A beginner's guide to Fire Island

Fire Island offers many gay delights. Here’s what you need to know before you strap on your Speedo and head out

The new Botel Barracks offers bunks for boys on a budget.
It may be synonymous with summer in gay New York, but Fire Island is, in reality, mostly straight. The two gay communities on the 31-mile stretch—the partycentric Pines and the slightly mellower Cherry Grove—are accessed via the Sayville Ferry(sayvilleferry.com), located about a mile and a half from the Sayville LIRR stop. (It’s a fairly easy walk, but cabs will be waiting at the station.) Take any of the other boats to F.I. and you’ll still find lovely beaches… covered with retirees and screaming toddlers. Be sure to time your trip so that your train arrival matches up comfortably with your ferry departure; otherwise you could have a long, boring wait in Sayville.
While it’s close enough for a day trip, nightlife abounds on F.I., so the full experience involves spending the night. Unless you want to risk the potential humiliation of trying to casually “find a place,” you’re probably going to have to spend some serious cash. Right now, you can score a basic room at the Grove Hotel(grovehotel.com) for less than $90 midweek; come weekends later in the summer, though, the same room costs $300, and people will be fighting for the privilege to pay it. For the young, thrifty and adventurous, there’s the new Botel Barracks(pinesfi.com/botel-barracks) offers a budget alternative to the storied Botel, featuring bunks and shared bathrooms. Multinight stays are required, but a whole weekend is just $119. Every summer, NYC nightlife impresario Daniel Nardicio(dworld.us) settles into Cherry Grove’s Ice Palace(facebook.com/icepalacefi) with his underwear parties (beginning Friday 23) and the Icon Series of cabaret performances, kicking off Saturday 24 with Dina Martina. In the Pines, the scene is centered around the famed Pavilion club (pinesfi.com/pavilion), where you can dance until sunup every weekend. Key events include two multiday dance blowouts: the Pines Party(July 25–27, pinesparty.com) and Ascension(Aug 16–18, ascensionparty.com),  both of which draw thousands. (Translation: Book now.) For more info on Pines party life, check out thepinesfireisland.com.