Fire Island is known for many things — oceanfront circuit parties that draw thousands of muscle-bound boys, kitschy drag queens of varying degrees of talent and good taste, and sexual liaisons on the stretch of seashore between Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines dubbed the Meat Rack.
This 34-mile-long barrier island that parallels the South Shore of Long Island, roughly 60 miles east of Manhattan, has something for everyone. Raucous nights on the town? Check. Quiet days where you hardly see a soul? Check.
Approximately 500 people live year-round on Fire Island, but the population can swell to as many as 30,000 people on one of the summer's busiest weekends, such as Independence Day or Labor Day.
Recovered from the November 2011 fire, The Pines had a busy summer season this past year, with new facilities at the Hotel/ Botel, the Blue Whale, Pavilion, Low Tea, High Tea, the Canteen and the Sip n' Twirl/ Bistro complex. The resort had been sold to partners including the owner of the Out NYC Hotel, who want Fire Island to rival international gay beach destinations such as Provincetown, Mykonos and Ibiza.
In Cheery Grove the Grove Hotel was destroyed by another fire, in March 2015, and won't be opening yet for 2016, but the Ice Palace nightclub had only minor damage and the pool was open with daily and seasonal passes. For updates about their special events see their website. Cherry's and the Belvedere were not damaged.
See our listings tab for a map with these and more area businesses.
For most visitors, getting to Fire Island requires taking a train, then a van, then a ferry. The Long Island Railroad provides train service to from Penn Station in Manhattan or Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to Sayville for $18.25 to $24 (onboard during peak hours) or $13.25 to $19 between 10am and 4pm off peak. Colonial Transportation offers transport to the ferry at $5 for the bus or $6 per person for a taxi, meeting all incoming trains and ferries. The Sayville Ferry Service takes passengers from the mainland to the Grove or the Pines for $16 roundtrip, summer rates. The ride across Great South Bay takes between 15 and 20 minutes.
You’ll have to use your own two feet, because there are no cars on the island. Folks get their luggage or groceries home with little red wagons.
Fire Island Pines. A hangout for A-list gays, the Pines has massive houses hidden behind tall fences.
Cherry Grove. More laid-back than the Pines, Cherry Grove has a easy-going mix of lesbians and gay men.
What to do
The centuries-old Sunken Forest, roughly half a mile west of Cherry Grove, is among the best places within the Fire Island National Seashore to see brilliant foliage. The wooded area appears as though it is below sea level because of an optical illusion created by the dunes. The Sunken Forest contains a number of trails on which visitors can explore Fire Island's unique flora and fauna. Deer, fox, turtles and an abundance of birds are among the animals that can be spotted within this protected area.
The Arts Project Cherry Grove (180 Bayview Walk, Cherry Grove) has stage performances, concerts, art exhibits and sales of original works in oils, photos, crafts and jewelry - among other things. Free summertime movies have been screened each Tuesday at 7pm.
Media & Resorces
The Long Island Ravens MC is the nearest leather men's organization, with events around Long Island and beyond.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Fire Island listings pages.
Belvedere (Bayview Walk, Cherry Grove; 631-597-6448) guest house/ hotel in in style of Venetian Palace, men-only, with patio, clothing-optional swimming pool, hot tub, gym / workout area, WiFi throughout. Shops, bars, discos and restaurants nearby, plus jogging trail into the Sunken Forest.
Dune Point Guest House (134 Lewis Walk, Cherry Grove; 631-597-6261) secluded rental apartments studios, one and two bedrooms, by the day, week or month.
Grove Hotel (Holly Walk, Cherry Grove; 631-597-6600), was Fire Island's largest hotel at the heart of Cherry Grove, steps from beach, restaurants, shops, dance clubs and bars in same complex as the Ice Palace. Closed summer 2015 and 2016 seasons while reconstruction takes place after the fire.
The Hotel (Harbor Park; 917-336-3609), 'popup' hotel within the 30-room Botel, caters to a twenty-something lower budget crowd, with quad occupancy room bunk beds next to the Pavilion, shared baths, private lockers, and free WiFi.
The Madison (22 Atlantic Walk, Pines; 631-597-6061) guest house just off the beach, with pool and pool deck, roof deck, hot tub, all-room satellite TV and internet, massage therapists by appointment.
Pine Bluff Overlook (362 Ocean Walk, Pines; 631-597-3064) all-season delux apartments, full kitchens, satellite TV/DVD; rooms with private baths, refrigerators, iPod players, WiFi, swimming pool, roof-top Jacuzzi with ocean and bay views.
Bars, Clubs & Restaurants
Bistro & Martini Bar (Harbor Park, Pines), the Pines’ only full-time, sit-down, dinner-only restaurant/ refined cocktail lounge: Continental cuisine, traditional favorites and daily/ seasonal specials.
Blue Whale (Harbor Park, Pines), harborfront dining 6 nights a week, new 2016 dinner menu, piano bar entertainment, weekend brunch, Drag Saturdays; Low Tea dance and cocktails deck.
Canteen (Harbor Park, Pines), pool and harbor-side cafe, beer, wine, cocktails, sandwiches, burgers, salads, pasta, meat and fish entrees.
Cherry's on the Bay (158 Bayview Walk, Cherry Grove), busy cocktail bar and restaurant open 10am-4am daily, with bay side deck, great sunset vistas; also with dinner and drag shows, theme parties, contests; weekend late-night and Saturday breakfast and Sunday brunch.
Floyd's (Bayview Walk, Cherry Grove), gourmet sandwiches, breakfast wraps and scrambles, muffins and oatmeal, huevos rancheros -- daily from 7am.
Ice Palace (Ocean Walk, Cherry Grove) at the Grove Hotel, with dancing, pool games, drag and comedy shows, big-name entertainment, large outdoor deck, indoor/outdor pool, Friday DW World underwear parties; Sunday T-Dance, mixed crowd of men and women.
Island Breeze (178 Bayview Walk, Cherry Grove) relaxed restaurant near the dock, with reliably good American food, reasonable prices and Great South Bay views. Nice for afternoon and early evening drinks, and open in September.
Pavilion (37 Fire Island Blvd, Pines), dance music late-nite party Memorial Day to Labor Day mecca, legendary, and up-and-coming star DJs from around the world, dancing ‘til dawn (sometimes later). New York City-style sound and lights; Friday/Saturday Fun Tea, and Showtune Sundays call “Divas, to the Dance Floor.” Their High T Deck area just outside the Pavilion, offers cocktails and outdoor conversation space.
Pines Pizza (Harbor Park, Pines), pizza restaurant, salads, take-away meal, all-day coffee and ice cream stop with deck over Fire Island Boulevard. Also at Pines, the Juice Bar has delicious and healthy snacks.
Pool Deck (Harbor Park, Pines) massive pool deck behind The Hotel, with cabanas, designer pool furniture, with lunch and drinks service poolside and outdoor gym; pool parties, performances, contests, movies, afternoon and evening dance parties.
Sand Castle on the Ocean (106 Lewis Walk, Cherry Grove), restaurant/ piano bar, open daily, kitchen closed Wednesdays, lunch, dinner, raw bar, wines by the glass, Sunday signature breakfast.
Sip n' Twirl (36 Fire Island Blvd, Pines), newly rebuilt nightclub dancing, lounge and deck, open nightly, with drag shows and popular DJs, Friday/Saturday tea dances.
Top of the Bay Bistro (1 Dock Walk, Cherry Grove), "nouvo-style" restaurant overlooking the Great South Bay, American Nouveau cuisine, classically trained chef, gay piano bar live entertainment, sunset views.
On the mainland side of the bay, the Long Island Eagle (94 N Clinton Ave, Bay Shore) is a bar for all kinds of men, with outdoor Vernda, the only gay bar In Suffolk County. The Long Island Ravens no longer meet here - see their website for upcoming events and venues.
Shopping & services
FIG - Fire Island Goods (160 Main Walk, Cherry Grove), casual and beachwear, cards, crafts, gifts, toiletries.
General Store + Annex by BASE (Harbor Walk, Pines), clothing lines, swim and underwear, household and grooming goods, books and other everyday needs, 10am-10pm daily.
Gym (Harbor Walk, Pines), exercise from weights to cardio, indoor and outdoor exercise areas, training services and classes.
The Pines Gallery (37 Fire Island Blvd, Pines)), featuring artists from Fire Island Pines; paintings, sculputure and photography exhibits, artworks for sale.
Tola (Harbor Walk, Pines), small town boutique/ big time vibe; gifts for all affairs, creative home accessories, local jewelry, and clothing for him, her and the kids.
Other Cheery Grove shops include: Cherry Grove Grocery natural/ organic food products; Cherry Grove Liquors; Cherry Grove Pizza; Goodies General Store; Grove Flowers; Rainbow Dreams dress-up and party needs; and Sweet Licks ice cream, cakes, coffees, smoothies, and iced drinks.
Fire Island in September
Largely empty beaches, warm surf and an abundance of nature greet post-Labor Day travelers. The weather, which often features balmy days and crisp nights through mid-October, is one of the reasons many are fond of the off-season, also the still-warm ocean water temperatures and the colors of autumn leaves.
The off-season isn't for everyone however. Those who like the easy socializing of the summer months may be put off by the mostly deserted boardwalks in the fall. Many businesses in the Pines and Cherry Grove close, so there are fewer options for meals or nights on the town.
In previous seasons in Cherry Grove the Miss Fire Island contest took place at the Grove Hotel, and singing diva Porsche continued her shows at the Ice Palace. The Arts Project of Cherry Grove showcased "Families of Cherry Grove" an exhibit of photography, and they staged theater productions through the end of September with Circus Side Show. Cherry's On the Bay and the Island Breeze are among the local restaurants that typically stay open on weekends through Columbus Day (if the weather cooperates, of course).
In the Pines, DJs would spin at the Pavilion/ Glo Lounge until mid-September. The uniquely Pines experience known as Tea also ran through the second weekend in September. A large number of Pines residents commemorate the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on the beach.
"People think summer is over as soon as Labor Day hits," says Adam Weaver, marketing director of Fire Island Pines Operations. "Really, Fire Island has some of its most beautiful beach days in September. I know because I finally get to go, because I'm not as busy."