At the far eastern end of Long Island the Expressway (Rt.495) ends and the road splits, winding around Great Peconic Bay, going north and south. To the North is called the North Fork, to the south, the South Fork or “The Hamptons.” Like many siblings the areas couldn’t be more different. Th Hamptons is the wild child; glitzy and unpredictable. The North Fork is the quieter of the two, more grounded, more stable.
The North Fork is rural with many more year round residents and a wine industry that continues to gain recognition for its fine wines. It is not as crowded, even in season, as the Hamptons, yet offers plenty of wonderful places to stay and eat and just as many activities. While the ideal time to visit the Hamptons is late Spring and early Fall, the North Fork is great any time of year. The wine community has succeeded in making the area enjoyable even in the dead of winter.
If we are to believe the New York newspapers, the Hamptons are filled with self-indulgent models, celebrities and wannabees on a trek to see and be seen. I guess for about 8 weeks in July and August, that’s probably true. In that time frame, people pay outrageous amounts of money to rent mansions along the south shore of Long Island, the roads between the towns are always clogged, beaches are jammed and the top priority seems to be how to get into the hot club each night.
But the Hamptons that insiders know and love, is the Hamptons that exists the other 10 months of the year. The series of small, bucolic villages that dot the southern shore of Long Island, NY and known as the Hamptons starts at Westhampton and stretches out to the eastern tip of the island at Montauk. It includes the towns of East Hampton, Southhampton, Sag Harbor, Wainscott, Bridgehampton, Amagansett, Water Mill and others.
The Hamptons have long been the summer respite of New Yorkers seeking to escape the heat of the City. Twentysomethings who share houses during the season, rub shoulders with celebrities, politicians and high powered business types during a frantic summer of partying that leave most exhausted by Labor Day.
But before the crowd gets there and after they have returned to the City, the Hamptons offer a wonderful weekend retreat of pristine beaches, quaint shops, antique stores, wineries, top rated restaurants and plenty of things to do to occupy your time.
There is a Hamptons personality to fit just about any mood. Tony East Hampton offers upscale shops like Tiffany and Ralph Lauren, Sag Harbor is a charming waterfront village, Montauk is a laid back and casual beach town and the North Fork evokes thoughts of the California wine country.