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Shelter Island: A guide to beaches, sights and more

A ferry from the North Ferry Co. heads

A ferry from the North Ferry Co. heads from Greenport to Shelter Island in Shelter Island. (July 14, 2011) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Cut off from the scenester bustle of the Hamptons and the agricultural overload of the North Fork, Shelter Island is a favorite destination for doing nothing. But if you can rouse yourself from that shaded Adirondack chair, adventures await.


Sylvester Manor

80 N. Ferry Rd., 631-749-0626,

Nathaniel Sylvester was Shelter Island's first European settler. He arrived on the island in the early 1650s with his wife, Grizzell Sylvester, and three slaves, the first in Suffolk County. The family held slaves until 1820, seven years before New York abolished slavery. The 243-acre farm, now a public charity, offers a fascinating -- and sobering -- window into Long Island history. The manor house contains centuries' worth of family heirlooms and is open a few Saturdays each month. The grounds, which feature the remains of ancient Indian settlements and a slave burial ground, can be toured on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Stop in at the office in the manor house to pick up a map.

Sylvester Manor also seeks to honor its agricultural heritage in a more direct fashion: a nonprofit organic farm has been established on 4 acres of the property, and a wide range of fruits and vegetables are sold at a farm stand at 21 Manwaring Rd. Summer hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


18 Bay

23 N. Ferry Rd., 631-749-0053,

One of Newsday's Top 10 Italian restaurants, 18 Bay offers something new for 2015: an afternoon crudo bar. Before they board the ferry each morning, chef-owners Adam Kopels and Elizabeth Ronzetti visit the Southold Fish Market; the crudo bar is a showcase for the local catch. You might be served hand-caught needlefish, striped bass, black sea bass, bluefish, each with whatever seasonal accompaniment strikes Kopels' fancy. (He's the fish maven.) Also on offer: local oysters and more than 60 wines by the glass. Crudo is available in the bar area from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday. If you'd like to stay at the bar for dinner, you can order a la carte from 18 Bay's daily fixed-price four-course dinner menu.


Shelter Island Craft Brewery

55 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island, 631-749-5977,

Montauk fishing-boat captain Jim Hull got bitten by the home-brew bug a few years ago and earlier this summer he opened an establishment to share it with his neighbors. Shelter Island Craft Brewery has great pride of place. Hull says every brew contains at least one island-grown ingredient. (His Nude Beach Plum Ale features local beach plums, acacia honey, hops and lemon verbena.) Three beers are always on tap: 114 IPA, Liquid Sunshine (a Belgian-style wheat beer) and Twin Forks Harvest Ale (an aromatic blend of oats, barley, wheat and rye with orange, coriander, star anise and more). Hull also serves homemade snacks such as soft pretzels (sprinkled with Shelter Island salt) and pumpkin seeds seasoned with Hull's own rosemary. Twelve-ounce glasses range from $6 to $7. Growlers are also available. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day but Tuesday.


Whale's Tale

3 Ram Island Rd., 631-749-1839,

Antsy kids? Whale's Tale is the closest thing Shelter Island has to Disney World. This mini golf course has a kitschy maritime theme, with 18 holes of whales, dolphins, turtles, lighthouses, mermaids and penguins. It's $9.50 per round. There's also an asphalt tennis court rentable for $9 a player. Inside, an old-fashioned arcade has video games, pinball machines and table hockey. The snack bar serves Hershey's ice cream, frozen yogurt, cannoli, coffee and soft drinks. Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.


Piccozzi's Bike Shop

177 N. Ferry Rd, 631-749-0045

With its gentle hills and scant car traffic, Shelter Island is perfect for biking. Maps of the island are ubiquitous, and road signage is excellent. Bring your bicycle or rent one at Piccozzi's, a short walk from the North Ferry. A seven-speed cruiser is $25 for a full day, $20 for half. Free helmets. Hybrids, baby seats and tag-along attachments also are available. It is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week.


Mashomack Preserve

79 S. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island, 631-749-1001,

Mashomack Preserve occupies more than 2,000 acres (about a third of Shelter Island) and encompasses tidal creeks, salt marshes, grassy meadows, old-growth forests. Experience its pristine beauty from four distinct nature trails that range from one to 10 miles. Even if you don't fancy a hike, the visitor center is worth a stop. Birds congregate around the feeders, and inside are scores of interactive exhibits that explore the preserve's abundant wildlife. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March through September, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. October through February.


Shelter Island Kayak Tours

Route 114 at Duvall Road, 631-749-1990,

You can also experience Mashomack Preserve from the water. Working with the Nature Conservancy and the Town of Shelter Island, Jay Damuck, owner of Shelter Island Kayak Tours, created a "marine water trail" along 2 1/2 miles of coastline. You'll see abundant marine life and marsh habitats. Among the fauna are fiddler crabs, diamondback terrapins, ospreys, great blue herons, ducks and geese. Guided two-hour tours are $60 ($30 for kids 12 and younger). Or rent a kayak and plan your own route: Single kayaks are $30 for two hours, $45 for four hours; doubles are $50/$70. The kayaks put in at the Burns Road Town Landing. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with most tours starting at 10 a.m.


Black Cat Books

54 N. Ferry Rd., 631-725-8654,

With 25,000 books in every category, Black Cat Books is one of Long Island's best sources for used and collectible books. Owners Michael Kinsey and Dawn Hedberg specialize in the visual arts (fine art, design, photography, architecture) and rare literary first editions. Right now they are selling a first Italian edition of Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" (Bompiani, 1980). In the sunlit front room, a big leather sofa is positioned right in front of the artists' monographs. It's a great place to while away an overcast afternoon. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.


James Havens Homestead

16 S. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island, 631-749-0025,

The well-preserved home of the Havens family gives visitors a window into domestic life in the 18th and 19th centuries with six reconstructed rooms. Just behind the house is the restored Havens Barn, the site of temporary exhibits and regular events (check website). Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The front lawn of the Havens House is the site of Shelter Island's weekly farmers' market, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.


Shelter Island has 20 miles of coastline; water meets the island in countless harbors, coves, creeks, marshes and inlets. Public bathing beaches, however, number only three -- Shell, Crescent and Wades -- and you'll need a permit to park at any of them between Memorial and Labor days. Permits are issued by the town clerk, whose office at 38 N. Ferry Rd. is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday (631-749-1166). A daily permit is $20; weekly, $35; monthly, $75; seasonal, $200. If you walk or bike to the beach no permit is required. Wades is the big family beach; Crescent is more of a hipster scene; Shell is the most private.


Shelter Island is accessible only by ferry. On the North Ferry (631-749-0139;, which departs from Greenport, one-way vehicle with driver is $11; same-day round-trip is $16. Additional passengers (up to three) and each foot passenger cost $2. The South Ferry (631-749-1200;, which departs from North Haven, costs $14 per vehicle (including all passengers) one way, $17 same-day round-trip. Foot passengers cost $1 apiece. Both ferries run every 10 to 20 minutes, but there can be a long wait to reach the island Friday evenings, and to leave it Sunday evenings. On the island, car service is available from Shelter Island Go'fors (631-749-4252).

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