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The Pines and neighboring Cherry Grove are sometimes depicted as exclusively gay communities. More properly, they're tolerant communities, with families and singles, too. Night spots there draw crowds of both sexes via water taxi from up and down the beach.
Ocean Beach, on the other hand, is aptly called The Land of No (NO eating or drinking in the streets). Group rentals are discouraged, as are day-trippers, however, group rentals and day-trippers are aplenty.
Seaview, adjacent to Ocean Beach, is the family paradise.
Families only please. Although there are few houses with singles, you will mostly find a close-knit group of family oriented renters and homeowners that hold block parties, and sit together on the beach making plans for dinner and tennis. The amenities you will find are a general store, liquor store and flower shop. Seaview also houses the only temple on the island.
Don't be put off by the security guarded streets that you have to pass through to get to and from Ocean Beach and Ocean Bay Park on weekend nights. They really are just there to keep the peace.
Lonelyville, mostly inhabited by homeowners and renters who have been there for years, is one of the better places for a quiet summer rental.
Ocean Bay Park, just to the east of Seaview, is the home of many a grouper (groupers are people, not fish, though some claim otherwise; groupers rent homes by the share and sometimes like to party).
Point O' Woods is the only gated community on the Island and is privately owned.
Moving west from Lonelyville is Fair Harbor, a family and non-frantic singles community.
Farther west, is Saltaire, an exclusive community inhospitable to day-trippers and groupers.
Moving on down the beach, one reaches Kismet, the last community before Robert Moses State Park.
Access to to most Fire Island communities is by ferry from terminals at one of three mainland ports:
Bay Shore (Fire Island Ferries, 665-5045
Atlantique Beach Ferry, 224-5403)
Sayville (Cherry Grove Ferries, 589-0810
Seashore Ferries, 589-8980
Barrett Beach Ferry, 224-5403), and Patchogue (Davis Park Ferry/Watch Hill Ferry, 475-1665).
At either end of Fire Island, the Robert Moses Causeway leads into Robert Moses State Park, and the William Floyd Parkway into Smith Point County Park. But from there, you'd have to park your car and walk to the central areas of this 32-mile-long island. The ferries are obviously a more convenient alternative.
For many, Fire Island is far more than a day trip. There are overnight accommodations in small hotels in The Pines, Ocean Bay Park, Ocean Beach and Kismet, but you need to book in advance for weekends, especially July-August. Rooms are usually available weeknights. For party-till-you-drop day-trippers, Ocean Bay Park and Kismet are the most congenial settings, with bars and beach aplenty.