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Ocean Beach, Fire Island – A Must See Destination Awaits You

By Emily Palazzotto

Ocean Beach Ferry

Photo from Long Island Press

Nothing but a thirty-minute boat or ferry ride across the Great South Bay stands between you and one happy island. Pile onto the boat with friends and family, feel the warm sunshine soak into your skin and the warm summer air blow on your face as you make your way across to Fire Island. A place for warm beach days filled with laughter, quiet and tranquil walks through town, shopping in the quaint little stores, loud nights spent bar hopping and the most delicious restaurants for meals with friends and family awaits you.

Fire Island is composed of a series of little beach towns – desolate in the winter with a few permanent residents staying year-round but buzzing with noise in the warm summer months. Free of cars on the entire island, this is such a calming and care-free destination. Ocean Beach, one of the beach towns, is always a fan favorite. Some towns only have a beach, where others only have a marina, some don’t even have a bathroom – not Ocean Beach though. Equipped with everything you could ever need; Ocean Beach serves as the perfect location to spend your next free day.

A seventeen dollar round trip ferry ticket (for adults) can be purchased at the Bayshore ferry docks – make sure you bring cash because it is cash only not just at the ticket window, but in many of the Ocean Beach stores and restaurants! Grab your sunscreen, towel and beach chair and you’re all set for a fun filled day in Ocean Beach.

As a south shore Long Island native, I know the island like the back of my hand. I pride myself on the vast knowledge that I have about Fire Island - Ocean Beach in particular - being that I have grown up there: first vacationing there every summer, then spending my first beach days with no parents there – gaining my first taste of freedom, and then working in the highly esteemed restaurants the town has to offer.

After much deliberation, I have picked out the must-see places in Ocean Beach. In no particular order:

1. The Island Mermaid:

Lobster Roll, Outdoor Deck, Frose`

Photos from Island Mermaid Instagram

The big orange and blue umbrellas housed at the Island Mermaid restaurant is what you will always spot first when the ferry is docking at Ocean Beach. The most hospitable staff welcomes you to the patio or to the bar with warm smiles. Perfect for a quick bite to eat before running to catch the ferry after a long beach day or for a special anniversary dinner at sunset, this waterfront dining experience accompanied by delicious and fresh food and drinks is perfect for every occasion.

I highly recommend the Lobster Roll and a nice glass of ice cold frose` to cool you off on a warm summer day or night! I may be a tad bit biased when I say that the Island Mermaid is the greatest restaurant in town (because I work here), but I truly have not had a better meal anywhere else. I guess you will have to find out for yourself! You can thank me later.

2. The Palms Hotel

Palms Courtyard

Photo from The Palms Hotel Website

One day in Ocean Beach may not be enough for you, but you don’t have the funds to rent a house on the island. The Palms Hotel will be your saving grace. This hotel offers a variety of different sized rooms to accommodate groups of all sizes, located in the heart of town, you won’t have to travel too far to the stores and restaurants, and you’re only about a ten-minute walk from the beach.

The property is beautiful, and the staff is so welcoming and helpful. Having stayed at The Palms Hotel several times myself, I can assure you that your stay will be flawless and luxurious.

3. Rachel’s Restaurant & Bakery

Photos from Rachel's Restaurant & Bakery Instagram

After a long day at the beach, do you want some gelato to cool off? How about an iced coffee? Or do you want a fresh pastry and a hearty egg sandwich to cure your hangover after a night out at the bars? Rachel’s Restaurant and Bakery is the place to go. This family owned and operated business has been open since 1975, providing the entire town of Ocean Beach with delicious meals that always hit the right spot, and the best pastries to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Having worked here myself, I can assure you that everything is fresh and homemade. Nobody’s cookies and cakes (not even my mom’s) live up to the Rachel’s standard.

Walk up the front steps to your food heaven – you will not be disappointed (well, maybe after you step on the scale the next day you will be).

Have a piece of their famous crumb cake, an iced coffee and maybe top it off with some fresh chocolate chip pancakes from the kitchen. In this one instance, I say it is okay to give into all of your cravings – it is worth every single calorie.

4. The Sand Bar

Photos from the Sand Bar Facebook

The perfect place to let loose in Ocean Beach. Everyone waits patiently until the day that they are twenty-one and they are allowed into the bar (so they can finally stop dancing in the street with their friends and pretending like they’re inside – I’m guilty of it).

Almost a different special every day, quick bites of bar food and constant themed parties throughout the summer, the Sand Bar is always attracting large crowds. The music always makes you want to sing at the top of your lungs and dance into the night. The Sand Bar seems to be the ultimate party scene (from the outside looking in). I have never met someone who did not have a blast here. I can let you know how it is from the inside in two years!

5. CJs

The Infamous Rocket Fuel

Photos from CJs Website

Not only in Ocean Beach, but in all of Fire Island, whether you are nine years old or ninety years old, you have heard of the infamous “Rocket fuel”. This is the signature drink of the island that can be ordered from almost any and every bar and restaurant throughout.

CJs is also known as the home of the rocket fuel, as the landmark drink was created behind their bar over forty years ago. Comprised of Pina Colada mix, infused with Bacardi 151, topped with an amaretto float, I have never met a person who had anything negative to say about this sensational drink.

While you can get the rocket fuel everywhere, I suggest you make a special trip to CJs – they are the creators of this cocktail, so I’m sure their rocket fuels will be superior. Again, I will let you know for sure in two years.

6. Bambootique

Storefront of Bambootique

Photo from Facebook

This cute store in the heart of town is the place to go for the best bathing suits and coverups, the trendiest shirts and hoodies and even for a brand-new pair of sunglasses or a new yeti!

Almost identical to your typical surf shop clothing finds, new inventory is always filling the shelves. Bambootique clothes almost all of Ocean Beach. Make sure you are in town for their annual sale at the end of August where I can assure you, you will find plenty of bargains!

7. The Beach

Photo from Long Island Press

While the beach in Ocean Beach may not be very different from any beach that you have visited before, there is something about the way that the ocean waves crash on the shore, making this beach feel like paradise. I don’t know if the strongly enforced rules prohibiting food, drinks or music on the beach is what makes this beach feel like some type of sanctuary, but I promise you will not find a more relaxing beach anywhere else.

Keep your eyes peeled, because sometimes you will be lucky enough to spot dolphins, seals, sharks and even whales (yes, you read that correctly) swimming by in the distance.

8. Town Pizza

Photo from Trip Advisor

No trip to Ocean Beach is ever complete before you visit Town Pizza. Whether you're six years old, walking into the institution holding hands with your father, or if you're riding your bike there for the third time of the day at age ten, or if you're sneaking out at three in the morning when you're fourteen to get it just because it's open that late , or if you're 45 and a greasy cold cheese slice is just what you need after a long night out at the Sand Bar, the pizza is a bite of pure bliss.

Make sure you bring cash, because it is cash only. Be prepared to wait on line for at least fifteen minutes to order, and get ready to run in order save the wooden and sandy booth for you and your friends. As crazy as it sounds, there is nothing better than sitting inside of the shoebox of a restaurant in the humidity because it isn't air conditioned, eating a boom boom chicken slice, and then peeling your thighs from the seat to walk out of there, thinking about what time you'll come back for seconds later that day.

All who have been fortunate enough to experience Fire Island the way that I have can attest to the great escape that is Ocean Beach. On your next free day, take a trip to this little taste of paradise and make sure you save some time to make a pit stop at all of these amazing sites! You will not be disappointed.

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