There are still a few weeks left to pass before calendars turn to the first day of summer on June 21, but this highly anticipated day arrives early on the East End. Counting down to Memorial Day, a swell of activity under the quieter surface is forming as warm weather routines set in. It may still be spring, but the draw outdoors says otherwise. Boats are docking, increasing in number as the days pass. Local events fill social calendars, both celebratory and charitable, and restaurants get to work finalizing culinary programs and details before opening doors again to anxious locals and bright-eyed visitors. Yes, the countdown to summer has begun now, if not weeks ago.
Before Memorial Day hits is the time to enjoy a quieter experience of popular North Fork goings-on. Beaches, trails, parks, and waterways are less crowded. Open restaurants can often seat your party without a reservation and a seat at your favorite bar is more manageable. It is a morning stroll along Greenport’s Mitchell Park with a cup of hot Aldo’s coffee, or enjoying a sunset along the rockier coastline of Orient Beach State Park, that Town & Country licensed associate real estate broker Nicholas Planamento suggests first time visitors experience to feel like a North Fork local. His long list of musts for now through the summer season include charitable events like the chicken barbecue dinner at the Cutchogue Fire Department, exploring local history that predates the founding of the United States at historical societies and museums, and visiting various East End destinations by boat, like Salt on Shelter Island or a day trip to Sag Harbor. Days and nights on the water, enjoyed responsibly, is one of his favorite ways to spend a warmer day.
The growth of the North Fork has led to a higher demand in the real estate market with property values on the rise. “Agri-business and agri-tainment, along with the hospitality and food-service based business are the backbone of the community, employing most people after the local schools, town government and hospitals,” Planamento says. “There is still room for growth as more and more people discover what makes the North Fork so special and those investors making their own mark. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: Build it and they will come.”
While this increase in popularity has its benefits, Planamento has found there is a sense of loss as a year-round community. The scales have been tipped with locals, sometimes generations old, losing their place as the area becomes more of a destination than a permanent place to live. If you can get in, however, townships that offer urban features like walkability and access to mass transit are more desirable, like the Village of Greenport. Now is the time to make a move to enjoy summers to come.
Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty real estate salesperson Bridget Elkin points out that second homeowners are attracted to Greenport in particular for its small but bustling commercial center. Whether just using homes on the weekend or living out here full time, homeowners can find a larger sense of community. To get a feel for the evolving dining scene, a foodie tour is a must on her agenda.
Getting on the water is another priority visitors must make. With a large boating community, this quintessential North Fork experience can be enjoyed now with cruises aboard the Peconic Star II to look for seals or take a trip to the locally famous Bug Light. Take a sunset sail aboard Sail Deliverance or rent a boat of your own for an afternoon from various marinas.
“The beauty that surrounds you in the Peconic Bay is stunning and gives you a completely different perspective of the North Fork,” Elkin shares of this favorited North Fork experience of being on or near the water. “Get in touch with the hardworking crew at Peconic Water Sports to plan your day on the water. Or, grab sandwiches at Fork and Anchor or the Orient Country Store and head to Orient Beach State Park for an easy and scenic picnic.”
Douglas Elliman real estate broker Jill Dunbar is an avid boater and Greenport resident. Noting agendas for visitors vary, she too finds value in exploring the natural wonders that the North Fork offers. From sandy bay beaches, like the one at the end of Indian Neck Lane, to sunsets on the Sound, the coastlines of New Suffolk, Cutchogue, Shelter Island, and Orient have earned her affections.
It’s not just the water that draws so many like Dunbar to the North Fork. Wineries and farm stands attract visitors well into the fall, while bucolic vistas and old roads are the idyllic routes of bicyclists’ dreams. Anticipating another happy North Fork summer, she credits a new wave of locals looking to make their mark.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the North Fork’s growth has been the influx of young entrepreneurs who are bringing new energy into the food and restaurant business, using local produce, seafoods and wines,” Dunbar explains. “Their vitality has spurred wonderful economic growth to the real estate market, for both commercial and residential properties.”
Other outdoor activities to be enjoyed before the start of summer are full moon hikes at Downs Farm Preserve in Cutchogue, a hike along the coastal trails of Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island, walks along the various beaches from Wading River east, paddleboarding and kayaking. Local farms have begun signups for CSAs while wineries prepare for a busy season once bud break comes along the vines. There are countless places to enjoy a cup of coffee, glass of wine, and a meal on the North Fork, which are even more enjoyable now before the season truly begins.