The Hamptons, part of the East End of Long Island, consist of the towns of Southampton and East Hampton, which together comprise the South Fork of Long Island, in Suffolk County, New York. The Hamptons are a popular seaside resort and one of the historical summer colonies of the northeastern United States.
The Montauk Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, the Montauk Highway, and private bus services connect the Hamptons to the rest of Long Island and to New York City, while ferries provide connections to Shelter Island, New York and Connecticut.
Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus is located in the Hamptons.
What Are the Hamptons?
The Hamptons is a group of towns, villages, and hamlets, concentrated on the eastern end of Long Island in New York state. Most famously, the region is a popular getaway for people from New York City. The Hamptons is known for its rural setting and amenities. The highly esteemed Cooper’s Beach, the historic Shinnecock Golf Club, and the historic Hampton Classic horse show are just a few of the things that draw visitors from not just the city, but from across the nation, and even the globe.
The seaside region is notably associated with celebrity sightings. Many of the rich and famous spend their summers on spacious estates nestled along the Atlantic Ocean, often hidden behind tall hedgerows. Ina Garten is one legendary resident. Alec Baldwin is often spotted there, and many of the Real Housewives are out and about during the summer months. Jimmy Fallon is known for making appearances at Hamptons hot spots, and even filmed “The Tonight Show” from his Hamptons home during the pandemic.
12 Best Things to Do in the Hamptons, New York
There are so many fun things to do in the Hamptons, so if you haven’t been here yet, it’s time to start planning a trip. One of the coolest things about New York City is that it’s close to all kinds of different places, including the Hamptons, which make up several coastal communities on Long Island’s South Fork.
With lots of recreational activities in the Hamptons, as well as natural areas, this is one of the best weekend getaways from NYC. Here, things happen at a slower pace, and the vibe is more laid-back, so you can unwind and treat yourself to some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
Of course, there is plenty to do here, from hiking in the Mashomack Preserve and climbing the Montauk Point Lighthouse to swimming and surfing at the beach. There are hidden treasures waiting for you here, and the Hamptons are just a 3.5-hour drive from NYC, so you can easily rent a car and escape the busy city.
- Go to Cooper’s Beach, one of the best things to do in the Hamptons
One of the most obvious things to do in the Hamptons is to go to the beach. If you’re in Southampton, you can’t miss Cooper’s Beach, a quiet beach with long stretches of soft, clean sand. There are very few pebbles and shells here, so you can comfortably stroll along the coastline and take in the large dunes and historic mansions.
Not only is Cooper’s Beach one of the best places in the Hamptons, but it’s also one of the top beaches in NYC, so you’re sure to love it here. Take a swim, and feel free to bring the kiddos along, as there are lifeguards on duty during the high season. You can also rent beach chairs and umbrellas if you plan on spending a few hours here.
While this is one of the most pristine beaches in the Hamptons, it has a hefty parking fee of $50. If you want to avoid paying for parking, consider taking a bike or bus here.
- Wine tasting at Wölffer Estate Vineyard, something to do in the Hamptons with friends
Without a doubt, one of the most romantic things to do in the Hamptons is to do a wine tasting at one of the nearby vineyards. Wölffer Estate Vineyard is a gorgeous winery and makes for a fun day out as a couple or with a group of friends.
Wölffer Estate Vineyard is in Sagaponack in the town of Southampton and has a rustic ambiance with rolling hills and lush vineyards. Its beautiful tasting room is available for events and group visits, although Wölffer also has a wine stand, a kitchen, and horse stables.
So, if you’re looking for a cool thing to do in the Hamptons with your friends or to celebrate a special occasion, you can’t beat wine and charcuterie. Wölffer has everything from reds and whites to ciders, spirits, and non-alcoholic drinks.
You can also book this private tour for an unforgettable experience. Transportation is included and you’ll depart from NYC, arrive in Southampton, and explore the downtown area. Then, stop in Sag Harbor, enjoy a visit to Wölffer Estate Vineyard, and check out East Hampton and Montauk before returning to Manhattan.
- Swim at Main Beach, something to do in the Hamptons as a family
Another awesome beach in the Hamptons is Main Beach in East Hampton, which has long been a popular summertime destination for New Yorkers.
A Hamptons trip isn’t complete without a visit to the coast, and Main Beach is a great choice since you can go swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. In addition to being one of the most scenic beaches in the area, Main Beach has lifeguards, restrooms, and a few restaurants, so you can easily spend hours here.
Best of all, the parking is free here, so it’s a cheap thing to do in the Hamptons with family. After enjoying the surf, sun, and sand, take a short walk to Main Street, where you can browse the shops or grab a bite to eat.
- Visit Montauk Point State Park, an interesting thing to do in the Hamptons
Montauk Point State Park is one of the top attractions in the Hamptons for those who love the outdoors. Here, you can take in 860 acres of coastline, marshes, and forests, as well as waterfront views of the Atlantic Ocean and Block Island Sound.
Located in Montauk, at the eastern end of Long Island, this state park features picnic areas, a playground, and various walking and hiking trails. Along the coast, you can go surf fishing or scan the horizon for seals resting on the nearby rocks.
Another cool thing about this park is the Montauk Point Lighthouse, one of the best things to see in New York state. This lighthouse was built in 1796, making it the oldest one in the state. At 168 feet tall, it’s an imposing landmark and was even used during the American Revolution. You can climb the tower and visit the Lighthouse Museum to learn more about this historic structure.
Also, right next to Montauk Point State Park, you’ll find Camp Hero State Park, another interesting place with recreational activities and historic monuments. Camp Hero has several military landmarks, including a former Air Force Station, as well as a beach, picnic area, and a trail network.
- Go biking, a fun thing to do in the Hamptons
Besides going to the beach, taking a bike ride is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the Hamptons. That means you can easily find bike rentals in each of the towns and enjoy a ride along the coast or through the woods.
One of the best places to go biking around here is Hither Hills State Park in Montauk. The entire park is worth visiting since, in addition to bike trails, it has a picnic area, beach, playground, sports fields, and campground. The scenic route follows Montauk Point State Parkway west, then circles Hither Hills Park, granting you lovely views of Napeague Bay.
If you’re in Southampton, the oceanfront bike trail at Dune Road is a beautiful 13-mile loop, while Meadow Lane is shorter and goes past Cooper’s Beach. Alternatively, Gerard Drive in East Hampton is another short route along the bay, so you have plenty of ways to enjoy this activity in the Hamptons.
- Go to the LongHouse Reserve, something to do in the Hamptons as a couple
The LongHouse Reserve is a beautiful attraction in the Hamptons that combines art and nature. It spans 16 acres in East Hampton, so you can take your time walking through lush gardens, a beautifully designed landscape, and interesting art pieces.
This place was founded by Jack Lenor Larsen, an artist who lived at LongHouse and specialized in textiles and woven design installations. Along with his work, you can see pieces by Yoko Ono, Willem de Kooning, Ai Weiwei, and other prominent artists.
Throughout the reserve, there are themed outdoor areas like tropical gardens and Peter’s Pond, a scenic spot with water lilies, turtles, and bullfrogs. Coming here is a romantic thing to do in the Hamptons as a couple, especially when the weather is nice.
In addition to the landscaped grounds, you can see some curious conceptual sculptures and art installations. For example, Fly’s Eye Dome is a geodesic dome that resembles an insect’s head, while Yoko Ono’s Play It By Trust is a large-scale monochromatic marble chess set. Willem de Kooning’s Reclining Figure is one of the most famous Abstract Expressionist sculptures, and Dale Chihuly’s blown glass Cobalt Reeds are absolutely stunning.
Admission costs $15 and guided tours are available, although it’s nice to take your time strolling through the different areas.
- Relax at the Montauk Salt Cave, the best plan for a weekend at the Hamptons
If you’re looking for another couples’ activity in the Hamptons, check out the Montauk Salt Cave. This alternative wellness center is perfect for a romantic spa date or a fun day out with friends.
The Montauk Salt Cave specializes in salt therapy, also known as halotherapy, which is said to help with anxiety, allergies, inflammation, and sleeplessness. All you have to do is sit back and relax, and as you breathe in the salt air, you’ll feel totally at ease. The ambient lighting and soothing music make it a completely immersive experience.
If you prefer to try a different wellness treatment, Montauk Salt Cave offers meditation sessions, reiki, sound healing, and yoga classes. You can also get a deep tissue massage or a beauty treatment like a manicure, pedicure, or facial. Without a doubt, this place has everything you need for a pampered weekend at the Hamptons.
- Go shopping on Main Street in East Hampton, another thing to do in the Hamptons
No matter the weather or the time of year, it’s a good time to go shopping, and East Hampton is one of the best towns in the Hamptons for a shopping spree. Here, you’ll find Main Street, which is full of village shops where you can find just about anything you’re looking for.
This shopping area has cute independent boutiques and locally owned galleries, so you can find unique items for yourself or for someone back home. The shops range from jewelers and clothing stores to bookstores and home goods retailers. There are also high-end stores like J Crew, Lululemon, Ralph Lauren, and Tory Burch, so it’s great if you like luxury brands.
After browsing all the different shops, you can slip into one of the nearby day spas or grab a bite to eat at one of the cafes. Overall, it’s something fun to do in the Hamptons with friends, and East Hampton is one of the best places to visit outside NYC, so don’t miss it.
- Look for windmills, a unique thing to do in the Hamptons, NY
Something that you may not know about the Hamptons is that it’s home to several historic windmills, which were built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In fact, the Hamptons have the largest collection of wooden windmills in the country. They’re some of the most unique attractions in the Hamptons, so I recommend visiting at least one during your trip.
Back in the day, local farmers used the windmills to mill grain, and while these structures are no longer in use, they’re a cool part of the area’s history and landscape. In addition to grounding up grain, these traditional wooden windmills pumped water and even sawed timber.
There are 11 historic windmills in the Hamptons, but I’ll tell you about a few of them here. First, the Hayground Windmill in East Hampton was built in 1801 and still contains its original machinery. The Wainscott Windmill was built in 1813 and sits next to Georgica Pond in Wainscott, while the Corwith Windmill was built in 1800 and is at the intersection of Halsey Lane and Montauk Highway.
Over in Bridgehampton, the Beebe Windmill is an impressive mill built in 1820 and was one of the first to have cast iron gears. It’s also worth seeing the Hook Windmill in Southampton, which dates back to 1806 and was in use for 100 years.
- Go surfing at Ditch Plains, an outdoorsy thing to do in the Hamptons
Of course, it goes without saying that you should visit the beaches in the Hamptons, although I specifically recommend Ditch Plains if you like to go surfing. This public beach is over in Montauk and is open year-round for swimming and surfing.
To explore a bit more, take the Joan C. Coles Memorial Trail, a nice and easy one-mile trail. While you admire the scenery, keep an eye out for birds and waterfowl like ospreys, herons, and egrets. There are several walking paths throughout the preserve, and they’re all easy to navigate and well-marked with signposts.
Since the Mashomack Preserve is on Shelter Island, you need to take the ferry to get there. The ferry departs from North Haven, just a five-minute drive from Sag Harbor, and the ferry itself takes 5-10 minutes to get to Shelter Island.
- Sag Harbor, one of the best towns in the Hamptons, New York
Finally, Sag Harbor is one of the best spots in the Hamptons, thanks to its location and small-town charm. This town is a 25-minute drive from Southampton and just 15 minutes from East Hampton, plus it’s right by the ferry to Shelter Island.
That said, you can easily spend a few hours in Sag Harbor exploring its landmarks, history, and quaint village feel. Many of the structures here date back to the 1800s and are on the National Register of Historic Places. Moreover, Sag Harbor was the first commercial port in the country, and these days, you can take sailing and catamaran cruises here. If you want to learn more about its nautical history, check out the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum.
Where to stay in the Hamptons
With so many cool things to do in the Hamptons, it makes sense to stay overnight in one of these beach communities. Here are three beautiful accommodation options to consider:
Southampton Inn – This hotel is close to Cooper’s Beach, one of the best beaches in the Hamptons. It’s a clean and comfortable accommodation with a pool, courtyard, and restaurant.
East Hampton House Resort – This resort is in one of the best towns in the Hamptons, East Hampton, so you’ll be near Main Beach and several of the historic windmills. The whole family will feel at home with a kitchenette, outdoor pool, and playground.
Beachcomber Resort – This hotel is over in Montauk, between Hither Hills and Ditch Plains, two beautiful places in the Hamptons. The property includes family rooms, a sauna, and a heated outdoor pool.
The Hamptons are connected to New York City and the rest of Long Island by a series of roadways (most notable of which are Route 27A, also known as Montauk Highway, and Route 27, also known as Sunrise Highway), rail service, and bus service. There are also several small airports throughout the Hamptons which offer both private and commercial service on small aircraft and helicopters.
The Long Island Rail Road provides limited rail service seven days per week via the Montauk Branch connecting towns and hamlets in the Hamptons to Montauk and New York City. Hampton Jitney and Hampton Luxury Liner coach bus services provide slightly more frequent passenger travel between New York City and the Hamptons, especially during summer months. Local Suffolk County buses also provide service to neighboring areas.
What Towns Make Up the Hamptons?
The Hamptons are technically made up of only two townships: the Town of Southampton and the Town of East Hampton. However, each township includes smaller villages and hamlets with their own zip codes and personalities.
Southampton has jurisdiction over the village Southampton (of course) and the villages of Westhampton Beach, Quogue, Sagaponack, and Sag Harbor, which is shared with the Town of East Hampton. The hamlets include Westhampton, East Quogue, Hampton Bays, Shinnecock Hills, Water Mill, and Bridgehampton. Southampton Town also includes the hamlets of Eastport, Speonk, and Remsenburg, but these towns are not usually considered to be part of the Hamptons. It’s complicated!
Of the two townships, Southampton Town tends to be a little bit more laid-back. West-of-the-canal areas, such as Westhampton and Hampton Bays, draw many for their relaxed attitude and relatively affordable real estate. But once you start going further east, real estate gets noticeably more expensive. People will really feel like they are in the Hamptons once they hit Southampton village.
Why Are the Hamptons So Popular?
There really is something for everyone on the East End. The Hamptons offers the perfect mix of oceanside locale, rural atmosphere, historic charm, and exclusivity, all within driving distance of New York City. The area was conceived as a summer colony to provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and centuries later, it has maintained that same attitude.
One of the things it’s known for is a sophisticated art scene. In particular, artists such as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Willem de Kooning lived in Springs. The Pollock-Krasner House is now a museum where you can get a glimpse of the artists’ studios. Galleries such as the Parrish Art Museum and Guild Hall offer exhibits throughout the year.
During the summer months, Hamptons parties often last well into the morning hours. People flock to Ditch Plains in Montauk to experience Long Island’s most famous surf spot. Many also love nature hikes in Hither Hills. And restaurants of varying price points are available for dining — from inexpensive taco joints like Amagansett’s La Fondita to The 1770 House in East Hampton, where a tasting menu will set you back $85 per person.
And even though many celebrities spend time in the Hamptons, visitors won’t see paparazzi crowding them to get a juicy photo. This atmosphere makes the area an ideal escape for society’s elite.
How to Get to the Hamptons
Rihanna travels to the Hamptons by helicopter; you’ll probably get there by car. (James Devaney/WireImage/Getty Images)
From New York, getting to the Hamptons is an easy trip by car. You can also travel there via train or bus service, such as the Hampton Jitney. The most well-heeled might even travel by helicopter.