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