Escape from New York: a guide to the Hamptons

Manhattan is wonderful. But when you've had enough of its bustle, the Hamptons are just a Jitney away, says Julie-Earle Levine

New York City is arguably one of the best cities in the world, but after a few days of shopping, eating and museum-hopping, it might be time to recharge; and when you’re ready to wiggle your toes in the sand and devour lobster rolls oceanside, The Hamptons on the South Fork of New York’s Long Island are a surprisingly easy day trip out of the city. The naysayers will tell you the Hamptons are jam-packed with New York’s elite – ‘It’s like Manhattan-on-sea!’ – and the traffic is hellish. All true, but the seemingly endless golden beaches and surf rival beaches in Australia (no kidding).

The easiest way to visit the Hamptons for just a day is by Jitney, a bus that leaves from various stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn and will take you all the way to the beach. In peak summer season (from Memorial Day through to Labor Day) the journey can take anything from three to four-and-a-half hours one way, but there’s plenty to see and it’s a comfy ride. Everyone on board will be whining about the traffic, but that’s part of the experience. Fellow passengers may also tell you about which party they are going to that night, or the best new seafood shack in town, or where they are doing their ‘farm share’, buying local vegetables for the season from a local farmer out east.

The hottest Hamptons ticket in recent years has been Montauk, the last stop on the Jitney at the very end of Long Island. For those who will be exploring on foot, and don’t want to take a taxi while visiting, Montauk is the best bet. The Jitney stop in Montauk is within walking distance of the beach, as well as many other shops, restaurants and bars in the town. When you jump out, walk just a few minutes to the main beach where you can find your own spot on the sand. Montaukers say they are not like the rest of the Hamptons, and they are right. It’s more relaxed here than in other villages, since Montauk’s roots are a fishing village and this has stuck, in spite of its coolness factor in recent years. Make sure you go to Joni’s Kitchen for lunch, one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s favourite casual restaurants, where you can pick up juices, fresh and healthy wraps and coffee for the beach. South Edison, right opposite Joni’s, has fantastic fish, and oyster specials daily.

If you don’t mind having to get a taxi, the East Hampton stop is another option that takes you right into the village, where you can check out the shops (pretty much every designer store you’ll find in the city from Kate Spade, opening this summer, to Ralph Lauren).  East Hampton’s Main Beach, renowned for its perfect white sand is just a few minutes by taxi from the village. Main is the only beach with a pavilion where you can buy a cup of coffee and sit in the sun and take it all in. It’s a gorgeous beach, with a very good-looking crowd, and is great for swimming since there are lifeguards.

Another stop is Southampton village, where a short taxi ride will take you to Coopers Beach, one of eleven beaches on seven miles of oceanfront dotted with historic mansions, including Calvin Klein’s estate. Coopers has been ranked in the top three beautiful beaches in the US and is Southampton’s only beach with lifeguards. There you’ll find everything you need for the day, including a snack bar, chair rentals for $10 a day, umbrella rentals for $15 a day, bathrooms and fresh water showers.

Plan to get a full day’s outing. In summer, the Jitney offers trips from Manhattan as early as 6am, and westbound trips back to the city, leaving Southampton as late as 8.45pm. So there’s time for dinner, and maybe even a sunset cocktail. Even better, the Jitney is a steal at US$30 each way ($60 return), not bad considering the least expensive car parking in Manhattan is $500 a month…

Photo by © Russell Kord / Alamy

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