The North Fork of Long Island, long known for its potato farms and rural hamlets, has transformed into a collection of vibrant communities with an abundance of vineyards, fine restaurants and cultural attractions. From Riverhead to Orient Point, the North Fork borders the Long Island Sound on Long Island’s North Shore and offers more than 30 miles of beautiful tranquil beaches and secluded hideaways. The North Fork comprises the town of Southold and most of the town of Riverhead. Both were founded in 1640 as Southold Town, New York’s oldest “English Town.”
The North Fork has become a viticulturists dream. With over 35 licensed wineries currently operating on more than 3,000 acres, the North fork is one of the country's most exciting wine producing regions. After many years of near isolation, the region has become a popular destination for families, couples and anyone looking for a serene, relaxing getaway from the stress of daily life. Today, there are many seaside communities here, some with a distinctly New England feel–Connecticut lies just across Long Island Sound.
Offering some of the most desired zip codes and addresses, the East End of Long Island is a perfect summer destination. Though seasonally available, demand for luxury rentals peaks from late spring to early autumn, a gorgeous time to savor the natural splendor the island has to offer. Off-season rentals are ideal for spending the holidays amidst pristine and peaceful natural beauty. Waterfront estates with private beaches and gardens, large equestrian properties, charming cottages, and modern, loft-style condominiums are available for a season or for a short-term escape from the demands of urban living.
Like the South Fork, home of the well-known Hamptons region, the North Fork is a popular second home and vacation destination. The difference: The North Fork has a more rural feel: Think horse farms and neighborly fishing villages rather than lawn parties and celebrity-spotting. Another difference: Two main thoroughfares — rather than the solo Montauk Highway from New York City — make weekend travel easy.
In Peconic, amid acres of farmland, well-kept historic homes are perfect for those interested in the natural beauty of the island rather than summer hotspot revelry. In Riverhead, the Mount Sinai-Wading River-Ridge areas as well as Manorville are known for their residential neighborhoods. In Baiting Hollow, the secluded cottage community of Woodcliff Park is home to almost 200 quaint summer beach houses perched high above Long Island Sound. In the village of Southold you’ll find exquisite homes on acres of farmland. Orient is the easternmost point on Long Island and one of the island’s most picturesque spots. Here, you’ll find New England-style homes–many of which are seasonal vacation homes–spanning three centuries.
Peconic–named for Peconic Bay and once home to Albert Einstein–was a noted artists’ haven in the early 20th century. Riverhead is home to a year-round whirl of arts and cultural festivals including the Long Island Blues Festival, Garlic Festival, and the Polish Town Street Fair and Polka Festival for more opportunities to enjoy the island’s past and present. In recent years, Greenport has become somewhat of a haven for young creative types looking for a lifestyle change, giving the town a somewhat bohemian feel. On the third Saturday of every month in Greenport, art lovers gather and Greenport galleries stay open late for an evening of gallery-hopping during the Greenport Gallery Walk.
The North Fork offers many opportunities for fishing, crabbing, and clamming on the bay, the sound and the area’s many creeks and beaches. The areas known as “the race” and “the gut”–referring to the spot where the Long Island Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean–are among the world’s most rewarding spots for striped bass fishing. Orient State Park offers swimming, boating, golf and fishing. Golfers know Baiting Hollow for its 18-hole Fox Hill Golf and Country Club. Calverton Links in Calverton is another 18-hole golf course in the area. The 225-acre Jamesport State Park–in addition to offering a mile of pristine Long Island Sound beach frontage–is heaven for hikers and bird-watchers. The 200 acre North Fork Preserve is home to 20 miles of riding trails, tennis courts and hunting grounds.
The North Fork is known for its vineyards and wine culture, and wineries throughout the region are open year-round for tours and tastings. The region is currently home to over 30 vineyards and wineries stretching from Baiting Hollow to Southold, with new vineyards appearing more recently in Greenport and Orient. Grapes are the biggest crop in the traditionally agricultural hamlet of Cutchogue, where the first winery on Long Island was established in 1973. Peconic is home to five local wineries as well as The Tasting Room, which offers the wines of several North Fork vineyards.
Riverhead, at the juncture of Route 27 (to the South Fork) and Route 25 (to the North Fork) has been called “The marketplace for eastern Long Island,” offering a bounty of farm stands where you can pick–or buy–apples, berries, melons and peaches, eggplant, cucumber, peas and lettuce. For a more indoor pursuit, Tanger Outlet Mall, a 165-plus store discount outlet, is also in Riverhead.
North Fork beaches on Long Island Sound and Noyack Bay offer endless stretches of pristine sand. Orient is the easternmost point on Long Island and one of the island’s most picturesque spots. Honeymooners often find it to be an ideal romantic getaway spot. The tiny village, whose population swells in summer months, relies on nearby Greenport for most of its commercial needs. Orient State Park offers swimming, boating, golf and fishing in addition to a rare maritime forest with red cedar trees, blackjack oaks and prickly-pear cacti.
Fishers Island, 11 miles from Long Island’s tip and within two miles of Connecticut, is another popular summer destination with a tiny year-round population who frequents its one ice cream shop, restaurant, and cafe as well as two country clubs and a yacht club.
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