A holiday to the East Coast of America often conjures up images of New York City, Washington DC or maybe Cape Cod but there are other elegant and unique choices such as the picturesque and charming destinations of the North Fork and Newburyport. Each with its own unique character and attractions, these destinations offer a delightful mix of pristine beaches, wineries, culinary delights, and rich history. Let’s look at these two coastal havens.
The North Fork: A Quieter Haven
Stretching over thirty miles of pristine beaches, wineries, and farmland, enveloped between Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound, the North Fork is a quieter and more agricultural version of the South Fork, otherwise known as the Hamptons.
Leaving New York City and driving east for seventy-five miles will bring you to two forks in the road. To go South is to arrive in the showy playground of the rich and famous with multimillion-dollar Atlantic Ocean frontage properties; to veer north is to meet her more down-to-earth sister.
For years, the Hamptons was the destination to visit. It has old money history, with Jackie Onasis spending her summers in Easthampton and Truman Capote, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the classic ‘In Cold Blood,” a resident of the town of Sagaponack. Celebrity chef Ina ‘Barefoot Contessa’ Garten films from her iconic shingle-style farmhouse and grounds. Adding to its sheen are lauded events such as the Hamptons’ Classic Horse Show, miles of wild Atlantic beaches dotted with dunes and prestigious golf and country clubs.
However, the Hamptons’ bucolic neighbouring peninsula has been creeping out of her shadow for years, especially since the pandemic. Previously seen as the underdog, the North Fork is becoming beloved for reasons of her own and not just because the price of real estate is significantly lower. Known as Long Island’s wine country, the North Fork holds sixty vineyards, breweries, and distilleries using locally grown ingredients.
The North Fork Highlights:
Spoilt for choice, Croteaux just about pips some other contenders to the post based on the quaint and cosy tasting room that opens to a beautiful, pebbled courtyard garden surrounded by historic barns. Croteaux specialises in rosé- both sparkling and still. If you can’t choose from a menu overflowing with options, then ‘The Flight’ is your best bet. The still or sparkling version gives a taste of three popular choices. The Instagram-friendly boho charm makes Croteaux very popular with hen parties – or bachelorette parties as they are called in the States. On this visit, one elegantly wasted bride-to-be was spotted gently tipping backward into a bush after one too many flights!
Schmitt’s Country Fresh
The Schmitt family has grown produce on Long Island for over 150 years. Their offerings change season to season, so you can expect local fruits and vegetables alongside fresh flowers from 01 May while autumn introduces apples, cider, and pumpkins.
Wade’s Beach (Shelter Island)
Shelter Island occupies a unique, almost delicate position, less than half a mile from the North Fork and roughly the same distance from the Hamptons. Wade’s Beach, which is excellent for families, has plenty of picnic tables, lifeguards, and a bathroom. The adjacent Dickerson Creek, behind Wade’s
Beach, is a paradise for clamming (digging for clams) at low tide. If you are looking for something more glamorous, head back up to the north side; at only half a mile long is Crescent Beach. Praised for its warm, calm waters, powdery sand, and 1950s striped umbrellas, famous hotelier Andres Balazs built the Sunset Beach Hotel here. Frequently name-checked on Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website ‘Goop,’ this is a place for the young and the beautiful.
One of the oldest running restaurants in New York and the United States is located on the North Fork. This is reason enough to make Claudio’s the pick, though it has much more going for it than just this fact. Claudios, in the picturesque town of Greenport, opened in 1884. This spot was even open and operating during Prohibition. During that period, the ground floor was a fine dining restaurant, but upstairs was a lively bar. Bootleggers brought their wares to Claudio’s by boat and snuck them in through trap doors on the floor behind the bar. The Victorian bar that was installed in 1886 has not been updated. Sipping a martini on one of the high-backed bar stools is a joy. Each meal is locally produced and delicious, but the New England clam chowder and lobster roll are standouts.
Newburyport: A Coastal Gem in Massachusetts
Newburyport, the smallest coastal city in Massachusetts, is a 30-minute drive from Logan Airport. Situated at the mouth of the Merrimack River, the area is so uniformly crafted and built, it looks like a stage set. A fire in the town in 1811 meant the space was rebuilt in the style of the time- Federalist Era red brick being the chosen material. The streets are graceful, without a gaudy shopfront insight. Rows of dazzling white mansions, museums, churches, and shops culminate in a riverfront promenade and miles of pristine beach.
Tuscan Sea Grill & Bar
Overlooking the Merrimack River and boasting sweeping harbour views, Tuscan Sea Grill & Bar serves locally sourced seafood and Neapolitan-style pizzas. A very impressive raw bar takes centre stage. Al-fresco dining is an option all-year-round as indoor fire pits are dotted around the space to create warmth and atmosphere even when the outdoor temperatures have reached that New England winter chill.
Greta’s Great Grains Bakery and Café
Pastry lovers will quickly notice that Newburyport has an abundance of good bakeries. Walk to Greta’s Great Grains Bakery and Cafe and choose from the enticing Austrian pastries with Bavarian cream, fruit, and, of course, chocolate.
M.K Benatti Jewellers
The shopping in Newburyport is dreamy. Forget American malls or outlets, this town is full of stunning boutiques with the most divine cashmere, luxury bathroom items, and jewellery. M.K Benatti Jewellers is run by ten professionals, and their expertise is in custom design. All budgets are catered for, and they house the Cape Cod Collection of elegant and timeless pieces.
Magically, Plum Island is named for the beach plums that grow wild along its dunes. Located off the coast of Newbury, the island stretches for eleven miles. It’s perfect for a walk and fascinating to see the many assorted styles of houses built on the sound- many on stilts in marshy terrain.
With a rotating menu of thirty-two craft beers, Grogg is a fun spot and a bit more casual than most Newburyport watering holes. Decorated in nautical style, this is a quaint spot with great service. The turkey club sandwich is what it is known for and with good reason. After the Lobster Roll, the Turkey Club surely takes a top spot for dishes that New England serves up best.
Tendercrop Farms is a family-run business since 1985. It offers a delectable bounty of apples, asparagus, beets, broccoli, corn, lettuce, melon, nectarines, peaches, tomatoes, and strawberries – from its own farm and fields. The produce is harvested at the peak of its flavour and look (and taste) divine. This is the kind of wholesome-looking market that features on the big screen in romantic films.
Choosing to holiday in either of these two destinations, from the picturesque and bucolic North Fork to the charming and historic Newburyport, you’ll find yourself immersed in the beauty, culture, and culinary delights that make these destinations elegant and unique to the East Coast.