I started coming to the Hamptons in 2013. As a Brooklyn resident at the time, a friend offered me a summer job working at one of East Hampton’s most renowned restaurants. I rented a house in Montauk and by the time Labor Day Weekend arrived, I was hooked. The Hamptons had my heart. I spent the rest of that year trying to figure out how to make it back. Moving to the Hamptons isn’t for everyone, but if you prefer a slowed-down lifestyle, it just might be for you.
The Hamptons Call
My move became permanent just two years later. For the past six years, I have lived here, worked here, rented homes here, bought a home here, married here and even had children here. The area, I now find, is one that extends far beyond the surface. The rosé-drinking summer days of the Hamptons are lovely, while they last. So are the brisk fall evenings, the sun dipping into the bay on Three Mile Harbor. Or the Christmas parade, held each year in Southampton on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Or the Montauk Chowder Fest, held each Columbus Day, in which local businesses compete to see who makes the best soup. The Hamptons is rich with tradition. In that sense, it’s the perfect place to settle down.
A Region Rich with History
The Hamptons—which are also referred to as the East End or the South Fork—is the tail end of the southern part of New York’s Long Island. The area is broken down into two towns, the western Southampton and the eastern East Hampton. Each town governs autonomously, with its own rules about properties, rentals and even beach passes. The two towns were established in the mid-1600s as farming, fishing and whaling communities. Settled by the British, the area started to develop a reputation for summer travelers as early as 1879. Despite the fact that the Hamptons is two distinct towns, into which numerous hamlets fall, the grouping was called “The Hamptons” in an 1882 article in The New York Times. The name stuck.
What is “the Hamptons”?
Southampton, Watermill, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Wainscott, Springs, Amagansett and Montauk make up the Hamptons.
Depending on which part of the Hamptons you happen to be in, you may find yourself facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Peconic Bay or Gardiners Bay. The town of Southampton is divided into several hamlets, including Southampton Village, Watermill, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack and part of Sag Harbor Village. East Hampton town includes the eastern half of Sag Harbor, Wainscott, East Hampton Village, Springs, Wainscott, Amagansett and Montauk.
What to Know Before Moving to the Hamptons, NY
Living in the Hamptons Year-Round
The Hamptons has a vibrant year-round community. Young adults who are considering moving to the Hamptons year-round might consider the three major villages: Southampton, East Hampton and Sag Harbor. These areas offer more in the way of restaurants and retail and also have apartments for rent, as opposed to larger, more expensive homes.
For families, the areas of Noyack—a subset of Sag Harbor—and Springs are great introductory neighborhoods. Both areas offer exceptional public schools, access to Bay beaches and tight-knit communities that are family-friendly.
For retirees looking to maximize space and scenery, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton, Wainscott and Watermill have sweeping views of some of the area’s original potato fields and are among the area’s true treasures.
Homes typically cost $800,000 and up for a three-bedroom (some areas, like Sagaponack, are appreciably more expensive). Typically, homes sell for between $400 and $500 a foot. Fully updated homes frequently sell in the millions, and the majority of homes in the Hamptons have swimming pools. Homes in the Hamptons often lack garages, but there are plenty of substitutes, including Life Storage’s self-storage units in the Hamptons, NY.
Working, Living and Learning in the Hamptons
While the cost of living in the Hamptons is high, the taxes are not, although they differ by hamlet. The villages have higher taxes than the outlying areas, but taxes are broadly between one and two percent, depending on the cost of the property. Goods are expensive, however, since the through line transporting items from the city involves a single highway with only one lane. As a result, everything from gasoline to milk costs a little more.
The Job Market
The job market is bolstered, in large part, by the summer season. There is an ever-present need for restaurant workers, landscapers, housekeepers and estate managers. Several domestic staffing agencies in the area handle the area’s more elite clients. The real estate market is robust, and several agencies, including Corcoran, Brown Harris Stevens, Douglas Elliman and Saunders have offices in more than one hamlet.
Sag Harbor’s school district is often considered to be the area’s most prestigious. Out-of-district students can attend the high school, Pearson, but they must pay to do so. As a result, finding a home for purchase at a reasonable price in Sag Harbor can be challenging. East Hampton’s school system, however, is also highly rated, and the Springs school district, within East Hampton town, has one of the best elementary programs on the South Fork. Springs is a small, diverse community with homes that are still on the lower end of the Hamptons market, and it’s a great entry-point for those looking to purchase property out here.
Montauk and Amagansett students attend East Hampton’s high school. Bridgehampton has its own high school, and Southampton has several high schools that cater to students in different districts. There are also a number of private elementary and high schools, including the Ross School, in East Hampton and the Hayground School, in Bridgehampton. In Southampton, college-aged students can attend an outpost of Stony Brook University, which offers both undergraduate and graduate programs.
Traveling by Air, Bus and Train
There are private airports in both Montauk and East Hampton, but the closest major airport is about an hour west, in Islip. Public transportation is limited, though there is a bus line connecting the Hamptons to New York City, with stops in every hamlet. This bus, known as the Jitney, runs hourly in season and bi-hourly in off-season. The Long Island Railroad, which connects New York’s Penn Station to Long Island, operates a handful of trains between Montauk and the city daily. The trip between Montauk and the city takes about three hours.
Commuting by car
The western hamlets can reach the city in about two hours—assuming there isn’t any traffic. For that reason, daily commutes between the Hamptons and New York City are not ideal. The average gas price for regular gas is somewhere around $3 a gallon, though it gets more expensive the farther east you happen to drive.
The Hamptons’ Food and Drink Scene
One thing there is no shortage of on the East End of Long Island is great dining—and great wine. Nick & Toni’s, perhaps the area’s most famous restaurant, opened over 30 years ago in East Hampton. In summer, the wait list to get in is long and the celebrity guests are plentiful.
The team behind Nick & Toni’s owns four other area restaurants, too, including Coche Comedor and La Fondita, both in Amagansett; Rowdy Hall, in East Hampton; and Townline BBQ, in Sagaponack. Montauk’s beachfront resort, Gurney’s, is also home to Scarpetta Beach, a high-end Italian restaurant that offers both exceptional cuisine and an unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Sag Harbor’s American Hotel, one of the area’s relics, serves formal French cuisine in a charming setting. Also in Sag Harbor is Sen, a Japanese restaurant that has held court on Main Street for over a quarter decade. At Sen, you’ll find compelling Japanese food, as well as the area’s best ramen. There may be—and I say this from personal experience—no more purely craveable food in the Hamptons.
Bridgehampton’s Almond, which celebrates its 20-year anniversary this year, is helmed by chef and co-owner Jason Weiner and regularly features locally sourced produce, fish, meat, cheese and wine. Pastry chef Carissa Waechter opened a bakery in East Hampton Village several summers ago, where she sold homemade breads, sandwiches, cakes and pies. The space’s success caused her to expand her enterprise to the edge of town. She now runs a second space, Carissa’s The Bakery, where guests can indulge in all manner of baked goods, as well as breakfast, lunch and, on some nights, dinner (currently, the restaurant is operating as a takeout model). Her olive ciabatta is so popular it regularly sells out. In my house, it doesn’t last a day.
In Sagaponack, Wolffer Estate Vineyard has carved out a rosé-hued niche for itself. The winery, which opened in the 1980s, produces the area’s most beloved pink wines (as well as pink ciders, red wines, sparkling wines and gin). The winery is open for visits in its tasting room all year round, and in summer you can even snag a seat on the back patio, which overlooks the vines. Down the road, the Foster family runs the Sagaponack Farm Distillery, where they produce craft spirits from the vegetables grown on their nearby farm. Just across the border, in Bridgehampton, winemaker Chris Tracy grows grapes for his bespoke wines and vermouths at Channing Daughters Winery.
Besides eating and drinking, there’s plenty to do in the Hamptons, regardless of the season. Families with young kids can enjoy Bridgehampton’s Children’s Museum of the East End, which offers classes, an art studio, interactive play, outdoor spaces and an indoor jungle gym. Across the street, the South Fork Natural History Museum & Nature Center is a small museum dedicated to nature and animals. Set on a beautiful slice of land, the museum boasts a touch tank, as well as a nature trail. The Clubhouse, which opened two years ago in East Hampton, provides both indoor and outdoor entertainment for kids (and adults) of all ages, with its bowling alley, mini golf, arcade, bar and restaurant.
Watermill’s Parrish Art Museum, set in a stunning modern space in Watermill, presents 15 rotating temporary exhibitions each year. Rotating events and exhibits are also featured at the Southampton Arts Center, in Southampton Village. The great outdoors, however, provides the backdrop for some of the area’s best activities, including a seal walk in Montauk, a trio of sprawling gardens—the Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack; the Peconic Land Trust’s Bridge Gardens, in Bridgehampton; and LongHouse Reserve, in East Hampton—and a beach walk along Foster Memorial in Sag Harbor.
Life’s a Beach
You can also take surfing lessons in Southampton (or watch the truly advanced surfers catch waves at Montauk’s Ditch Plains beach), learn to paddleboard at East Hampton’s Paddle Diva or try your hand at clamming—with a permit, of course—at Cedar Point County Park. East Hampton town residents can apply for five-year parking passes for the town’s beaches at no cost. Southampton town residents must pay for a yearly beach pass. Both towns offer drive-on stickers for beach driving. Permits are required to host beach bonfires, but each town does issue them. Every year on the 4th of July, Montauk’s town beach is lit with celebratory bonfires from those watching the fireworks from the sand.
Other Things to Know Before Moving to the Hamptons
If you’re considering the big move east, there are a few things you might want to consider. The weather in the Hamptons is a little gentler than it is in other areas of New York. We don’t get much snow due to our insulation, but we do get a fair amount of rain, mist and fog. You should be comfortable driving and comfortable with the idea of living in a more rural area. We don’t have chain stores, for the most part, and our grocery stores are much smaller than those found in most suburban areas. In the heart of our busy season, it can take over an hour to get from Montauk, in the east, to Southampton, in the west.
A Close Community
Our community, though, is insular. Many of us know one another. A local fisherman who lives a block away sends me text messages when he has a fresh haul of fish. We get to see the sunsets in winter—like the sky has been lit on fire—and we get to navigate the corn maze at the Ludlow family’s Fairview Farm at Mecox in fall. We have some of New York’s sweetest corn (there’s some debate, but I’d argue that Balsam Farms, in Amagansett, grows the best of the bunch). Our sea scallops come from right off the Montauk coast.
Is the Hamptons right for you? Only you know the answer. For me, there’s no place like home.