Sure, you could go to Montauk. Or The Hamptons. Both have their perks. But if you're looking for a place not so far from NYC that truly feels like an escape, our money's on Long Island's North Fork.
"There’s something really magical about the area," says Olivia Villanti, who has been making the trek out east for the last seven years. "While it’s definitely at its peak in the summer, I love it year round when it’s so quiet and remote you feel like you’re in Narnia."
It makes sense that Olivia, whose family has a house in Orient Point and who recently bought a house with her husband in nearby Greenport, would gravitate toward a place with a super chilled-out vibe. Not only did she grow up in upstate New York — an area known for its rustic, laid-back mood — but she's also co-founder of Waiting for Saturday, a website dedicated to downtime and off-duty style.
In the spirit of lazy days and weekends away, we asked Olivia to give us the inside scoop on her favorite not-too-far-away getaway. Below, a look at all of her favorite spots to eat, drink, and simply unwind in the North Fork. Well, okay, almost all of her favorites: "I have a secret beach that I frequent for 5pm dips but I can’t tell you where because then it wouldn’t be my favorite beach anymore," she says.
"Let’s just say that you too can find your own secret beach if you drive around and explore enough." A good tip for pretty much anywhere, we say.
There are two places I adore for lunch: The Market, a hippie health food store in Greenport Village (get The California: muenster, sprouts, avocado and mayo on 7-grain) and Fork & Anchor in East Marion. Fork & Anchor’s BLT with basil mayo is legendary but I go for the sleeper hit: the veggie wrap with pistachio pesto which I proceed to slather in Sriracha. They also are one of the few places to serve Have a Corn chips, which just so happen to be one of the West Coast’s greatest gifts to mankind.
North Fork Table & Inn is truly the best dining on the North Fork; I’ve spent every anniversary with my husband there for dinner and have never been disappointed. The service is top notch and the food, exceptional. Can’t miss: The tuna tartare and the warm chocolate chip cookies.
Southold Fish Market is the place to buy seafood. Cooking is the best way to go for dinner out here. Get the sea bass, clams and Peconic Bay scallops – plus an order of their fish tacos if you’re there at lunch time. On Friday nights the chef from Noah’s, a great restaurant in Greenport, brings his food truck to service happy hour drinkers. They also have a limited number of rooms available as a Bed & Breakfast. I’ve never stayed there but I’ve heard wonderful things.
Little Creek Oyster Farm will teach you to shuck your own oysters, which is just the primer you need for DIY’ing it later in your trip. My favorite thing to do is buy a dozen oysters and shuck them on the beach while drinking a bottle of rosé. Shucking takes skill but once you’ve mastered it you’ll enjoy the happiest of happy hours for years to come.
Latham’s Farm Stand in Orient Village is a great place to stock up on veggies if you’re cooking. Plus, oysters! (It really all goes back to them).
The pie shop Four & Twenty Blackbirds has outposts in Brooklyn, but, I don’t know why —pie just tastes better on the North Fork. Now their shop is open seasonally in Orient Village and I kid you not, the first time I tried the Salty Caramel slice I declared it was the best thing I’d ever eaten in my life.
Claudio’s is in Greenport Village. This place is a locals' spot, which is exactly why my husband and I love it. It gets rowdy on the weekends — especially Sunday afternoons when they have bands perform covers of ‘90s tunes or classic rock hits. Insider tip: Order the Budweiser.
The area is famous for its wineries. I love Shinn Vineyards; They’re dedicated to holistic methods of farming and you can taste the love that goes into their wines.
Oysterponds Farm is in Orient Point and sells the most delicious homemade jams. Plus, they let you pick your own berries in the summer — whatever’s in season.
Orient Beach State Park is the area's main beach and it’s great for kids. There’s a massive playground to run around in after taking dips in the water. The ocean’s cold in these parts — and rocky — so be prepared with water shoes and don’t expect Caribbean bath water.
I go for long runs through Orient and am always stopping to take pictures of the houses. There are so many artists and architects who have escaped NYC for the tranquility of this area and it’s evident in the beautiful homes.
If you’re in Greenport Village with kids, be sure to ride the carousel in the middle of town at least 5 times while listening to ‘70s disco.
Lido is a shop in Greenport that carries the North Fork’s interpretation of boho. It’s truly dreamy. The house label includes cotton maxidresses that are ideal for tending to your vegetable garden (if you’ve got one) or just looking like you have a vegetable garden. They also stock vintage Moroccan rugs and housewares.
A trip on the ferry from Greenport over to Shelter Island can be a fun activity, particularly at sunset on Sunset Beach. The water is so serene and the views are truly spectacular. Plus, the ride takes all of 5 minutes.
All photos courtesy of Olivia Villanti; Portrait by Nicole Benuska