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Stepping Outside of Manhattan for a Long Island Experience



For the urbane traveler, New York City is thought to be the apogee of culture and excitement. But during late summer and early fall, everyone - even visitors - could use a respite from the sweaty, crowded, concrete jungle. And there's no better place to visit than the city's equally alluring neighbor, Long Island.

One of Long Island's greatest draws is its southern shoreline. The best place to find roaring swells and superb fishing is at the end of the South Fork in Montauk. If you're a beachgoer who prefers sun to surf, Montauk offers that, too. Check out the Montauk Point Lighthouse, which looks like a precarious beacon sitting at the end of the world. There are plenty of rooms in Montauk, but if you're a camper, Hither Hills Campground puts you closer to the beach than any oceanfront property. While you're there, stop for a savory bowl of New England clam chowder at the isolated restaurant Lunch in Amagansett. Also on the menu is the lobster roll, the now ubiquitous sandwich that Lunch claims to have originated. (Traveler beware: Before Labor Day, accommodations, even campsites, are hard to find, and traffic on Friday or Saturday out to the South Fork can be nightmarish.)

If you want a blend of the island's high-priced Hamptons and relaxed Montauk (and desire a much shorter ride from Manhattan), jump into your car or ride the Long Island Railroad to the ferry stations of Bay Shore, Sayville, or Patchogue and sail over to car-free Fire Island. (Thursday to Saturday, you can hydrate at Blue Point Brewery in Patchogue, just a few blocks from the train station.) On Fire Island, plum trees and tall grass grow wild and create an idyllic vibe. The beaches are pristine and wild deer roam the dunes. If a peaceful day is your goal, head to the sleepy villages of Kismet or Saltaire, but if you're looking to party, make Ocean Beach your destination. For a repast in OB, have a bite at Island Mermaid, next to the ferry, and enjoy views across the expansive Great South Bay. Sip down your meal with Fire Island's indigenous libation, rocket fuel-a hopped-up piña colada.

For the more adventurous traveler, skip the ferry ride and drive to Robert Moses State Park. Find parking at field 5 and bike east, one mile past the lighthouse, onto Fire Island. Though at first the path is pocked with rocks and sand traps, once you reach the threshold of residential Kismet there are easy-to-traverse concrete and boardwalk paths. (You can also walk into Kismet and rent a bike in town.) After enjoying the quiet beaches, continue riding to the end of Atlantique, just a few miles down, and walk the mile along the beach to OB. The village of OB doesn't allow bike riding on weekends. Further east and accessible by water taxi, or by ferry from the mainland, is a verdant sunken forest at Sailors Haven that is worth exploring.

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