Many South Forkers don’t take or have the time in the warmer months to visit Shelter Island and the North Fork, and many have not been there in years. Here are some ideas for a winter day-trip.
Those who want to take the South and North Ferries across “the Rock,” as Shelter Island is called by locals, should bring a camera and cash for the fare, and they should decide how far they want to explore. If venturing only to the island, or throughout the North Fork without a loop through Riverhead, a round-trip ticket should be purchased to save money.
A worthy excursion on Shelter Island is the Mashomack Preserve, managed by the Nature Conservancy. A short drive from the South Ferry, it encompasses a third of the island. There are 1, 3, and 11-mile trails to choose from, with some rarely seen trees, meadows, and shoreline vistas. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.
History buffs will find something to treasure at Sylvester Manor. Now called an educational farm, its 243 acres recently opened to the public. Monthly tours of the historic manor house began this winter. One of them, on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m., is called “Life, Labor, and Liberties,” about slavery at the manor from 1653 through the Emancipation Proclamation.
When it comes to grabbing a bite on the island, there are several year-round restaurants for all tastes and budgets. Most are conveniently located on the main road, Route 114, which goes from one ferry to the other.
Serving breakfast and lunch at an old-fashioned counter is the Shelter Island Heights Pharmacy. Stars Cafe has healthy dishes for sit-down meals or takeout. The Islander serves all three meals seven days a week, and Sweet Tomato’s Italian restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday, with brunch and lunch on Saturdays. Fish dinners are available Thursday through Sunday at Clark’s Fish House, a recent addition, and upscale dining is offered at Vine Street Cafe, La Maison Blanche, and 18 Bay.
A call ahead to restaurants to confirm hours is advisable, and has been requested by the waterside Dory bar and restaurant. The Eagle Deli is a takeout option for those who might want a scenic picnic at Wades or Crescent Beach.
After February, the Shelter Island Historical Society’s Havens House will open for tours and exhibits, as will Commander Cody’s Seafood. The Cornucopia Gift Shop is open year round for browsers. Maps of the island are available almost everywhere and offer more ideas of the off-season possibilities.
Those who plan to explore only Greenport can now take advantage of free parking at the North Ferry. You can board as a walk-on passenger for $2 each way and explore the village by foot. (Having a really good time? Be warned: The North Ferry’s last boat leaves the dock at midnight.)
Upon arrival in Greenport, on the left is the Long Island Rail Road station. Trains still run to the village, but on a limited schedule. They started arriving in 1844, assisting in the development of farming on the North Fork. Greenport would come to be known for its whaling, oysters, shipbuilding, and fishing. During Prohibition, it was a thriving center for rum-running. Visible reminders of the past can be found all over.
The newer Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, which will soon move to an expanded location farther west on the fork, welcomes visitors. Adult beverages are also served at a range of watering holes, from the saloon-style Whiskey Wind to the more upscale Noah’s or Cuvee Bar and Grill within the Greenporter Hotel, which is kicking off a happy hour called Winterfest Bites on weekends beginning tomorrow. It offers dinner and accommodation specials as well.
A favorite among the little ones is an antique carousel in the revitalized Mitchell Park on the waterfront. It was built in 1920 and donated to the village by the Northrop-Grumman Corporation in 1995. Rides cost $2, and for extra fun kids on the outside horses can try to grab brass rings as they pass.
The park also boasts an ice-skating rink, with $5 skate rentals and unlimited loops around the rink for $7 for those under 18 on weekends, $3 midweek. For adults, it’s $10 on weekends, $5 midweek. The carousel and skating rink will be open from at least 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. all week during winter break. The rink is open from 3 to 5 p.m. most school days.
Next door to the rink, Aldo’s Coffee is a favorite warm-up spot, offering hand-roasted and brewed coffee, handmade hot chocolate, and melt-in-your-mouth homemade scones. There are numerous restaurants to choose from in the maritime village, including the North Fork Oyster Company and First and South, which are not highly visible but within walking distance.
An agenda-free trip along Route 25 or Route 48, which runs parallel, will lead to farm stands, wineries, and boutiques. In Mattituck, Love Lane is surely worth a stop. The Village Cheese Shop is a sure thing for those with a taste for fondue, the Love Lane Sweet Shoppe is a must for gifts and sweets. Across the way is the newly opened BookHampton and Love Lane Kitchen, open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and its own roasted coffee. Mattituck Cinemas is in a nearby shopping center on Route 25, and Tony’s Asian Fusion offers happy hour specials on sushi as well as beer and cocktails.
More event listings can be found online at northforkchamberofcommerce. org and greenportvillage.com.