Some of the best vacations are those that don’t require a lot of travel, but make you feel like your home is a world away. The North Fork in Long Island, NY is that kind of place.
Located on the eastern part of the North Shore of Long Island, the North Fork is about 75 miles east of Manhattan. It’s not to be confused with its perhaps more famous neighbor, the South Fork, home to the ritzy Hamptons. No, it’s definitely not to be confused with the Hamptons, as any local will tell you!
The town of Riverhead is wear the land splits into two forks, and two very different forks they are. While the South Fork boasts beautiful beaches on the Atlantic, designer stores, and celebs one after the next, the North Fork is home to vast farm land, laid-back towns, smaller beaches on the Long Island Sound, and wine vineyards throughout the land. Lots and lots of vineyards! So many, in fact, that the North Fork is sometimes referred to as the Napa of the East Coast.
Due to its many farms, wineries, picturesque towns, and proximity to the water, the North Fork has all the ingredients of the perfect weekend away: good food, fine wine, fun towns to explore and r & r at the beach. I recently went on a girls’ weekend to the North Fork, and it was ideal for that time away from my kids. We went to wineries all day, ate at good restaurants, perused shops, caught sunset views of the Sound, and relaxed. It was perfect.
However, visiting the North Fork really is ideal for anyone. We saw couples, groups of friends like us, and families. Yes, we saw many kids – even at the wineries! It was clear that the North Fork is a very family-friendly place in that low-key vibe it seems to have, and any and all are welcome. That’s something we particularly loved about this area – just how welcoming and nice the people are. Everyone we met was so nice.
So where do you go in the North Fork? The biggest and most popular town is Greenport. This is where we stayed, at the Harborfront Inn, conveniently located in town and on a harbor. There is also the Sound View Inn, a 1950’s motel recently renovated and located on the Long Island Sound outside of town. The restaurant there, Halyard, is supposedly very good, with a Michelin star-rated chef. We, however, wanted to be in town and close to all the shops and restaurants.
Greenport is adorable, with a small-town feel, and funky shops and restaurants. There are antique stores, gift shops, home design stores and artisan shops to explore. We had some very good meals at the fun Mexican joint Lucharitos as well as Crazy Beans, a corner diner filled with 50’s style décor and comfort food that is perfect for soaking up all the wine after many a tastings. We also enjoyed a very good meal at the upscale, but fun, Noah’s. Known for their seafood, their tuna tartare was the best! Other restaurants that came recommended to us are Port Waterfront Bar and Grill, The Frisky Oyster, American Beech, and Little Creek Oysters. No matter where you go, you can pretty much count on having a good meal – that’s what this area is known for, after all – all its delicious food from the nearby farms.
Also located in Greenport is the ferry to Shelter Island, where you can either walk aboard or take your car, and explore the island. Shelter Island is located in between the North and South Forks and is a popular summer get-away. The ferry from Greenport takes just 7 minutes. People also enjoy going to the Antique Carousel, a carousel dating back to the 1920’s, located in the village green with views of the harbor. A perfect spot to take the kids. Another attraction is the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, where you can drink and have tastings of Greenport’s famous beer. Note it closes at 7 p.m., something we learned the hard way!
More North Fork Towns
Other towns worth checking out in the North Fork are Southold, Mattituck and Cutchogue. Southold is home to many wineries as well as the North Fork Table, considered by many to be the best meal in the area. Indeed the food is excellent, with the prices to match! It’s expensive, but the ricotta toast, autumn salad, tuna tartare, mushroom-infused pasta and tapioca pudding were all worth it. The food tasted such that it had just been delivered from the farm. If you don’t want to spend the money, they also have a food truck in their parking lot. Also make sure to eat at Erik’s Breakfast, the best breakfast in the area.
Plan to make a quick stop through Mattituck either on your way into the North Fork, or on your way out, and walk the tiny street of Love Lane. Once a river where lovers rowed through, Love Lane is now a charming little street with the cutest of food shops, artisan stores and the excellent Love Lane Kitchen. Another fabulous meal!
North Fork Wine Vineyards
Saving the best for last! Visiting the different wineries and doing wine tastings was the highlight of our trip. There are so many vineyards in the North Fork – 100? – that it’s impossible to not find any wines and vineyards you don’t like. One of our favorites was Kontokosta Winery on the outskirts of Greenport. It’s beautifully set on the Long Island Sound, with sweeping views, and the terrain is such that it almost feels like you’re in Northern California. Their Cabernet Franc Reserve is delicious – they are known for it – and and I happily walked out with a bottle. Come here for good wine, but also a spectacular setting.
We loved everything about Croteaux winery, an all-rose family-owned winery, with tasty wines and hefty portions, and fab ambience. The seating arrangements and outdoor space are the very definition of bohemian chic, and though it felt seriously Brooklyn hipster, it was nonetheless a super cool spot with great rose. And bottles – beautiful bottles that make for the perfect gift. My friend left with a case!
A lovely, idyllic vineyard on a family-run farm in the most serene of settings is Old Field Vineyards. Many people were out and about picnicking and soaking up the atmosphere and late afternoon sun. We weren’t crazy about the wine to be honest, but the farmland atmosphere was splendid.
We also enjoyed One Woman and Lenz and if we had had enough time wanted to see Bedell, Shinn and Macari. There are so many vineyards, however, and these are just some of them that came highly recommended to us by friends.
In case you are wondering, we took ubers to all the vineyards, and the pricing was totally reasonable. If you prefer the convenience of a private driver, your hotel can provide you with some names.
One of the North Fork’s main traits is its farmland. Going to farms for produce and seasonal eats and decor is a past time here. There are so many farms scattered about – just drive around and you will probably pass by 3 or 4 in 10 minutes. You can’t visit the North Fork without picking up some produce, so my recommendation is to hit some farms on your way back home, that way your purchases can stay fresh. We stopped by Briermere Farms in Riverhead to pick up some of their famous pies, among other things – I highly recommend!
Also, if visiting the North Fork in summer, you can see the beautiful lavender fields at Lavender By the Bay farm in East Marion.
We loved our visit to the North Fork. It’s not too far away from New York, yet you feel like you’ve completely gotten away. There is something about going around from vineyard to vineyard that truly makes you feel like you’re on vacation. I would recommend a weekend there to anyone – with or without kids – to drink the good wine, eat the good food, and wander the cute towns. It’s the perfect re-boot concoction.
Interested in other NYC weekend get-aways? Here are just a few of many of our posts:
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