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 neighbors, 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 $3,700 for a 9-person charter flight from Manhattan to East Hampton, and single seats on “shared” charters for $550. 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.
Our large group of reporters filled two seaplanes, which can hold eight passengers each.
Our plane, an amphibious Cessna Caravan, was pretty compact inside.
Taking off from the water was surprisingly smooth. We taxied out from the pier, turned south, and were in the air in minutes.
In no time, we were headed out along the north shore of Long Island.
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 memorialized as “East Egg” and “West Egg” in “The Great Gatsby.”
Had we taken a car, this trip would have taken just over two hours — without traffic.
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.