Fire Island Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Fire Island gay guide to hotels, house rentals, beaches, parties & events in the Pines.
The Gay Travel Experience: Fire Island Pines, New York
Fire Island Pines is one of the most popular gay destinations in the United States and has become an internationally known gay summer destination. Only reachable by boat and connected by boardwalks, the secluded Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove neighborhoods are truly a gay paradise.
Fire Island Pines was historically a safe haven for gay men to express themselves freely. And they still do to this day. Extravagant parties and expressive outfits are typical here. In contrast to nearby calmer gay destinations like the Hamptons, people come to Fire Island for an action-packed LGBT getaway.
Before getting into the details of this Fire Island gay guide, the section below briefly covers the precious history of the Fire Island gay communities.
Brief History of the Fire Island Gay Community
The LGBT history of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines dates back to the 1940s.
When gay and lesbian members of society had no protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, these hamlets on Fire Island were literal escapes from mainstream life. Over time they have blossomed into today’s wonderful collective Fire Island gay community.
New Yorkers would leave their responsibilities behind, bound for a weekend getaway to a place where they could be themselves.
On this tiny island, they could live freely and show affection in public without repercussion. It was a place without rules, where LGBT people of all types could feel at ease.
Over the years, the gay communities of Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove have continued to grow in popularity, even despite destructive events like hurricanes and building fires.
The LGBT community has proved resilient in maintaining our sacred gay paradise outside of bustling New York City.
Fire Island Gay Hotels, Rentals & Where to Stay
Fire Island is a skinny barrier island off the southern coast of Long Island, New York. Both The Pines and Cherry Grove comprise the gay area of Fire Island, where the LGBT community stays.
To help you decide where to stay in Fire Island Pines, I’ll first explain what each neighborhood is like, and then show you how to book a rental.
Staying in The Pines Vs Cherry Grove
Most of the social action is in The Pines, but Cherry Grove is not without its own flavor. They both are just about 100% gay neighborhoods, not to mention popular with many gay celebrities and influential New Yorkers.
The Pines neighborhood will be a better choice if you prefer to be in the center of the fun. In my opinion, first-time Fire Island gay travelers should stay here since it provides more of the typical experience.
Cherry Grove tends to have a slightly older population but is truthfully just as popular. If you plan to attend the famous Cherry Grove underwear party (more on this in the nightlife section), then staying here may be more convenient.
All in all, don’t stress too much about where to stay on Fire Island. There is no inferior area of this gay wonderland. But, try to reserve your spot as soon as possible before prices increase. Finding a rental last minute can be tough.
Fire Island Pines Rentals & Finding a House
If you’ve never booked a place to stay in Fire Island Pines, there are several important details you need to know.
How Rentals Work in Fire Island
Locals purchase what are essentially timeshare rentals from homeowners. Rotating groups of guys will occupy a house for one week of each summer month. These “shares” are frequently listed for re-rental. This is what you will look to reserve.
You will most likely reserve a single room within a shared house. Sometimes, even individual rooms are shared, usually among friends.
How to Book a Fire Island Share
You’ll want to join the Boys of Fire Island Facebook group used for reserving rooms in Fire Island Pines. Group approval is required, but as long as you don’t seem like a robot or have a blank profile, there will be no issue.
Create a post stating what type of accommodation you are looking for, as well as your budget. Keep in mind a single room with two twin beds generally runs about $600 USD per night. It’s not cheap!
Typically, guys will post a photo of themselves along with their solicitation for a place to rent in an effort to introduce themselves as a good candidate to share a residence with for the weekend.
Next, message people who have already posted availabilities. From here you can settle on details and payment, which usually requires some sort of deposit.
Fire Island Airbnb & VRBO Rentals
Depending on how far in advance you are looking for your place to stay, VRBO might be a viable option. For last-minute trips, VRBO options will likely be slim. I would still do a search though. Here’s the best area for Fire Island Pines VRBO listings.
Some owners or those selling shares prefer VRBO’s simplicity and security. Do make sure to understand the conditions of each listing. Many have specific house rules, which will be the case no matter if you use VRBO or the Facebook groups.
Fire Island Gay Hotels
While the majority of people stay in vacation shares/rentals, there is one gay hotel in The Pines and one in Cherry Grove. Note however, there isn’t necessarily any type of Fire Island gay resort.
The Grove Hotel is a fantastic place to stay in Cherry Grove. It’s adjacent to the Ice Palace Nightclub, home to Fire Island’s best gay underwear party. You can also catch some hysterically funny drag shows here by the pool every weekend.
I advise against staying at Hotel Fire Island—the one located in the harbor. This hotel stays in business due to its proximity to the ferry, but I’ve never met anyone who said they enjoyed staying here.
Sandy concrete floors, shared bathrooms between rooms and frequent power outages from blown fuses in hotel rooms are not what you want to experience while visiting a place as beautiful as The Pines. I did it once. Never again!
How to Get To Fire Island Pines: Directions from NYC
Getting to The Pines and Cherry Grove can be confusing for first-time visitors. So read the following very carefully. I encourage you to bookmark this page for future use.
Departing from Penn Station in New York City via the Long Island Rail Road is most common. At the ticket machine in Penn Station, choose the special option of “getaways.” Proceed to the option of Fire Island Pines / Cherry Grove. You can also do this via the MTA eTix app.
Tickets are about $40 per person round trip. A set of tickets for the train, shuttle bus and ferry will print, for both outbound and return journeys.
Sayville will be your destination train stop. Some trains leaving Penn Station require you to transfer at an intermediate station, so listen to the conductor’s instructions when he checks your ticket on the train.
If you are unsure which train, just ask someone near you. Most likely you’ll be following the crowd if traveling during a popular time.
Upon arrival at the Sayville LIRR train station, follow everyone toward the white mini-buses. These will shuttle you to the ferry in about seven minutes. Be prepared to cram in during busy summer times!
Ferry Service to Fire Island Pines
Once you’re at the ferry terminal, look for signs for either The Pines or Cherry Grove. There is a separate ferry for each neighborhood.
The boat ride is roughly 20 minutes and quite enjoyable! These boats have open-air top seating decks where everyone gets comfortable in the summer sun.
It’s best to know your ferry departure time beforehand, so you can make sure your LIRR train arrival synchronizes well with your ferry departure.
Here is the official Fire Island Sayville Ferry Service Schedule for Fire Island Pines. Note that Cherry Grove service is a separate schedule.
During busy times, especially in summer, ferries to Fire Island will typically depart shortly after a train arrival, making the trip seamless. But during the off-season, you should definitely check ahead to avoid waiting around unnecessarily.
Voila! You’ve made it to Fire Island. From the ferry drop-off point, you will walk to your rental. Also, surprise! There are no cars on the island. The maze of boardwalks makes Fire Island even more majestic. It’s also one more reason to pack on the lighter side.
Fire Island Pines Gay Travel Experiences
Stroll the wide-open beaches, find a pool party and get ready for Tea! If your house does not have a pool, take advantage of the communal pool right in the harbor, completely free to use. You can grab a drink at the pool bar and relax after your journey.
Whether you’re here at the pool or anywhere else on Fire Island, you’ll definitely want to be strutting around in a fun, sexy swimwear look!
Wandering the winding boardwalks while embracing the local architecture is one of my favorite things to do on Fire Island. Neighborhoods here boast such beautiful vacation homes nestled in the woods.
To get oriented with the local gay scene, I’ll first mention the Pavilion. This complex is a relatively new, mixed-use structure that hosts just about all the official Fire Island gay events such as Low & High Tea.
It houses all the restaurants in Fire Island Pines as well as the gym and public restrooms. The Pavilion is sort of like a home base in The Pines.
Gay Pines Activities: Low Tea & High Tea
Low Tea at the Pavillion is a mainstay of gay social life in The Pines. Every day, especially Friday and Saturday, gay men fill the harbor to drink and be merry. It’s pretty much just one enormous outdoor gay bar!
The gathering for Low Tea officially starts at 5 PM and continues until 8 PM. Usually, by 6:30 or 7 PM, the deck is completely packed. Gay men take over, rain or shine!
As Low Tea winds down, High Tea is just beginning. Toward 8 PM, the crowd will move to the adjacent pool deck, as well as toward the upper Pavilion deck.
High Tea is branded as a bar called Sip n’ Twirl. As the sun sets, the music gets around the pool gets louder and the night transitions to dance mode!
At Sip n’ Twirl, you can always count on a live DJ entertaining patrons on both the pool deck and upstairs.
While you’re out enjoying Fire Island, keep fresh and prepared for anything with these on-the-go essentials.
Where is the Fire Island Gay Beach?
This is almost a trick question! The Fire Island gay beach is essentially all of the beach area adjacent to Fire Island’s Pines and Cherry Grove neighborhoods.
These neighborhoods are the gay areas of Fire Island, so you’ll find LGBT beachgoers all along this stretch. There is no single “gay beach” area as you find in places like Puerto Vallarta or Fort Lauderdale. The entire waterfront is just one giant gay beach!
Fire Island beach culture is quite relaxed. Compared to the bustling gay beaches of places like Maspalomas and Barcelona, gay men in Fire Island lazily enjoy the daytime serenity, saving their energy for the evening parties and events.
Fire Island Gay Beach Tips
Firstly, you’ll definitely need to pack cold drinks and snacks for your beach time. There are no commercial establishments on the waterfront.
Remember that The Pines and Cherry Grove are largely residential gay communities, you won’t find any beach bars or even tents selling drinks.
However, The Pines Pantry is not too far away should you need anything, but everything here is priced unbelievably high. Bringing a large refillable water bottle from home is an easy way to save money.
The best thing about the beaches in Fire Island Pines is that they’re never crowded. There is always plenty of space to spread out, run around, or play beach games. If you prefer to travel light, I definitely recommend bringing along a portable, bottle-sized Cliq Chair.
Friendly groups of gay men and solo wanderers stroll the beach throughout the day. So, while it may not have a crowded feel, there is always an opportunity to make new friends.
Attract some attention with a gorgeous striped red beach towel. It’ll get you noticed from far away!
Find a Private Pines Pool Party
Some of the most memorable days on Fire Island are at private pool parties. These could be hosted in someone else’s house, which you can find by making friends with locals, or they could be publicly advertised or promotional events.
Usually at least once per summer, you’ll hear about planned pool parties hosted or sponsored by LGBT-oriented organizations or companies.
I’ve attended some super fun pool parties hosted by Callen-Lorde as well as Chappy App (which is now Bumble), for example.
Sometimes these private pool party events on Fire Island are publicized, especially so if it’s a for-profit event like the Summer Camp Open Swim Sunday Pool Parties in 2019.
The Fire Island Pines Gym
Everyone may be on vacation, but that hasn’t stopped droves of muscled men from getting a workout in, all wearing their tantalizing sexy workout clothing. The Fire Island Pines Pavilion has a small indoor/outdoor gym space that some guys use to get their blood pumping.
Large weights are in a covered outdoor area, not too far from the public pool deck. Cardio machines are indoors in an air-conditioned space. Check hours and rates at the Fire Island Pines Gym Website.
Fire Island Gay Bars, Clubs & Parties
Firstly, in an ultra-gay destination like Fire Island, every bar is a gay bar and every club is a gay club!
Weekend crowds interested in Fire Island gay nightlife will typically stop home for dinner after attending High Tea (known as “Sip and Twirl”) and come back a couple of hours later. If you missed the earlier descriptions of Low & High Tea, scroll up to the “things to do” section of this guide.
Later in the night, the club on the Pavillion’s first level will open up. On most weekends during the summer season, there will be at least one party per weekend here.
Check events on the Pavilion Website to be sure, since there’s no guarantee. If you plan to attend, remember that cover fees are usually cash only.
If you feel overwhelmed about finding the right Fire Island gay parties for your visit, don’t stress about it. Most likely, you will only find out about scheduled events on Fire Island after you arrive. Just make sure to bring along your best gay party accessories!
During the summer months, there is always something happening. Often, you’ll see locally posted advertisements along the boardwalk for parties.
Cherry Grove Underwear Party
Cherry Grove’s gay club Ice Palace hosts a legendary underwear party every weekend. There is an enormous dance floor, multiple bars, and a rear deck space where everyone socializes.
If you’re visiting The Pines for the first time, bring your sexiest underwear because this party is a must!
Entering the underwear party, you will be given a drawstring backpack to put your clothes into, which you then check with an attendant. It’s all very organized. The Ice Palace underwear party entrance fee is also cash-only.
Since you’ll only be wearing underwear, you may want to wear a fun-colored fanny pack to hold your stuff. Alternatively, you could stash your belongings in some sporty tube socks, that look pretty sexy with the right pair of sneakers.
If you’re staying in The Pines, I recommend you plan to catch one of the final water taxis back (more on this in the travel tips section).
Alternatively, you can walk along a dark path through the dunes, passing the “Meat Rack” on your way home. I’ll leave this part of the adventure to you—go ask a local what it is!
Fire Island Pines Gay Parties & Events
Fire Island Pines has become so extremely popular over the past couple of decades, the community now hosts some incredible, huge gay events. I’ll let you know all the best ones in the sections below.
While these events are always a blast, first-time Fire Island gay travelers shouldn’t necessarily prioritize their trip to be during one of them, at least in my opinion.
With so many parties and events happening on regular summer weekends, you’ll still be plenty busy no matter when you visit!
Pines Party: The Biggest Fire Island Gay Party Event
The yearly Pines Party is quite an extravagant gay circuit festival. Colossal stage equipment is installed on the beach and big-name DJs are promoted for the giant party weekend. It’s a big deal!
Pines Party is known to be an intense gay event. If you’re planning to buy tickets, come prepared for bustling crowds of frenetic gay men on this tiny slice of gay paradise.
Ticket sales typically start a year beforehand and most attendees buy tickets far in advance. While they can be pricy, many guys wouldn’t miss Pines Party for anything.
The Invasion of The Pines Event
A yearly event called “The Invasion of The Pines” is a prideful, celebratory ritual that dates back to the ’70s. In 1976, Terry Warren was refused service in a Fire Island Pines restaurant for being dressed in drag.
Upon hearing of such discrimination, Terry’s friends in neighboring Cherry Grove dressed in full drag, took a boat to The Pines, and stood their ground in what was called the first-ever “invasion.”
Every year, Fire Island welcomes droves of drag queens from all over in performing a glorious repeat Invasion of The Pines. The Invasion event is held very dear to so many residents and frequent visitors of Fire Island Pines.
Fire Island Gay Travel Tips
There Are Less Modern Conveniences
Part of Fire Island’s charm is the disconnectedness and ability to feel oneness with nature. You won’t find certain modern conveniences here, and many people prefer it that way.
Boardwalk pathways don’t have lighting at night, so be sure your phone has enough battery to power its flashlight. Or, carry a nifty little camping flashlight while out at night. Otherwise you will be walking in complete darkness.
Depending on your mobile phone carrier and the number of visitors in the area, you may not have a cellular connection. Many locals are accustomed to leaving their phones back at their house and relying mostly on wi-fi.
Day Trips to Fire Island Pines
Day trips to Fire Island Pines from New York City are common and quite popular given how expensive rentals can be. Most Fire Island day trip visitors arrive late in the morning and catch one of the last few ferries that night.
The Sayville Ferry does not run overnight, so don’t miss the last one of the evening.
While I wouldn’t suggest this for just anyone, some guys do stay the entire night partying on the island and then take the first ferry back toward New York City in the morning. For the night owls and hardcore partiers, only do this if the weather forecast is pleasant enough.
Waiting in the rain or cold for hours until the first ferry arrives in the morning can be an uncomfortable experience. If you’re thinking “I’ll just sleep on the beach,” think again! It’s illegal in this area and the police will find you.
Water Taxi Between The Pines & Cherry Grove
Not to be confused with the ferry that you take from mainland Long Island to Fire Island, there is a separate water taxi service that runs along the shoreline. The Fire Island water taxi stops at many different neighborhoods, including The Pines & Cherry Grove.
The Fire Island Water Taxi can be very convenient, but their schedules are not as dependable as the larger ferries. Typically, the water taxi passes each location once per hour, however they sometimes skip an hour depending on demand, but without notice.
The fare from Cherry Grove to The Pines is $9 USD cash unless you buy a ticket on their mobile app. The final boat service each night is usually around 3 AM.
I recommend that you always call ahead of time to verify when the next water taxi boat will depart from your location. Keep in mind that scheduled departures vary depending on if the taxi is headed eastward or westward.
Looking for a more elegant gay summer getaway? Explore luxurious eastern Long Island neighborhoods with wolfyy’s Hamptons gay guide.