Along the Burma Road: The Smaller Communities

Along the Burma Road: The Smaller Communities

By Carrie Ann Salvi

OFF THE BEATEN PATH and most ferry schedules await less-talked-about Fire Island communities, and this summer renter chose to explore what lies between Ocean Beach and Fair Harbor.

There is still rubble in the Robbins Rest sand from the harsh storms of last winter, but the pristine, private haven stands tall, as it has through time. Only those driven to cross the deep and often hot sandy paths on each side enjoy the two-block, business-less beach community, with far from convenient access to public life in Atlantique and Ocean Beach.

From the elevation of recently rebuilt sand dunes on the ocean you can view the Great South Bay, with only a dozen or so homes in between. Though known for its peace and quiet, residents can always hear the soothing rhythmic ocean waves, whisper of tall beach grass, and cheerful tunes of birds. There is also the muffled motors from the bay and occasional buzz of a plane on an ocean flight path.

The deer can be heard too, their hoofs on deck as they enjoy nightly sunset dinners or rustle through the tall and fragrant natural island vegetation. The bucks and does are often brave and kind, and friendlier than some residents of a place where eye contact and conversation seem optional.

In the breeze is also the faint sound of jazz on a Sunday morning and house music on a Saturday night from a nearby summer rental. But people primarily keep to themselves, the point of the community it seems.

Back in the 90s, it was a different story. Robbins Rest was all about Tequila Jacks for many, according to Amy Beth Stern, a long-term island resident. “You could dance and kayak and have tequila shots at sunset,” she reminisced last week. The hotspot even had its own ferry, she recalled, before it shut down in 2002. “The town didn’t want it,” she said as she relaxed on the beach in Dunewood, the now mother of two little ones.

Amy Beth now splits her time, personally and as a real estate professional, with her husband Brendan P. Byrne and their boys, in Fair Harbor, the Hamptons and upstate New York. August Harbor, named for the place she calls a “magical island,” was excited to take his first steps on the bay beach. He mastered walking over the winter, and talking is new to him too. He learned to say “water” that day after stepping into the bay bravely and guessing, “hot tub?” His mom corrected him and also taught him to say “spider” after sacrificing her cup of rosé to catch a spider crab for his enjoyment. His brother, Brendan Jr., laughed in delight jumping in the bay as if it were warm.

The boys’ dad joined the fun just before one of the famous sunsets and after a three-hour trip from Westhampton on a skiff he purchased for Father’s Day. They were all aboard for their first family spin, heading to dinner at Michael’s Ristorante, just minutes away in Ocean Beach.

Though far from the Hamptons, Dunewood does share beauty and amenities like private tennis courts, a beach and yacht club, and it has its own ferry and dock. There’s little more for the public passing through than children selling sea treasures and other simple pleasures like a roadside community library box.

Similarly, Lonelyville is private in nature. There is no ferry there, and you could easily miss it during an inland island walk if you are unfamiliar with its mix of sand, dirt road and boardwalk. From the bay side, you can see the community’s small, private dock, and within, it feels like a step back in time.

“I remember when Dana Wallace rode through town on horses,” said Lisa Smith-Horowitz, an island realtor and massage therapist who has resided year round a neighbor of Corneille Estates for over two decades.

Though the horses are no more, there are still plenty of deer and even foxes on the paths and open spaces just to the west of Ocean Beach. These days, Corneille Estates is also popular among single young professionals with well-kept homes and board-walked paths to the ocean. The island’s only school is in Corneille Estates too, with an adjacent ball field enjoyed by the young in age and heart.

Don’t blink or you will miss Corneille’s western neighbor Summer Club, a community started by Ocean Beach residents after World War II. Like Point O’Woods, they borrowed the model of houses built on communally owned land with long-term leases. Today that ocean paradise, with private clubhouse on the bay that formerly served the island as a Coast Guard station will celebrate its 70th anniversary this year. More to come on that in a future issue…stay tuned.

The Dunewood Lending Library