The World Of The Great Gatsby: Long Island’s Gold Coast

The official trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s new film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” was released this week, inciting nostalgia across the Internet for the passion, parties and Prohibition-fueled recklessness of 1920s-era New York City. The film doesn’t come out until Christmas but if you’re hankering for a preview, try visiting Long Island‘s Gold Coast, where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived, wrote and based his famous novel.

Geographically located on the North Shore of Long Island, the Gold Coast’s grand mansions and landscaped gardens beckon visitors to explore the lives of the magnates and tycoons that called them home. Former inhabitants include familiar names like the Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Whitneys and Pratts, and nearly all of the estates are open to the public throughout the summer.


One Gold Coast must-see is Old Westbury Gardens, a traditional English manor home that you’ll recognize from films like “The Age of Innocence” and “Cruel Intentions.” Built in 1906, the estate was once inhabited by financier John S. Phipps, who outfitted it with lavish furnishings and artwork. Guests are welcome to tour the home’s interior or stroll around the estate’s rose gardens, walled gardens and pond.

The Gold Coast’s residents weren’t all as traditional as the Phipps. A trip to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum reveals the eclectic nature of former inhabitant William K. Vanderbilt II. The 43-acre complex includes a marine museum, seaplane hangar, natural history habitats and a wide array of quirky ethnographic objects. The on-site planetarium is currently under construction, but it is expected to be one of the most advanced in the country once it is completed.

And if you’re a true literature geek, you can’t miss the Hempstead House or Falaise Mansion in Sands Point, a part of Long Island that Fitzgerald referred to as the “East Egg” in “The Great Gatsby.” Both homes are surrounded by wildlife, nature trails and picturesque spots that are perfect for setting out a picnic blanket and giving the classic novel a re-read.

Video: Oahu Island: Miracle Coast

Oahu Island: Miracle Coast on

Would you like to spend a moment reviving your spirit with a beautiful video depicting Hawaii‘s Oahu Island? Oahu Island: Miracle Coast, is a gorgeous little video released on It’s a short by photographer and filmmaker Lyall Coburn. Through the video, he captures a summer spent idly on the island’s North Shore. The video is certainly enough to make me want to kick back in Oahu for a summer, watching locals take nerve-rattling jumps off of cliffs and maybe jumping myself. Life, for me, is much about variation and travel satiates this need I have, as well as so many others, for an ever-changing environment. Kudos to Coburn for changing his environment and spending a summer along these shimmering, lapping waves.

The local flavor of Oahu: Hawaiian shave ice

The recipe for Hawaii’s signature dessert is simple: fill a cup with a mound of finely shaved ice and then top it off with a sugary syrup of your choice. If you want to get creative, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or azuki bean paste at the bottom of the cup, or top it off with a “snow cap”-some sweetened, condensed milk drizzled over the top.

Although the recipe seems like a piece of cake, there’s actually much more to the Hawaiian shave ice. The treat was actually introduced by Japanese immigrants working on sugar plantations, who would shave fine pieces from large blocks of ice using Japanese swords that were family heirlooms. The tradition actually goes back even further to the turn of the first millennium in Japan, when ice would be brought down from the mountains in the winter and stored in caves. Eating the flavored ice was a luxury reserved for royalty only, but in Hawaii it became commonplace.

When first introduced to Hawaii, shave ice was sold solely on Sundays-the only day of the week immigrants rested. Now, its available pretty much anytime and anywhere in touristy areas-but don’t be fooled. Not all shave ice is created equal.

With some tips from locals (and after much debate), we’ve culled together a list of five of the best places to get shaved ice on the island of Oahu.

Matsumoto Shave Ice
: This classic shave ice stand in the North Shore of Oahu has been dishing out colorful treats since 1951. On sunny days, the shop sells around 1,000 cones of shave ice to surfers, locals, and happy tourists.
66-87 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa; 808-637-4827

Aoki’s Shave Ice: In a little red shack down the road from Matsumoto is Aoki’s, a family-run business that has been serving shave ice for over 25 years. Although the line is typically long (especially on hot days), the wait is well worth it-and there’s plenty of mom-and-pop kitsch to look at to kill time.
66-117 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa; 808-637-7017

Waiola Shave Ice: If you can’t make it to the North Shore, Waiola is a little piece of shave ice heaven in Honolulu. The store can be a little difficult to find, but once you get there the shave ice is cheap, they have a wide variety of flavors, and the ice is deliciously fine-like powdery snow. With a delectable melt-in-your-mouth texture, this place comes with my personal “severe brain freeze warning.”
2135 Waiola St., Honolulu; 808-949-2269

Ailana Shave Ice: Also in Honolulu, Ailana Shave Ice has a mission to serve “fresh and tasty homemade syrups” to the masses. Try some of the local flavors-lychee, melona, or haupia-or stick to classics like blue Hawaii, pineapple, strawberry, or the ever-popular rainbow. This place also serves plate lunch on weekdays.
1430 Kona St., Honolulu; 808-955-8881

Shimazu Store: Tucked away in Honolulu’s Chinatown is this neighborhood convenience store that whips up some mouthwatering shave ice. Lots of flavors-including red velvet, root beer, and crème brulee-are on the menu, and the portions are larger than most other shave ice places. If you’re feeling up for the challenge, there’s an oversized option called “The Larry” that is extra, extra large.
330 N School St., Honolulu; 808-371-8899

(All photos by Libby Zay)

The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Surfing Invitational is going on today!

“The waves are going off right now.” That’s the typical phrase you’ll hear here in Hawaii. With this being the El Nino season, the waves on the north and west shores have been bigger and better than normal, and it looks like the islands will be experiencing one of the biggest days in history. Forecasters are saying some waves will have 60-foot faces. The last time the waves were this big was the winter of 1969. That was forty years ago; this is now.

If you happen to be on Oahu today, the “Eddie Aikau,” an annual big wave surfing invitational, is being held. The “Eddie,” as locals call it, is one of the few events that is held only if waves reach 25+ feet. Today’s event will be a particularly special day because the two past winters didn’t have waves that high, so the event wasn’t held. The bravest and best surfers are called on a moment’s notice and fly out to Hawaii to participate in the “Eddie.”

You might not know why this is called the “Eddie Aikau.” Eddie was a respected waterman and lifeguard who came from a Hawaiian family on the North Shore. He was elected to be a crew member for the Hokulea voyage, which was a special journey sails from Hawaii back to Polynesia, where the islands first inhabitants arrived several hundred years ago. The boat got caught in a storm several miles out to sea, but were close enough to paddle back to the islands. Eddie volunteered for the rescue mission, boarded his surfboard and paddled back solo to get help. The boat was rescued but Eddie was never found.

The “Eddie Aikau” is a special event that honors one of Hawaii’s finest watermen. The event is always held in Waimea Bay. Locals and tourists alike flock to the Bay to see brave surfers ride their 10-foot guns and paddle into giant waves. It truly is a sight to behold.

Officials called the event at around 7 a.m. today, and traffic has been backed up since 5:30 this morning. If you have the luck and privilege of seeing this event, bring a beach chair, and some binoculars. Waimea only breaks when the waves are 20+ feet and clean, and the surfers look like little rag dolls on the waves even from the closest vantage point. If you can’t make it up there, you can watch the event online HERE or watch the highlights later today at the official event website.

A word of caution: don’t get in the water! The ocean is not at all friendly for amateurs on days like these, so just sit back on the beach and enjoy the show!

The Triple Crown of Surfing: Reef Hawaiian Pro

The Triple Crown of Surfing got off to a mammoth start on Thursday with wave faces reaching over 20 feet for the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Ali’i Beach in Haleiwa. Each event in the Triple Crown undergoes a 12-day waiting period and usually takes 4-5 days to complete. Thursday and Friday saw big, clean conditions for both days, but the surf will wane over the next few days and the Men’s Final date and time is yet to be determined.

I headed to the North Shore on Friday for what was my first time attending a Triple Crown event, and I wasn’t disappointed. These surfing events are so packed with beach babes, film crews, and hot surfers that it is nearly impossible NOT to have a great time. I even saw Bethany Hamilton (the girl who lost her arm from a shark attack on Kauai), and she is MUCH taller than what you see in photos! She is at least six feet tall and is a statuesque young surfer girl.
As a spectator, however, it is best to go on the day of the final or on the day with the biggest waves. The waves were already backing off a bit (they were still well above overhead) and were a bit slow and crumbly for my viewing taste.

My good friend, Bernie Baker, is the contest coordinator and a judge for this and nearly all surfing events on Oahu, and was nice enough to pose with me in a photo between heats.

Surfing here in Hawaii is one of the many activities that happen year-round. Somewhere in these islands is a surfable wave. You just have to find it. There’s also a contest nearly every weekend — on the south shore of Oahu during the summer months, and on the North Shore during the winter. Check out Surf News Network for wave conditions on all islands, and the Vans Triple Crown website for livestream videos and other news about what is arguably the biggest annual event in the sport of surfing.