Fire Island is laid-back, safe, and easy to reach from New York City, making it a perfect weekend getaway for the family. Fathom intern Tess Falotico asked two cute kids to narrow down their absolute favorite, can't-miss stops.
FIRE ISLAND, New York – On my last trip out to Long Island's coast, I enlisted the help of Bella and Paul, my two little cousins and personal Fire Island experts. They've spent every summer of their young lives (ten and seven years, respectively) on the island, and could go on for days about their favorite things to do. If you're only out for a weekend, you'll likely spend the majority of your time laying in the sand. But for the occasional venture off the beach, Bella and Paul present their list of must-do Fire Island activities.
Get to know the bay by harnessing the wind. Bella and Paul take lessons at the beautiful Dunewood Yacht Club, but you can also sign kids up in Point O'Woods and Saltaire. Real youngsters should start with swimming lessons in Fair Harbor.
Getting to the Fire Island Lighthouse is half the fun. My cousins love to take their grandfather's boat (if you don't have access to one, a water taxi will do the trick), but it's also a really pretty bike ride. Use whatever energy the munchkins have left to climb to the top of the structure. The views of Long Island and Fire Island are incredible. On the absolute clearest days, you can even see the city.
I think I love this even more than they do. Grab a bucket, walk into the bay, and use your toes to feel around for the ridge of the shells. Clams are abundant here, but there's still something very satisfying about finding your first one. Clamming is really nice to do in late afternoon when the sun starts to lower over the bay. My cousins and I take the bounty back to the house to clean and shuck on the back porch. You can eat them on the half shell with lemon and cocktail sauce, but we recommend making linguine with clam sauce.
Fine dining is a rare thing for the littlest Fire Island regulars, as the best meals are enjoyed at home on the back deck. But there are some places Bella and Paul make sure to get to every summer:
Bay Walk, Fair Harbor
Grab a delicious slice to enjoy out on the dock.
1 Bay Walk, Kismet
The best things about Fire Island — friendly service, bay views, fresh seafood — rolled into one fun restaurant. Or, according to Bella, "Omgsurfsoutinkismet!"
The Kismet Inn
1 Oak St., Kismet
The food is great, but the kids love it for the vintage arcade games.
Bay Walk, Fair Harbor
Delicious ice cream (chocolate peanut butter, please) in the perfect location — steps from the dock overlooking the bay, and a five-minute walk from the beach. It's the perfect way to break from an afternoon of ocean swimming.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
When To Go
Fire Island is gorgeous all summer long. Plus, unlike many beach towns, it doesn't become absurdly crowded or expensive during peak season.
Where To Stay
There are hotels in some of the busier towns, but renting is really the way to go. A rental house offers a Fire Island experience that a hotel can't — dinner on the deck, naps on the porch, an outdoor shower at twilight. Families love villages like Dunewood, Fair Harbor, and Saltaire, which are laidback but still central and accessible. Fire Island Living and Sharon DeLeasa Realty are good sources for short-term rentals.
From New York City, take the LIRR from Penn Station to Bay Shore. If you're brave enough to face Long Island traffic, drive to the ferry station. Ferries to the island run cheap and often.
Getting Around the Island
Part of Fire Island's charm is the near-absence of cars (and paved roads, for that matter). Your options are pretty limited when it comes to transportation: walk, bike (rent them at the Schooner Inn) or take a water taxi.