Friday, September 20, 2013

Long Island East End Adventure

My wife and I took a few days in the Roadtrek to do a road trip to the east end of Long Island, NY.   The East End comprises the North Fork and South Fork and includes Shelter Island, the Hampton's, and Montauk.  It's an easy two hour drive south thru Connecticut for us to reach New London, CT and take the Cross Sound Ferry to Orient Point on the North Fork.

Our plan was to explore the North Folk and then cross Shelter Island and make our base near Montauk at Hither Hills State Park.  The map below highlights our route.

View Long Island - Fall 2013 in a larger map

Compared to the rest of Long Island, this area is very quaint and only moderately developed.  Development is tightly controlled by zoning that limits franchise businesses, signage, and preserves the historic nature and quaint ambiance of the villages that dot this area.  You won't see any strip malls or shopping plazas here.  Visiting this area is like visiting any island.  Its remote, rural, and pricey.

Cross Sound Ferry
The Cross Sound Ferry runs hourly between New London and Orient Point.  Its easy to make a reservation and my Roadtrek fit fine on the boat.  The 1 1/2 hr ferry trip and large ship adds a bit of sea adventure to visiting the East End.  A one way passage on the ferry with the Roadtrek and two passengers runs $72.

The North Fork is noted for its farm land and wineries.  The main road going west, Rt 25, will take you past over 40 wineries.  Many are open for tastings and have very nice retail shops and tasting rooms.  You could easily spend an afternoon visiting them and doing tastings.  A tasting costs anywhere from $2 - $5 depending on the wine.

We visited the Raphael Vineyard and Winery near the village of Southold. This winery is very charming with a mission type structure housing its retail shop and tasting room.  Anne and I aren't big wine drinkers, in fact, I can't really drink wine due to my colitis.  But I tried a tasting of their award winning 2005 First Label Merlot and Anne had the 2011 Port.  I found the Merlot to be excessively dry.  Anne liked the Port due to its sweet taste.  Its 21% alcohol content also gave it a special kick.  This winery was a nice place to hang out.  You can do tastings, buy wine by the glass, or just buy a bottle and enjoy it sitting by a fireplace in the tasting room.

Tasting Room Raphael Vineyards and Winery

Shelter Island Ferry
From Southold, we made our way back to Greenport to take the ferry across to Shelter Island.  Greenport is a nice village, but we didn't get a chance to walk around.  The North Ferry to Shelter Island runs every 15 mins and costs $12 one way.  Its a quick 10 minute ride over to the island, which sits in the middle of Gardiner's Bay between the Forks.  The island is about 7 miles long by 4 miles wide.  Its very quaint with about 1/3 of the island protected as a nature preserve.  We made our way across to take the South Ferry over to the South Fork.  This ferry cost $15 and it's about a 5 min ride.
Shelter Island Home

From there the road goes thru the village of Sag Harbor.  Once a major whaling port, Sag Harbor is a now a boating center, writers and artist colony.  Like Shelter Island its small and quaint.  From here, the road leads to the village of East Hampton.  This village is lovely.  It has wide tree lined streets, beautiful homes, and many upscale shops that cater to the rich and famous.  Everything is spotless and well maintained.  The beaches are less than a mile from the village center.

Main Street East Hampton

Here's where Martha Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, and Calvin Klein have homes.  In the Hampton's, house prices start at $1M and go up quickly.  I saw a nice small village colonial with a wrap around porch that really appealed to me.  I just need to come up with $9.2M and it could be mine.  Calvin Klein's newest house in Southampton has cost him $75M to date and still isn't complete.  Based on all the tradesman vans we saw on the roads, my guess is not too many folks in the Hampton's cut their own grass, clean their pools, or do their own repairs.

And they drive their Maserati's to the donut shop. My favorite spot in East Hampton is Dreesen's Donut Shop on Newton Lane.  Its a small place and they make the donuts right there in the window.  Plain or cinnamon.  They're warm and crispy on the outside just the way my Mom made them at home when I was a kid.

From East Hampton its about 12 miles to Hither Hills State Park.  This State Park sits right on shore facing the Atlantic Ocean.  The campground has about 150 sites that are all a short walk to the beach.  The campground has no hook ups, but does have a dump station and water spigots throughout the campground.  You can run a generator for a a couple hours in the morning and again in the evening as long as it doesn't make too much noise.  There are bath houses with restrooms and hot showers. Its a popular spot to camp.  The beach is wide and stretches the length of Long Island.  Its popular for surf casting.  Its tough to get a reservation during the peak summer months, but in September we had no problem.  If you're a NY resident, camping costs $28/night.  If you're a non-resident its $56/night (ouch)!

Hither Hills State Park Campground
We spent 3 nights at the state park.  Montauk is just 3 miles up the road from the state park.  Its a little more touristy, with beach motels and souvenir shops.  Montauk encompasses the whole tip of the South Fork.  At the tip is Montauk Point State Park, which includes Montauk Lighthouse.  The lighthouse is privately owned and has a nice museum in the light keepers house.  As part of your entrance fee you can also climb the lighthouse.  Be prepared for a little sticker shock.  Its $8 to park a the state park (free if you're staying at Hither Hills) and $9 per person to get into the lighthouse.

Montauk harbor is 3 miles north of the town center.  Here's where you'll find all the fishing charter boats and ferry to Block Island.  There are some very nice restaurants around the harbor.  We ate at Grossmans at the mouth of the harbor.  The view was perfect watching the fishing boats cruise by.  The food was excellent.  I had blackened Yellow fin Tuna that was almost 2 inches thick and Anne had Pasta Primavera.  Two salads, two entrees and two deserts ran us $122 with tip!  I guess we were paying for the view.

We ate at a more reasonable place the next night.  O'Murphy's Pub and Restaurant in the center of Montauk had great food, a cozy pub atmosphere, and much lower prices.  Two entrees and an appetizer ran us $67 with tip.

Another place we ate was the Smokin Wolf BBQ in East Hampton.  Anne and I love good barbecue and have eaten at places all over the south and east coast.  We had a couple of lunch specials that we took back to the campsite for dinner.  The ribs were the best I have ever tasted.  Thick and moist with a rub that didn't over power the meat.  Anne said the collard green were outstanding.  Two lunch special and two extra sides were $37.  Higher than you'd pay in the south but its the Hampton's!

Overall, we had a great 4 days.  The weather was sunny and in the 70's during the day.  Its pricey to visit but its a lovely place.  Our expenses were as follows;

 - Ferry fees:        $198
 - Camping fees:  $177
 - Meals:               $226
 - Misc fees:           $24

Here are a few more pictures from our trip.

Campsite at Hither Hills

On the Beach
View from Montauk Lighthouse
Gin Beach neart Montauk Harbor (special permit for camping)

On the Ferry

Bench outside the donut shop in East Hampton


  1. I would love to do that trip, the scenery is gorgeous! And really, the total cost of $650 or so for 4 days with some fabulous meals included, seems very reasonable.

    Think how much you saved with your Roadtrek; what's the nightly rate at the inns around there?

    1. Thanks for reading. I'm sure you could reduce the costs by eating out less and at lower cost places. We only ate out for dinner and wanted the experience more than just solving the hunger problem. I could have driven around and skipped the ferries but that was part of the adventure. My guess that a room at an inn/hotel would run you $200+ per night. Thanks again.