In past decades, Long Island’s North Fork was the forgotten sister of its glamorous sibling to the south that everyone always talked about: the Hamptons, the Hamptons, the Hamptons. But in recent years, savvy travelers have discovered the north for its unspoiled shoreline, superior wineries, farms and farm-to-table restaurants, and a relieving lack of crowds that come with them. The increased interest has also come with an increased quality of chefs, inns and wines produced in the region, along with great surprises in store for anyone who hasn’t driven (or taken the jitney) the couple of hours from New York City lately. Here are five reasons to visit:
Taste vintages at Kontokosta Winery
Rarely do tasting rooms and wines equally impress. The 62-acre winery in Greenport is the farthest east on the North Fork, and boasts views of the rocky bluffs and Long Island Sound from an expansive lawn. Both reds and whites are extraordinary here, and they taste even better in the sleek tasting room — exposed steel beams, floor-to-ceiling windows and copper communal tables were designed as a modern interpretation of a 19th-century barn.
Eat at the North Fork Table & Inn
North Fork Table restaurant, whose executive chef Gerry Hayden clinched a 2014 James Beard Award finalist nod for Best Chef: Northeast, is the standard-bearer for dining in the area. With an understated, comfortable dining room as the backdrop, Hayden’s team showcases refined American dishes that focus on local ingredients, including the area’s incredible seafood. Can’t score a dinner reservation? Catch the North Fork Table lunch truck in the inn’s parking lot every Thursday through Monday afternoon.
Visit Shelter Island
A 10-minute ferry ride (with your car or without) across Peconic Bay transports you to another world, one without traffic lights but with a drug-store lunch counter. Shelter Island rests between the North and South forks. There, you’ll find the Mashomack Nature Preserve for hiking and calm public spots like Sunset Beach for relaxing. But if you must visit the Hamptons, Shelter Island’s South Ferry is the easiest way to get there — simply drive from the northern part of the island to the southern to catch the boat. And if you’re up for an adventure, take the once yearly ferry from Montauk to Martha’s Vineyard on Aug. 10, returning on Aug. 12.
Stay at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn
Located on 22 acres of farmland, the restored inn was the 1863 home of the eponymous sea captain owner. Listed on the National Registry of Historical Places, Jedediah Hawkins Inn’s five rooms and one suite boast fireplaces and works from local artists such as Rob White. Its fine-dining restaurant, headed by executive chef Craig Attwood, is complemented by a speakeasy — we’re talking secret passageways and trap doors here — where casual small plates are offered. Book the Belvedere Suite, which has a private cupola with 360-degree views of surrounding vineyards.
Shop in Greenport
The village provides pleasantly walkable boutique shopping (jewelry, pottery, custom tees) right along the water and terrific restaurants for lunch (The Cheese Emporium by Bruce & Son) and dinner (Noah’s). And since you’re all the way out in Greenport, which is almost at the fork’s end, drive to the tip and visit Orient Beach State Park to swim, watch ospreys and great blue herons, fish, hike or kayak.