If the 35 miles of Sound Shore provide Westchester with its local beaches, then the Hamptons may be its closest Riviera. The Hamptons’ season, though, with beach life dependent on the weather, has traditionally been short, but Covid-19 is changing all that.
People with second homes and others wishing to escape the city by any means they can — something made easier by new-found opportunities to work from home — flocked to the Hamptons before Memorial Day in droves this year and showed no signs of leaving after the Labor Day cut-off.
As a result, the Hamptons’ art scene, which was already well-established, has recently rocketed. Hamptons people need art. An article by Ted Loos, which appeared in The New York Times in July and led the way for many others, called attention to the number of new galleries opening in Long Island’s East End, many of them having relocated from New York City. Easthampton is the hub, with Pace, formerly the Vered Gallery, on Park Place Passage, and heavy-hitters Skarstedt, Van de Weghe and Sotheby’s lined up neatly in a row along Newtown Lane, ready to do art battle. Over in Southampton, the international dealers Hauser & Wirth have set up shop on Main Street, while out at Montauk — last art stop before Europe — the new South Etna gallery is said to be doing brisk business. And this is just the start.
If an art weekend on the island floats your boat, then October, before the weather turns too cold, would be a great time to take the trip. And when it comes to looking for a hotel, Sag Harbor, equidistant from South and Easthampton, might be a good place to stay. Although Sag is not exactly Hernando’s Hideaway in terms of obscurity, it is at least relatively quiet and traffic-free. It is also one of the few places where visitors without beachfront houses of their own can stay directly on the water. The town itself has a rich cultural history and hosts several festivals throughout the year (at least in a normal year), and postcard pretty though it is, it has sufficient grit to make it real. Sag also has enough galleries of its own to sink a ship, if you’ll forgive the maritime pun.
At Baron’s Cove on Water Street, an old-established, 67-room resort that underwent a major renovation in 2015, you have the best of all worlds. The cove is tranquil as can be but five minutes’ walk has you bang in the center of town. Check out Sag’s shops and galleries in the morning, return to Baron’s for lunch on its terrace overlooking the marina and spend a lazy afternoon, at least in the warmer months, by the pool. There is also weekend morning yoga on the lawn for the contemplative, tennis every day for the sporty and bikes on a first-come, first-serve basis, for everybody.
Guest rooms vary considerably. You can park your car directly outside the almost motel-like, first-floor rooms, which fan out directly from the hotel lobby. These rooms are basic, clean and bright and with their ample patios with table and chairs, you can be entirely self-sufficient here if Covid worries prevent you, say, from venturing into the public parts of the hotel. For myself, I might splash out and plump for one of the pricier second-floor harborside suites, attractive duplexes with a downstairs living room and balcony overlooking the marina and a cosy upstairs bedroom.
But wherever you choose you’ll be in good company. The hotel has hosted a clutch of famous guests, including John Steinbeck, Truman Capote and Paul Newman, over the years and artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning also spent time here.
Heading northwest over the bridge, which links Sag Harbor to North Haven, you come after three miles to the South Ferry, which whisks you over to Shelter Island in just 10 minutes. Although not quite as convenient for the galleries of the Hamptons, Shelter Island boasts the Shelter Island House (known locally as SIH,) a charming boutique hotel that has been looking after guests since 1945 but in all respects is bang up to the minute. With its spacious guest rooms and gorgeous pool, plus a terrific restaurant and bar, this is one of the area’s most appealing hotels.
Heading south again, the Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton offers an 1842 Greek Revival Mansion that opened in 2013 and bills itself as the Hamptons’ first “full-service” hotel, with luxury and original art of its own, albeit at an appreciable price. Its restaurant, which has Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s name above the door, is the subject of this month’s Wonderful Dining. (See Page 76.)
And in the local artists’ neighborhood of Clearwater Beach — a 12-minute drive to downtown Easthampton, with private access to the beach preserve and the marina on Gardiner’s Bay that few tourists get to see — the four-room Art House B&B (actually an expansive villa) offers yet another perspective on Hamptons life. There are private and communal seating areas in the landscaped gardens, an indoor and outdoor pool and a complimentary gourmet breakfast each morning. Expect “intuitive service and new-fashioned luxury,” say owners Rosalind Brenner and Michael Cardacino, artists themselves, and indeed guests are welcome to tour their studios, which are located in the villa.
With world-class art, great food and a good night’s sleep, the Hamptons have it all.