I remember the moment I fell in love with the Hamptons. It was some 20 years ago, during a weekend visit to Amagansett. By chance one morning, I drove down a leafy lane and there it was: a vintage cottage with gray shingles. The front door was painted a sunny yellow, and tumbling all around were tangles of puffy blue hydrangeas in full bloom. I was bewitched. There was something timeless about the setting — the dappled light, the sea air — and the sheer optimism of that yellow door. It seemed to contain the very essence of the Hamptons and the promise of a perfect summer day.
Now years later, I have my own little abode in the Hamptons, where the charming villages, beautiful beaches and alluring attractions continue to inspire me. When friends visit, I like to show them the hidden Hamptons: intriguing places I’ve collected over the years. In fact, I have put them all together in a new book, 111 Places In The Hamptons That You Must Not Miss. Come along on a treasure hunt through the East End of Long Island and the Hamptons may just bewitch you, too.
Smell the Coppertone! If you’re looking for a 1970s surfer vibe, this is the spot. Hidden in a residential neighborhood, this beach boasts the most consistent waves with the longest break. Onlookers wear tie-dyed shirts, and beach umbrellas ripple in the breeze. You’ll see seasoned professionals here, but beginners are welcome, too. It’s like being dropped into your own vintage surfer movie.
Only in the Hamptons can you find a thrift store hidden inside a historic mansion. Run by the Ladies’ Village Improvement Society, the shops feature chic castoffs from the surrounding estates. There’s a library with first editions. A posh parlor has bespoke men’s suits. And party dresses are hung front and center. Half the fun is imagining where these fabulous frocks have been.
This is the quintessential Hamptons night out. At this mostly female-run nonprofit farm, delicious meals are served out in the fields. Seated at a long table under the stars, you’ll meet new friends and neighbors at Amber Waves’ regularly hosted soirees. Fireflies flit past. A train whistle echoes in the distance. Glasses clink in cheers. But be forewarned: These special nights sell out quickly, so claim your spot early.
This may be the most curious state park in all of America. You are perched high on a hill, taking in the heart-stopping views of the ocean. But this former military base is also ground zero for conspiracy theories like the Montauk Project, tales of government experiments dealing with mind control and time travel. In fact, the Netflix cult hit Stranger Things is said to have been inspired by this very park.
He’s big and quirky, and he lords over traffic in this tiny hamlet. You can visit the small store built into his belly or marvel at his eyes made from the taillights of a Ford Model T. Built in 1931, it was the brainchild of a local duck farmer who was inspired by a California diner in the shape of a coffee pot. Now every December, locals light the duck up and sing bird-themed carols.
Step inside this East Hampton barn, and you are walking on hallowed art history ground. It’s the studio where Jackson Pollock created his iconic drip paintings. Don the special slippers and walk right onto the colorful floor. Paint cans line the wall, and rhythmic paint splatters are everywhere. Then tour the nearby vintage farmhouse where Pollock lived with his wife, artist Lee Krasner.
They are the magnificent mascots of the Hamptons: 11 wood-shingled windmills that dot the landscape. Built from 1795 to 1820, they used to grind grain and pump water. You can actually go inside the glorious Hook Windmill in East Hampton, where you are immersed in a web of wooden wheels and gears. Its supreme craftsmanship highlighting form and function.
Welcome to America’s oldest department store. If you want to shop like a local, this is the place. Back in 1842, the shop sold wool blankets and whaling harpoons, but today, the meandering rooms are filled with furnishings, linens and kitchenwares. The wooden floors creak, and white sheets are piled high. Locals know a gift from Hildreth’s is Hamptons through and through.