time while your friends continue on to other places [in the Hamptons] and still have another couple of hours to drive,” says Geraldine Muhs, who was born and raised in Hampton Bays and still lives there.
And there’s lots to do for all ages.
Free concerts, movies and plays are just some of the events held at the 800-seat outdoor Good Ground Park amphitheater. You can book a sunset cruise or go antiquing and then pull your boat up to a seaside restaurant.
If you enjoy hiking, playing softball or skateboarding, there’s Red Creek Park. Stop by Scotto’s Pork Store, where you can grab a free (hefty) sampling sandwich made with Italian bread and loaded with melted cheeses and meats — or, for vegetarians, eggplant. Scotto’s is the same place with the two-bucket meal deal.
Need a place to stay? Hampton Bays is a bargain as hotels in the Hamptons go. You can get a room at The Hampton Maid for around $200 a night for weekdays and $300 for weekends.
THINGS TO DO
East End Jet Ski
91 Foster Ave.
Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until after July 4, when hours are daily.
Scotto’s Pork Store
25 W. Montauk Highway
631-728-5677 or 7743, scottosporkstore.com
Open daily until at least 6 p.m., it serves sandwiches and bucket deals on spaghetti and meatballs, wings.
The Hampton Maid
259 E. Montauk Highway
Hotel and breakfast spot.
Antiques by James Maguire
94 W. Montauk Highway
Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily with vintage furniture, artwork and decor.