Stony Brook Harbor may be an area small in size, but it's loaded with shopping and dining opportunities and chances to take in nature, from both the land and the water. It’s a mostly quiet village — walk around the Stony Brook Village Center and you’re likely to hear seagulls shrieking and wind chimes ringing. It’s a peaceful place to bring the family to explore.
Stony Brook Village isn't just rich in shopping and nature stops. It's bustling with historic sights, like the Stony Brook Grist Mill, a still-operating flour mill that dates back to the 1700s. Make your own walking tour out of dropping by the mill — across from Avalon Park. Though interior tours are currently suspended, people are still able to wander outside the grounds. The mill generally operates noon to 4:30 p.m., Saturday to Sunday, from April through October (100 Harbor Rd.; 631-751-2244).
A stroll deeper into the village, toward the shopping hub, will bring you to The Stony Brook Post Office, which is sure to give the kids a brief but likely delight. Stand outside the facility any time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to see the U.S. bald eagle perched atop its pediment flap its wings. Children and adults alike are known to stand around to catch the action (129 Main St.; 800-275-8777).
Walk carefully across Main Street, down a slight hill along the creek between Mill Pond and Stony Brook Harbor. There, you'll find an open-air shelter that houses the figurehead of the USS Ohio, a ship first launched in May of 1820 before being destroyed in 1884. Known as Hercules Pavilion, you'll notice the figurehead has a colorful likeness of Hercules. It was acquired by the in the 1950s by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization. The site also holds a whaleboat believed to have come from the Polaris, which took part in an arctic expedition back in 1871. The anchor from the Ohio is also planted in front of the shelter. It's known for its photo-ops.
An afternoon in Stony Brook Village can quickly pass by shopping the many specialty offerings. Take Village Coffee Market, where the shelves are filled with more than 160 varieties of flavored K-Cups and more than 40 different ground and whole bean coffees. This village has shops that'll excite the kids, too.
A shop for sweets, customers are welcome to stop into Chocolate Works and choose from a large selection of chocolates, candies, frozen cocoa and fudgy smoothies. If you and your little ones would like to stay and snack, there are some indoor tables with board games in a corner that are available for play. The shop also holds private workshops 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (reservations required); options include making and decorating a chocolate mold ($15) or making a “chocolate pizza” ($20). The shop is located at 143 Main St.; 631-675-9366.
Cottontails carries high-end toys, kids' clothing and gift items. Among the many super-cute things to buy, head to the rear of the shop where books are located to find all 26 letters of the alphabet turned into tiny train cars which can be used to create trains that spell out names. Board games and science kits are also for sale, as are soft mermaid dolls and lots of plush animal toys (113a Main St.; 631-689-9147).
You'll want to note the Educational & Cultural Center Gift Shop (97 Main St.) that carries a variety of toys, games and edibles is currently closed. However, one of its more popular items to buy are the selection of jams sold there — and if you really want some, call 631-751-2244 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to order. Curbside pickup and shipping for a variety of clothing and accessories are also available.
Avalon Nature Preserve (200 Harbor Rd.) is free and open to the public. This (leashed) dog-friendly nature space has over 200 acres of wetlands, forest and meadows, as well as wildlife to watch and trails to try. Watch for art installations and a labyrinth; just keep in mind that the preserve’s boardwalk entrance is closed due to construction as are trails east of Rhododendron Drive; patrons are asked to enter from either Rhododendron Drive or Shep Jones Lane.
Perhaps the most-utilized free activity in the village is T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond and Park. The massive pond on the corner of Harbor Road and Main Street is perfect for spotting ducks, geese and swans. Fratelli’s Italian Eatery (located in the Village Center) has some bird feed for sale — feeding bread is prohibited. Even if you don’t toss anything to the birds, they will frequently walk right up to you, so tread lightly. You'll need to join the Mill Pond Fishing Club, a private organization, to do catch-and-release fishing at the pond. Annual memberships for those age 16 and older are $40 ($15 for younger); memberships may be limited. Call 516-315-2122 for more information.
Down the road, the waters of Stony Brook Harbor twinkle in the sun and offer divine shoreline views. Stony Brook Harbor Kayak and Paddleboard Rentals offers day-trip kayak options for $45, double kayaks for $60 and paddleboards for $45. The schedule changes based on the weather, so call before you go. Sunset paddles are occasionally available, as are paddleboard yoga and fitness sessions. Only cash is accepted for payment. Reservations are required; 51 Shore Rd.; 631-834-3130.
To explore the area by bicycle, head over to the Citgo Village Green gas station to rent one from Tee Bike Rentals; rates are $7 per hour. Two or three-wheel options are available, and bikes are sanitized between uses; 105 Main St.; 631-675-9056.
Eating is a specialty in the village, where restaurants serving rich foods are located. A breakfast option is Sweet Mama’s (121/123 Main St.; 631-675-9263), which also has an outside patio on which to enjoy a meal. Morning favorites such as waffles, French toast and pancakes are on the menu, as are wraps, skillets and benedicts like the “Spicy Avocado Benny”; lunch and dinner are also served. Crazy Beans (97 A/B Main St.; 631675-6964) also has one of its outlets here; hearty breakfast plates such as a NY strip steak and eggs, the “Morning Meltdown Omelet” (egg whites, turkey, spinach, avocado, cheddar and signature sauce) and chicken-apple sausage are among the choices.
For a takeout lunch, Fratelli’s Italian Eatery (77 Main St.; 631-751-4445) serves up pasta dishes, panini, sandwiches, stromboli and seasonal salads. There are plenty of pizzas too.
For dinner, Pentimento (93 Main St.; 631-689-7755) happens to have a lovely back patio dining garden space, wrapped in hedges and bulb lighting. Salads, sandwiches and panini can be had, as can both small and large plate meals. Of course, for some, dessert is really all that matters, and Premiere Pastry (117 Main St.; 631-675-0909) is a great spot for that. Enter through the door labeled “To Harbor Crescent Shops” to find a counter stocked with cookies, cakes and pastries.