Is Fire Island still a hotspot?
A new version of the Pavilion, designed by the world-class architecture firm Diller Scofidio and Renfro, began construction in June and is slated for completion in time for summer 2013. It is expected to have several new bars as well as other amenities, like a beachwear store and a pizza parlour, to replace those lost in the blaze.
So despite the dramatic losses, Fire Island has continued on unabated. The beach is just as lovely and just as packed with bronzed gods as in summers past; and the destination is still attracting visitors who are eager to stake a claim in a place that has raised generations of gay people before them.
Questions remain, however, about next summer and the summers beyond. Fire Island has always been expensive, and increasing hotel and rental home prices makes it hard for younger generations to visit. The revamped clubs will only add to the aggressive gentrification, and Fire Island risks becoming another suburb of the Hamptons – a place that could end up lacking the creativity, excitement and vitality it once had.
Only time will tell if these worries come to pass. Right now, despite the ashes, Fire Island remains a resort trapped in amber from an earlier era, still a private oasis full of midnight skinny dipping, furtive glances on the criss-crossing boardwalks and leisurely afternoon picnics on the beach -- just far enough from the mainland to feel apart and free.
The most affordable way to stay on Fire Island is to rent a house, but there are also a few (generally more expensive) hotel options.
The Grove’s primary choices are the Grove Hotel and the Belvedere Guest House. The Grove Hotel, which is attached to the Ice Palace, is spare to say the least, but is just seconds from the beach or the harbour. The Belvedere is a campy, Venetian palace-inspired, clothing-optional resort for men that sits like a diamond tiara on the bay side of the island.
Over in the Pines are the Hotel Ciel and the Madison Guest House, a luxurious bed and breakfast with a pool and only a few rooms.
Fire Island is by no means a culinary destination. There are a couple of markets with deli counters, a pizza place or two and a handful of restaurants and cafes. The Blue Whale serves food, as does nearby Canteen in the Pines, but Islanders lost the more upscale Pines Bistro & Martini Bar in the fire when La Fountaine burned
The Grove is more built up than the Pines and there are several dining options, including fish tacos, burgers and other beach-y foods at the appealingly no-fuss but nicely appointed Sand Castle with outdoor seating and views of the Atlantic; Top of the Bay (1 Dock Walk; 631-597-6028) serves more elegant meals like scallops and steaks and makes a fine destination for a sunset cocktail; and the endearing Cherry Lane Restaurant, serves up tasty diner options like fried mozzarella and chicken tenders until the wee hours of the morning.