Planning a Fire Island summer escape.
Text Ed Salvato
Like many of the world’s most alluring island getaways, Fire Island Pines is beautiful, historically gay and a little hard to get to. Like Mykonos or Ibiza, there’s a strict schedule of parties, fit men of all ages and from all over and achingly gorgeous natural beauty. A key difference: There aren’t that many weekenders here. The vast majority have shares or are invited guests. There are day trippers (enduring the 5-hour subway-train-shuttle-ferry round trip from NYC), identifiable by their backpacks at Tea Dance and disdained by those with houses.
Fire Island simply isn’t organized for long weekends. There is one highly recommended hotel and a handful of decent places to eat. Tea dance is your opportunity to chat with folks and perhaps get invited to a house party. Fret not though! Fire Island reveals delights that are independent of status: gorgeous sunsets; a sun-dappled bay; a mighty ocean; miles and miles of pristine sandy beaches; a lush environment crisscrossed by elevated boardwalks and meandering deer, but not a single car; the gorgeous and largely un-visited Sunken Forest (NPS.gov); a dazzling canopy of stars at night; and architecturally marvelous (and envy-inducing) beach houses crowded with fabu-gays.
At its best
Fire Island is at its peak during July 4 for the outrageous Invasion of the Pines, when a boatload of drunken, bewigged queens strut down the gangway of a ferry dispatched from Cherry Grove. The Pines Party is another joyous event in a stunning location on the beach. (Attention: tickets go fast! PinesParty.com; July 23-25) The Fire Island Dance Festival (DRADance.org; mid-July) is a high-profile event and fundraiser with spectacular outdoor performances by world-renowned and emerging dancers.
Tea to a T
FIP nightlife is predictable, regimented, boozy and hot. Start with low tea 4:30-7:30PM on the deck of the Blue Whale (which will transform into your best dining option later that night). Drink a super stiff Planter’s Punch, the
island libation and scope out your sun-kissed prey. Next, saunter just a bit over on the same deck by the pool for high tea where you can decelerate your drinking and accelerate your dance moves.
After dinner head to Sip-n-Twirl (in the same complex, above the pizza place) starting around 10PM and going to the wee hours. It’s free to enter. Just next door also on the second floor of the Pavilion, there is usually a well-known DJ, so expect a cover. In the Pavilion itself there may also be a DJ and performer so expect an entry fee there, too. Due to COVID-19, much of the action may be relegated to the outdoor spaces at these venues. Luckily, they have plenty!
Before you go
Hit the gym, yep! Skip the carbs. Buy this year’s Prada bathing suits (the men will look askance at last year’s). And hit the tanning salon. Or forget all that, go with the confidence that you are beautiful inside and out, and enjoy. Just remember there are definitely a few status conscious guys around with flawless bodies, Adonis faces and perhaps a touch of attitude. (Enjoy the view!)
NYC-based Ed Salvato is a freelance travel writer, professor of tourism & hospitality at NYU, and an LGBTQ tourism marketing consultant.