In summer, the lines to show the necessary beach sticker to the laconic teenagers at the entrance back up to cartoonish lengths; at this time of the year, you need no sticker and, even better, you don't have to worry about somebody laying his towel exactly six inches from yours. If you see another soul, it'll likely be in passing, as you each walk in opposite directions.
At Cameron Beach, on the Bridgehampton/Water Mill line, Mecox Bay comes to a halt within a few hundred feet of the Atlantic. If you're the sort of person M.F.K. Fisher called a "beacher" -- someone who doesn't mind a little sand in her sandwich -- then plant yourself between the two bodies of water for a picnic.
Lee Satinsky displays a lobster at Multi Aquaculture Systems, a fish market in Amagansett, N.Y., also known as the Fish Factory or the Fish Farm.
(Kirk Condyles For The Washington Post)
On the way to Cameron, a tiny bridge over the bay is usually home to a few people trying their luck with a rod. And a couple of miles away, crabbers inhabit the slightly larger bridge over Sagg Pond. Although the pond is ringed with houses, Sagg Bridge remains a near-sacred place to see the sun set. The bridge connects Bridgehampton with the hamlet of Sagaponack, whose narrow roads are safe once more for bike-riding after the crowds have thinned out.
Heading back into Bridgehampton, it's hard to resist the siren lure of that summertime icon -- ice cream. If a fall day is warm, or even if it's not, the Candy Kitchen calls. Anchoring one end of the town's main street, this spot -- luncheonette, ice cream parlor, giggling ground for teenage girls -- has for years been a place where farmers silently sip coffee out of thick white cups at the counter and New York power mongers, forgetting they are at the beach, munch their breakfasts in the booths at the back. In the 1960s and '70s, the owner made his own ice cream out of fresh fruit, as well as delicious confections called cho-cho pops.
Vanilla ice cream, flavored with malted-milk powder and a little cocoa, was frozen in paper Dixie cups, with a popsicle stick inserted in the middle. They were kept in a freezer case by the door, and you had to roll them, persistently, between your palms to get them to soften enough so you could remove the paper cup and dig in.
But the cho-cho has long since gone the way of the dodo, and a cone, no matter how delicious, isn't quite the thing when there's even the hint of chill in the air. It's a milkshake -- chocolate or coffee, in my opinion -- that's the perfect treat for sweater weather at the beach, an in-season sweet transformed now that the next season's come.
Anne Glusker is a writer in Takoma Park.
Details: Hamptons in the Fall
GETTING THERE: The drive from D.C. to the Hamptons, on New York's Long Island, is about 310 miles (about six hours). By air, Southwest flies from BWI to Long Island's Islip, which is less than a hour west of the Hamptons by car; round-trip fares start at $117.
WEATHER: Fall is usually sunny and pleasant, with little rain and temperatures in the mid-60s to -70s by day, and about 10 degrees cooler at night. The Atlantic also stays pretty mild, at around 70 degrees.
WHERE TO STAY: Places to rest your head range from luxurious inns to camping. Motels with kitchenettes are the way to go if you want to take advantage of the local harvest, and relative bargains abound at local B&Bs (although even in the fall, this area is no bargain hunters' paradise). Here are some options for a range of tastes and budgets:
Bridgehampton Inn (2266 Main St., Bridgehampton, 631-537-3660, www.bridgehamptoninn.com) features six rooms and an acre of garden in the back. Surrounded by tall hedges, the inn is just a block from Bridgehampton's restaurants and shops. Breakfasts, which include local fruit and a cheese plate, are served on the terrace. Rates from $225 a night double.
The Dutch Motel (488 Montauk Hwy., East Hampton, 631-324-4550, www.thedutchmotel.com) is a good choice if you want to be able to cook or are traveling with a family. Rooms range from studios and two-room suites to cottages with full kitchens. A glass-enclosed pool and three new cottages are set to open this fall. Rates from $108.
Montauket Hotel (88 Firestone Rd., Montauk, 631-668-5992) has bare-bone rooms, but they sure are cheap (from $65) -- and the sunset and view of Fort Pond from the outdoor bar are free.
Hither Hills State Park (50 S. Fairview Ave., Montauk, 631-688-2554, nysparks.state.ny.us/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/nysparks/parks.cgi?p+118) features 168 campsites available through mid-November; only the dunes stand between you and the ocean. Rates: $48 for out-of-state residents, $24 for New York residents. The park includes a playground, and the new visitors center has bathrooms and showers.
For other lodging options, check the resources listed below.
INFORMATION:Hamptons.com is a lively and frequently updated Web site featuring events and snippets of news from local papers. The East Hampton Star (www.easthamptonstar.com) is a local treasure, chock full of listings for nature walks and other activities. The Web site of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce (631-324-0362, www.easthamptonchamber.com) has a calendar of events and a business directory. The Southampton Chamber of Commerce (631-283-0402, www.southamptonchamber.com) offers similar info.
The Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau (631-951-3900, www.licvb.com)offers a wide range of information on the East End, including lodging (check "Hot Deals" for last-minute bargains), an events calendar and activities. -- Anne Glusker