Just over an hour outside New York City you’ll find the closest thing to an all gay summer camp, a car-free strip of barrier island called Fire Island. While there are many other towns on the island, two adjoining communities, Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove, and make up one of the most memorable gay summer getaways you’ll ever have. The only way to get here is by ferry boat and once you are here, prepare to walk to your final destination on the miles of boardwalks that serve as the main streets of “The Island”. “The Pines” and “The Grove” each has its own unique vibe, but wherever you visit, you are bound to want to stay longer than you planned.
Michael Lucas, gay porn producer and star, is a long time resident of Fire Island Pines, and has shot numerous films here including his hot Fire Island Cruising series. This year he directed and starred in “Michael Lucas’ La Dolce Vita” which took home 14 GAYVN awards (the gay porn oscars). He’s currently working on “The Intern” starring Ben Andrews (and Michael himself). He also writes his own, sometimes controversial, blog at lucasblog.com.
As one of Fire Island’s most recognized residents, we thought he’d be perfect to introduce you to the charms of this private spot on the Atlantic Ocean. Lucky for us, Michael wasn’t shy sharing his opinions.
How would you describe Fire Island to a first time visitor?
Fire Island is a beautiful island with no cars or bicycles allowed. All transportation is done by walking. It’s very narrow, you can cross from bay to ocean in ten minutes. The nature is divine with a lot of wild animals, especially deer walking around. It’s not a place where you can go for a day without knowing anyone. Thank god it’s not a tourist-friendly place. You will not find any public showers, bathrooms, etc., and you cannot sleep on the beach, the police will chase you off immediately. You have to know a friend or stay in a hotel. For a very basic room you should expect to pay $500 or more depending on the weekend.
The Pines is a more upscale community. Much more expensive and much more established. Many famous gay men own houses there from TV personalities to fashion designers.
Cherry Grove is an older community, with many lesbians. It’s a very diverse community, although its not as rich as the Pines, it’s a very fun and friendly place.
Walk us through your typical weekend when you head out to the Pines starting from the city – how do you get there, is the trip part of the fun? What do you do when you first get there?
You can either have a relaxing time or you can party your brain out
There are several ways to get there, either by car or by train. Because I have a big dogâ€”a Great Pyrannesâ€”I usually take a car, but the train is actually fun. You always meet up with a lot of friends on the train especially if you go on a Friday or Saturday. So then, if you take a train, you take a taxi from your apartment to Penn Station, then the train for about 1.5 hours to Sayvile, then a minibus for 5 minutes to the ferry station. The ferry usually leaves every hour and usually takes about 20 minutes. Then you walk to your house from the ferry stop. By the time I get there I am very hungry and all I want to do is eat.
Ok, you arrive hungry, are there restaurants you’d recommend?
I don’t think there are even five restaurants on the Pines! The only ones I go to are the Blue Whale and the Pines Bistro and Pizza. The food is good, but always remember not to go there when you are starving because it always takes time for the food to arrive.
If a friend from out of town was coming to the Island for a weekend, what would you do for the weekend?
You mean if he is coming to my house in the Pines? Well I would definitely make him a great breakfast/brunch. Then I’m sure he would be off to the beach (I don’t do the beach). Then we will probably hang out around the house or by the pool. Around six o’clock we will go to Low Tea where hundreds of gay guys are drinking in the open area by the bay. Everyone in the Pines is there. There are also a lot of private parties going on in different houses at all times of the day, which have anything from 20-1000 people.
Then around 8:30 everyone moves to the High Tea, then around 10’oclock we will have dinner in my house with about ten other friends, or we will all go to one of the local restaurants. After dinner we’d go to Sip and Twirl, which is one of the big bars out there. Then I will leave my friend there because it will be way past my bed time when disco starts at Pavillion. That goes to about ten o’clock in the morning, when I usually wake up. But by that time I’m sure my friend would have met so many people that he would never be alone. So many nature-loving gays.
When’s the best time to go?
It’s good to be on Fire Island in June and July when it is unbearably hot in the city because it is usually ten degrees cooler on Fire Island. But I also like September very much when there are not that many people out there, and it’s still very warm and very peaceful.
What’s the biggest misconception you think people have about Fire Island?
That its all about the drugs and sex. Of course those things are there, but they’re anywhere. But like in Manhattan, you can always have a choice. You can either have a relaxing time on Fire Island sleeping ten hours a day since it’s so quiet and peaceful and the ocean air relaxes you and can go on long nature walks with friends, or you can party your brain out as some people choose to do.
You’ve shot a number of films on Fire Island, what about the location inspired you?
Well, it’s just beautiful, everything from the beach to the bay. And then there is the wooded section between the Pines and Cherry Grove called The Meat Rack, which is a persevered wild forest where people cruise. And of course it helps that I have a house there to shoot indoor scenes.
Thanks a lot Michael! I appreciate you taking the time to share Fire Island with us. How’s this summer going out there?
This year the demographic of the Pines has changed a lot. There are a lot of new, fresh faces, since before the crowd was mostly way over 45. This year you can see a lot of kids in their 20s and 30s. Which I’m sure makes everyone very happy. That’s probably because of the efforts of Eric von Kuersteiner, who has done a great job promoting events on the island all summer long. Thanks to you too and enjoy your visit to Fire Island.