What to Do, Where to Eat, Where to Drink
The North Fork is summer personified. Situated on the East End of Long Island, the 30-miles peninsula is dotted with picturesque towns and wineries. Roadside farm stands offering fresh eggs and seasonal veggies are as common as taco trucks in East LA. The Instagram-worthy towns are reminiscent of scenes from Steel Magnolias. You can’t help, but wonder if everyone works on their yards 24/7. But no… even the vacant land is just as jaw-dropping. Think lush English garden vibes. Miles of mossy grass overflowing with wild flowers and ivy. The raw scent of nature soaks the air. Perfect for a weekend getaway from NYC, you won’t run out of North Fork things do.
A Lifelong Love Affair
I was born here, but moved to Florida before I felt like I actually lived here. Growing up, we would spend big chunks of summer enjoying it’s charms. I tried to describe it’s wonder to classmates back home, but words couldn’t describe its lure. I damned my parents for taking me away, but hey, Southold property taxes are steep.
My mom was born and raised in Southold. At that time, cabbage and potatoes farms ruled the land. Now, a burgeoning wine region, there are almost 50 beautiful wineries in their place. Score! Throughout my dreamy summers, I witnessed the transition. In a land where mom-and-pop stores reign supreme, big chains are practically non-existent. At first, we were worried that the posh wineries would push out the small businesses, but The North Fork has maintained it’s golden days structure.
To Swim or to Lobster
Surrounded by water, there are secluded beaches around every bend. On the South end of the fork, enjoy the Peconic Bay’s calm waters and sandy shores. The North side boasts the Sound, which feeds the ocean. The colder water is ideal for lobstering (bring shoes, the beaches are rocky). Keep in mind, many of my favorite beaches require a town permit. You can purchase a non-resident day pass or risk a fine, (like me), and just act like you belong. Albeit, there are many great beaches that don’t require a permit.
What to Do: North Fork Things to Do
- Lose yourself wandering around streets off the main road. Small lakes and ponds are scattered within the neighborhoods. Bring some bread and share with the ducks.
- Stroll the quaint shops in the seaport village of Greenport. Then, grab some sweets from the old-fashioned confectionery Sweet Indulgences to nibble on the 100-year-old carousel in Mitchell Park.
- Treat your nose to the summer lavender bloom at Lavender by the Bay in East Marion.
- Off the main road, keep your eyes peeled for sunflower fields. Pull over and enjoy the maze.
- Learn the art of oyster farming at Little Creek Oyster Farm in Greenport. Shuck your own oysters, bring some wine and enjoy at their outdoor fire pit.
Where to Eat: North Fork Restaurants
- Start your day right with a bacon, egg and cheese – yolk extra runny – from Sterlington Deli. Make room for an egg-everything bagel with scallion cream cheese. Don’t worry, no need to ask for extra cheese; New Yorkers know how to smear a bagel.
- Drive out to Orient Point and have lunch at Orient by the Sea. Situated on a lovely marina; savor a cold beer and take in views of the Orient Point Lighthouse and Plum Island.
- For dinner, you can’t miss Claudio’s Clam Bar. Nestled at the end of the wharf in Greenport, Claudio’s churns out top-notch dishes and live music. Go with a group and order everything. This is how Long Islanders do seafood. Simple preparations highlight the seafood. In lieu of a jazzy white wine cream sauce, steamers (my mom calls them pissers) take center stage in their natural broth spiked with aromatics.
- If you rent a house or have place to cook you can’t pass up a classic Long Island style seafood fest, which will make you feel like you genuinely live there. Growing up, we typically went to Braun’s, but on our most recent trip we hit up the Southold Fish Market (just as good). Grab some lobsters and their essential stuffies, then make like a local and pass time cracking lobsters. If you don’t have anywhere to cook your bounty, the Southold Fish Market makes prepared treats like lobster rolls too.
- At, Wayside Market, order my favorite: roast beef and provolone on a roll. The kaiser rolls are unrivaled and overstuffed; the roast beef is always rare.
What We’re Really Here: North Fork Wineries
With an endless supply of tasting rooms, it’s tough to choose. Most recently, we discovered Matabella Vineyards, an instant favorite. The idyllic grounds offer small bites, great wine, and interesting wine cocktails. Many North Fork wineries showcase live music, check out event schedules here. A few years ago, we did a winery bike tour with East End Bike Tours in Mattituck. Our tour guide was a bit of a nag, cue – “single file bikes!”; but I’m sure our wine-partying antics didn’t help. Though, if you are unfamiliar with the area it’s a nice way to explore.
Furthermore, breweries are starting to pop up along the North Fork. Checkout Greenport Harbor Brewing Company in Peconic, where you will find unique pours such as Berry OGB and Pith N Peel, a citrus IPA. It’s a great place to wind down after lunch. Outside, relive your childhood with cheeky games like life-size Jenga and corn hole.
- The Long Island Railroad stops at many towns along the main road and takes about three hours from NYC
- Fly into Macarthur Airport. It will take about an hour by car.
- From NYC it’s about a two hour drive. Coming off the Long Island Expressway you’ll first hit Riverhead. This is the only place on the fork where you will find regular supermarkets and department stores. Two main roads take you all the way to the East End, which takes about an hour. You’ll drive through many charming towns. When you get all the way to the end, you can hop on a short ferry to Shelter Island, which is another wonderland in itself. If you want to explore both forks, you can also ferry over to The Hamptons, but why would you want to leave? The North Fork’s relaxed vibes and rural charm really take the cake.
Read more about our mishaps navigating The North Fork here.