A Few Days In

The Ultimate, Everything-You-Need-to-Know Guide to This Summer on the North Fork

by Jeralyn Gerba
Photo Photo courtesy of Bedell Cellars.

A guide to Long Island’s North Fork as the region slowly, carefully re-emerges from coronavirus. A look at what’s happening under the guidelines of phase 2 and beyond.

Rules at Play

The country life calls. Unfortunately, when it comes to the East End of Long Island in New York, getting to that country life usually involves enduring one-lane highways filled with city commuter traffic. And while you won’t find the usual bumper-to-bumper summer Friday driving experience this year, if you can make it out during the weekdays, you’ll have the best chance of avoiding crowds and relaxing in a pleasant, socially distanced way.

Rules and guidelines are evolving, as are our appetites for controlled risk. Most of the suggestions on this list encourage making the most of summer living outdoors, which experts say is the best way to stay safe as the state opens back up. Note: Getting around the North Fork requires a car for day-trippers and summer residents alike. The LIRR is running, but there are no good public transportation options once you get out there.

Regarding the beach situation: As in the Hamptons on the South Fork, many beaches require a permit — seasonal for residents, daily for visitors — but there are a few public beaches everyone can enjoy. Locals generally swim in Peconic Bay and hang out on its sandy beaches during the first part of the summer and make the switch over to the Long Island Sound and its rocky beaches when the bay water gets too warm. Both bodies of water are generally calm, especially when compared to ocean beaches.

Many state parks and beaches are operating at a limited capacity and may have road closures to reduce traffic.

As always, go early to avoid any crowds. Wear a mask if you are around people. Give space to others. Check out 511 Alerts for up-to-date changes and information.

Photos courtesy of 8 Hands.
Summer bounty at 8 Hands farm store.

Find Solace on the Farm

The 30-mile-long peninsula has a long history of agricultural industries, including apple orchards, potato and sod farms, and – more recently — vineyards. Many multi-generational family farms are still in operation throughout the region, and visits to them remain the area's biggest attraction.

8 Hands Farm
One of our very favorite places has been meticulously navigating Covid for shoppers for months and has now reopened their shop for customers looking for high-quality pork products, charcuterie, prepared and homemade frozen foods (excellent cornbread, Asian slaw, pulled pork, ramen, empanadas), plus dairy and beautiful home products like lard soap. You can order their fantastic food truck eats online (toothsome breakfast sandwiches, notable smash burger) and eat at picnic tables outside. As you wait, watch the incredibly peaceful scene of sheep hanging out in waist-high fields of grass.

Garden of Eve Organic Farm and Market
Founded two decades ago by environmental advocates, the farm stand is now open daily, taking proper precautions for customer and staff safety. Produce, groceries, and prepared foods are indoors and spaced out for shoppers. Herbs, vegetables, and flowering plants are sold outside. The Fun Fields are open and include farm animals, a bounce pad for kids, a tube slide, and a pedal kart track. Pre-purchase tickets online or pay on arrival. The U-pick fields (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, sunflowers, lavender, corn, pumpkins) are being monitored for crowds at the moment, so it’s best to call ahead and see if you can harvest that day.

1760 Homestead Farm
Organized and mellow, with local pickle guys under a tent in one corner, a small farm shop with pies and jams in another, and healthy prepared items labeled Aki’s Kitchen (vegan soups and purees, pink horseradish, compotes, fresh juices) are sold in an open-air stand.

Latham Farms
Operating for the last 200 years with fruits, vegetables, and flowers in Orient Point, this far-to-the-east farm has fields that run from the Long Island Sound to Gardiner’s Bay, and the produce is all the better for it. The views are lovely as well. The stand, on the main road, has big hand-painted signs for blueberries, strawberries, fresh-picked flowers, or whatever bounty they’ve brought in that day.

KK's The Farm
The terrific, family-owned biodynamic and organic farm jars, pickles, and sauces their produce, ensuring farm-fresh tastes well beyond the summer picks of heirloom produce, plants, and flowers.

Fix It with Pie

Briermere Farms
The lines are long — circle back if it’s too crowded or feels too jumbled to adhere to proper social distancing. However, if you can sneak in and get your hands on the epic peaches-and-cream pie, you’ll surely eat half of it on the car en route to your next destination. Check the farm stand’s Facebook page for updates on hours and offerings, as they’ve been selling out quickly.

Hallock’s Cider Mill
Berries and produce grown on their farm, plus chowders, jams, and cookies. For the record, their key lime pie is excellent. Kids will marvel at the beautiful gnome houses in the funky fairy world on display in the backyard.

Photo courtesy of One Woman Wines.
Photo courtesy of Bedell Cellars.

Soak Up Your Emotions with Wine and Real Food

Most Long Island wineries have plenty of outdoor space for socially distanced seating arrangements. Everyone will be adhering to safety guidelines. Expect to make advanced reservations, limit your group to six people, and get ready to have your temperature taken.

The Old Field Vineyards
Outdoor tastings are the new normal, and it's quite bucolic. Chickens, ladybugs, and dragonflies roam freely among wildflowers and leafy trees. Grapevines are hand-pruned and hand-harvested. Wine tastings are first-come, first-serve at tables spaced wide apart, though time is limited to 75 minutes in order to accommodate the flow of visitors. You are welcome to bring lunch, as long as you take your refuse with you. Curbside pickup is also available.

One Woman Wines
There are actually two women behind One Woman Wines, a mother and daughter in Southold with roots in the Calabrian farming tradition. Planting acres of seed by hand and meticulously tending to the vines over years yields a variety of wines that feel like a nurturing embrace. The tasting room is open from Thursday to Sunday for bottles to go. Bottles to stay will happen outdoors on a first-come, first-serve basis for small groups of no more than six.

Bedell Cellars
Family-owned — and the grounds are highly Instagrammable. They’re offering tasting flights and a la carte snacks, with no reservations required.

RGNY
A family of winemakers with Mexican roots and a great design sensibility. Reservations are recommended for visits to their lush grounds. They’ve been doing contact-less vineyard experiences, where you order online — flights (from their range of sparkling, white, and red), cheese boards, tasting baskets — and partake in socially distanced seating areas.

Palmer Vineyards
Make reservations or try walking in for daily flights and bites at spaced-out picnic tables overlooking the vines.

Diliberto
Cribbing from the Old World vineyards of Campania, Italy, and going a bit beyond tastings by also offering yoga classes (Vinyasa in the Vines, anyone?) on Saturdays throughout the summer.

This beautiful thing courtesy of Pizza Rita.

Pizza Rita
Neapolitan sizzle and thin, crispy pizzas found at this Mattituck outpost, now serving Thursday to Sunday, from noon to 9 p.m. Top-notch ingredients (both locally sourced and imported from Italy), a wood fire, and a fine, chewy crust make these fancy pies pop. Try saffron marinara and fried calamari, ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms with mozzarella, or hot capicola with basil and DOP San Marzano tomatoes.

North Fork Table and Inn
After a six-month renovation, a shiny new version of the beloved farm-to-fork restaurant is ready to go. New additions include landscape design (specimen trees, Italian marble sculptures), fresh country aesthetics, and two outdoor dining areas under the shade of Japanese maple and walnut trees. NYC chef John Fraser is at the helm, psyched to highlight local produce, seafood, and wine. Menu items include poached black bass, braised Long Island duck, creamy polenta with husk cherries. Normally a 64-seater, the restaurant will be operating at 50-percent capacity in keeping with this summer’s safety rules. 

Yes, he recreated the North Fork Table and Inn food truck, too. It will be open daily as of July 8, 2020, and you can eat at picnic tables spaced out on the lawn out back. Order lobster rolls and sandwiches online ahead of time for pick-up.

The Frisky Oyster
The dining room at this elegant little American bistro in Greenport is open at half capacity, but you can fill up on more than your fair share of mollusks on the half shell, not to mention delicate salads, summer soup, vegetable ramen, and tomahawk ribeye steak frites for two.

Fork & Anchor
The charming grocer in East Marion has online ordering for pickup and delivery and hearty prepared foods suited for a picnic (fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw).

Little Creek Oysters
A rickety little U-shuck oyster spot in a bait-and-tackle shop in Greenport is exactly the kind of place you come to dream about on hot summer days. Kick back with a dozen on the half-shell and cold beer; chowder, chili, and hot dogs cover the rest of the summer food groups.

Maldutis natural habitat near Goldsmith's Inlet. Photo courtesy of Peconic Land Trust.

Bask in the Great Outdoors

The Peconic Land Trust works tirelessly to conserve and bring stewardship to thousands of acres of land on Long Island. They have a great list of programs and sites for birdwatching, hiking, studying nature, sailing, fishing, and becoming a farmer.

Hallockville State Park Preserve is a relatively new shorefront park preserve with nearly one mile of pristine beachfront on the north shore of Long Island, plus 225 acres of woodland between Riverhead and Southold. Take an hour to walk a well-maintained trail, observe migrating birds, or let the kids roam in the fields.

The nearby Hallock Museum Farm, a non-profit learning center dedicated to LI’s family farming roots, is hosting a few drive-in concerts this summer, with guests sitting in their parked cars tuned into a station playing bluegrass music performed live from the top of the barn. Make reservations in advance over the phone. Right now, their country fair and craft show is still on for August.

Iron Pier Beach in Jamesport and South Jamesport Beach on Peconic Bay are public beaches with lifeguards, outdoor showers, handicap accessibility, and ample parking. They are particularly good for small children.

Orient Beach State Park on the very easterly tip of the North Fork is a state park with awesome shoreline views of Gardiner’s Bay. (Inspiration for many a Billy Joel ballad.) There are biking trails, kayaking access, picnic tables, and a beach.

Goldsmith Inlet Country Park on Mill Lane is a cute, uncrowded bay beach with ospreys and kingfishers and a quiet, beautiful inlet that runs from the beach to a saltwater pond.

Dried herbs for sale. Photo courtesy of Morning Sun Shop.

Shop Small and Local

It's a mixed bag of happenings, as small stores make sense of new rules and safety protocols with limited resources. Be patient and nice and call or email ahead of time for curbside pickup and shipping options.

Morning Sun Shop
A brand new, curated farm stand/general store opened to combat these collectively dark times. Brighten your day (or someone else's) with gifts of locally made sea salt, cider, tea, and ceramics, as well as beautiful produce and pies you can order in advance by DM.

RICA Bath + Body
Insanely soothing creams, lotions, butters, and other "comfort foods for the skin" made in Brooklyn with ingredients sourced (when possible) from farms on the North Fork. COVID-19 hours are not set, so call before visiting.

White Flower Farmhouse
Beachy, airy, farmy vintage furnishings and finds (lots of linen, lots of white) restocked weekly. Currently open seven days a week.

North Found Antiques
Vintage general store vibes with reclaimed, pre-loved, nicely curated homewares and objects. It's currently closed for renovation, but you can follow designer Hadley Wiggins on Instagram for inspiration and opening announcements.

Artwork by Frank Frances for @loveattheendmtk.

Show Up for Change

Peaceful vigils, marches, protests, and gatherings for the Black Lives Matter movement are happening regularly all over the East End. Some of the action can be found around Greenport's Clinton Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, Cochran Park, and various parks in the Hamptons (i.e. Hook Mill in East Hampton, Agawam Park in Southampton, John Steinbeck Memorial Park in Sag Harbor). Indyeastend.com seems to be reporting on scheduled events. East End Beacon is also reporting on demonstrations in the area. Check out your local edition of Patch, too. Follow @loveattheendmtk for info regarding a July 6 march (3-5 p.m. in Montauk) and awesome BLM poster art by Frank Frances Studio. If you're interested in getting involved on a larger level, reach out to the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force.

There are reports on the East End, particularly in the towns, that people are acting like yahoos, not wearing masks, and not complying with social distancing rules. Keep it safe for yourself and others. Throughout the month of July, novel coronavirus testing is available at Brecknock Hall on the Peconic Landing property Mondays and Tuesdays, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. by appointment (call 631-477-5121).

The four-room South Harbor Inn. Photo courtesy of South Harbor Inn.
The sitting room at South Harbor Inn.

Escape Overnight

Everything may seem pricey for what it is … because of proximity to New York City and Hamptons. Read the travel advisories and safety precaution notes so that you feel comfortable before booking. Many hotels have extra flexible reservation policies these days, and it won't hurt to get on the phone with the hotel to fully understand the ins and outs of travel as different cities, counties, and regions are following slightly different protocols. Best to be fully prepared.

South Harbor Inn, Southold
Four guest rooms in a 19th-century fancy farmhouse, available for longer-term stays and buyouts. The local couple who runs the place has a background in luxury hospitality, and it shows: Services and amenities feel special and elegant.

The Preston House and Hotel, Riverhead
Twenty rooms, industrial furnishings, in-room dining, expanded use of outdoors (including at the restaurant), and restricted capacity at the pool (up to ten people at a time).

The Lin Beach House
, Greenport
Eight bedrooms, boho femme vibe, beachside backdrop, sister to bespoke Matchbook Distilling Company.

Aqua by American Beech, Aquebogue
Eighteen young and fun suites and a private beach on the Peconic Bay. The lawn has fairy lights, games, plenty of sofas for lounging, and a bar.

Sound View, Greenport
Updated roadside motel with an extremely cozy lobby lounge overlooking the water, a cute bar with an inviting piano (speaking of Billy Joel), a socially distanced dining room, and a waterfront pool. A new reservation-only tiki-torched seating area on the beach ensures maximum cocktail enjoyment with minimal crowds.

Undeniably addictive. Photo courtesy of North Fork Chips.

Stay Put: Get into the North Fork Groove From Home

The Mattituck potato farmers who make the superlative North Fork Potato Chips snacks have been hard-hit by the pandemic. The silver bags are calling your name. Get a case!

Though the tasting room is closed, you can order Macari Vineyard’s Stay at Home 6-Pack.

Likewise, RGNY has a series of wine survival kits that make for a fun quarantime.

Fairview Farm at Mecox uses uniformly frozen fruit that is picked at the height of season for fruit pies that are neither gloppy nor overly sweet. Also, they use lard in the crust, which is old-school and excellent. Pick some up on your way home: These come frozen, ready to be reheated at home during second-wave doldrums.

North Fork Roasting Co.'s Namast'ay Home Blend is a Mediterranean roast that encourages you to stay alert and stay home. A percentage of proceeds benefit the CAST (Community Action Southold Town) food pantry launched during the pandemic. They ship right to your door.

Read More About the North Fork and Hamptons

Fathom's Guide to Long Island's East End