Why Go to the North Fork of Long Island Now?
Historically, the North Fork of Long Island, a mere 120 miles east of Manhattan, has been sleepy and rural, lacking the dazzle of the movie-star-rich Hamptons on the oceanfront South Fork. The largest town, Greenport, was rather undiscovered, and the hamlets of Orient, Southold, and Mattituck were barely a blip on anyone’s radar. But that’s been changing over the last few years.
When I first wrote this guide, in 2016, city folk were still flocking in greater numbers to the Atlantic side of Eastern Long Island, taking day trips to North Fork for its bountiful wineries and tasting rooms.
But lately, and especially with the Covid-fearful, this quiet side of Eastern Long Island has found its footing as a great and relatively serene getaway. It’s attracting newcomers who just want to unwind without having to glam up for the Hampton’s scene, or jostle with pesky paparazzi.
Now, the North Fork is so much more than wine, and in some ways is harking back to its hideaway past when it attracted the likes of Albert Einstein.
You can visit Einstein Plaza, formerly Rothman’s Department Store in Southold, where the genius himself befriended owner David Rothman during one of Einstein’s three summers on Long Island. Einstein composed the “nuclear chain reaction” letter to FDR at his summer shack nearby. That letter, of course, would change the course of life on this planet.
A Foodie Haven
The North Fork has also been also upping its game culinarily. To get a feel for how much, book a reservation at one of the Greenport restaurants that have been re-imagined by New York’s King of Smoked Pastrami, Will Horowitz (chef/owner of Harry & Ida’s Meat Supply Co., Ducks Eatery in NYC).
In Horowitz’s view, in the past, serious chefs shunned Northern sandy-shore resorts; loathe to set up shop where people preferred their seafood fried to oblivion. “Covid changed that,” says Horowitz.
Now, chefs from a “higher pedigree,” such as Michelin-starred, John Fraser, who recently revitalized the esteemed North Fork Table and opened Southold General, are joining mainstays like Noah’s and The Frisky Oyster. These culinary powerhouses find abundant sources of fresh ingredients from fishing boats, family farms (including 20 new oyster and kelp “Farms”), and vineyards.
So, arrange for a table at a innovative restaurant, stroll Love Lane, sip a variety of wines at dozens of vineyards, paddle on Peconic Bay or Long Island Sound, provision from nature’s bounty at roadside farm stands, stumble on backyard concerts, feel the warmth of the setting sun filtered through shade trees, and just slow down on this updated Getaway, which begins on a timesaving ferry for those coming from New England.
The following guide takes you from the very eastern tip of the North Fork at Orient Point to points west: Orient, East Marion, Greenport, Southold, Peconic, Mattituck. Of course, should you drive here, you can do the stops in reverse.
To extend your Eastern Long Island stay, check out our post on Shelter Island (accessible from both Greenport on the North Fork and Sag Harbor on the South Fork).
Things To Do The North Fork of Long Island
FERRY: Cross Sound Ferry from New London, CT to Orient Point NY
If you live anywhere in New England, the quickest and most pleasurable way to get to the tip of Eastern Long Island (North Fork) is on the 80-minute Cross Sound Ferry. Why drive all the way down to Queens NY, then up again 120 miles, when you can take the boat and eliminate the hassles of traffic and bad drivers?
Plus, with comfy seating, a “snack” bar that sells healthy from-scratch meals, and a bar that offers Greenport Harbor craft beer, your vacation begins as soon as you leave the dock. Ferry runs year round (check website for schedule), $55 each way for car and driver, $15.75 for each adult passenger (or walk on), $6 kids – all rates quoted for advanced rsvps only.
What to Do in Orient NY
DO: Stumble on a Sunset Concert, Oysterponds Historical Society, Orient
One of the joys of summer on the North Fork is the serendipitous discovery of a backyard concert. In sleepy Orient, this joy is multiplied by the fact that there’s not much else in the early evening do besides reveling in this timeless pleasure with friends and loved ones.
DO: Stroll to Orient Yacht Club for Optimal Sunset Views – No Crowds
Yes, it’s a private club, but there’s no prohibition against standing at the foot of the docks and witnessing the extreme beauty of a stunning North Fork sunset.
EAT: Opties and Dinghies Orient
A dumpling joint in tiny Orient NY? Yes, and from many accounts, the dumplings are so good (as well as other “Hong Kong” style offerings), fans drive an hour for them. But this very out of the way spot, with window service only (no indoor seating – a cafe made for the Pandemic Era) is also known for salads, gelato, flavored coffees, and from scratch lemonade blends. Get your order and head right over to the outdoor concert across the street! (Open Seasonally, Call ahead)
PROVISION: Sep’s Farm Stand, East Marion
Sep’s Farm Stand is on Rt. 25 in East Marion between the Orient Point Ferry and Greenport. You can’t miss the place in the summer, overflowing with Pinterest-ready produce. The corn is so incredibly good, you can eat it raw.
No one quite represents the Yin and Yang of the North Fork of Long Island better than Peter “Sep” Sepenoski. One day, he’s digging in the dirt and the next he’s at the helm of his 36’ Grady White, plying the waters of Peconic Bay.
Fourth generation farmer, “Sep” known to admirers as “The Corn Whisperer,” and his wife, Katie, farm the old fashioned way, with a corn picker that Sep designed himself, and old machinery that occasionally requires parts that Sep must fabricate in his own workshop. “We grow every fruit and vegetable except bananas and lemons,” says Sep, exaggerating only a little.
Things to Do in Greenport NY
VISIT: East End Seaport Museum, Greenport
This small museum in a former Long Island RR train station packs an historic punch. You’ll find a large Fresnel Lens from Little Gull Light. And you’ll absorb a good amount of information about Long Beach Bar Light – affectionately nicknamed “Bug Light” for its former “Screw Pile” design- replaced in the 1930’s by cement foundation.
Of course, there are exhibits on the abundance of shipyards here (now closed but for one) that made Landing Boats and Mine Sweepers during WWII. There’s a cool diorama depicting the workspace of W.J. Mills Sailmakers. Don’t miss the homage to Claudio’s – a restaurant that, until 2018 when it was sold to new owners, had been in family hands for 148 years (since 1870). Open Summer, Wed-Sun 11-4. Check website for other times of year. $2.
BAY CRUISE/TOUR: Solar-Powered Glory, Greenport
Co-owned by Captain David Berson and Andrew Rosen, the 30ft. 1990 Elco Electric boat – Glory, the first solar-powered vessel for tourist use in the country – is fully certified by the Coast Guard, and “safety-first” Berson makes sure it remains that way.
Captain Dave regales guests with stories about Peconic Bay’s history, Greenport’s working waterfront, and changes to the area on a 45-minute cruise. He departs the dock with a blast from his conch shell and if you’ve been good, he’ll hand you a Tootsie Roll pop at the end of the tour. 45 minute tours, $20 adults, $10 kids, Memorial Day to Columbus Day, runs 3x day Sat and Sun. July 4 to Labor Day add Mon, Tues, Thurs Fri 2x day.
CRUISE/TOUR: East End Seaport Museum “Bug” Lighthouse Cruise and Tour, Greenport
For most of the week in season, the Peconic Star II is a 150-person fishing charter boat. But on many Saturday late afternoons (4pm-6pm) in season, it turns into a Lighthouse Tour Boat.
Cruise on Peconic and Gardiner’s Bay, learn the history of the lighthouse (decommissioned in 1948 and brought back to life in 1990) from local maritime experts and a light-keeper’s great-grandson. $35 adults, $20 3-15 years old, most Saturdays from June through September 4pm-6pm. Some tours run till 9pm.
TOUR: Fire Fighter – America’s Fireboat Floating Museum, Greenport
This 1931 New York City fireboat was on the scene on 9-11-2001, brought back from retirement for her water-pumping strength. She is slowly being restored, so here is your chance to see historic preservation in action. Located behind the East End Seaport Museum. Open weekends in season from 12-5. Donations appreciated.
RIDE: Mitchell Park Carousel, Greenport
A gift from Grumman Aircraft Corp, this 100-year-old merry-go-round is housed in an cool contemporary building, steps from the waterfront and Main Street. $2 per ride.
PADDLE: SUP with One Love Beach
One Love Beach offers “Paddle and Pint” Community Paddles on Tuesday evenings at 5pm from mid-May to mid-Sept in a different North Fork waterway each week, depending on weather.
On windy late afternoons, Gull Pond is the perfect spot to learn to race Stand Up Paddleboards, other evenings might see SUPer’s on Long Island Sound. After the lesson, paddlers head to First & South for a beer or two. Check website for costs and upcoming events.
VISIT/SIP: Kontokosta Winery, Greenport
Michael Kontokosta left his life as a NYC corporate lawyer to purchase his family farm, and opened this stunning LEED-designed structure as event space and tasting room in 2013 for his first vintages. With 23 ½ acres of planted vines, a wind turbine that powers 70% of the vineyard’s energy needs, long views down to Long Island Sound, and a modern-barn structure built with 110 year old siding and flooded with light through an abundance of windows, the gestalt takes a visitor’s breath away.
Belly up to the poured concrete bar, which tops a textural façade made from barrel stays. Try a grassy, earthy, peppery Cab Franc, a fruity aromatic Cab Blanc, or something else from the 3,500 cases of wine produced here per year. Open Sun-Thur 11-5, Fri 11-6, Sat 11-sunset. Check website for private event closures.
SHOP: Greenport Fire Greenport
“Everything hot,” from hand-rolled cigars to scorching pepper sauce. What a blistering concept within a cooly designed space.
SHOP: The Weathered Barn, Greenport
Another unique home-goods, furniture and gift store – proof that Greenport is not a tourist tchotchke center. Shops here are distinctive and creative – you’ll see products here you won’t see anywhere else.
Things to Do in Southold NY
VISIT: Albert Einstein Square at Former Rothman’s Department Store
Although Albert Einstein lived in Princeton NJ, he summered on the North Fork from 1937-1939. On August 2, 1939, Einstein wrote the now famous letter to FDR, imploring the President to start funding research on a new kind of weapon of mass destruction.
“In the course of the last four months it has been made probable—through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America—that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. This phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed.”
SHOP: About Food, Southold Main Rd.
For those who are too impatient to “put up” their own food, About Food on Main Rd. (Route 25) Southold offers a solution. Buy an array of pure jarred products from them. A “specialty grocer,” you can also purchase the gear needed to whip up your own culinary delights.
SHOP: White Flower Farmhouse Southold Main Rd.
The North Fork oozes farmhouse chic. So, it behooves you to take a little of that flavor home with you (or dress your Eastern Long Island home up with something repurposed). Buy an antique cupboard, distressed picture frames, some new linen throw pillows, wooden mixing spoons, and, yeah, jewelry, and cologne, at this eclectic and pretty place.
VISIT: Horton Point Lighthouse, Southold
First commissioned by George Washington in 1790, the lighthouse that now protects mariners from this point of land was built in 1857. The Southold Historical Society maintains a small Nautical Museum on this site, open from July through Labor Day, Sat. and Sun 11:30-4pm, $5.
VISIT/SIP: The Old Field Vineyards, Southold
Owned by Christian and Rosamond Baiz, Old Field sits on waterfront acreage that was once a thriving resort hotel complex until just after WWI, when the Baiz family purchased it for farmland. As with so many other family farms, Christian purchased the land from his family, planted Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Franc (the “wine of Long Island”) in 1996.
He now makes and sells mouth-watering vintages from the hotel’s original carriage house stables. Rosamond is tangentially related to Commodore Matthew Perry, which explains the vineyard’s top 100% Merlot ($40) under the “Commodore Perry” label. Open Thurs- Mon 11-5, tastings $12 for 4 wines. Sustainable Agricultural Tours Sat @ 12:15, $20 for tour and 5 tastings, Historical Tours Sun 1:30, $20 for tour and tastings.
VISIT/TASTE: Croteaux Vineyards, Southold
Plan an hour or more at the only winery in the USA devoted entirely to Rose wines. No doubt the outdoor garden patio, with reclaimed wood partitions and a wall of lit-up empty wine bottles, is one of the most charming on the North Fork.
Things to Do in Peconic NY
PROVISION/CIDER DONUTS: Breeze Hill Farm, Peconic
See a real “Homer Price” donut machine in action at this multi-use farm. This being farm country – farm stands are ubiquitous on the North Fork. Each, seemingly, has its own specialty.
Sep’s (see above) is corn. Breeze Hill Farm is all about apples and their pressed juice. But that’s not all you’ll discover here.
In addition to buying straight-from-the-dirt produce, you can also pick your own apples on Breeze Hill’s 75-acre orchard, commune with llamas and goats, and even get married and then put up your wedding party in a redesigned hunting lodge on site.
But, if you’re short on time – stop in for a refreshing cider slushy or a cider donut, straight from its shimmering hot oil bath. The fresh-made cider donuts are amazingly good – and as straight-from-the-frier melt-in-you-mouth scrumptious as can be.
VISIT/TASTE: Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., Peconic
Why should wine lovers have all the fun on the North Fork. On weekends, enjoy your Leaf Pile Ale, Black Duck Porter, and for the winter Anti-Freeze Ale, while listening to really good live music most weekends. No need to go anywhere else for a meal, either – the resident cafe has great elevated pub grub.
VISIT/SHOP: Catapano Dairy Farm, Peconic
Even if you hate cheese, you’ll fall in love with these happy, gamboling goats. Watch cheese makers at work and then stop in to the shop to purchase what the American Cheese Society proclaims “The Best Fresh Goat Cheese in America.” Open May-Sept. daily 10-5.
Things to Do in Mattituck NY on North Fork
SHOP: Love Lane, Mattituck
Best known for the Love Lane Kitchen, Love Lane itself is a charming place to shop local. Doesn’t the name just lend itself to a romantic foray?
Village Cheese Shop
Nearby residents swear by the quality of dairy products at the Village Cheese Shop. Pick up a wedge, and then a bottle of wine from Roanoke Vineyards Wine Bar down the street, for an impromptu picnic.
Love Lane Sweet Shop
Visitors (and proud residents) stock up on t-shirts and memorabilia stamped with North Fork, Mattituck, and Love Lane designs. In the know locals send friends to the “Shirt Shoppe” in back of Love Lane Sweet Shop where you’ll discover a cornucopia of summertime clothing emblazoned with unique compositions re-imagined each year.
DETOUR – SHOP/PHOTO OP: The Big Duck, Flanders
If you plan to drive to the North Fork – the Big Duck is worth a detour just a few minutes out of the way. What’s the “big” deal?
In 1931, Riverhead duck farmers, Martin Maurer and his wife, Jeule, built their sales office to capture tourists driving to Eastern Long Island. Saved by fans, the concrete structure was moved to its present location in Flanders in 1987.
Interestingly, this very building is also an architectural icon. The term “duck” has come to identify any highly sculptural form that represents the products available within. Rather than ducks, the Big Duck Store now sells “duck-a-belia.” Open Year Round Mon-Fri 10-5, Sat 10-3, Sun 10-5 .
Where to Eat on the North Fork Long Island NY
EAT: Anker, Greenport
When the pandemic hit New York hard, the City’s top ranked Smoked Pastrami maker, Will Horowitz, closed his two iconic restaurants, Harry & Ida’s Meat Supply Co. and Ducks Eatery, and moved out to the North Fork. It’s familiar ground for Horowitz, whose maternal grandparents live in Orient. Throughout his life, he’s spent a lot of time out here.
Known for his smoked meats, and now his book, Salt Smoke Time, Horowitz was tapped to “redo” the menus and collaborate with chefs at three Greenport restaurants: Anker (Chef Axel Irizarry), Alpina, and soon to be unveiled, Green Hill Kitchen and Que.
If you haven’t been to Anker in the last few months, its “Nose to Fin Cuisine,” is a revelation. The Horowitz/Irizarry team take on old World, traditional fare and tweak it to newfangled, luscious effect. Lamb “Pastrami” is smoked to perfection. Chef uses caramelized fish scales in his Honey Pie, “for texture.” And the deeply flavored “Fish Collars” could be the new Buffalo Chicken Wings sensation.
Our table favorites included the light and flavorful Weakfish – served whole with killer smashed Fingerling Potatoes; Smoked Bluefish Salad; and falafel-shaped Fish Fritters. My own new obsession – and I preface this by saying I never was a huge fan of oysters – are the Roasted Oysters, drizzled with a spice brought here a few hundred years ago, from the West Indies. They are, in a word, outstanding.
EAT: Little Creek Oysters, Greenport
In a former Bait and Tackle shack behind Claudio’s, Little Creek is the very definition of DIY dining. You get shucking gloves, a shucking knife (with instruction, of course) and will experience some of the freshest oyster’s you’ve slurped down.
EAT: 1943 Pizza Bar, Greenport
The pies are made right before your very eyes and then shoved in a glowing ember brick oven to bake and crisp up and emerge perfectly charred. Awesome.
EAT/OLD SCHOOL: Claudio’s Greenport
Claudio’s was here way, way before the North Fork vineyards. In fact, until 2018, it was the oldest family-owned restaurant in the USA, in family hands since 1870. You can still get the fried clams and steamers of yore – along with new bites like Lobster Mac and Cheese and Beet Salad. Nothing innovative here. Just the shoreline food you remember from your youth. So if nostalgia hits, book a table at Claudio’s.
COFFEE: Aldo’s, Greenport
Aldo greets his customers warmly – they all call him by name. It’s like stumbling on a little café in Rome – with quality espresso and scones to match. Don’t pass on the scones, whatever you do. They are baked with a “lip:” a little mound at the edge of the pastry you must bite first. And oh, that first buttery bite; it leaves you wanting more. “It’s like your first kiss,” says Aldo. “You never forget your first kiss.”
EAT: Greenport NY Locals Recommend
Greenport has upped its game in the restaurant department – so much so, everyone local seems to have his or her own preferences. Among them – Noah’s for excellent inventive small bites. Also on the list, Frisky Oyster for high-end fun dining, Lucharito’s for Mexican food, Brix and Rye – old timey cocktails in a “speakeasy” setting, and American Beech for beachy bites.
EAT: Southold General – Southold Downtown
What happens when a Michelin-starred chef opens a counter-service all-day cafe? This place. From eye-catching pizzas to artisanal meringue cookies, and so much more, Chef John Fraser brings the tastes of the North Fork to your mouth in the yummiest of ways.
Take your sandwich, salad, pizza slice or baked treat to a table outside in Albert Einstein Square. You might have to wait a bit – but it’s so worth it.
EAT: North Fork Table and Inn, Southold
Many claimed this to be the “best restaurant on Eastern Long Island” if not the whole of LI when it first opened. Now, revitalized by Michelin-starred, John Fraser, it’s a packed house every open night. A tough table to get for a reason.
EAT: North Fork Food Truck, Southold
This food truck sits in the North Fork Table and Inn parking lot. So, if you can’t get in to the fancy place, I recommend this easy to access open-air eatery. It’s got all the greats – hot dogs, BBQ Ribs, Lobster Rolls, and even something for your Vegan friends (Impossible Burger, Cauliflower and Tofu).
SNACK: Southold Fish Market, Southold
In addition to fresh-caught snapper, blues and other fish, this Fish Market offers Candied Salmon, one of the most decadent and addictive snacks on earth. Like potato chips, you can’t eat just one. (And you can console yourself with the idea that the Omega-3’s you’re ingesting offsets the sugar).
EAT/LUNCH: The North Fork Shack, Southold
Pulled Lamb and Cajun Fish Tacos are on the menu at this roadside Farm-To-Table spot, offering very unshack-like inventive and excellent fresh-fast-food.
EAT: A Lure Chowder House and Oysteria Southold
This fine restaurant overlooking the yachts at dock is worth the 5-minute drive from Greenport. Both the cuisine, with ingredients seemingly freshly plucked from land and sea, and the ambience is stunning.
Where to Stay on the North Fork
STAY: Lots of Options
There are plenty of charming B&B’s and a couple of boutique hotels in downtown Greenport. Stay at the funky Gallery Hotel, or at the latest American Beech Hotel – both on Main Street. Care to stay waterside? The Harborfront Inn is a sweet alternative.