Now that the artic freeze has finally passed, it’s time to get outside. But, wait! You still have to eat! If the idea of spending even one sun-drenched minute inside waiting for your sandwich feels like seasonal torture, well, I’m with you.
Summer is the season for picnicking at the beach. Pack your baskets and your coolers and get ready for sun, sand, and something in a can. Here are the East End’s best spots for beach picnicking.
Forest Memorial Town Beach, Sag Harbor
Not every beach in the Hamptons allows non-residents to park, but Forest Memorial (known locally as Long Beach)—a nearly 2-mile stretch of bay beach—does, for a daily fee. There are relatively clean bathroom facilities, regular visits from an ice cream truck, and plenty of beach for all to share. The parking lot empties right onto the sand, which means less walking (and no dunes to contend with). Added bonus? The water at Long Beach is among Long Island’s warmest, since the bay is protected. Pick up some snacks at nearby Serene Green and make a whole, lazy day of it.
Forest Memorial Town Beach, 1000 Long Beach Road, Sag Harbor
Crescent Beach, Shelter Island
This long crescent of beach (okay, okay) is another protected bay beach, but it’s far more lively than quiet Long Beach. The real “scene” carries over from the hip haunt Sunset Beach, which attracts the wealthiest and best-looking East End visitors. A day on this beach, with its shallow, temperate waters and flat, picnic-friendly topography, also includes, necessarily, an ample dose of people watching. Parking can be a bit dodgy, and you may find yourself farther down the beach than you had hoped, but the best bits of Crescent are the ones slightly removed from the fray. If you stay until sunset, you’ll catch one of Long Island’s finest views. Pro tip: Stop at any number of great farm stands on your way over to stock up on snacks for the day.
Crescent Beach, Shore Road, Shelter Island Heights, Shelter Island
Sagg Main Beach, Sagaponack
If you prefer the ocean side, Sagg Main is one of Eastern Long Island’s loveliest. On your way down to this pay-by-the-day beach, stop at Pierre’s Market for a basket full of goodies. (Or don’t: Sagg Main has an estimable food truck that offers pretty much anything your heart desires.) The beach has one steep set of dunes but then it’s a relatively flat, scenic place to enjoy lunch—and whatever waves happen to be crashing by. Picnicking notwithstanding, Sagg Main is the perfect beach.
Sagg Main Beach, 315 Sagg Main Street, Sagaponack
Orient Beach State Park, Orient Point
Don’t forget the North Fork beaches! They’re great, too! Orient Beach State Park, accessible and inexpensive, boasts a pristine maritime forest filled with red cedar, blackjack oak, and prickly pear cactus. A 2-mile paved road reads to a beach and playground, where one can rent kayaks, canoes, and bikes. Wetlands lead right into Gardiners Bay, and nature trails abound—for those so inclined. But the beach is also perfect for sitting and snacking, especially on whatever you happen to grab at the North Fork Food Truck in Southold on your way over.
Orient Beach State Park, Route 25, Orient
Kirk Park Beach, Montauk
One of the few East End beaches with dedicated resident parking spots (for free!), Kirk Park Beach is also conveniently located across the street from the country’s busiest 7-11 (iced coffee and snacks, here we come) and adjacent to the town’s IGA grocery store. Ergo: there’s no shortage of grab-n-go picnic snack options at this lovely, sandy spot. A massive, cresting dune overlooks Montauk’s perfect cerulean waters. This part of the beach tends to be less crowded than the part near the ever-busy Sloppy Tuna, so sunbathers can chill out and relax and enjoy a snack, sip, and swim without having to brave the crowds.
Kirk Park Beach, 95 S. Emerson Avenue, Montauk
Atlantic Avenue Beach, Amagansett
Parking is available for non-residents at Amagansett’s Atlantic Avenue on weekdays only (but those are the best times for beach-going in the Hamptons anyway). Atlantic Avenue is also home to the insanely delicious Beach Hut, which serves up lobster rolls, tuna tartare, fish tacos, fried shrimp, all manner of salad, burgers, wraps, snacks, soft drinks… and, of course, piña coladas. In other words: Your picnic is actually waiting for you, right there at the beach. The Beach Hut is open every day from 9 to 6, so you can spend the whole day there without lifting a finger. It’s an improved version of the bring-your-basket-full-of-snacks picnic. But I’m ok with it.
Atlantic Avenue Beach, 169 Atlantic Avenue, Amagansett