The briefest of ferry rides takes you to Shelter Island, a slice of New England-esque peace, quiet and scenery wedged between the North and South forks. On Shelter Island, there are no malls, traffic jams or even traffic lights.
Instead, Shelter Island charms visitors from far and wide with stress-free dining and shopping, magical sunsets and stately Victorian homes. You can bike on country lanes, hike in a wildlife refuge or lose track of time on a secluded beach.
Kevin Rooney, 47, of Wilton, Conn., his wife and three children arrived by 42-foot sailboat. They were enjoying the relaxed pace on a recent Sunday.
"We like just walking around and living slow," Rooney said.
It's so tranquil that neighboring Greenport is considered comparatively hectic. Indeed, Greenport is your last Starbucks outpost before you board the North Ferry Co. boat (631-749-0139). Passengers on foot, bicyclists and autos share the ride, which lasts just long enough to gawk at Shelter Island's hillside mansions. If you don't want to drive, ride the LIRR to the Greenport station and walk to the ferry.
Shelter Island Heights is a historic hub of lodgings, restaurants and shops. The Chequit Inn Hotel & Restaurant offers American bistro-style dining indoors or on the brick-paved terrace. Harbor Ale from the Greenport Harbor Brewing Co, is on tap in the lounge. Pomodoro Dolce (also known as Sweet Tomato's), is run by brothers Jimmy and Anthony Rando, formerly of Island Park. They serve fresh bread, pasta and local halibut and striped bass. Grab coffee, fresh muffins and occasional Mexican specials such as carne asada at Star's Café (they offer free Wi-Fi.)
Or stick around and shop for a painting at Wish Rock Studio, an outlet for local artistic talent.
"There are many, many artists in Shelter Island," gallery owner and artist Peter Waldner said.
A main drag (of sorts)
Most of the restaurants and shops line Route 114 - also known as North Ferry Road and South Ferry Road - which zigzags across the island's center. On a shopping strip between Dering Harbor and Chase Creek, Reddings Fine Foods serves breakfast from 7:30 to 11 a.m. They also dish out flatbread pizzas, roasted organic chicken ($12.99) and, on Saturday nights, a 1 ¼-pound lobster dinner with trimmings for $26.99. Across the street, The Dory Restaurant dining deck sits atop Chase Creek.
For fresh seafood, locals recommend Bob's or Two Ed's, both located inside unassuming buildings on Route 114.
Exploring the island
It's hard to get really lost on an 8,000-acre island, but you can try. Autos share Shelter Island's country roads with meandering bicyclists and pedestrians. Rent a bike at Piccozzi's gas station in Shelter Island Heights, or a kayak at Shelter island Kayak Tours on Route 114, about a mile south of the IGA.
Roads with quaint names such as Bootleggers Alley and Petticoat Lane are lined with residencies and bed-and-breakfast accommodations in historic homes. Roads inevitably lead to a beach or a dock. The Ram's Head Inn hosts jazz concerts and wine dinners.
The youth scene is found at Crescent Beach on Shore Road.
"It's peaceful, relaxing and there are great people out here," said Leigh Anne Good, 24, a Manhattan fashion designer reading in a beach chair.
Across the street, Sunset Beach restaurant and bar serves French cuisine. Five kinds of rum were being poured to a happy crowd of revelers in a driftwood-decorated upstairs lounge.
A separate peace
The quietest spot on the island is probably The Nature Conservancy's 2,039-acre Mashomack Preserve, which encompasses about a third of Shelter Island. Hikers can use marked trails to see protected wetlands, forests and wildlife. A small visitors center-museum is equipped with bathroom facilities. Suggested Donation: $2 adults, $1 children.
Had enough tranquillity?
Hop the North Ferry back to Greenport's crowded waterfront, or South Ferry to Sag Harbor and the Hamptons.