By Ernest Barteldes
Ever since I learned about Fire Island and visit One of the reasons for that is that I’d read a lot about it, and also heard stories from my late friend Jack Nichols, an early gay activist who wrote a book about the village many years ago – I had never chance to read it since it has gone out of print and the only copy I ever got to see was in his private library in Cocoa Beach.
On our last visits to Fire Island, we basically stuck to Cherry Grove – yes, it’s one of the biggest LGBT destinations there, but it’s also one of the most welcoming and fun – there are three reasonably priced bars and the famed Ice Palace at the Grove Hotel, where pool parties and various other performances occur – but given the hour, only those staying there overnight can really enjoy.
One of the reasons we enjoy Cherry Grove is the fact that the beach is under federal jurisdiction, meaning that you are free from all the hang-ups of either municipal or state laws, so folks can relax and pop open a beer or sunbathe au naturel – and no, you don’t see any raging drunks or inappropriate behavior – just people having a good time under the sun.
On our first trip to Fire Island this year, I suggested checking out The Pines, and finally got agreement from Renata and our friend Basia (*), who frequently joins us there. As usual, we left our Staten Island apartment early and headed to the ferry station in Sayville. Once we got there we had to wait a while since unlike destinations like Kismet or Ocean Beach, ferries don’t run as often (or as late) to either Cherry Grove or The Pines – so there is a lot of waiting around. Thankfully, there is a nice little pub there so you can relax with a cold drink while you wait.
Fire Island Pines is not about convenience if you are looking for that – there is a pizza place (I had a taste of a plain slice, which was delicious) and a small convenience store/café that serves a variety of dishes. For drinks you can stop by the Blue Whale, which has an outdoor bar and also an indoor dance floor where I saw a lot of guys dancing to remixed hits by the likes of Cher, Queen and even Yoko Ono (she has been rediscovered by the club crowd, who have finally given her the recognition she deserves). There is also the Bistro , a restaurant that is only open after a certain hour – all of them concentrated in the same area close to the ferry dock. If you wish to stay overnight, they also have a hotel.
The beach is, like in other parts of Fire Island, extremely clean. From what I was able to observe, there is a mixture of families, couples and singles of all sexual orientations – I saw fewer people in the nude as compared to Cherry Grove, but since this was a single visit this could have been a slower day. The crowd there is also much younger. Since the beach is on federal land, open container laws (if existent) are not enforced, but I didn’t see anyone overindulging and making fools of themselves.
After we’d had enough of the beach, we explored the village and eventually gravitated to the bar, where service was great and prices were reasonable. The bartender – a young shirtless man from Poland – was very attentive, and the atmosphere was great.
We cannot wait to go back there again.
(*) not her real name.
Recipe: Fire Island Cocktail Recipe
Source: Cocktails of New York
- White rum 1 shot
- Vodka 1 shot
- Orange juice 1 shot
- Sweet and sour 1 shot
- Cranberry juice splash
- Orange slice garnish
In an ice-filled Collins glass, pour the alcohols in first. Add the orange juice and sweet and sour. Add with cranberry juice to create a “sunrise” and garnish with an orange slice