House & Garden's guide to the Hamptons

From its vast sandy beaches and white parties to the clapboard cottages and lobster rolls, the Hamptons are the ultimate summer idyll. We've created a guide to the towns, hamlets and villages that make up the Long Island haven, whether you're there for a weekend or staying put for the season

The beach dunes in Amagansett.

GALA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Long the summer escape of wealthy New Yorkers seeking sand between their toes and Chanel stores disguised as quaint weatherbeaten cottages, the Hamptons are a true summer destination and an idyll of beachy Americana. Whether you've come by car, train or Jitney (more on that later), you can immediately tell when you've arrived in the Hamptons: there are the rolling green lawns hidden by perfectly trimmed hedges, the seagulls squawking in the salty air and the mass pilgrimage of laughing friends, folding chairs and farm stand sandwiches in hand, making their way to the beach.

For first-timers and seasoned summer-ers alike (out east, ‘summer’ is indeed a verb), the Hamptons can be difficult to navigate – so we've created the ultimate guide, showing and telling you the ins and outs of one of the world's most famous summer destination.

Before diving into the best restaurants, beaches and shops across this sandy stretch of Long Island, we'll first address some general questions about the Hamptons…

Where are the Hamptons?

Montauk Point Lighthouse in Montauk State Park.

robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

'The Hamptons' is a blanket term for the roughly eleven towns which follow the southern coastline leading to the rightmost tip on the east end of Long Island, New York.

Whilst there is sometimes disagreement on which towns and villages are “true Hamptons”, the area begins with Westhampton and Westhampton Beach, which leads to Quogue, Southampton, Water Mill, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Amagansett and, at the very end of the island, Montauk.

Why are the Hamptons so famous?

Main Street, Southampton, New York.

Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

The Hamptons have long been the place for well-heeled New Yorkers to see and be seen come summer. Families made famous or rich by politics, finance and the arts have flocked to Long Island's east end for decades; from the Kennedys and Jackie Onassis to Jackson Pollock and the Clintons, Gwyneth Paltrow, Billy Joel, Beyoncé and Jay-Z… the list goes on and on.

Beyond its celebrity residents, the Hamptons have been made famous through film and television, from the iconic documentary, Grey Gardens, to Sex and the City to Gossip Girl (though the latter's Hamptons scenes were actually filmed in non-Hampton town of Roslyn, New York, on Long Island's North Shore).

How do I get to the Hamptons?

The Hampton Jitney is one of the best ways to get to the Hamptons from New York City.

Stephen Saks Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

There are four ways to get to the Hamptons. Of course, the towns within the Hamptons are rather spread out, so you'll definitely want to be certain of where you'll be staying. As the Hamptons are the summer destination for New Yorkers, most of the direct routes to the Hamptons via public or semi-private transport depart from New York City and make stops in many or all of the Hamptons' towns and hamlets.

By car

As the Hamptons' popularity has grown over the years, so has the amount of time it takes to get to the Hamptons. Whilst Sag Harbor is just 100 miles from New York City, busy roads and heavy traffic usually make what would be a 90 minute journey into a near-three hour one. If you're planning on driving to the Hamptons, be warned (and, if you can swing it, try heading out ahead of the weekend).

While it is expensive, car service Rover offers direct driving services to the Hamptons. (And, if you really have money to burn, there is always Uber.)

By train

Although there are few direct trains from New York City to the Hamptons, ‘training it’ out east is a popular alternative to braving Long Island's traffic-laden highways. Trains on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) leave from Penn Station, either heading to Jamaica or Montauk. If you've taken a train headed for Jamaica, you'll need to transfer for another train headed towards the Hamptons. If you've planned a trip out for the weekend, be sure to buy your tickets in advance and, though it's not always possible, do your best to head out before Summer Friday warriors board the train to avoid being left standing squished in an aisle for two hours.

By bus

Whilst I realise I've just pooh-pooh'ed driving to the Hamptons, I consider taking the Hampton Jitney bus a rite of passage for those heading out east. Leaving from various boarding points across Manhattan, the Hampton Jitney allows you to ride to the Hamptons in (relative) style. Complete with air conditioning, wi-fi and a light refreshment service, the Jitney is undoubtedly one of the better options for making your Hamptons pilgrimage. The Jitney stops in each major Hampton, which can take a while; if you have generous friends with cars already there, I'd advise getting off at Southampton (one of the most westward Hamptons) and driving together the rest of the way to your destination.

By helicopter

For those unenthused by the notion of being sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours on end or the prospect of smelling a combination of finance bro aroma, Miller Lite and suncream on the train, taking a helicopter just may be your best bet. Though the most expensive option by far, a helicopter ride from New York City's Chelsea Piers to the Hamptons takes a maximum of 20 minutes, meaning you can spend more time enjoying the beach than trying to listen to a podcast over the honk of horns. Helicopter service Blade offers private and semi-private helicopter transfers, which all depart from the helipads just off Manhattan's West Side Highway on West 30th Street.

The House & Garden guide to the Hamptons

The best restaurants and bars in the Hamptons

Whilst not an exhaustive list by any means, discover just a few of our favourite restaurants, bars and cafés out east, from Montauk's tip to Southampton's Main Street.

Ditch Witch, Ditch Plains Beach, Montauk

Montauk has long been seen as the most relaxed Hampton. Between the shirtless surfers and general “hang loose” attitude of locals, the vibe is certainly palpable. Ditch Witch, a takeaway sandwich shop operating out of a beachside trailer, too, is classic Montauk. For those on the lookout for a great takeaway wrap, salad or their famous sesame noodle head over – and don't worry, no shoes, no shirt, you'll still get service.

Shagwong Tavern, 774 Montauk Highway, Montauk

Shagwong Tavern.

Jon Bilous / Alamy Stock Photo

Opened in 1936, Shagwong is an old school tavern that has fast become a Hamtpons classic. Once patronised by The Rolling Stones and Andy Warhol, Shagwong is a true Montauk destination. However, for those hoping for something a bit more upscale, Shagwong won't be your place – though it's certainly known for a good time, its sticky floors and famously uncomfortable seats haven't changed since Mick Jagger rolled in.

Lynn's Hula Hut, 426 West Lake Drive, Montauk

Operating out of a bamboo-lined office trailer, Lynn's Hula Hut is one of the kookiest – and best bars – in the Hamptons. Unpretentious and heaps of fun, you'll find yourself dancing the night away (just beware of the Hula Juice – as you'll find yourself covered in sand, wearing nothing but cowboy boots and a poncho hours later).

Duryea's, 65 Tuthill Road, Montauk


Randy Duchaine / Alamy Stock Photo

For those eager to see and be seen, Duryea's is one the prime destinations in the Hamptons. Jammed with people and über expensive (their famous lobster Cobb salad costs $97, not including tax or tip), it is a true Montauk institution, so you'll likely find yourself yearning for a table, lobster Cobb pricing be damned.

Rita Cantina, 28 Maidstone Park Road, East Hampton

Margaritas, tacos and triple deep fried Oaxacan chicken are what's on deck at Rita Cantina. For those looking for a fun, laid back night in East Hampton, make Rita Cantina your dining destination of choice.

The 1770 House, 143 Main Street, East Hampton

The 1770 House.

Randy Duchaine / Alamy Stock Photo

East Hampton local Ina Garten has declared The 1770 House to be her favourite restaurant in town. Not considering how much we respect (and follow!) anything Ina says or does, we happen to agree with the Barefoot Contessa. With guest rooms, carriage houses and a gorgeous garden perfect for lunching or cosy dining, The 1770 House is as cute as a button – and one of the best out east.

Nick & Toni's, 136 North Main Street, East Hampton
©2012 Eric Striffler

Nick & Toni's is a Hamptons institution, the perfect amalgamation of casual, fun and elegant dining. Serving mostly Italian fare, the restaurant is the perfect spot to grab a light dinner or go all out with fried courgettes for the table. Note that reservations are notoriously difficult to get, so do plan ahead.

Carissa's The Bakery, 68 Newtown Lane, East Hampton

An all-day bakery selling some of the Hamptons' best baked goods, sandwiches and gourmet salads, Carissa's The Bakery is the perfect spot to grab a quick coffee and croissant before heading to the beach or to stock up on prepared goodies for an impromptu dinner later in the day.

Round Swamp Farm, 184 Three Mile Harbor Road, East Hampton and 97 School Street, Bridgehampton

Round Swamp Farm, East Hampton, decked out for autumn.

Gavin Zeigler / Alamy Stock Photo

Those who summer in the Hamptons know that Round Swamp Farm is the best spot to grab the season's bounty of Long Island. From perfect courgettes and aubergines to wonderfully prepared meals (from cauliflower pizza to lobster salad to chicken fingers), you'll want for nothing here. Be warned, though, Round Swamp Farm is expensive, so don't do your food shop while hungry.

Goldberg's Famous Bagels, 100 Pantigo Place, East Hampton

A classic ‘BBEC’ (a beach bacon, egg and cheese bagel) from Goldberg's.

Don't get between a New Yorker and their bagel. Goldberg's is the spot to grab an everything bagel and iced coffee out east (and it's hardly a secret, what with weekend queues trailing out the door). Call ahead for your larger orders so you can swan in and simply pick up your lox and schmear in style.

Bridgehampton Candy Kitchen, 2385 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton

Bridgehampton Candy Kitchen.

Len Holsborg / Alamy Stock Photo

Cash-only and old-fashioned, Bridgehampton Candy Kitchen is a Hamptons institution. Serving up omelettes and blueberry pancakes the size of your head, you'll certainly leave full – and happy, thanks to the casual diner's whimsical, child-friendly atmosphere.

The Golden Pear Café, 99 Main Street, Southampton

With multiple locations, the Golden Pear Café is an iconic all-day café serving everything from flavoured iced coffees to chicken Caesar salad wraps to cheese and cherry Danishes. The Golden Pear is a Hamptons institution (as is their Arnold Palmer, a delicious combination of iced tea and lemonade).

Sant Ambroeus, 30 Main Street, Southampton

An elegant New York staple, Sant Ambroeus is one of the loveliest restaurants in the Hamptons. Open all day, you can have breakfast, lunch, gelato and dinner at the Milanese restaurant. Designed with its signature light pink detailing, Sant Ambroeus is a whimsical must for those out east, whether you're in the mood for biscotti and cappuccino or chicken Milanese and Pinot Grigio.

Tutto Il Giorno Sag, 16 Main Street, Sag Harbor

Tutto il Giorno.

Len Holsborg / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the prettiest restaurants in the Hamptons, Tutto Il Giorno Sag is the Italian restaurant's second location out east. Serving traditional Italian fare (and a few more beach-friendly bites), you'll revel in the sheer gorgeousness of your time at Tutto Il Giorno – and fall in love with the adorableness that is Sag Harbor.

Dopo La Spiaggia, 6 Bay Street, Sag Harbor

I know, I know. At this point, you're probably wondering: are there any restaurants from South to East Hampton that aren't Italian. To put it bluntly, no. But you shouldn't mind, as there are heaps of excellent Italian spots from which to choose including, of course, Dopo La Spiaggia, a more upscale Tuscan restaurant perfect for lovely dinners out with friends (and great wine).

The best beaches in the Hamptons

Before the green lawns, white picket fences, designer shops and considerable amount of Italian restaurants, the Hamptons are foremost known for their beaches. No matter where you find yourself out east, be assured you'll find some of the best on Long Island – we've rounded up our favourites to help you choose.

Are beaches free in the Hamptons?

It wholly depends. Some beaches are private or for locals only; sometimes the beaches are free but parking anywhere close to the beach will cost you a pretty penny. Wherever you plan on heading for your beach day, be sure to double check if you're allowed to be there – police officers will often do license checks. (A helpful hint: if you are staying in an Airbnb or rental, ask your host if they have a beach sticker they can offer you, so you have a bit more access to the Hamptons' beaches).

Cooper's Beach, Southampton

Cooper's Beach.

Gavin Zeigler / Alamy Stock Photo

Cooper's Beach is one of the most popular out east. Just off of Meadow Lane, the beach offers sprawling views of Shinnecock Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to its usually warmer waters, too, it is a popular swimming destination. The beach itself is well-maintained and has amenities; however, bring cash with you, as you'll need to pay between $50-$100 for parking).

Gibson Beach, Sagaponack

Gibson Beach.

Gavin Zeigler / Alamy Stock Photo

If Cooper's Beach is too crowded, we'd recommend heading to the more low-key Gibson Beach, seconds from Gibson Lane. The beach has panoramic views of Gardiner's Bay and its more secluded location is often way less populated, making it a prime destination for a larger group or those hoping to do some beach reading. There are no amenities at this beach; we'd advise packing a picnic to avoid having to drive back into town for sustenance. Parking here is free – just park along Gibson Lane.

Main Beach, East Hampton

Main Beach.

robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Main Beach is perhaps the most iconic beach in the Hamptons (the name gives it away). The large beach is a hive of activity come summer, with kayakers to surfers to paddle boarders making their way out onto the water. With its white sandy beaches, too, Main Beach is ideal for tanning and feeling the sand between your toes. There are plenty of amenities, too, making it a great spot for families. Parking can be free, but do bring cash, just in case.

Sagg Main Beach, Sagaponack

Sagg Main Beach.

Keith Levit / Alamy Stock Photo

Sagg Main Beach is one of the last beaches representative of the pre-luxe Hamptons. With wild white sand dunes and lovely, placid waters, you'll never want to leave this beautiful sandy corner of the world. There are simple amenities at the beach (including barbecue grills!). To go, you usually require a sticker; however, do ask a lifeguard, as usually they'll let you go if it's not too crowded.

Georgica Beach, East Hampton

Georgica Beach.

Gavin Zeigler / Alamy Stock Photo

Georgica Beach is a true hidden gem among Hamptons' beaches. It is also the favourite go-to beach for the celebrities who flock out east each summer. If you're keen on pairing your swim with celebrity sight-seeing, Georgica is the spot to go. (Before you set off for celebrity beach, be sure to pack snacks, drinks and cash; whilst there is a concession stand, they run out quickly – and you'll likely need it for parking.)

The best shops in the Hamptons

Like our list of restaurants, bars and cafés, this list of our favourite shops is certainly not everything – there are simply too many excellent destinations from which to choose out east! However, we've rounded up our favourite, more “authentic” shops and have left out the more commercial, major luxury brands with brick and mortar shops in the Hamptons.

Lingua Franca, 4 Old West Lake Drive, Montauk

Montauk was once a quaint fishing town with the occasional surfer; now, however, you'll find more fashionistas than fishermen. Lingua Franca, a luxe New York brand, recently opened their shop in town. To Montaukers' delight, though, the store still emanates that classic, relaxed Montauk vibe: it is only open at night and sells a curated collection perfect for upgrading your summer wardrobe. Events are always on at the store, making the shop not just a fashion destination, but a party one.

AERIN, 7 Newtown Lane, East Hampton

Whether you're on the way to a dinner party and are in search of a hostess gift or are simply seeking a glamorous keepsake for yourself, Aerin Lauder's East Hampton shop is perfect. Featuring a carefully curated selection of top homeware, beauty and lifestyle brands, you'll want for nothing here (except to buy out the entire store).

Jed Design and Antiques, 74 Montauk Highway #9, East Hampton

Owned by Jack Deamer, this antiques shop is one of the best in the Hamptons, full of Rococo beauties and gilded treasures. The antithesis of a classic Hamptons beach aesthetic, maximalists will feel right at home at Jed.

Breezin' Up, 37 Newtown Lane, East Hampton and 43 Main Street, Southampton

The Hamptons are zhuzzhed up beach towns, so it is fitting that their beach town stores match that aesthetic. Breezin' Up features a curated collection of breezy, beach and oh-so comfortably t-shirts, sweatpants and linen clothes perfect for your laid back Hamptons getaway. (Note that whilst the clothing can be a bit pricey, it does last for years – I've had the same pair of linen pants and sweatshirt from Breezin' Up East Hampton for going on 9 years!).

Clic General Store, 60 Newtown Lane, East Hampton

First a bookstore and gallery, Clic General Store is now the Hamptons' go-to concept store for curated books, homeware and apparel. Take in the art (and grab a coffee – some of the best in the Hamptons) before settling on the perfect mug or coffee table book to take with you as a souvenir.