A Family-Friendly Day Tripper’s Guide To Fire Island

Nothing says summer like an ice-cold beer on a white-hot beach day. • Photo by Denine Anderson Regan

As a child, my family spent all our summer weekends docked at Atlantique. Our father was an avid recreational fisherman and loved nothing more than being out on the open water. So, every Thursday afternoon our mother would pack up the boat with food, clothing, and whatever else we needed. Then, as soon as he got home, we all scrambled on board and took off into the sunset.

No matter how old I get, I will never ever forget the sheer bliss that came with those Thursday night trips across the bay. The wind in our hair, the salt water gently spraying our faces, and our parents always looking so peaceful. Although our father is long gone now, I hold on to these precious memories and think of them often, which is why Fire Island will always hold such a special place in my heart.

It’s a magical stretch of land full of sandy white beaches, freezing cold water, and an endless number of children running free. This is why thirty years later, I still continue to visit. Although we do not have a boat of our own, Fire Island is just as accessible to me now as it was when I was a child. Only now, I rely on the Fire Island Ferries to safely transport my family back and forth across the bay. It’s not as intimate as our parents’ boat, but it’s just as much fun.

As my children get ready to say hello to summer vacation, I’m checking our calendar to see how many times we can sneak in sun-filled day trips while they’re off from school. I encourage you to visit with your families too and visit some of my favorite places while you’re there! Although my family’s day trips focus solely on Atlantique and Ocean Beach, don’t let that stop you from exploring all the beautiful towns the island has to offer.


The Best Place To Start Your Day

Although Atlantique is probably the most informal of all the towns to visit, my heart will always belong here. You’ll find children fishing, catching hermit crabs, and just hanging out with nary a parent in sight because it’s just not needed.

We take the first morning ferry over and make sure to get in line for the hot showers before the first afternoon ferry heads back. The Shack is the only place to grab a bite to eat, but it serves up mean egg sandwiches for breakfast and delightful Pina Coladas for lunch. Plus, the live music is always hopping.  Once we’re all cleaned up, we take a water taxi over to Ocean Beach to find some respite from the sun.


Our Favorite Places To Shop

Kenny Goodman

Many years ago, my sister brought home a beautiful silver flower ring from Kenny’s eclectic shop. I was instantly jealous and wanted to have one of my own. Now, every time I’m on the island, I pop in to see what’s on display. Kenny’s jewelry is quirky, fantastical, and highly collectible. In my humble opinion, it’s a “must visit” store.


This is our “go to” store for pretty much anything we need, but forgot on the mainland. Every time we’re in town, we make at least one purchase here. Whether it’s coloring books and crayons to entertain the kids while my husband and I fish, or a stuffed animal to snuggle with on the ferry ride home, I’m always buying something.

The Gallery

I could easily spend hours here. This nautically-inspired home décor store is full of one-of-a-kind homemade items. They also have a lot of interesting jewelry for sale. I prefer to go in here without my kids so that I can take my time and browse. Plus, there are some breakable items, so better safe than sorry. Last year, we snagged a turquoise whale from a local artist for our gallery wall.

Ocean Beach Community Garden

I love stopping in here to “window” shop. Featuring works by local artists as well as the owner’s own photography, this is a great place to get away from the street crowds. The fun array of plants, Adirondack chairs, outdoor décor, and pottery keeps your interest for quite some time. If I was a local, I’d be here often!

Ocean Beach Surf & Sport

My kids love popping in here to check out the latest gear. They carry exactly what you would expect to find in a surf shop on Fire Island—surfboards, boogie boards, skateboards, kayaks—it’s all here. The staff is always pleasant and that keeps us coming back year after year.

Our Favorite Places To Eat & Drink


Maguire’s Bayfront Restaurant

By far, Maguire’s is my favorite restaurant in Ocean Beach. After a long, hot day in the sun, you need to have a high-quality, reliable place to bring your starving, potentially cranky family. We always wait for a table on the water because the views are just outstanding and if you time it right, you can eat while the sun sets. The menu is full of delicious fare like Drunken Pork Chops, Vegetarian Farro Risotto, and Tuna Tartare. Don’t worry—the kids’ menu has everything they want like macaroni-and-cheese, burgers, chicken fingers, and fries.


Hands down, this locally famous ice cream shop is the best place for, well, ice cream. Lines start out the door, so be prepared to wait awhile. When we have time to kill, we enjoy our ice cream sitting on the raised stone walls just like everyone else in town. But if we’re in a rush, I send my husband to get our sundaes while I wait on the ferry line! This way, we kill two birds with one stone—we get seats on the ferry and a tasty treat to eat on the way home.

Rachel’s Bakery and Restaurant

You’re not going to believe this, but my daughter hates ice cream. Yes, you heard me right. There is at least one child in America that does not enjoy it and she’s all mine. Her choice of dessert for the ferry ride home is pretty much anything that comes out of this bakery. Although she usually picks one of their decadent brownies, she’s also been known to happily chow down on their crumb cake and chocolate croissants.