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Inside the Hamptons Mystique

Melissa Hebeler / E! Illustration

Each and every summer, celebrities flock to the Hamptons.

Jennifer Lopez, Diddy, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kelly Ripa and Sarah Jessica Parker are just a few of the many stars who own property on Long Island's East End, a star-studded stretch of beautiful beaches, unbeatable landscapes and exorbitantly expensive homes. It's really no wonder that it's a playground for the rich and the famous.

But it's not where they come to be seen. Rather, it's the place they go to hide away.

"Celebrities love the Hamptons because they can fly under the radar out here, and it's very easy for them to be out and about and not be noticed," Kelli Delaney, founder of KDHamptons.com, the Luxury Lifestyle Diary of the Hamptons, tells E! News exclusively. "There's not a large presence of paparazzi here at all, unlike New York City and Hollywood where as soon as there's a tip-off that there's a star around, the paparazzi arrive as fast as the police can...Of course, when there are planned events and celebrities hosting them, there will be photographers, but just on a daily basis on Main Street in Southampton or East Hampton, you're not going to see any paparazzi ever."

For other "Hamptonites," as they're often called, spotting a star in the street really isn't a big deal.

"I think what happens is that people in the Hamptons are used to seeing celebrities," says Dan Rattiner, a notable Hamptons historian and the founder of the local paper, website and event company Dan's Papers. "They [might] quietly point them out to whoever they're with, but that's as far as it goes. They want to respect [the celebrity's] space and their privacy."

Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick

Matt Agudo/INFphoto.com

Delaney says she's "never once" seen someone ask a celebrity for an autograph.

"Hamptons people don't really care so much about celebrity and Hollywood," she adds. "They care more about, 'is it a great beach day?' 'How is my garden doing?'...It's more like that."  

Being largely left alone is a nice perk of the Hamptons, as is the fact that it's so easily accessible from the big city. "You can take a private plane or a helicopter from New York and be in the Hamptons on the beach within 35 minutes," says Delaney. However, if you were to drive yourself, or hop aboard one of the luxury bus liners to travel eastward, this would take you anywhere from two hours to more than five, depending on traffic.

Flying to the Hamptons isn't cheap (to give you a benchmark, Heli NY offers one-way flights beginning at $3,680), but that certainly doesn't stop the stars from taking to the skies.

"Celebrities don't sit in traffic on the LIE [Long Island Expressway]," Delaney says with a laugh. "They jump in a helicopter or a private plane and they can land in Southampton or East Hampton."

Gwyneth Paltrow

Robert Kamau/GC Images

You might be wondering what the deal is with this-Hampton and that-Hampton, so allow us to explain: The Hamptons are made up of several connecting (and often overlapping) towns, villages and hamlets including Westhampton, Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Montauk (although some consider Montauk to be its own separate entity at the far eastern end of the stretch of Long Island that makes up the Hamptons).

Rattiner points out that these different parts of the Hamptons all have distinctive quirks and characteristics that make them unique.

"Each one is like going to a different movie," says Rattiner, "and some of them are more 'celebrity desirable' than others because of certain things."

East Hampton, for example, "is probably the most beautiful of the towns," says Rattiner. "It's smaller than Southampton, and a large number of actresses and actors are either in East Hampton [which includes the hamlet of Amagansett, where stars like Paltrow, Parker and Alec Baldwin have homes] or Bridgehampton [where Madonna owns a horse farm]."

Christie Brinkley

Robert Kamau/GC Images

Southampton also has its fair share of celebrity residents, including Ripa and hubby Mark Consuelos, Howard Stern, Tory Burch and Calvin Klein. In Water Mill, a hamlet that's part of Southampton, Jennifer Lopez owns an 8,500-square-foot mansion that had an asking price of just under $10 million when she bought it in 2013. Jimmy Fallon owns a farmhouse in another part of Southampton called Sagaponack (it's a village within the town). And in Sag Harbor, another village that's been partially incorporated into both East Hampton and Southampton, Christie Brinkley and Julie Andrews are both considered locals.

Montauk, aka "the end," is where you'll likely find "the younger celebrities," says Delaney. "You know, the models and young male actors that like to surf, they'll be in Montauk. It's fun and young and everyone goes to The Surf Lodge. That's the hottest spot."

Indeed, stars like Alexander Skarsgård and Leonardo DiCaprio have been known to partake in Montauk's late-night scene, but most stars visiting the East End prefer staying in to going out.

"The celebrities that want to go out to nightclubs and, you know, get home at 5 a.m., they're not coming to the Hamptons—because we don't offer that," Delaney explains.

Rattiner agrees, pointing out, "In the Hamptons, most of the partying—if you want to call it that—goes on in these big, private mansions. People want to show them off, so they have a party there."

Although many celebrities buy Hamptons homes, there are others who pay big bucks to rent them. Samantha Yanks, editor-in-chief of Gotham and Hamptons magazines, tells E! News it "always creates a ton of buzz when celebrities rent for the summer." Plus, she adds, "Who doesn't love a visit from Beyoncé and Jay-Z?"

Beyonce, Jay Z, Hamptons Home

Courtesy: Brown Harris Stevens, Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank

Bey and Jay "are big renters," according to Delaney, and they pay a premium for the poshest places. In 2012, for example, the Carter family paid a whopping $400,000 to rent a private estate in Bridgehampton for the month of August.

Rattiner says that "because prices for rent are so high, it's considered a fashionable thing to do."

"The rentals are in six figures," he notes. "So if you rent for August and you pay $140,000 for [the month], people say, 'Oh, that's good.'" (So Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian scored a relative bargain when they stayed in a $70,000-per-month rental in Southampton when they came to stay in 2014.)

SoulCycle, Hamptons

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Of course, the stars don't stay completely holed up in these Hamptons mansions. They keep up with their fitness, often popping in at Tracy Anderson's studios in East Hampton and Water Mill, or they go to any one of SoulCycle's four Hamptons locations. They'll also dine out at hot spots like Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, 75 Main in Southampton, or Nick & Toni's in East Hampton.

Nick & Toni's, Hamptons

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Nick & Toni's "is a perennial favorite restaurant for celebrities," Yanks tells E! News, describing the Italian-Mediterranean restaurant as "the who's who of the Hamptons."

As far summer 2017 goes, Delaney suggests stars will be flocking to Le Bilboquet, which is opening in Sag Harbor, and the Eleven Madison Park pop-up opening in East Hampton.

Don't plan any trips out east for sole purpose of spotting someone famous, though, because there's a good chance they'll sneak right past you. As Delaney says, "It's almost like trying to find a great white shark." You know they're out there, and you might even brush against one without realizing it, but celebrities—like sharks—have a way of being stealth.

Another option for stargazing, of course, is to browse through the ol' #Hamptons hashtag. "[Social media] gives a lot of people access to [the] exclusivity of the Hamptons," Yanks says, "but nothing is better than actually being there."

The Memorial Day issue of Hamptons, featuring Hilary Swank, is on newsstands now.