Port Jefferson is known for its Christmas Dickens Festival and overall quaint vibe, but the village was once home to a thriving shipbuilding industry, and its harbor was home to hundreds of whalers and other seamen (and perhaps ladies). It's still a hot spot for recreational boaters, and anyone can enjoy the village's nautical treasures. Plus, the ferry to Connecticut leaves from its harbor.
Here's a suggested itinerary for a family-friendly summer day trip:
1. Start with a walk through the newly developed Harborfront Park. Begin at the statue of a seaman in front of Danfords and travel along the water's edge where the view of the boats in the harbor is gorgeous and small signs describe the area's history. Side note: the village shows movies and hosts al fresco concerts on certain summer nights (schedule at portjeff.com).
2. Head across the street to the child-centric Maritime Explorium, where the littlest visitors can climb into a play boat and get their hands on sailing implements to better understand nautical culture (1-5 p.m. weekends, $5 admission; 631-331-3277, maritimeexplorium.org).
3. Take a late lunch outdoors at The Steam Room (631-928-6690, steamroomrestaurant.com), where a hearty cup of seafood bisque for $3.50 or a bowl of mussels for $7.95 will fill you up at your picnic table while you watch the ferry load passenger cars. Hands over ears when the ferry's loud horn blows announcing boarding time.
4. Go on a sunset sail on a chartered fishing boat. The Celtic Quest (631-928-3926, celticquestfishing.com) and the Osprey (631-331-4153, ospreyfishing.com) head into the Long Island Sound to fish for porgies at this time of year. Don't worry if you're short on skills -- the staff will help you bait and pull in the catch, and will even fillet the fish for you to take home. Make reservations in advance. Both boats offer late afternoon four-hour trips for about $45.
5. It's about 9 p.m. -- time for a drink or some ice cream, depending on your mood. Danfords has a great deck on the water and a beautiful inside bar where you can still see the harbor (631-928-5200, danfords.com). For ice cream, try The Port Jefferson Frigate, (631-474-8888, portjeffersonfrigate.com) where you can get candy, too. You'll know it by the huge ice cream cone hanging above the door.