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A Local's Guide to Hampton Bays, Our Town of the Year

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The People's Guide is a new series examining the many neighborhoods of the Hamptons, led by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Got something to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone.

Curbed readers recently named Hampton Bays as the Hamptons neighborhood of the year in the 2015 Curbed Cup. Intrigued by this dark horse, we asked Ann Marie Pallister, a broker with Douglas Elliman, a member of the Hampton Bays Chamber of Commerce, and past president of the Hampton Bays Rotary Club, for more intel.

Tell us something we don't know about Hampton Bays.
Hampton Bays has more waterfront property than any of the other Hamptons, it boasts more waterfront restaurants than any of the other Hamptons, and it is the second largest fishing port in New York State (with Montauk being number one). Hampton Bays was originally called Good Ground, as the soil is so rich that Native Americans realized they could grow anything here.

Many years ago there was a train stop at the Shinnecock Canal. People would come out for the day and go pin hook fishing. Pin hook fishing was an old term for the pole that they put the hooks on before the big rod and reels were used.

The Shinnecock Canal is one of the very few canals with locks. This is something that we pride ourselves on. The canal is a great asset to the town and allows easy access from the Peconic Bay to the Shinnecock Bay and out to the ocean. Native Americans dug the canal by hand in the seventeenth century. It was then redone and a lock system added in 1919.

What are some local customs of note?
I would say that our number one pastime here is fishing. Sport fishing, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, spear fishing, and we also love to go boating and surfing.

Can you tell us about some hidden gems in Hampton Bays?
The Inn Spot on the Bay is tucked away just before the Ponquogue Bridge, across form the Shinnecock Coast Guard Station. They offer amazing food, a real country experience right on Shinnecock Bay, and they have rooms as well as cottages for rent.

Do you need a car to get around?
I would suggest a car to optimize your travel experience; however, if you have a bicycle everything is quite accessible.

Is Hampton Bays good for kids?
Having spent every summer my entire life here, I cannot imagine a better place for children. There is so much to do, and the Town offers classes in swimming, sailing, surfing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, baseball, movie making, acting and more. There is a jet ski rental at Oscar's Fishing Station, two ice cream shops, Skidmore's Sports Shop, and plenty of parks.

How about telling us about the most beloved neighborhood joint.
Rumba has taken Hampton Bays by storm. To me, it's a place that truly captures the essence of Hampton Bays. The building was previously Bradley's Fishing Station and was another one of the places people gathered to go pin hook fishing. It is located on Canoe Place Road, which in the old days was referred to be the locals as "Flat Fish Alley."

What's the nicest park?
There are so many parks here in town, but one of my favorites is the playground at Meschutt Beach, which is right on Peconic Bay and is a county park. Every Friday night in the summer they host a classic car show and offer live music. My other favorite is Warner's Park, which offers a boat ramp, diving, and swimming. It is also the location where the Rivehead Foundation releases the seals and turtles that were injured and have been healed back into the their natural habitat. This is quite a sight and draws large crowds.

What's not-so-swell about Hampton Bays?
What is not so swell here is what is not so swell in all of the Hamptons: not enough year round rental homes. There is not enough affordable housing for workers. We need to have more places where people can afford to live without overcrowding. As our communities have grown from summer only residences to year round, the infrastructure has not really caught up. We need to look into affordable housing. Residents would like to be able to keep our children here, but if they are just starting out it is almost impossible for them to afford. Maybe we should call it Millennial Housing.

What's the neighborhood housing stock like?
Prices have been creeping up but you can still find a great deal in Hampton Bays. There is a new high end waterfront boutique condo development called Ponquogue Point. Homeowners there are happy not to have to fight the traffic going further east, and they love the fact that we have no homes on the ocean here, just pristine ocean shoreline. When summer is over they can lock the door and go to their second or third homes with no worries.

Is it better for buyers or renters?
The market is better for buyers. While there are still amazing deals in Hampton Bays for sale. the rental market for year round housing has gone up.

What's Hampton Bays' best-kept secret?
I love the fact that people who come to Hampton Bays for the first time can enjoy some of the most wonderful assets that we have for free. Back on to Flat Fish Alley and Rumba: Rumba offers an amazing experience for everyone. Once you get to Flat Fish Alley you may park at Mariners Cove Marine, which is a manmade marine basin that has been there since the early 50s, and take the very cool Rum Bus To Rumba. Once there you can jump on their pontoon boat free of cost to their other restaurant while taking a ride on the famous Shinnecock Canal. I love taking people on this tour for the first time. I was going to say that kids love it but I would have to change that to kids of all ages.

What's the stereotype about the town?
I guess it would be that Hampton Bays was a party town with all young kids summer renting and party houses overstuffed with kids, all night music and tons of cars in the streets. This has not been the case for many years now. The town clamped down on group rentals and most of the nightclub properties have been bought up by the town and are now gone.

Thanks! Now, the final word on Hampton Bays.
I for one could not imagine living anywhere else. I have traveled quite extensively. I've seen some beautiful beaches over the years but to date I have never found better beaches then we have here in Hampton Bays. I have never been anywhere that I have seen more stars in the sky than here in Hampton Bays. While I love all of the Hamptons, there is no other place where the ocean beaches are nothing but shoreline and no houses. My beautiful little fishing village is Hampton Bays, and Hampton Bays is truly "The Heart of the Hamptons."
· Ann Marie Pallister [Elliman]