Where Are the Hamptons, and Why Are They So Popular?

Most everyone who grew up in the Northeastern U.S., or is familiar with the New York metro area, knows about the Hamptons. But for many others, “the Hamptons” is merely a name. So, what are the Hamptons? Where are they? And why is the area so popular?

Here, we’ll answer some basic questions about this popular region of Long Island, New York.

What Are the Hamptons?

The Hamptons is a group of towns, villages, and hamlets, concentrated on the eastern end of Long Island in New York state. Most famously, the region is a popular getaway for people from New York City. The Hamptons is known for its rural setting and amenities. The highly esteemed Cooper’s Beach, the historic Shinnecock Golf Club, and the historic Hampton Classic horse show are just a few of the things that draw visitors from not just the city, but from across the nation, and even the globe.

The seaside region is notably associated with celebrity sightings. Many of the rich and famous spend their summers on spacious estates nestled along the Atlantic Ocean, often hidden behind tall hedgerows. Ina Garten is one legendary resident. Alec Baldwin is often spotted there, and many of the Real Housewives are out and about during the summer months. Jimmy Fallon is known for making appearances at Hamptons hot spots, and even filmed “The Tonight Show” from his Hamptons home during the pandemic.

Where are the Hamptons? Alec Baldwin Maggie Gyllenhaal - Hamptons International Film Festival 2018

Alec Baldwin and Maggie Gyllenhall at the Hamptons International Film Festival in 2018. (Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images)

But while many Hamptons visitors are wealthy, not all are. Residents and visitors of varying ages and tax brackets come to the East End to spend time in notoriously expensive areas such as Sagaponack and Water Mill. But just as many find their place in more affordable areas like Montauk, Hampton Bays, and Westhampton. All of them are great places to enjoy ocean breezes, white sand beaches, excellent seafood, lively parties, and the rural atmosphere of Long Island’s South Fork.

Sagaponack has the highest median property sale price in the Hamptons at $7.4 million. Bridgehampton is next in line with a median of $6.4 million. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the median home sale price in Flanders and Hampton Bays are $415K and $865K, respectively.

Are the Hamptons in New York?

Yes indeed! The Hamptons lie on the far southeastern end of Long Island in New York state. Westhampton — which is where the Hamptons starts — is 80 miles east of New York City and takes about two-and-a-half hours to get to by car (with no traffic). But Montauk, which is at the very end of the island’s South Fork, is another 50 miles east. From NYC, getting to Montauk takes at least three hours (but it can often be closer to four).
In between Westhampton and Montauk, visitors will find the popular towns of Southampton, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, East Hampton, and Amagansett, among many others.

What Towns Make Up the Hamptons?

The Hamptons are technically made up of only two townships: the Town of Southampton and the Town of East Hampton. However, each township includes smaller villages and hamlets with their own zip codes and personalities.

Southampton has jurisdiction over the village Southampton (of course) and the villages of Westhampton Beach, Quogue, Sagaponack, and Sag Harbor, which is shared with the Town of East Hampton. The hamlets include Westhampton, East Quogue, Hampton Bays, Shinnecock Hills, Water Mill, and Bridgehampton. Southampton Town also includes the hamlets of Eastport, Speonk, and Remsenburg, but these towns are not usually considered to be part of the Hamptons. It’s complicated!

Of the two townships, Southampton Town tends to be a little bit more laid-back. West-of-the-canal areas, such as Westhampton and Hampton Bays, draw many for their relaxed attitude and relatively affordable real estate. But once you start going further east, real estate gets noticeably more expensive. People will really feel like they are in the Hamptons once they hit Southampton village.

Where are the Hamptons? Montauk Point lighthouse

A lighthouse in Montauk, part of the Town of East Hampton. (Getty Images)

East Hampton Town, on the other hand, feels a bit more “old money.” Jackie Kennedy Onassis spent her summers there, and it is home to the tony Maidstone Club. East Hampton typically has stricter rules and regulations than Southampton, too. But East Hampton Town is also home to the more relaxed areas of Montauk and Springs.

East Hampton’s villages include Sag Harbor and the village of East Hampton. Its hamlets are Wainscott, Springs, Napeague, Amagansett, and Montauk.

>> Escape the Usual Hamptons: 5 Smaller Waterfront Hamlets on the East End

What Is the North Fork?

Toward the far end of Long Island, the land starts to split into two “forks.” They are separated in the middle by water: the Peconic River, Little Peconic Bay, and Gardiner’s Bay. The South Fork of the island is where the Hamptons are. The North Fork stretches from Riverhead through Greenport and all the way to Orient Point. It offers a similarly rural and relaxed environment and is becoming increasingly known for its wineries. But is usually considered a less exclusive area. And while the North Fork does have many great beaches, they are along the Long Island Sound rather than the ocean.

However, the North Fork is growing in popularity with vacationers and offers many unique charms. It’s preferred by many for its robust year-round population, small town vibe, and more affordable real estate. The priciest town on the North Fork is Southold, which has a median home sale price of $2.88 million. The most affordable is Jamesport, with a median of $700K.

Why Are the Hamptons So Popular?

There really is something for everyone on the East End. The Hamptons offers the perfect mix of oceanside locale, rural atmosphere, historic charm, and exclusivity, all within driving distance of New York City. The area was conceived as a summer colony to provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and centuries later, it has maintained that same attitude.

One of the things it’s known for is a sophisticated art scene. In particular, artists such as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Willem de Kooning lived in Springs. The Pollock-Krasner House is now a museum where you can get a glimpse of the artists’ studios. Galleries such as the Parrish Art Museum and Guild Hall offer exhibits throughout the year.

>> Living in the Hamptons Year-Round: Why I Love It

During the summer months, Hamptons parties often last well into the morning hours. People flock to Ditch Plains in Montauk to experience Long Island’s most famous surf spot. Many also love nature hikes in Hither Hills. And restaurants of varying price points are available for dining — from inexpensive taco joints like Amagansett’s La Fondita to The 1770 House in East Hampton, where a tasting menu will set you back $85 per person.

And even though many celebrities spend time in the Hamptons, visitors won’t see paparazzi crowding them to get a juicy photo. This atmosphere makes the area an ideal escape for society’s elite.

How to Get to the Hamptons

Where are the Hamptons? Rihanna travels by helicpter

Rihanna travels to the Hamptons by helicopter; you’ll probably get there by car. (James Devaney/WireImage/Getty Images)

From New York, getting to the Hamptons is an easy trip by car. You can also travel there via train or bus service, such as the Hampton Jitney. The most well-heeled might even travel by helicopter.