Updated: Sep 9, 2020
If you’re wondering how to spend a summer day in North Fork, Long Island, then you have come to the right place! A native Brooklynite, I geographically live on Long Island, but we often see it as a separate entity. Say what?!
Did you know that Brooklyn, Queens, and the Nassau and Suffolk Counties of “Long Island” are all part of Long Island? However, a native NYC resident may view Brooklyn and Queens as a separate entity from the rest of the island.
With that being said, I do not get to explore enough of the other half of Long Island, the “true Long Island.” In an effort to explore my own backyard, I recently explored North Fork, Long Island for the first time! I cannot wait to explore it again! I loved it so much that I want to explore it at least once a year.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is North Fork, Long Island most known for?
The North Fork is currently home to 40 wineries and 3,000 acres of planted vineyards. So if you love to do wine tasting and roam the vineyards, this is the place to visit!
There are also many multi-generational family farms from apple orchards to potato farms to berry farms and flower fields in addition to vineyards. That means apple picking, berry picking, and flower festivals galore!
There are a range of seasonal events to check out from the Tulip Festival in the Spring to Sunflower Festival and Peach Harvest Festival in the summer to Apple Picking in the Fall and Winter Wonderland after that!
Where is North Fork, Long Island?
The North Fork is a 30-mile-long peninsula in the northeast part of Suffolk County, New York, U.S., almost parallel with an even longer peninsula known as the South Fork, both on the East End of Long Island. The name comes from the fact that at Riverhead, Long Island, the peninsulas split into two like a fork (look at the map for the split!). I had no idea of this until this recent trip!
Is North Fork part of the Hamptons?
It is not! The Hamptons are actually part of South Fork. However, North Fork has a lot to offer :-).
Is North Fork Expensive?
Personally, I did not find North Fork to be expensive. For example, a fresh tomato basil mozzarella sandwich was $9.99 and for $12, I got a wine tasting including 5 wines (which is much less than I expected, but I know many other vineyards in the area are cheaper). However, my Long Island friends warned that the area can get very pricey.
Getting from NYC to North Fork, Long Island
How do I get to North Fork, Long Island?
There are several ways one can get to the North Fork:
By Car: This is your best option, especially considering how far things are from each other. The North Fork is accessible via roadways, most notably the New York State Route 25 (also known as Main Road). You can also take the County Road (also called Middle Road) or Sound Avenue.
By Train: The Long Island Rail Road provides limited service when traveling to North Fork, Long Island, as you are only to get to Greenport on the Ronkonkoma line. From there, you would then need a car or taxi to take you to the vineyards and farms in the area.
By Ferry: At the easternmost point, there is a Cross Sound Ferry that runs daily to and from New London, Connecticut. There are also ferries that also connect the North Fork to Plum Island and Shelter Island.
By Bus: You can take the Hampton Jitney, which you can book ahead of time. They have different pickup time options from NYC taking you to a variety of stops in both North Fork and South Fork, LI.
How Far Is the North Fork From NYC?
By car, it takes about 2 hours *with no traffic) to get to the deeper parts of North Fork, such as Greenport. However, it is literally double the time by train as you need to take NYC’s MTA to then transfer to the LIRR.
Summer Day Trip Itinerary
How to spend a day on North Fork, Long Island?
Stop #1: North Fork Sunflower Maze
This sunflower maze is planted by Sidor Farms. Sunflowers have been grown in this site for several years. However, in 2012, they tried a sunflower maze and then paused for 6 years before bringing it back in 2018. Summer 2020 has been the 3rd season where the fields have been open to visitors. I am so happy that they did as this is hands down the best one I have seen so far! The sunflowers are important beyond providing a space for people to roam or capture Instagram worthy photos. It is an essential crop for producing sunflower oil to fry the farm’s North Fork Potato Chips! TIP: Grab a bag of those potato chips when you pay for your entrance. It is entirely worth it as they are not salty or oily, all while being perfectly crispy!
Address: 8350 Wickham Ave | Mattituck, NY 11952
3 FYI’s before you visit:
Cost: $7 for adults; children under 12 are free! Credit Cards are accepted.
Time: The later you go, the more crowds you will deal with. When we arrived at noon, the parking lot was nearly empty. By the time we left close to 2pm, the parking lot was almost full and there were more people wandering the fields.
Check ahead of time: As I researched thoroughly for a sunflower farm to visit, I realized that every farm has their own timing for blooms. I highly recommend calling or messaging (through email, Facebook or Instagram) a few farms that you are considering a day or two before making your trip. When I did this, I discovered that one farm faced severe storm damage, so the flowers were no longer as beautiful as they were a week before. At another farm, the flowers were nowhere near bloom, as evidenced by actual photos sent to me. As a result, we ended up going to this one, which we discovered at the very last minute! Since I saw physical pictures of someone who went the day before, I knew this was a great place to go. Make sure to confirm!
BONUS: For more tips on planning a perfect trip to the sunflower fields, check out my blog post: “The Sun-Tastic Guide to Visiting Sunflower Fields Near NYC”
Stop #2: Harbes Family Farm
Harbes Family Farm is your all-encompassing family farm. Looking for a place to go apple picking? They got it! Looking to buy fresh fruit? Come here! Looking for locally grown wines to taste? Yup, they got it too! They also have homemade desserts such as their signature cider donuts, freshly baked pies, and uniquely flavored ice cream. In addition, they host a range of festivals throughout the year with accompanying live music. It is no wonder that the Harbes Family Farm has been open for the last 30 years in Long Island. However, if we take it all the way back, the Harbes family has been farming for 13 generations, originating in Europe. Since the 1920s, they have been farming on Long Island.
Address: 715 Sound Ave | Mattituck, NY 11952
3 FYI’s before you visit:
Credit cards only. This is because they are trying to uphold all CDC guidelines when it comes to safety, so they do not want to touch money.
Come hungry. This farm has an assortment of food options from freshly toasted paninis made with farm tomatoes to grilled hot dogs and sweet roasted corn. My favorite is a toasted panini with tomato, mozzarella, basil, and pesto alongside a fresh lemonade!
MUST TRY: You must try the cider donuts and homemade ice cream. The sweet corn flavor is worth a try. Be adventurous!
Stop #3: Pindar Vineyards
Sunflowers and wine! What is better than that!?! Pindar Vineyards is the other sunflower field that I visited this summer. When I went, the sunflowers were not at full bloom, but I am sure that it would make for great photos once they are. They have been growing their sunflower field for over 25 years. When the flowers are in full peak, you can pick your sunflowers and take home beautiful bouquets with you for a small price. The proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County.
Pinar Vineyard is a great place to go for wine tasting -- $12 for six tastings. They even have a Sunflower Chardonnay to try! When I went, they also sold fresh oysters to compliment your experience. Whether you want to frolic through rows of wine vines in the vineyard or check out the sunflower fields out front, visiting the vineyard makes for a great afternoon!
Address: 37645 NY-25 | Peconic, NY 11958
3 FYI’s before you visit:
Go on a weekday to avoid crowds. Most people go to the vineyard on weekends, or on Fridays, based on the Google Popular Times visual. We went on a Saturday, and there were big crowds. HOWEVER, the tables are socially distanced. (put visual)
The inside vs. outside experience was a BIG difference: Everyone must wear a mask in the tasting room, servers too. They used disposable cups with plates labeled with our wine picks, and menus so that we could then take everything outside to taste. Outside, people were not wearing masks after drinking and had crowds. However, I would recommend that you wear a mask for your safety.
To maximize social distancing, sit in the vineyard rows. I noticed that some families just sat on the grass or in chairs between rows and had a more intimate, spread out experience than by the tables.
Stop #4: Orient Beach State Park
Orient Beach State Park, which is literally located on the north fork’s eastern tip, is one of the 30 state parks located on Long Island. Did you know that New York State has 215 state parks and history sites encompassing 350,000 acres? Orient Beach is now a United Sates Light House Society Passport Location where you can view four lighthouses as well as get your Lighthouse Passport stamped. It is a great scenic spot to just listen to the waves while watching the sunset -- I highly recommend doing this by going towards the very tip to see the lighthouse. By the beach, you can grill, relax on a swing, or just take a stroll.
Check for updates: Website
Address: 40000 Main Rd | Orient, NY 11957
3 FYI’s before you visit:
NYS Parks are operating at 50% capacity. Therefore, before making the trip, check online to see if it has reached capacity. I noticed that some parks fill up as early as noon.
Go after 6pm for less crowds and no fees. Swimming is until 7 PM. However, the park closes at 8 PM.
I do not recommend swimming because it is too rocky. It is nice to dip your toes in the ocean, however.
Stop #5: Greenport
I did not get a chance to spend a long time in this part, but I want to come back! We stopped here on our way back from Orient Beach State Park for dinner. It is a village on the north fork of Long Island within the Town of Southold. This seemed like the place to be on a Saturday night as streets were crowded with people shopping or dining outdoors. We were unable to eat dinner here, but I grabbed a tasty dessert on the go!
3 FYI’s before you visit:
Make reservations ahead of time for dinner. By the time we arrived, they were not seating anyone who did not have a reservation.
Have dessert from North Hampton Chocolate Factory. I had a tasty and filling ice cream sandwich made with snickerdoodle cookies, and salted caramel ice cream dipped in milk chocolate. YUM!
Spend at least half a day. From what I can tell, you can easily find things to do. So, the village deserves its own time!
Things to Know Before Visiting North Fork, Long Island
1. Traffic can be horrendous. The best way to avoid it (which is what we did) is to drive early on a Saturday morning and drive back later in the evening. We managed to beat traffic departing from Freeport, LI, at around 10:30 AM and leaving the North Fork at around 8 PM.
2. In the Summertime, many travel on Thursday afternoon or Friday and then return on Sunday since they have Fridays off. One way to avoid this hassle is to leave early Saturday morning and return on Monday.
3. Weekends in the Fall also get a lot of traffic because many are driving from NYC and suburban areas to participate in Fall festivities.
4. Make dinner reservations ahead of time! Some restaurants become so packed that they end up closing early for the rest of the night. We were unable to get into a restaurant as a result.
5. Similarly with wineries, it is less likely to be crowded if you choose wineries that require a reservation. We did not, which although made it easier in many ways, in other ways, it was more crowded than my liking.
6. Pack plenty of snacks and water. Things can be expensive, so prepare as much as you can in order to reserve your money for more worthwhile things such as wine and dinner.
7. To find more things to do on the North Fork, read the following resources: