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Exploring the North Fork of Long Island

It’s summertime, and several people have asked me about tips on travel to the North Fork of Long Island here in New York, a lovely place that was once a frequent destination in a past life. It is where Lulu’s paternal grandmother has a house, and although I no longer visit, Lulu herself is there all this week with her dad enjoying the pleasures of its calm beaches, its quaint towns, and the overall laid-back vibe of the area. It’s very much the un-Hamptons; I always appreciated the lack of scene, and enjoyed the area instead for its landscape, the experiences it had to offer (great restaurants, fun antiquing, local vineyards, swimming in bay waters), and the company at the time. Exactly what you would want for a relaxing getaway from New York City.

The main towns to plan your visit around are Greenport, Southold, Jamesport, and Orient. Here are my suggestions for where to go and what to do:

STAY:

North Fork Table & Inn – I usually recommend the North Fork Table & Inn, mainly because they have a delicious restaurant for which they are known most, so why not stay where you know there is excellent food? They also feature Frette linens and C.O. Bigelow products. The only drawback is that they only have 4 rooms, and reservations must be made well in advance.

The Morning Glory – This is a lovely B&B located in the center of Greenport, within a short walking distance to its shops, restaurants, and to small beaches that overlook the harbor with Shelter Island in the distance.

The Harborfront Inn – Also located in Greenport, this is the closest thing to a hotel the North Fork has to offer.

EAT:

Bruce’s Café - This was my favorite place for brunch, for pancakes and for their Brown Sugar Bacon, which some mornings I looked forward to the minute I woke up.

I’ve already mentioned the North Fork Table & Inn, open for dinner every day and brunch/lunch on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The chefs are formerly of NYC restaurants (Aureole, Amuse, Gramercy Tavern), and only do they create succulent dishes, but the menu also celebrates locally-grown products.

Cuvée Seafood & Grill at the Greenporter Hotel – I had many a great dinner at this restaurant, in particular the Steak au Poivre  was my favorite. They are also known for their Farm-to-Table dining experience, with excellent offerings of oysters, mussels, duck, and local produce.

The Fifth Season - Another highly-acclaimed restaurant that focuses on local ingredients and wines.

There are so many little eateries to discover, surely more since I last visited, so opportunities abound for unguided adventure to find delicious food in the area that is off-the-beaten path.

DO:

Beach. Not the sort of ocean beaches that you find in the South Fork/Hamptons, the beaches of the North Fork are along the Long Island Sound and along the harbors and waters that surround Shelter Island, which separates both Forks. This makes for calmer waters and areas that are easier to swim in. We used to find little hideaway inlets of beach where there were few visitors, lovely places to silently swim and sunbathe for hours– such as bays in Orient, and the beach at the bottom of the “69 Steps” in Greenport.

Vineyards & Wine Tastings. It is quite an experience to participate in several wine tastings a day, amongst the beauty of sprawling vineyards. And to think you’re still in New York! To vineyard-hop is possible in the North Fork, should you have the time or inclination. (I suggest hiring a car & driver to take you around for the day if you do.) There a number of vineyards in this whole area to explore. The best way to go about researching the ones to visit, is to go to the website of the Long Island Wine Council. There you will find all sorts of information, as well as additional suggestions to stay and eat.

Antiquing. Middle Road, the single road that runs into the towns of the North Fork, is peppered with interesting antique shops. A quiet drive along here, which becomes North Road and then Route 25, will bring you to various signs and shops. Furniture and things are often displayed on shops’ lawns, enticing you to stop and scavenge.  Beall & Bell is by far my favorite antique shop of all, located in the town of Greenport, with surprising finds depending on the day you walk in. Perfectly-restored mid-century modern furniture sit alongside tasteful, decorative items you wouldn’t initially think of using in a home, like vintage relics from old boats or 1950s schoolhouses. It’s such a delight even just to browse. I just came across another blog extolling its virtues with photos here.

That’s my introduction to a getaway to the North Fork. There are other additional things to do, like stopping in dairy farms to sample cheeses, visiting lavender fields, taking kids to the carousel in town, a day trip to Shelter Island or Sag Harbor across the waters– the ferry to take you there is right in Greenport. All things that are stress-free to peacefully melt a summer day away.

One last thing– the North Fork has become increasingly popular for second homes for New Yorkers, just last week it was featured in the New York Times real estate section– should you happen to be in the market for summer home.

For further information on travel to the North Fork, visit here.

Are you familiar with this area of Long Island, and if so, do you have any suggestions as to where to go? Anything open up recently of note? Please add in comments if there is something I am missing….

Enjoy the summer weekend, wherever you may be!

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