Shelter Island is located on the east end of Long Island, New York north of Sag Harbor. It is surrounded by Shelter Island, Gardinerís, and Peconic Bays - and can be reached by ferry from North Haven and Greenport. It was first settled by immigrants from Barbados seeking out white oak sands for use for their sugar barrels. Less than a century ago it was still predominantly used for farming and housed several shoreline fish factories. Today Shelter Island is a popular resort with a small population rising to almost 10,000 during peak summer season.
The Heights Historic District is a community space where green areas, homes, cottages, and parks were created with history in mind; folk architecture is a feature throughout, on par with communities like Ocean Grove, New Jersey and Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard. It is on both the National Register of Historic Place and the New York State Register of Historic Places. Taylor’s Island, also taking a spot on both previously mentioned lists, is a sand bar, or tombolo, housing the historically significant Smith-Taylor Cabin, donated to Shelter Island for public use by S. Gregory Taylor.
Visiting Mashomac Preserve is one of the best things to do on Shelter Island, with plenty of wildlife to see, trails to hike, and scenic areas to enjoy. Ten miles of pristine coastline beckon visitors to explore woodlands, tidal creeks, salt marshes, sandy beaches, and vast fields where endless scores of animals live. The preserve comprises one third of the island. It was established to protect the peninsula from being developed and destroying precious habitats.
Throughout the island there are many recreational pursuits available. Hiking throughout the Mashomac Preserve is but one; enjoy kayak and canoe tours around Shelter Island and throughout the surrounding coves and bays, enjoy birding, ride around the island on horseback, or take a dip at the sandy beaches. Or, head into town for some excellent shopping and dining.
If the beach is your thing, you’ll get a taste of calm, shallow water, beautiful, rustic spots, and plenty of seclusion along 20 miles of scenic coast. Crescent, Wades, and Louis Beach are the options, each requiring a beach permit after Memorial Day for access. If you’re not a Shelter Island resident you must purchase a pass for the week, even if only staying for the day. Pricey yet worth every penny.
Top image: petercruise (flickr)