Stretch the summer: The water's fine

Coopers Beach in Southampton. (May 27, 2011)

Coopers Beach in Southampton. (May 27, 2011) (Credit: Gordon M. Grant)

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Feeling nostalgic for summer 2012?

Well, stop, because it ain't over till it's over, to quote that famous boy of summer, Yogi Berra.

Die-hard summer lovers can still catch the season's last wave at public beaches, dock-and-dine restaurants, Fire Island enclaves and sailing schools.

"September's probably the best month out here because you don't have the crowd and the weather's still great," says Stephen Funsch, administrator of the Village of Southampton, home to one of the nation's top-ranked beaches.

Here are the places where a Long Island summer (almost) never ends.

 

ON THE SAND

DODGE THE CROWDS

Southampton Village is still busting its buttons after Coopers Beach was named two years ago as the best beach in the nation by coastal scientist Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach.

For most of the year, Coopers is an exclusive playground of the rich and famous, who pay $40 a car, per day for a beach permit. But in the weeks immediately after Labor Day, the permit -- and pretensions -- are dropped. You can park and stroll onto the fine sand, have a picnic and enjoy the view of Gin Lane mansions.

Also on the East End, you can spread your offseason blanket on super-exclusive Main Beach in East Hampton, which Dr. Beach ranked No. 3 this year. Beach permits sell out for the summer season in March, but you don't need one after Sept. 15, says village administrator Larry Cantwell.

Lifeguards are no longer on duty this time of year at Coopers or Main, so you swim at your own risk -- and you can make a beach fire inside a metal container at Main Beach. (For details, visit easthamptonvillage.org)

 

LATE-SEASON SWIM

If you want to swim under protective eyes, head to a state park. Lifeguards will be on duty through Sept. 16 at selected fields at Robert Moses in Babylon, Sunken Meadow in Kings Park, Hither Hills in Montauk and Jones Beach in Wantagh. The ocean is still inviting because the water temperature remains in the mid to upper 70s in September, says parks spokesman George Gorman Jr.

"We still have literally thousands of people that want to go swimming," Gorman says.

The $10 vehicle use fee is charged in September. Food concessions remain open, selling ice cream and other treats.

 

ON THE WATER

DOCK AND DINE

Boat owners say their two happiest days are when they buy the boat -- and when they sell it. But docking and dining has to rank a close third. Many waterfront restaurants keep serving boaters through early fall.

"Weekend traffic is still pretty good through October," says Steve Jordan, owner of Jordan Lobster Farms, a dock-and-dine haven on the waterfront in Island Park. Seagoing patrons park their vessels in the slips at nearby Paddy McGee's (516-431-8700, paddymcgeesfishhouse.com). On the North Shore, Wave at Danfords in Port Jefferson serves on its deck while the weather is good, generally through October (631-928-5200, danfords.com).

 

POSTSEASON FIRE ISLAND

Ocean Beach, the largest Fire Island community, quiets down after Labor Day, but shops and restaurants are open on weekends for late summer visitors. Ferry service from Bay Shore runs on a limited schedule. The big September event on the barrier beach is the 47th annual Miss Fire Island Contest, a Miss America-inspired drag contest tomorrow at the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove.

 

LEARN TO SAIL

It's not too late to sail into the sunset at The WaterFront Center in Oyster Bay, a not-for-profit sailing school. Two or more people can take sailing lessons together through Columbus Day weekend. Courses range from beginner to advanced ($60 a person for an introductory class, 516-922-7245, thewaterfrontcenter.org). Or take a harbor tour on The Christeen, the oldest oyster sloop in North America ($15-$25). Want to strike out on your own? Rent a kayak or paddle- board ($15 an hour).

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