Picking the right hamlet for your lifestyle

A young family walks Goose Creek Beach in Southold. (Credit: David Benthal)

Rich in culture, natural beauty and culinary delights, the North Fork has something to fit every fancy. Each hamlet has unique offerings, whether you’re searching for a place to admire the arts, return to nature, savor local dishes, bask in peace and quiet, or entertain the kids.

Choosing one to hang your hat in is no easy task, so we asked veteran North Fork real estate agents what they say when buyers with specific needs and tastes are looking for a North Fork hamlet to call home.

Here is a handy guide for picking your perfect place to live.

Greenport for foodies

American Beech in Greenport. (Credit: David Benthal)

There’s a strong consensus among local real estate professionals that if you prefer to live among high-quality restaurants, Greenport is the place for you.

A one-time whaling port, Greenport has blossomed into a hub for chefs who specialize in creating innovative fare using locally sourced provisions. From breakfast at Bruce & Son to tacos at Lucharitos to farm-fresh dinners at American Beech or Noah’s, there is a restaurant to satisfy any craving. The challenge lies in choosing where to dine.

The culinary diversity and the sheer number of options were among the top reasons why Douglas Elliman real estate agent Tom McCloskey recommends the seaside village to his foodie clients.

“Greenport has the most amount of restaurants and the most diverse types of restaurants,” said McCloskey, who has been in the real estate industry for more than 25 years. “There is seafood, Japanese … you name it, there is a lot to try.”

Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty agent JoAnn Wind agreed, also noting the handful of destinations to indulge in local wine and craft beer.

“With over 25 restaurants, its own Greenport Brewery on Carpenter Street and Kontokosta Vineyard overlooking the Long Island Sound, Greenport is foodie heaven,” said Wind, a village resident.

In the mood for a cocktail? There is perhaps no better place on the North Fork to find one than Brix & Rye on Main Street. The craft libations are made even better by the authentic speakeasy vibe.

Southold, which features two of the most respected restaurants on the North Fork — Caci North Fork and North Fork Table & Inn — is a strong runner-up in this category.

Orient for the outdoors

Orient Beach State Park. (Credit: David Benthal)

Bucolic scenery is only part of what makes Orient a special place if you enjoy the outdoors.

Peaceful strolls down Narrow River Road invoke feelings of serenity that become stronger with each step.

Anyone who finds their escape in the great outdoors will discover a way to unwind in Orient. The easternmost hamlet on the North Fork boasts many ways to enjoy nature, from diverse ecology to sandy shores to hiking trails.

“There are peaceful, quiet inland waterways for kayaking, paddleboarding and boating,” Wind said. “Plus nature trails for hiking and bird-watching.”

Orient Beach State Park is an ideal destination for sightseeing and outdoor activities alike. The park is considered an Audubon Important Bird Area, where great blue herons, egrets and ospreys are commonly spotted. Guests of the park can enjoy picnicking and relaxation, but there is plenty of recreational fun.

The park is a place for swimming, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing and stand-up paddleboarding. Land lovers will appreciate the hiking, biking and nature trails.

The nearby Ruth Oliva Preserve at Dam Pond and Trumans Beach in East Marion are other popular destinations for enjoying the North Fork’s natural wonders. There are also fishing charters in Orient to easily get out on the water.

Peconic for peace and quiet

Goldsmith Inlet in Peconic. (Credit: David Benthal)

The 3.5-square-mile hamlet of Peconic stretches from the Long Island Sound to the Peconic Bay, with acres of farms and preserved woodlands in between. The quaint appeal of the community is easily discovered in old-timey treasures like the modest Peconic post office that still has antique brass postboxes with combination locks instead of keys.

Peconic is among the smaller North Fork hamlets and features only 700 residents. It’s a place where you are more likely to hear birds chirping outside or the sound of children laughing at Jean Cochran Park on Peconic Lane than the roar of cars whizzing by on busier downtown streets.

“Peconic Lane is just beautiful,” said Corcoran agent Sheri Winter Clarry, who has spent more than two decades in the real estate industry. “The park is peaceful and never overpopulated.”

Its business district is limited to a handful of locally owned shops and wineries, but on its scenic sleepy back roads, it feels as if you’re hundreds of miles away from commerce. It is down those roads you’ll find your way to hidden sandy beaches. Indian Neck Lane — lined with trees and historic homes — is one that leads you to the shoreline for unforgettable sunrises over the Peconic Bay.

“There are quiet beach communities on the bay side,” said Century 21 real estate agent Jerry Cibulski, who has been working in real estate for nearly 15 years. “They all have their own private deeded beaches just for the residents. There are no beaches where people are piling in from other areas, it is just for the neighborhood.”

Dramatic sunsets that invoke a sense of calm can be found on the northern reaches of Peconic at Goldsmith Inlet.

“It is the perfect place to catch the sunset,” Clarry said. “It doesn’t get more zen.”

Downtown Riverhead for art lovers

The Suffolk Theater. (Credit: David Benthal)

Greenport, which boasts several great galleries, including VSOP, Sirens’ Song, Nova Constellatio and the North Fork Art Collective, is an obvious destination for art lovers. And it’s certainly a top place recommended by real estate agents. (But what fun would this list be if we chose Greenport for everything?)

Town & Country real estate agent Nicholas Planamento pointed out, however, that while it certainly doesn’t match Greenport in terms of volume, downtown Riverhead has an emerging art scene in a community that fosters creativity.

“Downtown Riverhead deserves a shoutout,” said Planamento, who has worked in real estate for three decades. “It deserves recognition for its community art exhibits and the opportunity it provides artists.”

A number of organizations contribute to Planamento’s point. East End Arts, the Riverhead Business Improvement District and the Suffolk County Historical Society are among the institutions that provide programs and exhibits that help transform the downtown into a canvas.

East End Arts hosts an annual Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival, inviting professionals and novices alike to brighten up Main Street each spring. The nonprofit also serves as a school where residents can participate in painting, drawing and photography lessons.

The recent Art in the Park light-up display at Grangebel Park is another example of the community working to weave the arts into everyday life. The new affordable apartments at Peconic Crossing also give preferential housing for artists.

Southold for young families

A young family walks Goose Creek Beach in Southold. (Credit: David Benthal)

Families have plenty of great options when it comes to life on the North Fork. Mattituck was a standout for our real estate agents who pointed to the diversity of activities found in the hamlet. Mattituck Cinemas, Harbes Farm and Love Lane were among the many reasons Mattituck was highlighted for families with children — but Southold was the ultimate pick.

“There is a lot for children to do in Southold,” said Clarry, who calls the hamlet home.

“Southold has wonderful family neighborhoods near the water,” Cibulski added. “It is quiet in terms of traffic, so parents can feel comfortable walking with their kids.”

The hamlet is home to beautiful beaches and parks that encourage kids to look up from their screens. There is also plenty to explore at the Southold Indian Museum and the Custer Institute & Observatory, which hosts community stargazing events on Saturday nights free of charge.

Horton Point Lighthouse is also a destination for learning and for peaceful family picnics on the lawn overlooking the Long Island Sound, while Cornell Cooperative Extension’s outpost at Cedar Beach and Southold Free Library are havens for engaging youth programs.

Parents of young children will also appreciate the family-friendly wineries, local coffee joint North Fork Roasting Co. and breakfast at Erik’s on the North Road, while the kids will enjoy digging into the sweet sundaes at the Country Corner Café.

cmurray@timesreview.com