When to leave is the first point of contention—if you want a relatively smooth ride, go no later than 2 p.m. Friday rush hour is deadly by three. There are some who believe that a brief window opens up at seven-thirty and lasts until eight. Miss that and you might as well wait until nine. True traffic paranoiacs won’t leave before ten.
The most direct way out is the Midtown Tunnel to the Long Island Expressway, and if there were no traffic at all, even Upper East Siders would be advised to take it. But to anyone above 72nd Street, the Triborough Bridge, even with one lane shut for repairs, beckons. Especially because it enables drivers to hit the Northern State Parkway while avoiding the L.I.E. (The Queensboro Bridge is not recommended, unless you love Long Island City and/or hate tolls. But if you must, go with the lower level.) Radical uptowners are known to take the Bruckner to the Throgs Neck, but they’re insane.
The L.I.E. is the great temptation of all Hamptons-bound drivers. It is the straightest line out there. You want to take it, but you know you shouldn’t. Especially not now that the HOV extension is causing nasty construction delays around the Queens-Nassau border. Late at night, they’ve been closing the eastbound road, forcing traffic onto jammed access roads. Professionals like “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz advise never taking it at any hour—by going on the Northern State and then cutting over to the Southern State, which feeds into Route 27.
Others stick to the Northern State, then take the Sagtikos Parkway, which allows a quick preview of the L.I.E. at exit 53. If it’s grim, keep going to the Southern State. If it’s okay, get on and head right to the HOV lane. Some hate the possibility of being stuck behind a heaving 1987 Hyundai in the HOV, but they’ll be glad they risked it when the traffic gets bad again around exit 59.
From the L.I.E., you can cross over to 27 on many roads; just take exit 70 and don’t worry about it. But Route 27 … that is the bête noire of all Hamptonites. When it’s a parking lot, Schwartz advises a detour via the North Highway, past the Shinnecock Canal area. A bit farther east, the preferred back-road route is, left on Shrubland to Sebonac to Sandy Hollow to North Sea to Lower Seven Pond to Head of Pond to Scuttle Hole and finally to Sag Harbor Turnpike, which leads into Bridgehampton. But you don’t have to memorize it: Just follow the other cars. They’re going to the same place you are.