Summer Family Fun in the Hamptons: New York’s Best Beach Getaway
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Just a couple hours from New York City at the tip of Long Island’s South Fork, the Hamptons is New York City’s best-known weekend getaway. And for good reason. The area has long white-sand beaches, shingled windmills, low-key seafood shacks and placid bays that are perfect for beach combing. It's also got a glamorous side. Celebrities love it, and so do families, including my own.

I met my husband in the Hamptons at a bonfire on Atlantic Beach in Amagansett, and we bought a beach house nearby soon after. Now, we bring our daughter Lucy out to the Hamptons every weekend. I don't think you could imagine a more idyllic place to grow up.

Here's my own insider list of the places I love most.

The lighthouse in Montauk. Courtesy of Getty

Where to Go

Loosely speaking, the Hamptons stretches from quaint Westhampton all the way east to Montauk, a fishing town at the tip of the South Fork that has become a hipster getaway. Along the way, you’ll pass through towns like Southampton (where old money meets new glitz), Bridgehampton (known for its antiques-filled downtown), East Hampton (the place for shops and celebs) and Amagansett (a stylish tree-shaded village). To the north is Sag Harbor, a whaling port turned artists’ enclave. Though it’s not technically part of the Hamptons, nearby Shelter Island is worth a detour.

Where to Stay

As you would expect in a celebrity-studded getaway like this, hotels can be expensive. If you want to splash out, there’s nothing like the Maidstone in East Hampton, with a Scandinavian-chic vibe and bright red bikes out front. Another choice for families is the Montauk Yacht Club.

There are also reasonable places to stay, especially in the Montauk and Amagansett area. My top pick: Haven Montauk, a family-friendly motel that has been overhauled with sleek furnishings and a kidney-shaped pool surrounded by pint-sized kid’s furniture. Sole East has two locations in Montauk: one on a lake and another near the ocean.

Another favorite of mind is Dunes Resorts, a hotel group with well-priced beachside locations scattered throughout Amagansett and on the Napeague stretch between Amagansett and Montauk.

In Sag Harbor, Forever Bungalows is right off a busy road, but this little hotel couldn't be cuter and the prices can’t be beat. Airbnb and VRBO are also great resources, if you want to rent a beach house and live like a local.

The Clam Bar. Courtesy of Getty

Where to Eat

There’s nothing like a platter of fried clams or a piece of fresh tuna plucked right from the sea, and the Hamptons delivers. One of the best places to have lunch is at the Clam Bar, an open-air seafood shack with yellow and white umbrellas on the Napeague stretch. Across the street, the Lobster Roll (aka Lunch) is a bit more popular, due to its starring role in the TV show “The Affair.” Duryea’s, an old seafood joint in Montauk, was recently bought and revamped by a billionaire; it’s great for lobster.

For seafood and amazing sunsets, check out the Bay Kitchen Bar Restaurant, which is right on the water in East Hampton. If you can’t get a table, you can usually grab a seat in the bar area (it’s kid friendly). Nothing beats the Chowder House at Salivar’s in Montauk — the fish literally comes right off the docks that morning, and the tuna sushi is particularly sublime. A tip: it's crowded at dinner, but you can usually get a seat at lunch. Swallow East is also on the docks in Montauk — right next to the Chowder House — and kids love the small plates. Don’t miss the tempura asparagus.

My family is also in love with Navy Beach in Montauk, a former dive bar-turned-nautical chic restaurant right on the water, where kids can run around in the surf.

What to Do

One of the joys of a visit to the Hamptons is spending time on the beach. It’s hard to tear yourself away, but you might want to, in order to check out things like Hither Hills State Park Walking Dunes Trail. Hidden between Amagansett and Montauk, these shifting mountains of sand move several feet a year and are a thrill for any child to see. Kids love watching the kite surfers on Napeague Bay, at the end of Lazy Point Road. There are many bays for kayaking; one of the best is Accabonac Harbor in East Hampton. You can rent kayaks from the Springs General Store, where artist Jackson Pollock used to shop. And be sure to check out Pollock’s nearby house, which has been turned into a museum. On weekends in summer, there are special kid’s tours that end with a drip-painting class.

Some other family favorites  include the duck pond on David’s Lane in East Hampton — bring bread so that kids can feed the ducks and swans. Near Sag Harbor, the birds eat right out of your hand at the Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge. And be sure to visit the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center in Bridgehampton, which has wonderful nature walks and interactive displays for kids to check out the local wildlife and sea life. Another kid favorite that never gets old: visiting the lighthouse at the tip Montauk.

Getting Around

You can take the train — the Long Island Rail Road connects all the main towns — or the Hamptons Jitney (a bus) to get here and to get around. But a car is the best way to see the area. But be aware that it can take almost two hours to make the drive through the Hamptons, depending on traffic. The main thoroughfare that runs through the area is 27, but be sure to get off and explore the backroads, which snake through farm fields and along dune-lined beaches.

By Laura Begley Bloom

For another family-friendly vacation spot in the Northeast, check out my tips on Cape Cod: "Insider’s Guide: The Best of Cape Cod."