When I moved to New York, I heard all the crazy party stories about Fire Island. But nobody had told me just how surreal, magical, and enchanting this barrier island was.
The main reason why it's taken me almost three years to finally venture out to Fire Island is because it's just so damn difficult to plan a trip there. In doing a lot of research, I couldn't find one source of truth to tell me all the steps I wanted to know in detail. So I'm doing that here to make your life easier!
Here's the breakdown: to get to Fire Island Pines or Cherry Grove from NYC (if you're trying to go anywhere else in Fire Island... I can't help you, but also what are you doing??), you have to take the Long Island Railroad towards Montauk, get off in Sayville, take a lil taxi-bus thing to the docks, and then take a ferry to the island. I know, it's a lot. I found this awesome site that did all the work of timing that out for you - as you can tell from that site, some trips are a bit faster than others. During the summer, Penn Station and Jamacia sell package deals that let you get all the tickets you need (train, taxi, ferry, roundtrip) all at once which is super convenient. So you get all your tickets at the station and get on the train towards Montauk (just read the reader boards), stopping in Sayville. You'll have to transfer at either Jamacia or Babylon depending on the route - the transferring train was right across the platform both times for us, which was very convenient. About an hour and a half later, when you get off at Sayville, there's a bunch of taxi-bus-things waiting right outside the platform to take people from the train to the ferry. Make sure they're operated by Colonial taxi if you bought the package deal. Then after a short 8-10 minute ride, they drop you right in front of the ferry entrance! Here's the schedule for the ferry, in case you need it. From there, it's just a skip across the pound for about 30 minutes and you're on the island. Easy peasy. Be sure to save your tickets from the train if they're roundtrip (you'll need it to get back) - you'll get 2 one-way taxi and ferry tickets that you give up when you take them.
Phew, that was a long-winded paragraph. Once you do it once, you'll realize it's actually easier than it sounds. Plus now, you've made it to Fire Island - the magical, homey land where there are no cars, the "sidewalks" are boardwalks, the beaches are long and stunning, and everyone is just so. damn. lovely. Quick backstory: my first impression (and really the first time I ever heard of Fire Island) was from this fun girl I sat next to at a Beyoncé concert - she was appalled than bae and I had never been and insisted that we had to go because "there are some insane orgies." So ya know, sounded like a trip that could wait. The impression I got from the internet and friends and TV after that was basically it was where rich, hot gays went in the summer - which to be fair, isn't inaccurate. But after getting to see it myself, I got to form my own opinion of it - and tbh, I'm obsessed.
Yes, Fire Island has it's fair share of sexy guys who obviously work out a lot and are fab af but it also had a ton of just regular ol' people who were here, queer, and ready to hang. I was admittedly a little self-conscious hitting the beach there, considering I'm not exactly super ripped and always swimsuit ready, but seeing literally every type of body in a speedo (or fully clothed or naked or in some contraption I don't even know the name of) made me a million times more comfortable. There even families and a fair share of girls and older people and it just wasn't the beach version of the Abbey that I thought it might be. Everyone was there and proud in their skin which was a super cool environment to be in. On top of that, the endless boardwalk/sidewalks that connect all the homes are unlike anything I've ever experienced - all these amazing homes tucked away behind nature and rolling sand dunes that take you up and down all over the island. The fact that there were no cars was surreal and the cozy, neighborhood feel where everyone was smiling and just seemed to love to be there was infectious. The pictures don't do it justice.
Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove, the two major queer communities on Fire Island, are connected through a long stretch of dunes and a lil forest type thing (affectionately called the Meat Rack... I'll let you Google that one). Cherry Grove is the older, chiller and the more popular lesbian community. However, it also has the only few bars between the two - including Cherry's which apparently is lit (we'll be headed back to experience that). Fire Island Pines is more of your younger, hip crowd with some trendy stores, a gym, and another few restaurants - this is where we casually saw Shangela (the true winner of All Stars 3) casually walking around with some friends. There isn't a ton of dining options and everything, including the small grocery stores, are overpriced - but that's why people rent the homes and bring things to cook at home. We ate at Island Breeze which was pretty tasty, but definitely not cheap. I'd recommend packing some snacks if you're doing a day trip. After all, it is an island that takes like 3 modes of transportation to get to.
Last thing I'll say about Fire Island, and the reason I dedicated a whole post about this bizarre barrier island that is literally a few minutes walk wide, is that it's rare to find places as a queer person where you feel like your in your element - like everyone around is like you, like they get it, like they're just trying to live their best lives too. Fire Island has that vibe - it makes you want to be true to who you are and love the life you're living. Maybe that's the most extra way possible to describe it, but you should take the trip and see for yourself - and lemme know what you think :)