Exploring Long Island’s East End

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Space bear! This little guy was in a vending machine at the movie theater in Ronkonkoma.

By Caitlin Kelly

It’s hard to believe that this lovely bit of the state is only a few hours’ drive east of crowded, crazy New York City, not my favorite place in the hot, humid and smelly summer.

Long Island — lying to the southeast of the city’s five boroughs — on its north shore devolves as you keep moving northeast, away from wealthy suburban enclaves to the endless vineyards of the East End.

We stayed for five days in Islandia, (where my husband Jose was photo editing the U.S. Open nearby), and I went off exploring alone every day from there.

In about an hour’s drive — headed northeast on what’s known as the North Fork, I retreated a few decades to flat green fields, weathered shingled houses and left the suburban chain-store sprawl far behind.

This diner in Cutchogue was perfect!

 

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Built in 1941, its prices were the lowest I’d seen in years. I had blueberry pancakes with sausage on heavy diner china; if you go, it closes at 3pm.

 

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I managed to miss the turnoff to Route 48 and ended up driving instead on 25, which was slower and much prettier, passing white churches and farm stands and fire halls and schools — and two llamas!

I spent a few hours exploring Greenport, which is lovely and filled with elegant shops and restaurants. One sells an astonishing array of hand-painted Italian pottery and Murano glass, and some amazing high-end costume jewelry.

 

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The area is so gorgeous I started looking at real estate prices. Hah! The lowest-priced house was $525,000.

I pushed on to the literal end of the road in Orient, the furthest northeastern tip of the Island, and was so glad I did. The town has 743 residents, settled in the 17th century, making this part of the state one of its oldest.

 

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For $8, I visited Orient State Park and lay on the beach, savoring only the soothing sounds of wind and waves. The place was virtually empty, and the road in is lined with osprey nests and huge signs warning drivers to look out for box turtles.

I came home with a handful of the most beautiful white stones, smooth as eggs, as a souvenir.

Here’s a tips-filled, links-packed guide to the region from Vogue, 2017.

 

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These Hamptons estates range from $29.5 million to $35 million. Welcome to 1-percent-world!

I also drove southeast one day to Westhampton, one of the legendary Hamptons on the Island’s South Fork — filled with enormous mansions, some of which rent seasonally for tens of thousands of dollars. Whew! The parking lots were full of Range Rovers, Mercedes and a Maserati, a very moneyed crowd.

 

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A hanging flower basket in Westhampton. Love these colors!

But I had a great day — lunch at the Bakery Cafe, a bit of shopping and people were friendly and welcoming.

I spent another day in the nothern side hamlet of Stony Brook, and drove its tree-shaded Harbor Drive, peeking through the woods at massive mansions facing the water. So beautiful! Had a great lunch at Crazy Beans, twice, in a low, white-shingled shopping center built in 1941 that includes elegant outdoor tables and benches, shady umbrellas and even a waterfall.

The town holds Avalon Park, a large pond that’s home to so many birds! I saw swans, ducks, cormorants, heron.

 

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Near Stony Brook is this amazing bit of history — a general store from 1857 still in operation.

It was a really relaxing break and left me eager to return.

11 thoughts on “Exploring Long Island’s East End

  1. Sounds great. I love and miss going on lazy country rambles like that where it seems that time has stopped, where folks are friendly and you can sit in a diner and have a simple meal and not break the bank. In fact, I might just do that this August in Ontario. I was telling my colleague yesterday that she should go to Montreal, and then I looked at the exchange rate on the internet and nearly fell off my chair. The Canadian dollar has plummeted! One dollar CAD is worth 0.646 Euro. I’ve never seen it so low. Is this because of the trade spat between Trump and Trudeau???

    In any case, it’s a perfect time for Europeans to visit Canada. If I do go to Ontario in August, I’ll do just what you did. I want to visit the towns and villages where we used to have our family farm between Campbellford and Warkworth. Carefree summer days, cruising down the backroads past the fields and farms and stopping off at roadside stands to buy fresh corn, fruit, etc.

    1. No idea what the Canadian $ is doing — right now focused on health issues.

      My Dad had a house in Port Hope for 4 years so we got to know that area a bit — the town even still has a drive-in. On our last visit we took a long long drive at sunset along Lake Ontario. It was gorgeous.

  2. It’s so important to break out of our norm–especially for those of us who write. To soak it all in so we can spew it out in some form of creativity. I just spend a week in Cape Cod–loved it. The slower pace. The ponds. The bookstores. Your trip looks really great . . .

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