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Soundview Dunes Park in Peconic includes a pathway that leads to a beautiful beach. Credit: Grant Parpan

In an effort to increase usage of its parks and preserves — which often get overlooked by nearby state and county properties — Southold Town’s recreation department introduced a passport program this summer.

You can get a sticker as you hike each of the following seven properties and if you complete the tour you can enter for a chance to win a gift card to Magic Fountain in Mattituck. The contest is ongoing until the end of September, but the parks can be enjoyed in different ways any time of year.

We’ve checked out all the properties in the program and can say they offer a range of vistas and each makes for a great picnic spot. Eat lunch on a beach or a meadow after getting in that daily exercise.

Here are our pairings for each stop along the way.

The Fork and Anchor crispy chicken sandwich. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Ruth Oliva Preserve at Dam Pond

11855 Route 25, East Marion, Acreage: 36.0, Length of trails: 1.30 mi.

The Hike:

Ruth Oliva Preserve provides a great opportunity to spot wildlife. Not only will you spot deer and hear a variety of songbirds, but red fox, bobwhite quail and pheasants call this park home.

For Lunch:

Fork & Anchor is a stone’s throw away from this park and they make some outstanding sandwiches. They even offer a picnic box for two ($48) that includes a pair of sandwiches, two Boylan’s soda bottles, water or iced tea, two bags of North Fork Potato Chips, a large side salad or two small salads and two packs of Tate’s cookies. Their crispy chicken sandwich with Siracha mayo will not disappoint.

The start of the walkway at Downs Farm Preserve in Cutchogue (Credit: Felicia LaLomia)

Downs Farm Preserve

23800 Route 25, Cutchogue, Acreage: 51.0, Length of trails: 1.10 mi.

The Hike:

Located at the historic Native American Fort Corchaug site, Down’s Farm Preserve offers a little bit of everything from fields to forest and salt marsh. It’s widely considered one of the best hikes on the North Fork.

For Lunch:

Recently voted the best deli on the North Fork by our readers, Ammirati’s of Love Lane in Mattituck has a sandwich menu with so many good options it’s hard to choose just one. Feeling gluttonous, try the Buffalo Soldier with fried onions and wing sauce on a bacon and chicken cold cut sandwich. The Cali Turkey BLT is also a favorite, featuring cajun mayo on ciabatta.

A lobster roll from Southold Fish Market (Photo Credit: Vera Chinese)

Paul Stoutenburgh Preserve

63445 Route 25, Southold, Acreage: 53.0, Length of trails: 1.10 mi.

The Hike:

If you want to see just how diverse North Fork forest can be, this is the hike for you. Among the trees you’ll spot in these pristine woodlands — named for longtime environmentalist and Suffolk Times nature columnist Paul Stoutenburgh — are oaks, hickories, birches, maples, American beech and mature white pines. Spot egrets, salamanders and hawks along the way, too.

For Lunch:

The lobster rolls at Southold Fish Market were recently voted best of the North Fork by our readers. The shrimp salad wrap is also a fresh and delicious lunchtime option at this beloved eatery just across from the preserve.

The trail leading to the beach at Sound View Dunes Park (Credit: Felicia LaLomia).

Soundview Dunes Park

4503 Soundview Avenue, Peconic, Acreage: 57.0, Length of trails: 1.20 mi.

The Hike:

We just love the trails here, including one that leads to a secluded beach, where you can extend your hike even farther. You’ll pass dunes dotted with bayberry and beach plum along the way. Keep an eye out for wading birds and (in winter) water fowl as well.

For Lunch:

The pulled lamb pita with cucumber sauce at North Fork Shack is something you don’t see on very many menus and it offers superior taste, too. Be sure to also grab a side of eggplant hummus when you’re there.

Laurel Lake Preserve has plenty of room to explore. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Laurel Lake Preserve

5145 Route 25, Laurel, Acreage: 174.0, Length of trails: 2.20 mi.

The Hike: This is the largest preserve and the longest hiking trail in the town program and therefore there’s plenty to see. You can try to spot woodpeckers and wood chucks as you navigate the trails along the freshwater wetlands that give the park its name. There’s also a variety of flora and fauna to be seen here.

For Lunch:

One of the newest lunch spots in the area, Center Cut Meats in Mattituck has a tasty lunch menu featuring freshly chopped meats. The Gallucci is a sweet sausage hero topped with garlic ricotta, melted mozzarella, lettuce and basil pesto. How’s that for outside the box hiking fare?

Mill Road Preserve in Mattituck is one of the smallest trails on the list but also makes for a quiet spot to enjoy lunch. (Credit: The Suffolk Times)

Mill Road Preserve

1900 West Mill Rd., Mattituck, Acreage: 25, Length of trails: .90 mi

The Hike:

This is mostly a passive park with woodlands near where the old mill was constructed in early 19th Century Mattituck. There is a short trail though that leads to grassland that provides food sources and bedding for wildlife, including bobwhite quail and songbirds. It’s an unsung spot for a picnic.

For Lunch:

Wendy’s Deli in Mattituck is just always so solid. Text in a turkey reuben or an egg salad BLT sandwich order on your way to the preserve.

Bahn Mi
Wednesday’s Table’s popular bahn mi. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

Custer Preserve

1080 Main Bayview Rd., Southold, Acreage: 6.0, Length of trails: 0.40 mi.

The Hike:

The trail is short here at this preserve, which is mainly a country meadow. Check out the wildflowers and seasonal plants that grow at this green oasis as you enjoy a quiet lunch from one of our favorite places on the North Fork.

For Lunch:

Wednesday’s Table serves up a pork banh mi that we find ourselves craving often. You can get it spicy or not.