For New Yorkers, there’s nothing better than escaping the city on a hot summer weekend. But getting out of town is another story.
Anyone who’s ever tried to get to the Hamptons on a Friday afternoon knows the traffic on the Long Island Expressway can be hellish, and Long Island Rail Road ticket lines at Penn Station are even worse.
There is, however, another way to hightail it from the city to the Hamptons: by seaplane. Not only is it a quick, 40-minute (or so) hop from the East River seaport to destinations out east, there’s no chance of traffic or rowdy neighbours, and the view is pretty spectacular.
There’s also the small matter of cost.
Fly The Whale, one of several companies that offers seaplane service in the New York area, charges $US3,700 for a 9-person charter flight from Manhattan to East Hampton, and single seats on “shared” charters for $US550. The company also flies to Westhampton, Shelter Island, Montauk, and other Hamptons towns.
Last year, I took a Fly The Whale seaplane from Manhattan to Sag Harbor to tour a new luxury condo complex. It sure beat Penn Station at rush hour.
Disclosure: Sag Development Partners, the owners of the Watchcase development in Sag Harbor, paid for my travel expenses.
My trip started from the marina at 23rd Street and the FDR on the East River. I took the subway and walked a few blocks, but if I was a seaplane regular, my limo would have dropped me off here.
The seaplane terminal is pretty nondescript. The corrugated iron building and barbed wire didn't exactly make me feel like a high roller.
It was just a short walk from the 'skyport' to the river. I passed a couple of yachts available for charter: One was being rented for a high school prom that evening.
Boarding was a little precarious with camera equipment. No one wanted to get splashed by the East River.
Taking off from the water was surprisingly smooth. We taxied out from the pier, turned south, and were in the air in minutes.
I've lived in New York for years, but seeing the city from a seaplane was an entirely new experience. We started the trip heading south along Manhattan's east side.
The view quickly went from urban to suburban. We flew along at about 1,500 feet, low enough to get a good look at the mansions of Long Island's Gold Coast.
We flew over King's Point and Sand's Point, the wealthy North Shore villages memorialised as 'East Egg' and 'West Egg' in 'The Great Gatsby.'
The farther we flew, the homes got bigger and further apart. Many of the biggest and oldest Gold Coast estates are extremely private, so a low-flying seaplane gave us a rare glimpse behind the hedges.
After about 30 minutes in the air, we spotted our destination: The Sag Harbor Marina. The village is on the northern side of south fork, between Bridgehampton and East Hampton.
The seaplane landing was quick and smooth. In no time, we were floating in the marina and tying up to a buoy. That's Steve, our seaplane pilot.
Disembarking was a little tricky. We exited onto one of the seaplane's floats and had to duck under the wing ...
The bottom line: $US550 is about $US500 more than I (and most folks) could reasonably spend on a single-way trip to the Hamptons. But for anyone who loathes traffic, likes adventure, and has money to toss around, there's no better way to travel during the summer.
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