3 fall getaways to Long Island for the simplest of escapes

Long Islanders live in an area where others vacation. Hollywood comes down to the East End every summer for parties and beach days. New York City residents come to North Fork for wine tasting and pumpkin picking. It’s a pride and a curse, as any Islander who braves summer traffic can confirm.

As the hectic pace of the summer season draws to a close, fall is a great time to take a break and become a tourist in your own backyard. (And if you’re coming from elsewhere, it’s also a great time to find some deals and some beautiful scenery for you.)

There’s plenty to do – here are three routes for the easiest nearby getaways.

Something in the East

The South Fork, more than the North Fork, sees its peak season end on Labor Day weekend. Tumbleweed Tuesday rolls around, and suddenly, Montauk Highway becomes a main road, not a parking lot.

But it’s everyone’s loss because the Hamptons are in all their fall glory. The foliage is a leaf voyeur’s paradise, and there are even a few farms to engage in the age-old tradition of pumpkin picking.

Start your day in a hidden gem. Estia’s little kitchen, a small roadside cafe, serves breakfasts with a Mexican-meets-Hamptons twist. Ingredients come from local farms like Milk Pail nearby, and islanders have found themselves dreaming of egg sandwiches.

Parish art museum The annual Midsummer Party is one of the flagship events of the annual summer social calendar. But the museum, which you’ll notice first for the two giant Roy Lichtenstein sculptures that dominate the lawn, continues to showcase world-class artwork all year round. A Lichenstein exhibition, History in the making, runs until October 24 and gives a preview of his first works. Tomashi Jackson: The land clam focuses on the historical and contemporary experiences, such as agriculture and transportation, of Black, Indigenous and Latin American families in the East End.

Discuss what you learned and liked about Parrish over lunch at Natural foods from Provision four minutes to Water Mill. Dishes on the cafe menu include grilled chicken with a crispy fall apple salad and aged cheddar or vegan chili that sticks to ribs in all the right ways.

Duck Walk Vineyard is a popular stop on the North Fork, but it also enjoys a Hamptons location. Vidal ice wines, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, are a sweet treat. If you have time, it is worth stopping at Hank’s Pumpkin for a pumpkin and apple picking – or at the very least, an apple cider donut. It’s the season. But save room for dinner at by Calissa, where Mediterranean cuisine is light and fresh. Beet hummus and crispy squid are popular choices.

Rest tired legs to Auberge du Moulin, a luxury B&B in East Hampton. There is a fireplace in every room, ideal for a cozy fall evening.

Something small town

Fancy a dose of picturesque autumn? The Long Island area is home to many areas with small town charm, with bustling main streets and mom-and-pop shops continuing to find creative ways to pivot during the pandemic.

Several towns and villages within driving distance along the south shore of Suffolk County fit this bill. Start with breakfast at The warehouse in western Sayville. The interior of the space is light and airy, with whitewashed walls accented by poppy art. On the menu you’ll find comforting brunch favorites like a breakfast bowl with two poached eggs, avocado and homemade fries and Belgian waffles. From there, head to Bellport. The idyllic yet exclusive setting (residents have access to their own beach on Fire Island, Ho-hum – ho-hum, indeed). Browse the shops along South Country Road, such as Cooper beech, General de Bellport and The storefront.

Bellport’s main street, South Country Road, is full of charming shops and restaurants. (Photo credit: Alison Buck / Temperance Hall)

Before you go, see if you can make an early check-in at Bellport Inn, where you will spend the night. The hotel, which dates from 1889, is located in the heart of the village. But the tranquil gardens with vines and blueberries provide an escape from the hustle and bustle.

Then you will head to Bay Shore. The downtown area, which has seen a resurgence over the past half-decade, is home to a range of unique restaurants, including from Tullulah. The atmosphere inside is both industrial and talking, with dim lights and exposed wooden beams. Popular lunch options include creamy mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. Walk and put sand in your shoes at Robert Moses Beach. The fields will be less crowded, giving you room to spread out and enjoy the perks of living on an island.

Once you’ve got all the sun, sand, and sea you can handle, head to dinner at Babylon Village. Kitchen Barrel & Wine Bar, a tapas-centric wine bar, offers beer, wine and spirits tastings as well as a tapas menu that lets you mix and match throughout your meal. Think creamy burrata that melts in your mouth, Oktoberfest-worthy pretzels with baked brie and delicious veal meatballs.

Something cultural

With New York City in our backyard, it can be easy to overlook the arts, culture, and history right here on the island. But that would be a mistake. From Gatsby-style mansions to theaters hosting performances that will leave you begging for a call back, there’s a lot to learn about your home region.

But no one learns well on an empty stomach, so start your day with brunch at hatch in Huntington. The bright interior with yellow chairs and a neon sign that says “My Happy Place” above the open kitchen looks like natural caffeine. But go ahead and have a coffee too. It goes perfectly with the huevos rancheros. From there, head to Oheka Castle. The famous 1919 Gold Coast mansion has beautiful formal gardens to explore. See if you can drop your bags there – you’ll sleep like a royal tonight. (Bonus: Ask about in-room massages).

Oheka Castle (Photo credit: Phillip Ennis)

Coindre Room, a 15-minute drive away, is next on your list for the Gatsby part of this fall getaway. The French castle, a national historic monument built in 1912, exudes a medieval charm. It is also a park with a breathtaking view of Huntington Harbor.

You will refuel at Besito, which gave an upscale twist to Mexican food with iron pan tacos and guacamole so good you’ll want to plan on asking for a few seconds. Then head to Hecksher Art Museum. The current exhibition, Solar eclipse, features political art and includes depictions of WWI and Nazi Germany. Reservations are recommended.

Talk about what you’ve seen – or come back without talking about politics – over dinner at Northport’s Whale tale. Panoramic waterfront views and seafood to remember provide a welcome respite from current events and dropping temperatures. The place is also a short distance from the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. The local gem of Main Street has Smokey Joe’s Cafe until October 31, and you’ll be tapping and dancing the aisles to shows like “On Broadway” and “Stand by Me.”

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