This village on Peconic Bay has quietly grown into a bona fide boating destination that welcomes vessels large and small. By Malerie Yolen Cohen; Photography by Caryn B. Davis
Historically, the North Fork of Long Island has been sleepy and rural, lacking the dazzle of the celebrity-rich South Fork Hamptons. But that’s changing quickly, as evidenced by the village of Greenport, which overlooks beautiful and protected Peconic Bay. Some nine miles west of Orient Point Light, Greenport is served by five marinas and makes an attractive daytrip or weekend destination for boaters, especially those launching from Connecticut.
Greenport’s two main streets are chock full of great eateries, adorable boutiques and small but enriching museums. However, the best news for boaters is the creation of a lovely waterfront park, complete with a public marina for transients and a historic carousel.
“Bug Light”—the affectionate name for Orient Long Beach Bar Lighthouse—marks the entrance to Peconic Bay. The bay stretches 20 miles from Riverhead to Shelter Island, at its easternmost point, and remains one of the most idyllic boating spots in the world. Channels are deep and wide, and even the small inlets and coves have enough water at low tide to accommodate larger vessels.
Enveloping the bay are the long, protective arms of Long Island’s North and South Forks. Boasting rich soil and the longest growing season on the Northeast seaboard, thanks to moderate coastal temperatures and climate patterns, the North Fork is a farmer’s dream. Indeed, the area is best known for its agriculture, most notably the growing of grapes for wine making. Numerous independent wineries have sprouted in the last few decades, and most offer tours and tastings. Wine has brought tourists, who have attracted restaurateurs and merchants, and viola: the North Fork, ascending.
From Bug Light you can easily spy the Orient Yacht Club, which occupies a building that was once used to store and offload potatoes grown on nearby farms. Opposite the eastern tip of Shelter Island, you can pull into charming Gull Pond—a favorite paddling spot and the site of Greenport’s only boat launch—and Stirling Basin, where Brewer Greenport Marina, Brewer Stirling Harbor Marina and Townsend Manor Marina are located. All three are within walking distance of downtown Greenport.
Directly on the harbor, opposite Shelter Island, are two more marinas: the transient-only Mitchell Park municipal marina and Claudio’s. The former is newly festooned with a contemporary enclosure for its antique carousel, a funky camera obscura building and a broad lawn used for concerts and community events. If you’re here for the day or staying overnight, it puts you within steps of the local shops and restaurants.
And museums. Anyone interested in local maritime history will want to visit the East End Seaport Museum, which contains the original Fresnel lens from Little Gull Light and scads of information on the history of Long Beach Bar Light. Other exhibits focus on Greenport’s shipbuilding past. Local builders not only turned out gorgeous yachts and fishing vessels, but also landing craft and mine sweepers during World War II.
On the second floor, another exhibit pays homage to Claudio’s Restaurant, which was opened in 1870 by a Portuguese sailor and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Berthed behind the museum is Fire Fighter, a 1931-built New York City fireboat that was recalled to service on 9-11. It’s now in the process of being restored, and serves as a floating museum.
Adjacent to Fire Fighter is the venerable Peconic Star II, a 150-person charter fishing vessel also used by the East End Seaport Museum for its Bug Light cruises and tours. On the other side of Mitchell Park, Claudio’s Marina is part of the aforementioned seafood restaurant, which encompasses an upscale restaurant and the more laidback Claudio’s Clam Bar on the wharf. The next pier over is Preston’s Dock, attached to the historic Preston’s Marine Supply, which dates back to 1880 and sells everything from T-shirts to rigging materials to kayaks.
Preston’s is also where you’ll find the electric-powered vessel, Glory. Co-owned by Captain David Berson (former skipper of the schooner Harvey Gamage out of New York City) and Andrew Rosen, the 1990-built, 30-foot reproduction of an Elco launch is the only electric-powered vessel on Long Island designed for passenger service. Berson and first mate Max, a champion bichon frise, give daily tours of the harbor and Peconic Bay in season.
As someone who has sailed the world over, Berson considers Peconic Bay one of the most exquisite—though lesser-known—cruising grounds on the planet, seemingly custom made for recreational boaters. “It’s nicely protected, with a sandy bottom and prevailing winds from the southwest,” he points out.
On his tours, Berson takes visitors along the working waterfront and talks about the history of the area and its inhabitants. “Greenport has 2,100 year-round residents. It’s a hard-working, working-class community,” he says proudly. Although that, of course, is changing, a fact not lost on the witty Berson, whose business banner reads: “Artisanal, Locally Sourced, Bay-to-Boat, Hand-Crafted, Free-Range, Seasonal Tours Aboard Glory with Vine-Ripened, Barrel-Aged Captain.”
Proof of Greenport’s gentrification is plain to see on a walk down Main and Front Streets, which are lined by high-end, upcycled, country-cool homegoods stores like the Weathered Barn, Mercantile and dozens of other unique boutiques. Stand in line for a meal at the Frisky Oyster, Noah’s or the shuck-your-own Little Creek Oyster shack and you’ll most likely notice a certain well-heeled clientele from NYC, many of them in town to purchase wine from one of the 50 area wineries, or perhaps to buy property while it’s still cheaper than in the Hamptons.
Once the weather cools and the majority of tourists leave, however, resident North Forkers revel in the area’s quiet beauty. And there’s still plenty to do, as winery tasting rooms, local shops and some inns remain open deep into the fall. It’s another good reason to keep your boat in the water longer this year!
Greenport Names & Numbers
Dockage, Moorings & Service
On Greenport Harbor
Mitchell Park & Marina (631) 477-2200
Town-managed, transient-only marina with deep-water dockage for large vessels. Open mid-May to Labor Day. Offers showers, WiFi, water, power and pump-out.
Claudio’s Marina (631) 398-4359
Deep-water slips with power, WiFi, showers, on the Greenport waterfront.
On Stirling Harbor
Brewer Stirling Harbor Marina (631) 477-0828
Slips for vessels up to 90 feet, pool, showers, restaurant, laundry, fuel, fitness center, marine supplies and free shuttle to town.
Brewer Yacht Yard at Greenport (631) 477-9594
Full-service boatyard and marina with 200 slips, showers, laundry, ice, supplies, on-site restaurant, pool and transport to town.
Resort facility with high-end accommodations for boats up to 60 feet.
Gull Pond Beach (Norman E. Klipp Park)
Two-lane ramp with tie-up float and parking near Gull Pond Inlet.
Eagles Neck Paddling Co. (631) 765-3502
Kayak and paddleboard rentals, along with guided tours of Peconic Bay.
Where to Eat
Claudio’s (631) 477-0627
A Greenport institution overlooking the harbor. Specializes in “old school” seafood fare.
Noah’s (631) 477-6720
New American cuisine with emphasis on inventive small plates made with locally sourced ingredients.
Frisky Oyster (631) 477-4265
Upscale American bistro cuisine served in a fun “hipster” atmosphere.
Lucharito’s (631) 477-6666
Authentic Baja-style Mexican cuisine.
Brix & Rye (631) 477-6985
Old-timey cocktails and New York-style pizza served in a “speakeasy” setting.
Stirling Sake (631) 477-6782
Wide variety of artisanal sake and authentic Japanese food.
Aldo’s (631) 477-6300
Block Island boaters will be familiar with Aldo, whose Greenport bakery specializes in fine roasted coffee and pasteries.
The Weathered Barn (631) 477-6811
Locally crafted jewelry, home and gift items.
Mercantile North Fork (862) 333-9036
Home furnishings and housewares with an urban farmhouse flare.
Things to See & Do
East End Seaport Museum (631) 477-2100
Compact Greenport maritime and community history museum.
Tours Aboard Glory (631) 477-2515
Enjoy and informative tour aboard Long Island’s first and only electric-powered launch.
Fire Fighter Fireboat Museum (631) 333-2230; americasfireboat.com
Historic NYC fireboat and floating museum.
Peconic Star II (631) 875-2631; peconicstarboats.com
Sport fishing charters and lighthouse tours in and around Peconic Bay.
Mitchell Park Carousel (631) 477-2200
Historic merry-go-round open daily in season. A bargain at $2 per ride!
Kontokosta Winery (631) 477-6977
Sample fine wine in a stunning setting overlooking Long Island Sound.