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A Hamptons insider of 60 years dishes on the history, people, and parties that makes New Yorkers’ favorite beachy hideaway so iconic

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A few homes on the beach with the sun near the horizonThe longtime summer getaway of New Yorkers, the Hamptons offers a breath of fresh salty air.

Gurney’s Resorts

  • Ultimate Hamptons insider Dan Rattiner started writing about the Long Island enclave in 1960.
  • Rattiner, whose book “Hamptons Private” explores the area in pictures, shared his observations.
  • From fisherman stomping grounds to ritzy beach getaway, the Hamptons has a storied past.

Today, the Hamptons is known as one of the most luxurious getaways on the East Coast.

The white-sand beaches on the tail end of Long Island, New York, are the stomping grounds of celebrities from Martha Stewart to Beyoncé.

Longtime Hamptons resident Dan Rattiner, the author of local rag “Dan’s Papers,” explored the beachy area’s charm outside of the glitz and glamor it’s known for in his 2021 coffee table book, “Hamptons Private,” published by Assouline. (It’s just $105, a bargain by Hamptons standards.)

Rattiner arrived in the Hamptons encalve of  Montauk at 16 years old and, just four years later, began publishing a local newspaper surveying the happenings of the area. “Dan’s Papers” is now a go-to source for Hamptons news.

“I’ve interviewed lots of celebrities and lots of local people,” Rattiner told Insider, citing interviews with the likes of Donald Trump, Billy Joel, and Barbara Corcoran, as well as plenty of Long Island locals. He is, to put it concisely, the authority on the area.

Rattiner’s “Hamptons Private” describes the history of how the Hamptons came to be — from the 1600s, when New England settlers moved into the area, to present day.A 3D rendering of a book cover


Rattiner’s family moved to the hamlet of Montauk from a New Jersey suburb after his father, an avid fisherman, purchased a drug store.A sandy entryway to the beach

Karen Foley Photography/Getty Images

“I’d never seen a place so dramatically wonderful, physically. I fell in love with it,” he said.

Montauk, especially, is known as one of the more surfer-friendly Hamptons enclaves.A woman holding a surfboard

Delfina Blaquier

“It’s a big surfing town,” Rattiner said. “Montauk, I think, is ranked among the top 10 locations for surfing in the country.”More than a dozen surfers and surf rescue members posing on the beach

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Both fishing and pleasure boats, like yachts, are a regular sighting in the Hamptons, Rattiner said.People sitting down on a yacht

Yacht Kelpie

“The biggest yacht that ever was here was Donald Trump’s yacht,” Rattiner said. “It was so big it wouldn’t fit into any of the slips, so he had to anchor it offshore.”

Because the Hamptons is largely a summertime destination, outdoor sports — like croquet, pictured here — are the norm.A man playing croquet in an all white outfit

Nick Hunt Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

“It’s what they do, both locals and the well-to-do,” Rattiner said. “There’s horse shows, polo matches, and tennis tournaments.”

The Hamptons is unlike any other beach town due to its rolling dunes, grand elm trees, and green foliage, Rattiner said.A house atop some greenery and a dock at the bottomThere’s no better example to show off the greenery of the Hamptons than fashion designer Lisa Perry’s estate, pictured here.

Robyn Lea

The Hamptons is also home to one of the country’s largest privately owned islands. The 5-square-mile Gardiner’s Island has been in the Gardiner family for nearly 400 years.A family outside enjoying a picnicRobert David Lion Gardiner and guests enjoying a picnic on Gardiner’s Island.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE

The Hamptons, according to Rattiner, was at one time a frozen glacier that was part Greenland, part Canada, part Upstate New York, and part Connecticut. Now, it’s all posh.

Artists made their way to the area in the early 20th century, Rattiner said, particularly Winslow Homer, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol. “They love the light up in this community called Springs, which just reminds people of the south of France,” he added.

The Baker House is one of the few bed and breakfasts that still operates in the Hamptons.Three people enjoying a meal outdoorsGuests enjoy a meal at The Baker House.

Yuxi Liu

“It’s one of the most beautiful old 19th century social-set mansions,” Rattiner said. “There’s not that many places to stay. There had always been a lot of motels out here, but most of them have gone out of business because they were designed for middle-class people coming out for two weeks.”

Now, Rattiner noted, because of the disappearance of lower-priced accommodations in the area, many people who visit the Hamptons either own or rent.

Rattiner likens the food culture in the area to that of Italy, noting that fresh ingredients and home-cooked meals are important to Hamptonians. Just think of East Hampton local, the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten.A outside dinner in black and white

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“We have high-class restaurants, and we don’t have any fast food stuff going on, except for one McDonald’s which snuck in,” he said.

It isn’t just vegetables that get their due out there. “There’s fish factories, there’s lobstering, there’s lots of fishing boats going out,” Rattiner said.A rusted American flag sign

Christy Ferer

There are also dozens of wineries. Wölffer Estate Vineyard, in Sagaponack, has been producing wine and cider on Long Island since 1988.A picnic in front of a pickup truck in a vineyardFriends raise their glasses at Wölffer Estate Vineyard.

Mark Weinberg

The area’s social scene has grown in tandem with its seasonal popularity.Two people posing while shopping

Kelli Delaney

“There’s parties every weekend,” Rattiner said. “When we first got here, there were two social events: one was for the local hospital, and another one was for the cultural center — and that was it. Now there’s two summer events every day.”

It’s home to a variety of housing, from charming bungalows to impressive estates. American architect Norman Jaffe designed this East Hamptons house.The insider of a Hamptons home

Doug Kuntz

With million-dollar homes and an abundance of high-end events, still the most compelling element is the area’s 40 miles of pristine beach.Stairs leading to the beach

Gavin Zeigler Alamy

“Back in the day before modern medicine, people used to come out here for ‘the waters and for the health’ — the ‘health’ being in the countryside instead of in the big cities,” Rattiner said.

And that’s still true. The Hamptons is a luxurious hideaway from the city, though now more so than ever, it’s a playground for those who can afford it.A few homes on the beach with the sun near the horizon

Gurney’s Resorts

“When I first got out there, the whole place was largely between local people who were fishermen and farmers,” he said. “And then there was a social set from New York City who came out and had hedgerows, and they lived behind them.”

From there, he added, “it just blossomed into a world class resort.”


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