Summer on Long Island most frequently is accompanied by sun, fun, beaches — and crowds. The latter is especially true if your travels take you to the Hamptons, where the population triples in popular destinations like Montauk and Shelter Island.
But you can still go east and visit hamlets on the North and South forks that provide that summer-in-the-Hamptons experience — with the added bonus of more tranquility.
“The main reason I like living here is in the middle of summer there are many more people here than in the wintertime, but far less than you find in the other hamlets,” said Loring Bolger of Springs.
Less is also more in Baiting Hollow, says Toqui S. Terchun, president of the Greater Calverton Civic Association.
“To get something you need, a quick something to eat or do errands, things are literally a few minutes away,” said Terchun. “And if you coordinate yourself, you can get everything done in a half-hour and you can come back to this relaxing, peaceful rural area that's a treasure.”
Treasure hunters should consider visiting these 10 communities on the Twin Forks.
— With Tracy M. Brown
THE NORTH FORK
NEW SUFFOLK / “You have to want to want to come here because it’s not on Route 25, so that makes it special.” — Pat McIntyre
PRE-SUMMER HEADCOUNT: 349
Hidden away off Main Road facing Robins Island is a peaceful gem on the North Fork where residents love the view of the Peconic Bay.
New Suffolk features one of the quietest and most beautiful places on the East End in the 2.5-acre property known as the New Suffolk Waterfront, which locals refer to as one of the area’s hidden treasures. Once home to the first U.S. submarine base where the USS Holland was commissioned by the Navy, local nonprofit the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund has used the waterfront for several events, live music and dancing, lecture series and the annual New Suffolk Chowderfest, usually held on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.
People looking for fun in the sun can visit New Suffolk Beach, which Southold officials have said is one of the town’s most popular.
What residents value most of all, however, is the quiet.
“In this community, everyone walks, they ride their bicycles, and it’s a small community,” said Pat McIntyre, vice-chairwoman of the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund. “It’s relatively hidden. You only have two access routes.”
GO SIGHTSEEING: New Suffolk Beach permits windsurfing and has a boat ramp, playground, picnic tables, pavilions and grills.
BAITING HOLLOW / “Those acres of open space [Veterans Bike Path trail] are untouched and it’s very, very special.” — Toqui S. Terchun
PRE-SUMMER HEADCOUNT: 1,642
This bucolic corner of Riverhead has a strong farming tradition, while its northern coast has a great view of the Long Island Sound.
Home to farm stands and other agricultural operations, those in the hamlet — located in a central spot along Route 25 — have managed to make the area both a place to work and play.
The North Shore Horse Rescue & Sanctuary offers the opportunity to visit dozens of equines that were donated by people who could not afford them anymore. Visitors can come and see the horses between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Low-sugar treats sold on the property are available to feed the horses. Many who visit the animals tend to be senior citizens and families with children looking for a fun way to spend a weekend, said Laurel Palermo, co-founder of the horse sanctuary.
Toqui S. Terchun, a Baiting Hollow resident and president of the Greater Calverton Civic Association, said one of her favorite things about Baiting Hollow is its proximity to places of natural beauty. Specifically, she pointed to the Veterans Bike Path trail along Grumman Boulevard in Calverton, located 15 minutes from Baiting Hollow.
While natural beauty is the jewel of the area, the hamlet also boasts proximity to the Splish Splash water park in Calverton and the Tanger Outlets Riverhead.
GO SIGHTSEEING: The hamlet is also home to Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard & Horse Rescue, the first stop on the North Fork Wine Trail.
EAST MARION / “We have a good community spirit here.” — Anne Murray
PRE-SUMMER HEADCOUNT: 926
Legend has it that East Marion drew its name from a local resident who admired Gen. Francis Marion, a famous officer in the American Revolution, according to Southold Town’s website. Over time, East Marion has experienced some upticks in traffic yet has managed to hold on to the quiet charm that residents love.
One of the hamlet’s biggest attractions has been Lavender By the Bay, a lavender farm owned and operated by the Rozenbaum family since 2002 that has become a popular tourist attraction. The 17-acre farm on Main Road is home to about 80,000 plants, according to the farm’s website, and sells lavender products ranging from bath and body items to dried lavender and designed sachets.
The 40-acre Ruth Oliva Preserve at Dam Pond provides a place for nature lovers to hike and bird-watchers to spot buffleheads, horned grebes and red-breasted mergansers. Tim Caulfield, senior adviser for the Peconic Land Trust, said the preserve has been a “special place.”
Anne Murray, an East Marion resident for 19 years, said traffic issues have picked up in recent years in part due to the popularity of the lavender farm and visitors from the Cross Sound Ferry. Despite this, Murray, president of the East Marion Civic Association, said the hamlet still remains a “pretty quiet, lovely community.”
“Everybody knows each other pretty much,” Murray said.
GO SIGHTSEEING: The Ruth Oliva Preserve also houses several rare or endangered species of plants and holds a concentration of osprey nests.
PECONIC / “It's right in the middle of the bustling North Fork, yet it sits in the middle of it all quietly.” — Lisa Gillooly
PRE-SUMMER HEADCOUNT: 683
The small hamlet is populated with a lot of residential houses from the 18th and 19th century, said Southold historian Amy Folk, and has largely remained without much major development over time. Still, the farming hamlet has its share of sights to enjoy.
Jean Cochran Park on Peconic Lane has been a popular local park, with facilities including three baseball fields, three tennis courts, a hockey rink and a basketball court. The park also features a metal sculpture of an osprey sitting on beams, a homage to the more than 3,000 people who died in the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
A trace of history can also be found with a visit to the Horton Point Lighthouse. It was built in 1857 and is one of seven historic lighthouses in Southold. President George Washington commissioned it, and visitors are still allowed to climb up the tower. The lighthouse is open Memorial Day weekend through mid-September from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and only on Saturday and Sunday.
Lisa Gillooly, a North Fork real estate agent for The Corcoran Group and an Orient resident, said people who live in Peconic love that while the area has access to sounds and bay beaches and the scenic Goldsmith's Inlet, the area has remained "a quiet little gem."
"People are drawn to Peconic because it has access to everything, yet it remains untouched and unspoiled," Gillooly said.
GO SIGHTSEEING: Catapano Farms, run by the family's third-generation, offers its guests samples from the farm's artisanal cheese selection; children can play with baby goats and other farm animals.
FISHERS ISLAND / “I love the delight of bumping into people around town.” — The Rev. Candace Whitman
PRE-SUMMER HEADCOUNT: 236
Located well off the beaten path, the nine-mile long, one-mile wide Fishers Island — which is 11 miles off the North Fork — has been a well-kept secret along the North Fork.
Part of what keeps it that way is the distance one must traverse to get there. For Long Islanders, the island is only accessible via ferry service from Orient Point to New London, Connecticut, and then another connecting ferry to Fishers Island.
The travel time appears to be worth it for the island’s residents, whose favorite pastimes range from nature walks along the island’s trails to sailing, fishing and golfing.
Visitors can also take in a part of history by viewing Fort H.G. Wright at the western tip of the island. The fort was named after Horatio G. Wright, a general in the U.S. Army who commanded the Sixth Army Corps during the Civil War. The fort was part of The Harbor Defenses of Long Island Sound, and guarded the Sound's eastern entrance. It was active in both world wars before its deactivation in 1948. Most of the fort still remains, and it is a popular landmark on Fishers Island, said Southold Town historian Amy Folk.
In her bio on the island’s website, fishersisland.net, the Rev. Candace Whitman, pastor at the Fishers Island Union Chapel, said she has loved being a part of the island ever since moving there in 2014.
"It’s also a joy to walk the island in the afternoon light," Whitman said. "And, of course, Sunday mornings with the congregation."
GO SIGHTSEEING: The Fishers Island Recreational Path is a multiuse trail designed to provide safe recreational space for cyclists and pedestrians on Fishers Island to enjoy the island's scenic coastal setting.
THE SOUTH FORK
SPRINGS / “It’s a place to celebrate and a place to have peace, and that is what we provide here.” — Rosalind Brenner
PRE-SUMMER HEADCOUNT: 6,592
The hamlet of Springs in East Hampton is perhaps best known as the place where Jackson Pollock came to escape the city and create some of his most iconic work, but the defining feature of the hamlet is Accabonac Creek — natives call themselves Bonackers — and the surrounding bays, said Helen Harrison, director of the Pollock-Krasner House.
“I think it’s a down-to-earth, working-class atmosphere,” Harrison said. “It’s not ritzy, it’s not full of celebrities, it’s just a really nice community.”
The hamlet retains an old-time feel with the Springs General Store, where hamlet residents gather to gab over egg sandwiches, coffee and more, and where Pollock famously settled a grocery bill with a painting, and the community center and meeting space Ashawagh Hall.
Rosalind Brenner and Michael Cardacino, who run the Art House Bed and Breakfast, are among those now carrying the artists’ torch. They share their whimsical gardens and display their artwork for guests at their Bon Pinck Way inn.
GO SIGHTSEEING: The Leiber Collection showcases the work of handbag designer Judith Leiber and her husband, the painter Gerson Leiber, at a museum on Old Stone Highway. The couple died within hours of one another in 2018 at ages 97 and 96, respectively.
BRIDGEHAMPTON / “The people who were coming to Bridgehampton often were seeking less formality and not the stuffy elite, if you will, of New York society.”— Ed Wesnofske
PRE-SUMMER HEADCOUNT: 1,756
Bridgehampton has maintained its rural charm, despite its upscale restaurants and south-of-the-highway estates.
"It has a beautiful landscape with open farmlands to the north and it has certainly many beautiful estates that have been installed in the last 20 years," said Bridgehampton native Ed Wesnofske.
Bridgehampton began its transformation into a resort destination with the extension of the Long Island Rail Road in 1870. The hamlet gradually shifted from an agricultural to a weekend community as farmers began to realize the value of the land, said Southampton Town historian and Bridgehampton Museum archivist Julie Greene.
“It went from farmhouses to boardinghouses,” Greene said.
If you are still enjoying childhood or are a fan of nature or history, there is plenty to see and do here.
Bridgehampton’s downtown features a healthy dining scene, including well-known staples like Bobby Van’s and the old-fashioned lunch counter at Bridgehampton Candy Kitchen. Nearby you will find the only big-box store shopping center east of the Shinnecock Canal.
Beyond the cafes and boutiques downtown, Bridgehampton is also home to the Beebe Windmill, built in 1820 and open on weekends for tours of the four-story tower by appointment.
For the little ones, there is the Children’s Museum of the East End, which skews toward younger children and features East End-themed play exhibits like a wind mill, farm stand and lighthouse, as well as the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center. The museums are on opposite sides of Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike.
Historic buildings in the hamlet include the Topping Rose House, once the residence of prominent judge Abraham Topping Rose and now a luxury hotel and 75-seat restaurant, and the William Corwith House, the headquarters for the Bridgehampton Museum.
GO SIGHTSEEING: Bridge Gardens, owned by the nonprofit Peconic Land Trust and open to the public year-round, is a hidden gem on Mitchell Lane. Highlights of the five-acre grounds include a weeping Japanese maple tree and the rose garden in bloom in June, said garden manager Richard Bogusch.
AMAGANSETT / “You come to Amagansett . . . not because of what it has, but because of what it hasn’t.” — Hugh King
PRE-SUMMER HEADCOUNT: 1,165
People have taken summer sojourns to Amagansett for the healing sea air and restorative power of the ocean since at least the 1840s, said Hugh King, East Hampton’s officially appointed town crier. Today, the main draw to Amagansett — the Montaukett word for place of good water — is still its beaches. So good, in fact, that King has lived in the hamlet all of his 77 years and never had a desire to leave.
“It’s something wonderful; you could go down to the edge [of the shore] and look out,” he said. “It’s so calming and it’s beautiful and it’s different all times of the year.”
Centuries of agricultural history lives on in Amagansett through working operations like Quail Hill Farm, Balsam Farms and Amber Waves. The latter, an educational farm that co-founder Katie Baldwin described as “almost like a food park,” is open for tours and features a café.
While Montauk’s Ditch Plains is internationally known for its prime surfing conditions, Brian Schopfer, owner of Grain Surfboards, noted breaks can be found without traveling all the way to “The End.”
“It [Amagansett] is like a sleepy neighbor to East Hampton and Montauk,” said Schopfer, who builds wood surfboards at his Indian Wells Highway store. “You can walk to everything around here. The beaches are great, it’s just not as crowded.”
The downtown features a mix of hip shops, including Innersleeve Records and Tiina the Store, as well as world famous music venue The Stephen Talkhouse.
GO SIGHTSEEING: The Amagansett Life-Saving and Coast Guard Station and Miss Amelia Cottage, a museum of residential life in the hamlet.
EASTPORT / “It’s like a throwback to old Long Island.” — Keith Glynn
PRE-SUMMER HEADCOUNT: 1,831
Many travelers pass right by tiny Eastport on their way to the Hamptons, but its location at the threshold to the South Fork and its eclectic downtown make it a prime spot to visit.
Once known as Long Island’s duck and antiquing capital, the fowl farms have all left, but a handful of vintage shops remain.
You won’t find trendy cocktail bars or gourmet farm-to-table dining in the hamlet’s downtown, but a stop at the Eastport Luncheonette is worth it for a meatloaf sandwich or a BLT. That down-home feel continues as you stroll down Main Street past retro stores and unique stops like Seatuck Stained Glass or the gift shop Eastport’s Little Secret.
“It’s very peaceful for people to walk or drive through,” said luncheonette owner Keith Glynn, who lives in Center Moriches and took over the business from his mother, Noreen Glynn, after she died in 2017.
Eastport was home to more than a dozen antique shops in its heyday, but the rise of internet shopping has made it harder for brick-and-mortar merchants to stay in business, retailers said. Beyond the Beaten Path, owned by Emily Weiss, and K.C. Kollections — both on Main Street — have held on, catering to a nostalgia-seeking crowd.
“Somebody will pick something up and say, ‘You know, I had this when I was younger,’” said K.C. Kollections owner Linda Stucchio.
GO SIGHTSEEING: The hamlet also boasts a destination wine shop in A Grape Pear and for baked goods and fresh produce, Olish Farms Country Market is a must stop, Weiss said.
EAST QUOGUE / “It goes to sleep earlier and earlier every year.” — John Tocco
PRE-SUMMER HEADCOUNT: 4,757
Those visiting East Quogue might never want to leave. What it lacks in high-end boutiques, trendy restaurants and rows of expansive estates, it makes up for with charm, a tight-knit community and pristine ocean beaches.
Pine Neck Nature Sanctuary encompasses preserved acres and one of the few places where the pine barrens meets the coastline at Shinnecock Bay. Situated where Josiah Fosters Path and Head of Lots Road begins, it’s perfect for bird-watching, photography or just some quiet reflection.
Southampton Town’s Tiana Beach is the quieter cousin to Ponquogue Beach located just a mile east in Hampton Bays. The Dune Road bathing beach features lifeguards, picnic facilities, beach volleyball and food concessions, and is open to nonresidents for a daily fee.
Gone are the nightclubs that once blasted party music into the wee hours across Dune Road, but you will still find Dockers Waterside Restaurant & Marina serving up seafood and cocktails alongside bay views. Back on the mainland, diners travel far and wide for the French-Mediterranean cuisine at Stone Creek Inn.
The town’s little Main Street leaves much to be desired as far as a nightlife, but that is by design. Westhampton Beach Village and Hampton Bays are close enough for those who want to hang out into the wee hours, noted 25-year East Quogue resident John Tocco.
GO SIGHTSEEING: The Quogue Wildlife Preserve is just over the Quogue Village border, but close enough that it’s also a worthy stop for any nature-loving East Quogue visitor.