“Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some 30 miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate”.
Do you remember the introduction to the film “Sabrina”, when Audrey Hepburn sets the scene for the Larrabee family’s sublime estate? Even though technically in this part of Long Island we are not yet in the Hamptons, which is the southeastern part of the island, the images in that film have forever anchored the fantasy of this long strip of land that dreamily captures the ocean, close to Manhattan and yet another world all together. The Hamptons encapsulate the luxurious imagination of lavish homes, endless beaches, evenings out in good company, and summers spent by the pools with a cocktail, in long dresses and bare feet.
Unfortunately, it’s not a cheap destination and any motel costs a fortune in the high summer season, but renting a car and driving to Montauk is one of the great pleasures of a New York vacation, provided you have at least 48 hours to spare. Ideally before or after July/August when families have left their second homes to return to the Upper East Side, and so can afford a night or two there. The destination is also wonderful in the winter when the beaches are covered in a blanket of snow. Let’s go !
From Manhattan, head east!
The benefits of driving in French cities is that driving in the United States is child’s play, and it’s easy to leave Manhattan and its one-way streets, to quickly find yourself on Highway 495, which runs due east into Long Island. It’s a 3-hour drive to the tip of the island, Montauk, and much more if you take the back road to discover the beautiful villages in the Hamptons before reaching the end. The only really good advice is not to leave on a Friday night and comeback on a Sunday night (or a bank holiday) if you don’t want the road to turn into a traffic hell that will certainly tarnish your stay. A train from Manhattan also serves the Hamptons and allows you to get to Montauk (or the small towns before) comfortably, and it is always possible to rent a bike to get around when you are there.
Searching for the perfect home
It’s only 25km between Southampton and Amagansett, but these kilometers host some of the most beautiful real estate in America ! To discover these houses (although some are very well hidden), just take a stroll through the small towns and villages that make up this magnificent stretch of coastline.
Southampton, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, Wainscott, East Hampton, Amagansett… each little town and village has its own personality, but all are elegant and distinguished, and for those who love architecture it is a delight to see the mix of styles, from the classicism of the big white houses with colonnades, the very New England ones with their cedar slat facades, and the sumptuous contemporary villas facing the sea.
Beach car parks are not always accessible here if you are not a resident, fortunately some, such as Sagg Main Beach, East Hampton Main Beach and Atlantic Beach, allow you to enjoy the pleasures of the sea with a parking ticket to be purchased on site.
Our favourite villages : East Hampton, so incredibly chic, where you can admire Aerin Lauder’s boutique (AERIN), Estée Lauder’s granddaughter who inherited her grandmother’s house here; and Amagansett, for its boho-elegant atmosphere, a very worked-out casualness but the charm of its 19th century houses, its lawned squares, its little shops, acts like a magnet !
Picking up the big catalogues from the local estate agents and going through the pages, dreaming of an expensive property overlooking the sea while drinking a coffee is one of the Hamptons little pleasure !
Montauk, the end of the world
A small fishing village with a name that rings out like a promise, Montauk is the charm of the Hamptons without the ostentatious side. A slightly old-fashioned atmosphere, from the times when artists and surfers made it their refuge, and which continues to be a place where life flows a little more slowly, even if the destination is very trendy, between trips to Montauk Point Lighthouse, the 18th century lighthouse which signs the end of Long Island, with the ocean for yourself, the terrace of Duryea’s to feast on Lobster Rolls, and the wild beaches. It’s a quiet relaxation with a charm all of its own.
Sag Harbor and Shelter Island, our favourites
In the northern part of the Hamptons are 2 hidden treasures, which remain unspoilt places, without the frenzy of the southern part, and where holidays are more in the nature and sports mode.
Sag Harbor unfolds around its small deep-water harbour, which made it one of the biggest whaling centres in the United States, and thus ensured its success and wealth, and as a consequence a beautiful early 19th century architecture. We stroll through the small streets of the village to admire the houses, everything is compact and orderly, the sky is a sumptuous navy blue and the air has a salty taste. A stop at the American Hotel, which dates back to 1846, immediately puts us in the mood!
From Sag Harbor we continue north, towards Shelter Island, a small ultra-preserved paradise, which we reach in 5 minutes by ferry, giving the destination a dimension of great adventure. Suddenly everything is much more peaceful, less populated, less “show-off”, no luxury shops, no trendy restaurants (even if there are one or two hot-spots, like the famous Sunset Beach, a hotel/restaurant on the east side of the island, just the sea everywhere, the wild nature, cute houses buried under the vegetation, a more accessible Bed & Breakfast culture. This is where we want to comeback !