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LOCATED BETWEEN the North and South Forks of LONG Island, Shelter Island is a particularly distinct type of island getaway. About three hours from Manhattan and accessible by short car ferry from Greenport or North Haven, the 8,000-acre island is bordered by the Peconic River to the west and Gardiners Bay to the east. As far as beach getaways go, it’s less challenging than the Hamptons and more laid back than North Fork. The narrow coastline is dotted with rocks and seashells, while the interior is made up of forested marshes, brackish and freshwater ponds. Life here unfolds in a hypnotically slow place; cyclists braking for a family of wild turkeys might look like a traffic jam.
The traditional home of the Manhanset people, Shelter Island was appropriated by King James I of England and was part of his initial grant to Plymouth Colony in 1620. Once settled, the land passed through many hands, acquiring the name of Shelter Island around 1652. By the early 1900s, several millionaires had built homes there; more summer houses and cottages sprung up after World War II. As of the 2020 census, the island had around 1,600 full-time residents, although that number increases in the summer, as evidenced by the weekend breaks that invade André Balazs’ chic Sunset Beach hotel and two historic inns in the area. island that have recently been upgraded.
While fishing and farming were the dominant industries years ago, residents today are more likely to be hoteliers, interior designers or restaurateurs. A growing number of artists are also opening studios, says abstract artist Margaret Garrett, 57, who has maintained a studio and residence on Shelter Island for 25 years and curated the summer exhibition ‘Once on This Island at the Shelter Island Historical Society. . The exhibition features the work of Willem de Kooning, Jules Feiffer, Janet Culbertson and other creatives who have sought inspiration here over the years.
Despite a flood of pandemic newcomers, the island’s coastal calm remains largely untouched; just head to secluded Crab Creek Beach or the miles of vivid green trails at Mashomack Preserve to see for yourself. (A new mobile payment system is making it easier than ever for non-residents to find parking, which was once a pain point for day-trippers.) “Working in a studio apartment surrounded by nature affects me on a cellular level, which in turn affects my work,” says Garrett. “The combination of solitude and community is ideal for an artist.”
Just in time for its 95th anniversary, this Crescent Beach hotel has undergone a facelift down to the studs, bringing the storied property into the 21st century. Owners and residents of Shelter Island since 1961, the Petry family has partnered with Cape Resorts (which also operates Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor and several hotels in Cape May, New Jersey) for the renovation and management of the hotel. Colleen Bashaw of Cape Resorts led the redesign, focusing on preserving original details like circa-1927 chandeliers and some wicker and rattan furniture while adding pops of color and pattern via wallpapers by Zina. Schumacher Studios and Textiles. The result: 33 Adirondack-inspired rooms with custom-designed oak cannonball beds and scalloped-edge side tables in the main house and 16 stand-alone one- and two-room cottages accented with vintage Shelter Island maps , flat-weave sisal rugs and custom green floral cushions covered in Schumacher’s exotic butterfly print. There’s also a game room with a ping-pong table and vintage Pac Man console and a new fitness center and spa with three treatment rooms and wet and dry saunas. caperesorts.com/pridwin.
Another long-standing property with a new look, the multi-gabled Chequit dates from 1872 but was purchased by the Soloviev Group in 2020 and renovated by Glen & Co. Architecture + Design of New York. The main building now has 19 rooms in a minimalist gray, beige, and white palette, with brand new bathrooms, some with clawfoot tubs. (Two separate buildings house 16 additional rooms that have yet to be renovated.) Wood-plank walls, decorative oar signs, and narrow hallways with low ceilings create a nautical vibe. A small pool is being installed out back, in time for next summer, but the biggest draw so far is the pair of new restaurants helmed by beloved Greenport chef Noah Schwartz: Weakfish Sushi & Noodle and the Tavern, with its raw bar and pool table. . Both locations have outdoor seating on the hotel’s wraparound porch and recently added patio. thechequithotel.com.
Valérie Mnuchin has teamed up with her father, Robert Mnuchin, the former co-owner of the Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, Connecticut, to open a restaurant named after her paternal grandfather, Léon, a Belgian émigré who spent the half of its life at the east end. It is housed in a newly erected farmhouse-style building with exposed wooden trusses, canvas-covered banquettes and an open hearth with a blackened steel hood and soapstone top. The live fire prepares French and Italian-inspired dishes such as striped bass with spicy peperonata and grilled rib eye served with crispy herbed potatoes; handmade pastas, local salads and seafood crudos are also on the menu. leon1909.com.
The quirky bagel
Shelter Island has survived centuries without a bagel shop, but when this take-out spot with brightly colored picnic tables and ’80s MTV-inspired decor (think black-and-white triangle-patterned floors and a textured mustard yellow ceiling and wall with zigzag lightning bolts) opened in April, it was instantly mobbed. The brainchild of New York native Darryn Weinstein and his wife, Amy, the cafe sells egg, za’atar and jalapeño-cheddar bagels topped with everything from Sriracha cream cheese and smoked salmon to scrambled eggs , bacon, tomato and avocado. eccentricbagel.com.
Elizabeth Peeples and Stefanie Bassett, co-owners of Little Ram Oyster Co., raise their bivalves north of Little Ram Island, a peninsula east of Shelter Island. In April they introduced a new treatment facility at the Shoals ‘boatel’ in Southold, across the Peconic. Customers can sample Little Ram oysters from the Shoals’ on-site food truck or sign up for a tour of the company’s floating oyster nurseries, which includes shucking instruction and tasting. They will see the massive aluminum oyster tumbling machine in action and learn how various environmental factors affect the flavor of an oyster. (Small rams, for the record, are known for their lively minerality and medium salinity.) littleramoysters.com.
White Oak Farm and Gardens
Lavender, hydrangeas and pink gerberas surround a handful of metal chairs and tables in the storybook garden of this garden center and landscaping company, which started welcoming visitors to its vineyard garden last year . Every weekend through summer’s end, patrons can order cheese and charcuterie boards from the King Andrew Cheese cart parked on site, have a glass of house rosé (White Oak has partnered with the North Fork’s Lenz Winery to make its own) and play bocce while listening to live music from local bands including the Bodega Tallboys and Rob Europe. whiteoakfarmandgardens.com.
Ram Design Home and Marni Marine
Half a dozen interior designers have opened studios and boutiques on Shelter Island in recent years. At Ram Design Home, founder Cristina Peffer showcases ceramics by Lily Hoffman, photographs by the Robin Rice Gallery and minimalist furniture by Alfredo Paredes, the former creative director of Ralph Lauren. And now, for the second summer in a row, the Sunset Beach Hotel is hosting a pop-up by Italian fashion brand Marni, filled with boldly patterned clothing, wide-strap platform leather sandals and chunky jewelry, plus the Marni Market collection of colorful handbags and baskets handwoven by Colombian artisans. ramdesignhome.com; marni.com.
What to bring home as suggested by locals we love
Matte Pedestal Bowl by Megan Hergrueter
“The handcrafted nature of these pedestal bowls, available at the Shelter Island Historical Society’s Havens store, adds beautiful texture to a kitchen,” says Sarah Zames, founder of architecture and interior design firm General Assembly. and regular at Shelter. Island. “The fact that it’s a bit taller also differentiates it from a typical fruit bowl.” Of $60; shelterislandhistorical.org/havensstore.html.
Lilielle pillow, in wool, linen and hemp, from the Heiberg Cummings workshop
“It’s just the right materials to snuggle up to, and the colors are very organic,” says Marie Eiffel, a French transplant and owner of Shelter Island retail stalwarts Marie Eiffel Market and Marie Eiffel Fashion, both on North Ferry Road. “You can throw them on the floor, stack them and lay on them or put them on a chair, sofa or bed – they look good with everything.” $425; hcd3.com.