The Hamptons' Off-Season Is Less Of A Frenzied Getaway

Special to The Courant
True Hamptonites know the best time to enjoy the South Fork of Long Island is after Labor Day

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Despite its glitzy reputation, true Hamptonites know that the best time of the year to enjoy the South Fork of Long Island is after Labor Day, when the rowdy Instagrammers and celebrity-seekers have packed up their sun hats and headed back to New York or L.A. or wherever they call home. In the fall, the beaches are once again for the natives, and it is once again a pleasure to explore the area's charming villages like Southampton, East Hampton, Bridgehampton and Amagansett.

That's how Deputy Southampton Supervisor Frank Zappone sees it. "With all due respect to the summer visitors, in the fall there is less traffic, the restaurants are easier to get into, and, of course, this area is a big farming area. In the fall there are hayrides at the vineyard, as well as pumpkins and apple picking. The beaches are great in the warm days and cool evenings, and no resident parking passes for parking are needed after Columbus Day."

In other words, if you really want to get to know the Hamptons, go now. If you're traveling from Connecticut, the best route is to take the Cross Sound Ferry to Orient Point, N.Y. A leisurely drive will lead you to the North Ferry to Shelter Island, departing from Greenport. This is a good spot to start your Long Island visit.

If you're famished from the ride, swing by the Marie Eiffel Market (marieeiffelmarket.com) on North Ferry Road on Shelter Island for your first stop. In the morning, you'll find hot-out-of-the-oven croissants, plus assorted French-style pastries and properly strong coffee.

Next, on to the South Fork. It's time for another quick ferry ride, this time on the South Ferry. You'll appreciate the spectacle of the slow-moving white boats on very blue water, seagulls wheeling and sailboats cruising by.

Tourists aren't the only ones drawn to the natural beauty of the Hamptons. Artists were (and are!), too, and the constellation of towns attracted those as diverse as Willem de Kooning and William Merritt Chase. Add to that the money found in the area, and it's the perfect setting for a charming art museum.

Enter the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton. Since 2012, the museum has a new home designed by Herzog & de Meuron. The barnlike space houses 2,600 works from the 19th century to American Impressionism, as well as special exhibits, a café and museum shop. Until Oct. 18, you can catch an exhibit of monumental-scale landscape photographs by German visual artist Andreas Gursky. The permanent collection of paintings includes local landscapes by William Merritt Chase and Fairfield Porter, as well as more contemporary paintings by Ellsworth Kelly.

Lunch and Jackson Pollock

By now, it's definitely lunchtime. Pierre's Restaurant on the main street of Bridgehampton offers a very tasty croque-monsieur. If it's a nice day, you could also hit up their takeout market, which offers smoothies, organic sandwiches, salads, cookies and Napoleons.

For more artistic inspiration, head to the Jackson Pollock-Lee Krasner House & Study Center in East Hampton (pkhouse.org). The 1879 residence and artist studio was home to two luminaries of American art of the 20th century: Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock and dynamic gestural painter Lee Krasner (the pair happened to be husband and wife) made this residence their summer home from November 1945 to Krasner's death in 1984.

The two artists purchased the house with a loan from art dealer Peggy Guggenheim. When they first lived in the former fisherman's cottage, it was as basic as can be, but after Jackson Pollock's successful 1949 solo exhibit at The Betty Parsons Gallery, the two were able to install plumbing and central heating. Pollock worked in the barn and Krasner painted in an upstairs bedroom.

For a more salty display, be sure to visit The Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum (sagharborwhalingmuseum.org), located in an 1845 mansion, formerly owned by a prominent sea captain. The charmingly low-tech display cases offer exhibits of scrimshaw, harpoons, ship's gear, navigational tools and log books. On the museum grounds, take in the restored 1860s whaling boat, which once lived onboard a Sag Harbor sailing ship called The Concordia.

There are 3,000 objects in the collection, and Richard Doctorow, collections manager, thinks they're all pretty cool. "At the peak from 1825 to 1845, there were up to 63 ships sailing out of Sag Harbor. In earlier years, they sailed to the Atlantic and after that was fished out, in later years the ships took long voyages to the Pacific." The Whaling & Historical Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Nov. 1, then by appointment.

If just the thought of being out on the open seas on a fall day makes you tired (or hungry), it's worth a trip to East Hampton's charming The Maidstone Arms (themaidstone.com). This Greek Revival inn overlooks the scenic town pond, in the area of town full of large, pristine shingled 'summer cottages.' Think movie stars and hedge fund-types.

The Maidstone Arms was recently overhauled with a Swedish design sensibility; the 16 guest rooms and three separate cottages are inspired by Scandinavians such as Arne Jacobsen, Hans Christian Andersen and Edvard Munch. It is restful and pampering. Who doesn't need that on a mini-holiday?

If you're still thirsty, it's time to visit Long Island's famed vineyards. There are more than 50 wine producers on Long Island; for the past 40 years the tip of Long Island has been home to more and more vineyards of excellent quality. The South Fork Wine Trail encompasses numerous vineyards to stop into. In the fall, Sagaponack's Wolffer Estate holds weekly events such as Twilight Thursdays and Sunset Fridays, and Saturday boasts live music and dancing. A well-attended event is its annual October harvest party, which includes live music, a gourmet lunch, hayrides and even grape stomping. To keep the party going, you can, of course, score some bottles to go.

Before the end of your trip, it's worth heading out to The End, which is what locals call the very tip of Long Island, where the Montauk Point Lighthouse (montauklighthouse.com) has been casting its beam out to sea since 1796. Take a tour of the lighthouse keeper's house, and imagine what a beautiful and lonely life it must have been.

By contrast, Montauk's Duryea's Deck Seafood Restaurant & Market (duryealobsters.com) offers a happy hubbub, and a delightful lobster roll, too — just the thing to soothe any sadness about leaving. It might even be enough to fortify you for the winter ahead.

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