Fire Island’s beginnings can be traced to a whaling station which existed in the 18th and 19th centuries. It wasn’t until the 1950s, however, that it grew to become the summer getaway we know and love today. Although we in the gay community think of Fire Island as a “gay island,” only two of the many towns are gay: Cherry Grove and the Pines.
Cherry Grove’s bustling downtown is full of amenities, including several bars and restaurants, alongside an eclectic mix of some 300 charming beach cottages connected by winding narrow boardwalk paths. Cherry Grove was the original gay men’s party town in Fire Island, however, in recent decades the party boys moved over to the Pines.
For over 20 years, it has been the place to party the summer away. Home of the “tea dance,” Fire Island Pines is a zigzag of boardwalks that lead to the island’s most ritzy real estate. Today charitable fundraisers and cocktail parties dot the Fire Island Pines’ social calendar all summer long. The Pines caters to its Manhattan weekenders and features delightful markets, boutiques and restaurants.
There are many places to stay, eat and party in the Grove and the Pines, but here are just a few we like.
WHERE TO STAY
Belvedere Guest House For Men is on the bayfront at Cherry Grove, near Fire Island Pines, a few minutes from one of the world’s best beaches. It is in the style of a Venetian palace. A roof-top terrace and bayfront deck affords spectacular views of the Great South Bay. They also have a swimming pool, hot tub, a gym, high speed wireless Internet connection, and a television room. They supply ice, coffee, and refrigerators. They serve a complimentary Continental breakfast on Sundays. Belvederefireisland.com
The Grove Hotel – Are you looking to be right next to the party? This place is steps away from the Ice Palace and the hotel is certainly convenient to downtown. However, be aware that this is no Hilton, be prepared for tidy cinder block dormitory style rooms and bedsheets that are changed only upon request. Nice-sized pool is a plus. Only steps away are the beach, restaurants, shops, dance clubs and bars, catering to your every whim. Grovehotel.com
The Madison Fire Island Pines – Wonderfully chic and completely brand-new, The Madison is different from anything you’ve ever experienced in Fire Island. Stylish and modern, it’s a place where flat-screen televisions, high-speed internet service and massages by the pool are just the beginning. There’s a grand deck, a huge pool, a hot tub and a roof deck with panoramic views of the Pines. It’s sixty seconds from the beach and sixty seconds from the harbor. For more information call 631-597-6061 or go to TheMadisonfi.com.
Pines Bluff Overlook – Short-term shares available in various packages. All rooms are recently renovated, have private baths, air conditioning, TV/DVD, bar refrigerators, and private access to the outside deck. For more info, call 631-597-3064 or visit PinesBluffOverlook.com
WHERE TO EAT
Cherry Grove Pizza – The best pizza on the island – and delicious Italian specialties. Dine in or take out! Located across from Joseph’s Grocery Store in the Beach Hotel Complex.
Jumping Jack’s Seafood Shack – The only restaurant facing the ocean on Fire Island. Unbelievable views, great food and fantastic blender drinks.
Cherry’s Pit – This restaurant and bar is a popular Grove gathering place. Cherry’s Pit has a great second-floor deck for outdoor seating and a wonderful view of the bay.
The Blue Whale brings to The Pines an innovative, delightful, and satisfying return to island cuisine. Their guests can expect a selection of classic favorites and specialties with fresh, local market ingredients. The Blue Whale is also the birth place of the tea dance, and continues the tradition with Low Tea daily from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Bay Bar Café is the central hub of The Pines Harbor. It is a great place to enjoy Starbucks coffee and read the morning paper or to grab a protein shake and chat with your friends. Breakfast is served until noon. For lunch and dinner, Bay Bar offers a casual place to grab a bite while escaping from the summer sun.
WHERE TO PARTY
The Ice Palace – This is Cherry Grove’s premier night spot with incredible drag shows and theme parties. The bar has a large deck on one side, and an indoor/outdoor pool on the other. With a cool lounge, hot dance floor, and billiards tables you can’t go wrong. GroveHotel.com
The Pavilion is the nighttime heartbeat of the community. For more than thirty years, island residents and guests have been coming to the Pavilion to dance until dawn. Featuring a state-of-the-art New York City-style lighting and sound system, The Pavilion is the sacred cathedral to dance music.
The Harbor Club – is a vintage-style lounge, and the place to sit back, relax and sip a specialty cocktail hand-crafted by an experienced mixologist. A climate-controlled environment where you can sneak away from the hustle of high season, the Harbor Club features late night movies, top-shelf liquor, vintage records and turntable, and classic maritime decor with a twist.
To read more about Fire Island, visit fireisland.com.