I have been fortunate enough to visit Fire Island, New York many times since I was a kid.
Fire Island is a narrow island (approximately 32 miles long and an average of one mile wide) that runs parallel to the southern fork of Long Island. There are only two bridges to the island, but in most of the towns, cars are not allowed. Most of the beaches are easy to get to via public ferry, but some of the smaller beaches are only reachable by private boat. This means that many of the beaches are miraculously empty, making you feel like you have the whole island to yourself.
My aunt and uncle who live in Sayville, Long Island often take their boat across the bay to the uncrowded Barrett Beach. In the summer, I take the Long Island Railroad from New York City and hitch a ride with them to the ocean. I don’t mind sitting in a beach chair all day, drinking beer and reading a book and sometimes being dragged into the freezing water by my two little cousins, if I do get restless for a little more action, it is only a short walk to the nearest town. One of my favorites is the tiny town of Davis Park.
There isn’t much to Davis Park; there are a little over 300 houses nestled into the low-hanging trees and the stretches of coastal scrub. Also, there is a tiny post office that is open for only a couple hours a day, plus a restaurant, a bar, a firehouse, and a general store. The whole town has the classic weathered beach look. This is because it is difficult and expensive to get supplies such as paint over to the island via boat.
The walk along the boardwalk directly in between the ocean and the bay is peaceful. People eat lunch on their front porches. Deer, looking for food, run across the boardwalk and come a little too close to the people walking by. Through the trees, you can catch glimpses of the blue-green water.
Fire Island is a place that has always been near and dear to me and it is a perfect summer escape from the city. It is easy to access by taking the train followed by a short ferry ride. I also know of people here who have rented houses for a full weekend or week-long adventure (for a hefty fee).
There are several other towns that are much more active than Davis Park. Ocean Beach, plus the two gay towns, the Pines and Cherry Grove, are places where there is more of a party atmosphere and a rousing nightlife.