Fire island

The best gay-friendly hotels on Fire Island

No summer resort community in America has more gay creds than Fire Island, drawing visitors from New York City and beyond. If you don’t believe it, here are a few facts to back up the claim: literally known as “America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town,” this area been a seaside sanctuary for gays since the 1930s, back in the days when they had to escape from the prying eyes of their neighbours to be open about their sexuality. Truman Capote penned “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” there. Tommy Tune and his and co-star Twiggy rehearsed for “My One and Only” on the deck of his beach house. A song on The Village People’s breakthrough album in 1977 is entitled “Fire Island.” Girls, this place is gay with a capital G and it’s dreamy. We round up the best gay-friendly hotels on the island.

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Fire Island is a pristine getaway onto which NYC’s harried, gay professionals descend all summer long

Sometimes referred to as “Chelsea with Sand” after NYC’s most prominent gay ‘hood, Fire Island is a pristine getaway onto which NYC’s harried, gay professionals descend all summer long. About 50 miles east of Manhattan, the only way to get to the barrier island is by ferry from Long Island. (On Friday afternoons, the Long Island Rail Road from Manhattan to the ferry looks like an issue of gay GQ that’s come to life).

While it’s wildly popular in the summer, Fire Island has managed to remain rustic and isolated since no cars are allowed on the island. Inhabitants pull their red Radio Flyer toy wagons full of groceries across the wooden walkways that take the place of sidewalks. Stick-built bungalow-style houses are the most common residences and bamboo grows prodigiously. The dunes are sublime and the sunsets are riotous.

Fire Island

Photo: Jacob Miller

Fire Island

Photo: Patrick Tomasso

The Fire Island gay scene

Here is the abbreviated Fire Island gay scene guide: the two gay hamlets on Fire Island are Fire Island Pines (usually just called The Pines) and Cherry Grove. The two towns neighbour one another. While these are admittedly sweeping generalizations, the Pines is pretty party boys and more moneyed gays. Cherry Grove is a mixed LGBTQ community with lesbian ladies and more bohemian gays represented. The Cherry Grove crowd generally skews younger or older with fewer in the mid-age range than in The Pines.

Fire Island

Photo: Sandy Millar

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The Friday night Underwear Party is both legendary and mandatory

Fire Island things to do include the beach, the beach, and the beach. Before the beach a slow, sumptuous breakfast. After the beach rituals include mid-afternoon Low Tea and High Tea at various drinking establishments. (Just follow the crowd.) The Friday night Underwear Party is both legendary and mandatory. The 4th of July is marked by the “Invasion” of 300 drag queens who kick off a mammoth party followed by fireworks on the bay. Later in July, some of the world’s best dance troupes descend for the Fire Island Dance Festival, an AIDS fundraiser. Pines Party is an all all-night dance soiree held each July on the beach that only ends when the sun rises over the Atlantic.

As far as accommodations go, most NYC denizens rent shares in houses for the summer, although doing the Airbnb thing is also popular. For those from out of town or who are exploring Fire Island for the first time, a hotel might make more sense since you will automatically be part of a community as soon as you check in, and the staff can give you all the pointers you need.

Fire Island

Photo: David Shankbone

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The best gay-friendly hotels in Fire Island

Located on the bayfront at Cherry Grove, Belvedere Guest House for Men is an adults-only and clothing-optional establishment a few minutes walk to the beach. The rococo Venetian palace-style hotel is quite a sight with its terraces, turrets, towers, domes, lushly landscaped statuary, chandeliers, antiques, and bubbling fountains. A rooftop terrace, sun decks, swimming pool, hot tub, and gym make this the choice for those who aren’t so into anything rustic or understated. Also in Cherry Grove, the Grove Hotel burned to the ground a few years back but is now back in business after being completely rebuilt. The biggest hotel in Fire Island, it’s attached to the infamous Ice Palace Nightclub, a place to see and be seen since the 1950s. This is the place to stay if you want to be in the middle of it all. It’s got a good-sized pool.

Fire Island Belvedere Guest House for Men

Belvedere Guest House for Men | Photo: David Shankbone

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Pines Bluff Overlook is the oldest bed and breakfast on the island  and the only oceanfront B&B

The Madison Fire Island Pines is for you if low-key yet glam is your style. This beach house turned guesthouse is sweetly and simply divine and done in a minimalist motif of whites and wooden floorboards. A short walk to the beach, with a great pool and roof deck, this pick is popular for a reason. Located in The Pines, Pines Bluff Overlook is the oldest bed and breakfast on the island, and the only oceanfront B&B, a chill place that visitors come back to for the homey feeling and service. It’s got a rooftop pool, a hot tub, and balconies with views of the ocean, bay, and the iconic Fire Island Light House. The rooms are simple and recently underwent renovations so they’ve got everything you need. Some rooms are pet-friendly.

If you’ve been in need of a gay retreat, try Fire Island Pines Retreat. The $25 a day meal plan makes this an appealing option for those on a budget. The suites are quirky and the panorama deck gives you a 360-degree view of the island’s beauty. It also has a saltwater pool and sauna deck. Secluded and serene yet close to town, Dune Point Fire Island in Cherry Grove is a straightforward apartment hotel with everything you need and a few extras including two gazebos with sitting areas and easy beach access.

Fire Island is truly a special place that has raised generations of gays and will continue to do so well into the future. If you’ve never been, try and get there this summer.

Fire Island New York

Photo: David Shankbone

The Grove Hotel Fire Island

The Grove Hotel

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