I Want to Be Alone
In honor of August's Escapism Issue, here are six very specific places to sneak off to when the August crowds are working your last nerve.
The last month of pure summer brings ethereal sunsets, the most sun-kissed skin, long and unforgettable nights with friends and family, and — at last — warm ocean water. August yields so many laughs, so many joyous memories, and, yes, you saw it coming, so many freaking people.
For out-of-towners, August on the South Fork serves as a paradisiacal escape from their quotidian schedules. But even as visitors are captivated by the allurements of the land, sea, and sky, they soon realize they’re going to need a vacation from their vacation. Here is one attitude even the most curmudgeonly of locals share with Hamptons tourists: There are too many people here in August and not enough peace and quiet.
Whether you’re twitching and twiddling your thumbs waiting for the month to end and the population to drop off or savoring every last moment of your holiday, avoiding the worst of the crowds is imperative to maintaining your sanity. Here, then, are six spots that might help you keep calm and carry on.
Barcelona Neck Beach
Colloquially referred to as just “Barcelona,” East Hampton’s flagship secluded bay beach lies behind the Sag Harbor Golf Course; just take an unremarkable right turn off Route 114 onto Barcelona Neck Road. After maneuvering through the middle golf course, craning your neck to make sure nobody mulligans right through your windshield, you can either park and begin the long walk down the bumpy dirt road before you, or continue driving. You will find this 1.2-mile trek riddled with gnarly craters, so if you drive, it has to be in a car or truck with respectable suspension.
Though the arrival process can be a bit harrowing, be grateful for it. It’s what makes Barcelona such a beautiful place to escape to. Even those who know about it rarely want to take the time and effort to get there, making for a coveted, pristine East Hampton beach that’s largely untouched and nearly always vacant.
The Nature Trail
There’s something oddly therapeutic about breaking off a piece of stale bread, tossing it into murky-greeen water, and watching dozens of hungry ducks and swans honk and scramble for your excess gluten. Whether it’s the thrill of playing God or the tranquility of watching birds, the Nature Trail — which those not in the know often refer to as “the Duck Pond,” and can be found on the north side of David’s Lane in East Hampton Village — is a fantastic destination for a lazy afternoon. The Nature Trail is not what you could call a little-known spot, if we’re honest, but here’s a little hint: If you’re in need of a few moments of serene solitude, you can take the first path on your left as you stroll away from the street, and soon come upon a hidden statue of St. Francis in a secret nook. The beautifully manicured and maintained trails here weave in and out of approximately 24 acres in the heart of the village. Soon you’re be alone with bucolic greenery, diverse wildlife, interconnecting bodies of water, and towering trees.
Hamptons Float Tank
This might be the supreme method of escapism on the South Fork: a day-spa experience in which you hear nothing, see nothing — total sensory deprivation. You climb into a sound- and light-proof box; the water has been warmed to match your body temperature, with 800 pounds of Epsom salts creating an astonishingly buoyant interlude of just floating. Proponants claim that limiting the relaxer’s sensory input is what provides the restorative, therapeutic component.
These tanks make a lot of sense to a lot of people. Complete peace, complete quiet. Rumor has it that it’s so revitalizing, customers are totally content with having to make the drive to and from Water Mill.
The Walking Dunes
Just after the courts at 27 Tennis on the Napeague stretch of Montauk Highway (a.k.a. Route 27 East) lies Napeague Harbor Road. If you take this left and follow it all the way until you can’t drive anymore, you’ll see an inlet of the wonderfully sheltered Napeague Harbor on your left, and the entrance to a sandy path on your right. The path leads to one of the region’s most extraordinary natural marvels. You’ll see a sign with information about the Walking Dunes and the landscape around them; keep walking down the three-quarter-mile trail until it opens up on the sprawling sand dunes, some of them 80 feet tall, that — when summited — give you a gorgeous view of the water and woods beyond.
This view, after a hike and climb, will surely satisfy even the most insatiable escapist cravings. In fact, because parking is practically nonexistent near the Walking Dunes (so called because they move and shift with time), it’s essentially impossible for this place to get overcrowded.
Springs General Store
All these people out here in August have to eat, which is why restaurants and food stores carry the heaviest burden of crowds. If you are hungry and have no social stamina left in the tank — don’t feel like navigating the sea of elegantly clothed patrons vying for the last half-pound of seared salmon at Citarella, and just want a goddamned sandwich — go to the Springs General Store (29 Old Stone Highway) and, once you’ve secured your goddamned sandwich, stroll away into nature. There’s a nice, secluded path across the street with a bridge across a pond; or, go around the west side of the building to look at Accabonac Creek from the kayak-launching spot; or, if you have an East Hampton Town beach parking permit, drive around the corner to Louse Point. >
Home, Sweet Home
You’ll be surprised how silent the atmosphere is inside East Hampton Village’s hallmark, picture-postcard old-house museum. It’s one of two ancient saltboxes on the far side of Town Green. School-
kids come in the off season to inspect the curious old beds and unwieldy cooking implements, but few tourists ever venture inside Home, Sweet Home — or its neighbor, the Mulford Farm Museum. You can be alone with your musings as you wander the antique-filled interiors and try to teleport yourself back 200 or 300 years, envisioning yourself drinking mead (or whatever it was they drank in 1650 or 1800 — ask the docent) out of a pewter tankard. Readers who are interested in maritime lore, or just want to find themselves surrounded by even fewer history buffs on holiday, might drive down to Bluff Road in Amagansett to the East Hampton Town Marine Museum to see the whaleboats, harpoons, images of crusty old seafairers, and a cannon from the wreck of the Culloden.
The Signal Tower
Napeague is rich in both history and beauty. On the northern side of Napeague Meadow Road, just off of Montauk Highway and close to the Art Barge, you’ve probably noticed a lofty, rusted old tower — obviously out of commission — alongside a geometrically unglamorous cement structure. The Mackay Radio Signal Tower was first erected in 1927 and was used to respond to American ships’ S O S signals at the height of World War II. Today, it’s mostly a habitat for birds of all kinds, who nest in it and on the roof of the old cement building, swooping high and low over the surrounding salt marsh and shell-strewn beach.
The fun of exploring this serene spot stems from seeing a relic like this up close, researching a bit of the history behind it, and imagining days gone by. The flotsam of the past — ancient typewriters, broken windows — has a mysteriously chilling aura to it. And there’s really nobody ever there. •