Beyond The Hamptons: A Guide To The North Shore

by Adam Bertrand · July 9, 2008

arboretum in oyster bay

By Leonie Glen While visiting my brother's family in Quogue, my daughter would often ask why my family didn’t spend our summers out there. After all, we grew up on L.I., and we had cousins in East Hampton with a mouth-watering property and a long-time membership at the Maidstone. What were we thinking?

Well, we lived on the North Shore, and the Tri-harbor area (Oyster Bay, Cold Spring Harbor, and Lloyd Harbor/Huntington Bay) remains a place no one would want to leave in the summer. What it lacks in surfable splendor, it more than makes up for in charm, sailing -- both competitive and desultory -- and a hilly, crenellated shoreline that F. Scott Fitzgerald immortalized in The Great Gatsby. Horseshoe crabs hug the sea grass, clams lurk in the mud, and starfish cling to dock pilings. There are also a couple of outstanding golf courses (the best is at The Creek Club), but they are NOT open to the public!

What follows is an introductory itinerary, one which starts in Oyster Bay, home of Teddy Roosevelt.yacht club in oyster bay

Begin with a sail in the morning. The winds are better in the afternoon, but this is the best possible introduction to the area. If you don’t have a membership at one of the sailing clubs (like Seawanhaka, the Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club, or the Lloyd Harbor Bath Club), you can rent or charter a sailboat from the Waterfront Center (8:30-12:30 a.m., or 1-5 p.m.). While gliding in and out of the three harbors, you will see for yourself why people like the Roosevelts, the Vanderbilts, the Tiffanys, and Marshall Field built their summer homes here.

Doubtless you’ll be hungry after a morning on the water, so head over to Wild Honey, located in what used to be Teddy Roosevelt’s summer offices, for some creative American eats. After lunch, take a drive down Cove Neck Road to Sagamore Hill. T.R.’s summer home is now a National Park and well worth the visit. Two other options, if you have the time and the inclination, are Planting Fields Arboretum and Nassau Hall. Both are erstwhile “Gold Coast” estates.

The former is straight out of the original “Sabrina,” which was actually filmed at Westbury Gardens, and it is kept in all of its manicured glory. What Nassau Hall lacks in Gold Coast grandeur, it more than makes up for in grace and charm. Built by Delano and Aldrich in 1906, its façade is modeled after George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and its carriage house/stables/groom’s quarters is a template of exquisite architectural taste and detail. Unfortunately, the peachstone driveways have been paved. Nassau County has allowed the estate (with its one-time world class arboretum) to fall into a state of decrepitude that lends it a Faulkner-esque scope for the imagination. Walk around the grounds, enter the abandoned aviary, peer into the peacock's mirror and imagine what once was. At this point, either return home, or stay overnight (perhaps at the Swan View Manor) and begin the next day in Cold Spring Harbor.

Stay tuned for Part II: Cold Spring Harbor!

[Images via NYParks and Seawanhaka Yacht Club]