Long Island’s East End can be a fantastic place to spend time during the summer, even for those who can’t afford to buy that dream vacation home in the Hamptons. So how do non-millionaires enjoy all the East End has to offer? It takes a bit of creativity, and homework, but it’s not impossible.
“Long Island’s prime location and ease of accessibility from New York City along with our endless array of attractions and rich natural assets ensure that our shores are a go-to destination during the summer months,” said Discover Long Island’s President and CEO Kristen Jarnagin. “For those looking to experience our iconic East End at a more affordable price explore mid-week travel during peak season and off-season travel for a year-round advantage.”
With resourcefulness and research, there are affordable options for East End lodging and fun, suited for a range of ages and tastes. Here are some wallet-friendly suggestions:
Bowen’s By the Bays
In the heart of the Hamptons, Bowen’s features traditional guest rooms and one-, two- and three-bedroom private pet-friendly guest cottages, at prices that won’t break the bank. There’s also lighted tennis, plus a swimming pool, playground, shuffleboard court, and putting green. 177 W. Montauk Hwy., Hampton Bays, Southampton, 631-728-1158, gobowens.com
Ocean Surf Resort
Few would characterize the summer rates at this resort as “cheap,” but visitors would be hard pressed to do better in Montauk, considering the quality and stellar reviews of this oceanfront resort. All rooms include a kitchen and the resort is just two blocks from town. 84 S. Emerson Ave., Montauk, 631-668-3332, oceansurfresort.com
White Sands Resort
This no-frills resort is a well-kept secret among visitors who cherish its perfect stretch of beach and relative seclusion. The beach is the prime draw here, and the resort provides useful amenities like efficiency kitchens, barbecue grills, picnic tables, and beach chairs and umbrellas. 28 Shore Rd., Amagansett, 631-267-3350, whitesandsresort.com
Hotel Indigo: Long Island – East End
For those looking for a trendy, boutique-style lodging experience on a budget, the recently converted 100-room Hotel Indigo (formerly a Best Western) is a great choice. It’s conveniently located nearby Riverhead attractions, North Fork wineries, the Hamptons, and features stylish rooms and amenities, plus a spa, pool and outdoor lounge area. 1830 West Main Street, Rt. 25, Riverhead; 631-369-2200, indigoeastend.com
The Chequit Inn
Guests have to book swiftly and judiciously to secure one of the Chequit’s 36 rooms, but the fortunate will enjoy superb accommodations on relaxing Shelter Island, at a truly competitive rate. The historic inn was recently renovated, and now offers a range of guest rooms and suites to fit all needs. 23 Grand Ave., Shelter Island Heights, 631-749-0018, thechequit.com
WHERE TO PLAY
For visitors, it can be challenging trying to hit East End beaches, where town resident passes or hefty fees may be required in order to enjoy the sand and surf. Here are some suggestions and insider “hacks” that can help:
One of the most coveted East End beachfronts is Coopers Beach in Southampton (268 Meadow Ln., Southampton; 631-287-3450), where it costs $50 per day to park. Instead, park on nearby Halsey Neck Lane, then walk to the beach. Scout a similar solution for Main Beach in East Hampton (101 Ocean Ave., East Hampton; 631-324-8158), but its $30 fee seems like a bargain, by comparison.
In Montauk, save on fees at Ditch Plains Beach (18 Ditch Plains Rd., Montauk), by parking at the nearby Montauk Lighthouse (2000 Montauk Hwy., Montauk; 631-668-2544; montauklighthouse.com). Another option for hitting Montauk beaches is to hop on the Hamptons Free Ride (646-504-FREE; thefreeride.com), which travels to Montauk for free from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, stopping at area beaches along the way.
Another great option for affordably enjoying beaches is to take advantage of the oceanfront state parks in the area, which offer excellent amenities for a fraction of the price of many town beaches. In Montauk, the go-to spot is Hither Hills State Park (164 Old Montauk Hwy., Montauk; 631-668-2554; parks.ny.gov/parks/122) which costs just $10 per car, or free with the Empire Pass. There’s a lovely beach and playground, a huge oceanfront campground, biking and hiking trails, and the popular “walking dunes” of Napeague Harbor. It’s also a beloved surf-fishing spot that’s open year-round to anglers.
Meanwhile, on the eastern tip of the North Fork, there’s Orient Beach State Park (40000 Main Rd., Orient; 631-323-2440; parks.ny.gov/parks/106), a National Natural Landmark boasting 45,000 feet of frontage on Gardiners Bay, as well as a rare maritime forest with red cedar, black-jack oak trees and prickly-pear cactus. Hike, swim, fish, kayak, lounge and beachcomb to the heart’s content, while also taking advantage of the picnic area, playground, restrooms and other public facilities. Like Hither Hills, it only costs $10 per car per day, or it’s free with the Empire Pass.