Two days bracket the high season in Greenport, a centuries-old fishing village on the North Fork of Long Island: the last day of school, late in June, and Tumbleweed Tuesday, as shopkeepers and farm stand workers call the day after Labor Day. Spring, fall and the starkly beautiful winter offer their own pleasures on the lush vineyard-rich North Fork, but in summer that long spindle of land, and especially Greenport, with a population of about 2,000, bustles. The harbor fills with fishing boats, sails are hoisted, weekenders spill from train, ferries, cars and buses. The lures: local oysters, farm-to-table restaurants, wineries, country roads to stroll or bicycle along and water views all over the place.
Well-kept Victorian clapboards, gray-shingled saltboxes and white churches line Greenport’s streets; plaques mark buildings and sites significant to the compact village’s seaport history — a schoolhouse, jail and blacksmith’s shop among them. The snazzy Hamptons, with their beautiful ocean beaches, are only two short ferry rides south, but the laid-back, flip-flop vibe you’ll find in Greenport is a world away.
Get a salty jump on the weekend at Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market in an old bait and tackle shop.The oysters are local and so are the beers, many from the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company. You’ll get to know the people at the next table, whether you sit indoors or out; if you’re industrious do the shucking yourself. Prices vary by oyster and season, but figure about $3 an oyster and $8 a beer.Or stop in at Industry Standard, where from noon to 6 the drinks are $5 and so are the excellent burgers.
Stroll down Front Street to Burton’s Bookstore, a tidy space with many volumes about the North Fork, including coloring books of local landmarks, guides to flora and fauna, and a history of Greenport told through postcards, by David S. Corwin and Gail F. Horton.Looking for a beach book? You’ll find page-turners aplenty, including “The High Season,” a new novel by Judy Blundell set in the area.
From there wander Front Street and Main Street, to scout the quirky, local businesses (the village remains nearly free of retail chains).Every inch of Doofpot, for example, is laden with hand-painted Italian ceramics; Clarke’s Garden and Home has items for outdoor living, and you can sample olive oils at Vines & Branches. And yes, T-shirts and baseball caps adorned with fork insignias are plentiful.
Evan Bucholz greets everyone who walks into his speakeasy, Brix & Rye, with a big smile and a handshake. Sit at the bar and he’ll educate you in the wine he’s pouring, the bourbons on the shelf and the festive cocktail he knows you’ll like. A stirred or “shook” drink is about $12. There’s a menu too, with dreamy New Haven-style pizza ($16 or so, depending on toppings) from 1943 Pizza Bar, and terrific salads. Still hungry? Wander down Main Street to the Sandpiper Ice Cream Shop, where the homemade butter pecan is a standout. A single scoop is $5.
The late movie starts early at the mini-movie palace on Front Street so Shelter Islanders can make the last ferry home. Open just for the summer, the century-old Greenport Theater has survived fires and hurricanes, and was lovingly restored to Art Deco splendor a few years back.Check show times for summer popcorn movies, and don’t miss the short, endearing trailer about the theater’s own history.
A place whose history stretches back to the 1600s is full of old, repurposed buildings. You’ll find North Fork Yoga Shala on the second floor of a former Masonic temple, up the stairs from a secondhand furniture store.There’s no better way to unwind than to join the studio’s owner, Claire Copersino, on the mat for an unhurried 90-minute class in the soaring space, with birds chirping outside the windows. All levels are welcome. Drop-in price: $25.
Crazy Beans, a cheery, popular diner at the corner of Main and Front Streets, serves up substantial plates to fuel your day. What’ll it be: pancakes, omelet, homemade soup or chicken salad of the day? The sweet 1950s-era décor is nostalgia-inducing, even if you were born decades later.Expect to pay about $15 for a filling breakfast.
Take off by car or, better, by bicycle and head over the causeway (pull over for glorious views). On the other side you’ll find Orient, a village that predates the American Revolution. Peruse the free, well-curated exhibitions and period rooms of the Oysterponds Historical Society. Well-informed docents tell you about the building’s origins as an inn (where weary visitors sometimes shared one of the few beds with a stranger).Wander through rooms outfitted with furniture and table settings saved by the families who settled Orient, some of whose descendants still live there.
Stop across the street at the Orient Country Store for a salted oatmeal cookie ($2), soup or a sandwich, and sit on the porch and peruse the local news in The Suffolk Times.Meander among the shingled cottages, or wander up Narrow River Road to a small, evocative cemetery where a local couple was buried among the enslaved people who had worked for them in the 19th century.
Head to the very tip of the North Fork to Orient Beach State Park, just before the dock for the Cross Sound Ferry to New London, Conn. You’ll see birds in abundance — great blue herons, egrets and osprey, to name a few, feed and nest there.Take your water shoes: The beach is expansive, but the shore is lined with pebbles. Playground equipment, grills, trails and kayak rentals make this a relaxing spot for families.Vehicle entrance fee is $10 during peak season; $8 other times. Have you ever toyed with the notion of paddleboarding? The Greenport store One Love Beach offers rentals and lessons to get you started exploring inlets, harbors and waterways. Call 631-333-2064.
As you head back toward Greenport, stop off at Latham’s or Sep’s farm stands to ogle the produce, which starts in June with tender asparagus and strawberries and gets increasingly bountiful as corn, eggplants, radishes, tomatoes and zucchini join the riot. Lavender by the Bay in East Marion has acres of the sweetly aromatic plants, which, when its billowing purple blooms are at their peak in early July, draw visitors in droves.The craze is thanks in part to a 2000 Chinese movie called “Lavender,” a romance involving an angel and a grief-stricken young woman who travel to lavender fields in southern France.For those who can't get to France, the North Fork farm is the next best thing. Visitors have been known to re-enact scenes from the film. Wander the fields and breathe it all in. When the lavender is in peak bloom, admission is $9 for those older than 12.
There are dozens of vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms along the North Fork (try them on your own time; we’ve only got 36 hours here). Kontokosta, just outside Greenport, has one of the loveliest settings. Try a flight of its wines in the airy wood-and-glass tasting room overlooking a vineyard; walk out back for a prime view of the Sound over the bluff.
Newer Greenport dinner options have joined longtime establishments like Claudio’s (a good bet for lobster). Agave Grill and Cantina, for example, serves Mexican cuisine along with American-style dishes. (Dinner is about $120 for two.) The portions are generous, the room comfortable and the service warm.If you’re up for a view and a splurge, book early for Barba Bianca, a summer pop-up by the owners of Peasant in downtown Manhattan on a pier at the end of Main Street overlooking Peconic Bay. Ferries putter to Shelter Island and fishing boats bob while you make a meal of the inventive tastes. Try the ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers with saffron aioli. Seafood is the main event. About $150 or more for two. Plan on lingering over a bottle of the special prosecco.
Follow that coffee aroma to Aldo’s, a small-batch coffee roaster and daytime hangout. Try a scone with your latte ($4). There’s often a choice of one: raisin pecan($3.50). Across the street, Blue Duck Bakery Cafe also has coffee, blueberry scones and baked goods. Children will no doubt spot the antique carousel in nearby Mitchell Park and take you for a ride ($2).
Lively, colorful Lucharitos serves up excellent fish tacos,guacamole and more. If you’re not driving home, go ahead, have a frozen margarita. Or head over to First and South, sit on the comfortable porch and have a delectable cheeseburger with applewood-smoked bacon and local greens ($19).
Just west of Greenport, the Silver Sands Motel, which has its own beach and a pool,hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, and its devoted following likes it that way. Groups may want to reserve a cottage ($200-$300); others might prefer to stay in the refurbished motel ($175).
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