You could try to persuade a cab driver to take you beyond the city limits but it'll probably cost you over $350. Bus options along the Long Island Expressway include Hampton Luxury Liner (www.hamptonluxuryliner.com) and Hampton Jitney (www.hamptonjitney.com). Taking your car or hiring one is a good idea - you'll need it once you're there as the towns are spread out.
The nearest airport is Islip MacArthur (+1 631 467 3210; www.macarthurairport.com), 50 miles from East Hampton; JFK (www.kennedyairport.com) and LaGuardia are both around 80 miles away. If you're feeling fancy, arrive at East Hampton Airport (+1 631 537 1130) by seaplane, or helicopter delivering you from Wall Street and back, with Sound Aircraft Services (+1 631 537 2202).
Long Island Rail Road's Montauk line (+1 631 231 5477; www.mta.info) is likely to get you there the quickest and cheapest - it makes five daily trips and takes two hours and 40 minutes to reach Southampton from New York City. The Cannonball Express, departing on Fridays from Penn Station in Manhattan, is even faster.
US: +1; area code for the Hamptons: 631.
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald for a satirical slice of sparkly '20s society life. Uncover the East Hampton-based existence of wildly eccentric Edith Bouvier Beale, first cousin of Jackie O, with My Life at Grey Gardens: 13 Months and Beyond by Lois Wright, or MemoraBEALEia: A Private Scrapbook About Edie Beale of Grey Gardens. Or just watch the Grey Gardens DVD.
Do go / Don't Go
As standard with any vacational playground, summer sun will bring the crowds - on holiday weekends such as Memorial Day or 4 July you could spend more time stuck behind your wheel than on the beach. Your social calendar's likely to have a bit more glitter during these months, though. The chilly Atlantic waters mean winters do get cold - but you'll be bundled up by a wood-burning fireplace.
Miles of coastline means mountains of freshly caught Atlantic fare. Clam bakes and big-buck barbecues tide over the locals and weekenders through the summer months. Clamman (+1 631 283 6669; www.clamman.com) is a seafood-stocked market selling wild shrimp, organic salmon, local caviars, and chowders made from Hamptons clams. You can also pick up fresh dipping sauces or ask them to cater full dinners on the beach. For quirky local-blend tea, such as Sagaponack Sunrise and Montauk Mint, look out for shops selling The Hampton Tea Company selections, or for deliciously innovative chutney creations try the Hampton Chutney Co. (+1 631 267 3131; www.hamptonchutney.com).
The Hamptons is very spread-out so taxis are expensive. You'll have to call in advance, but this can be a slow process. Book with East End Taxi (+1 631 324 0077), Sag Harbor Car Service (+1 631 537 7400) or Hampton Car Rentals New York (+1 631 329 1010).
15-20 per cent is standard, but stick towards 20 per cent to keep up.
US dollar ($).
Wide-brimmed floppy hats for girls and boat shoes for boys; some preppy designer gear generally (Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, etc). In winter, you'll need books, DVDs and a collection of chunky knits to hole up by the hearth with.
Perpetual soft sea light and puffy clouds help make the Hamptons a big draw for artists (literally). See local painters' work at the Parrish Art Museum on Job's Lane in Southampton (www.parrishart.org). In East Hampton, check for special events at the Guild Hall on Main Street (www.guildhall.org) or relive Sag Harbor's industrious and international whaling days at the Whaling and Historical Museum (www.sagharborwhalingmuseum.org).
East Hampton is the favoured shopping - you'll find everything from haughty Hermès to locally grown hipster label store Blue & Cream (www.blueandcream.com) located at 60 On The Circle. Metro males will love John Varvatos (www.johnvarvatos.com) on Newtown Lane, an industrial space selling cool-as-they-come threads. On the same street, Calypso covers all necessary beach and après-beach attire (www.calypso-celle.com) and Tory Burch sells 60s-inspired sophisticated styles (www.toryburch.com). In Southampton, there's a beautifully boho collection on sale at Tracy Feith (+1 631 283 7414) on Jobs Lane.
Secure a sea-skimming table at Sunset Beach (+1 631 749 2001; http://www.mrandmrssmith.com/luxury-hotels/united-states/hamptons/sunset-beach/) on Shelter Island, where your brochettes and bouillabaisse will be served with up baguette-dropping sunset views over the ocean.
Coast down Gin Lane in Southampton and start saving the dollars for a mega mansion of your own - this is the zenith of zip codes. The humongous homes of Calvin Klein and Jerry Seinfeld, private beach included, line this street that'll leave you drooling.
July Super Saturday brings street fairs and slashed-price designer stores to Water Mill once a year. August The Bridgehampton Classic is the Hamptons' biggest horse show (www.hamptonclassic.com). August-November Apple picking for all ages. Go to http://milk-pail.com for information on seasonal pickings. October The Hamptons International Film Festival (http://hamptonsfilmfest.org) shows established directors and introduces breaking-through artists.