When my husband and I moved out to the North Fork in 2015 after nearly 12 years in Manhattan, one of the most noticeable changes to everyday life was the need for a car to get around. For over a decade, I had grown accustomed to reliable public transportation and the expectation that I could get just about anywhere with my Metrocard or my bike.
A night out with friends in the East Village involved a simple jaunt aboard the M8 bus. The hassle of parking or the complexity of who was going to drive home never entered my thought process. I had even mastered the ride home from Trader Joe’s with my handlebars carefully balancing two giant bags of groceries.
It wasn’t long after our move to Southold that I began to notice the familiar rectangular mass of a commuter bus traveling along Route 25 with an illuminated sign denoting it as the S92 route.
Then, one afternoon while in the backyard, I heard a loud horn off in the distance that seemed to be approaching at a rapid pace. Behold! It was the Long Island Railroad making its regular pilgrimage to the North Fork.
As it turns out, even in this bucolic landscape hours outside the city, there is an abundance of public transportation options that can be put to valuable use by us locals. With a little time planning and some creative route mapping, I soon learned there were myriad ways to get around the North Fork without a car.
Here are some of my favorite routes:
The Night Out In Greenport
On summer Fridays, the LIRR runs an early train out to the North Fork that arrives in Mattituck at 6:21 p.m. and Southold at 6:35 p.m. before arriving at its final destination in Greenport at 6:45 p.m. Southold straphangers can walk or bike to their local train station and enjoy a scenic ride along the water right into the heart of Greenport for just $3.
I like to start with some local oysters and beers at Little Creek Oysters followed by dinner with a glass of local wine at American Beech. Then, its time to catch the return train that departs Greenport every midweek night at 9:39 p.m. to head back home after a delightful car-free evening out on the town.
The Brewery Crawl
The S92 bus runs seven days a week, making a semi-circular route between Orient and East Hampton. If there is a business or site that you’d like to visit along Main Road, chances are the S92 bus passes by several times a day. The best thing about this bus is that it will pick up and drop off passengers anywhere along the route.
There’s no need to adhere to specific designated bus stops. The fare is just $2.25 (students and seniors are less) and all one needs to do to hop on this bus is stand along Route 25 and wave as the driver approaches.
The North Fork has recently seen the emergence of a wonderful new craft brewery scene. Beer lovers can begin their day at the Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. on the corner of Main Road and Peconic Lane in Peconic. Then, after a tasting flight, just hail the next S92 bus heading west. Disembark in Riverhead at the county courthouse and walk to Crooked Ladder, Moustache or Long Ireland breweries. To get home you have a choice between catching the next Eastbound S92 bus or the LIRR.
The Winery Tour
Wineries are a huge draw for visitors to the North Fork, but with them come traffic and parking issues. The S92 bus can serve as your own personal winery trolley along Route 25. Just be sure to check the bus schedule online to plan your pickup times and you can enjoy a day of wine tasting without a car.
The Perfect Burger
One of my favorite activities on a summer Friday is a visit to McCall Wines in Cutchogue for their local grass-fed Charolais beef burgers. From Southold, the trip involves a beautiful five-mile bike ride with a stop at Wickham’s Fruit Farm along the way. However, after a hearty burger and a beautiful sunset, the bike ride home never seems as tempting.
One of the best things about the S92 is its free bike rack, which can accommodate up to two bicycles per bus. Just secure your bike to the rack and you have an easy ride back home on a full stomach.
For those craving more adventure, time a visit to McCall’s Burger Friday with Love Lane’s First Friday street fair. Love Lane is just a two-mile bike ride (or S92 ride) west where you can indulge in an array of tasty food selections and unique shops. Love Lane is an easy stroll to the Mattituck train station to catch the LIRR back east (bikes are free with the $3 fare) or catch the S92 home.
Recent budget cuts to Suffolk County pose a threat to our S92 bus service. If you have never hopped aboard the bus, I encourage you and your summer guests to give it a try. And while you’re at it, I hope to see more North Forkers taking advantage of the “North Fork subway” the LIRR provides among our wonderful hamlets. See you on the platform and leave your car keys at home.
The author lives in Southold.