Exploring the various nook-and-cranny towns hidden along Long Island’s North Shore will reveal a ton of scenic beauty, fascinating history, and fantastic food — but once you’ve experienced Northport, don’t be surprised if all the rest feel just a little…underwhelming.
This little incorporated village—which rests quietly on its own personal bay along the Town of Huntington’s northeast shore—has a history dating back to 1665. It began as a tiny farming town where cows grazed in pastures by the water (hence its original name: Great Cow Harbor), eventually evolving into a thriving center for shipbuilding in the 19th century, and finally into the idyllic waterfront destination for shopping, food, and fresh air that it is today.
“Northport is very…Mayberry,” Northport Village Mayor Donna Koch says. “We have a very small town feel…We have a public dock people love to walk out on, we’re very dog friendly, there’s ice cream. It’s a very welcoming village.”
Northport is a fairly small town, but there’s a ton to do there during any season, including the following:
MAKING YOUR WAY DOWNTOWN
The star which Northport’s solar system revolves around is its downtown area: Northport Village. The village is full of history, scenery, and undeniable charm, and you don’t need to spend a dime to take it all in. All you need to do is walk.
“I think our number-one claim is that people just love to walk Northport Village,” Koch tells us. “They enjoy walking, they enjoy seeing the stores. It’s just a nice place to visit.”
For the ultimate foot tour of the village, start where Ocean Avenue meets Main Street.
From there, follow the retired trolley tracks that decorate the pavement north, where you’ll pass…
A 110-year-old former movie house which once offered vaudeville shows (now the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com).
A legendary local watering hole where beat icon Jack Kerouac sipped his twilight beers (Gunther’s Tap Room, 84 Main St., 631-754-9659, guntherstaproom.com).
A luncheonette established in 1929 that still beams with 20th century Americana (Northport Sweet Shop, 55 Main St., 631-261-3748, northportsweetshop.com).
….and countless other beautiful buildings that stand as monuments to Northport’s storied past.
If the town’s backstory piques your interest, the Northport Historical Society and Museum (215 Main Street, 631-757-9859, northporthistorical.org) is currently holding an exhibit called “Iconic Northport” which displays an impressive collection of artifacts, photographs, and other intriguing items from the town’s over-350-year history.
A PICTURESQUE PARK
Once you reach Main Street’s end, you’ve arrived at the village’s crown jewel: Cow Harbor Park (54 Woodbine Ave.).
This tranquil waterfront park offers two playgrounds, a basketball court, chess tables, a number of benches overlooking the harbor, a boardwalk, and the iconic gazebo where you can hear live music performed on various occasions throughout the year.
During the warmer months, you’ll find the park lawn filled with parties of picnickers, kids playing catch, first dates and old married couples, and dogs of all breeds walking the paths with their owners. All you need is a blanket or a lawn chair and you can join in, too.
A DESTINATION FOR THE ARTS
Admirers of the arts will enjoy Northport for its aesthetic qualities alone. It’s the sort of place that makes you think you should take up painting or write a poem even if you’ve never done either in your life. But in case those pursuits leave you flustered there are some less frustrating outlets for art appreciation right in town.
The aforementioned John W. Engeman Theater is the only theater on Long Island that features Broadway talent on a year-round basis.
“It’s not a community theater, we literally bring the Broadway actors’ union out,” says co-owner Kevin O’Neill. “They’re our cast members. Once you do that you bring a caliber of talent that’s second to none.”
Broadway actors performing beloved musicals like Kinky Boots, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and The Sound of Music in a theater that’s stood for over a century is something that few other towns have to offer.
There’s plenty more art to enjoy in town, too, including the following galleries:
The Firefly Artists (162 Main St., 631-651-5545, thefireflyartists.com) offers exhibitions, workshops, and a space for local artists to display and sell their own work.
LaMantia Gallery (127 Main St., 631-754-8414, lamantiagallery.com) displays and sells the work of notable creators of various artistic inclinations. They also hold exhibitions, host events, and offer opportunities to meet their artists.
Haven Gallery (50 Main St., 631-757-0500, havengallery.com) is home to various exhibitions displaying, according to their website, “emotionally, intellectually, and imaginatively driven representational artwork that connects the audience and artist with universal axioms and passions.”
There’s a premium placed on keeping Northport Village the kind of picturesque small American town that Norman Rockwell once called his muse. Locals value this preservation so much that you’ll never find any cookie-cutter corporate franchises anywhere on Main Street (except for that one Gap store that spent some out-of-place years there long ago, of course).
What you will find is the following:
Funky boutique clothing stores like Bohemiac Boutique (54 Woodbine Ave., 631-239-5681) and Helga’s Choice Consignment (139 Main St., 631-651-9111, helgaschoice.com), which offer garments and accessories that won’t be easy to find anywhere else.
Eclectic gift shops like Heartichoke (145 Main St., 631-754-8493) and Artisan House (80 Main St., 631-261-3800) that are full of interesting trinkets, unique decorations, and other uncommon items.
Einstein’s Attic (79 Main St., 631-261-7564, shopeinsteinsattic.com), the fantastically-named specialty toy store with all kinds of creative games, fun puzzles, arts and crafts sets, and more for enriching minds, inspiring imagination, and getting your kids out of your hair.
…and much more.
TOP-SHELF FOOD AND DRINK
The amount of great food available in Northport is almost perplexing. Even the most basic understanding of statistical probabilities will tell you that a single town should never be able to house so many successful eateries with memorable menus, but there are always outliers and this town is one.
Perhaps the most famous place to eat in Northport is Tim’s Shipwreck Diner (46 Main St., 631-754-1797). The former boxcar diner was wheeled into town using the old trolley tracks in 1924 and has since taken root as a can’t-miss landmark. Their menu is loaded with great picks, but the breakfast is legendary. Highlights include the homemade blintzes, fresh-fruit pancakes and waffles, and the perfectly marinated skirt steak and eggs.
Another landmark Northport eatery is Skippers (34 Main St., 631-261-3589, skippersnpt.com). This local staple was recently renovated, transforming its cozy pub ambience into something equally cozy but decidedly more modern, and frankly beautiful.
Skippers offers a lunch and dinner menu with a great balance of seafood-forward fine dining and all-around familiar favorites. They’re also one of the best spots in town for a fancy cocktail if that’s what you’re after.
Not every can’t-miss spot in Northport can be found on or off Main Street. Del Vino Vineyards (29 Norwood Rd., 844-335-8466, delvinovineyards.com) is a few minutes outside the village and it’s easily one of the biggest attractions in town.
Northport’s only vineyard offers a delicately crafted collection of wines along with a tapas menu featuring artisanal pizza, cheeseboards, and other perfect pairings.
Owners Lisa and Fred Giachetti are longtime Northport residents who wanted to bring the high-end serenity of the East End back home with their Hamptons-flavored vineyard.
“We couldn’t think of a better place to start Del Vino Vineyards, with all that there is to do and all [there is] coming up to do,” Fred said of the decision to open Del Vino in Northport. “The theater, the new hotel opening, wonderful restaurants in town, and golf, beaches, tennis clubs. It’s really Sag Harbor West.”
There’s certainly more to do in Northport than can be accomplished in a single day. For those who can’t wait until a later weekend, overnight accommodations are available.
Boat owners can rent either moorings or slips from Seymour’s Boatyard and Britannia Yachting Center.
“Our main dock welcomes transients with launch service to and from your boats, so access to the village is extremely easy,” Seymour’s Boatyard owner and village trustee Dave Weber says. “Once you arrive, you have access to parks, dog walks, shopping, restaurants. It has everything the boater would need on an overnight stay.”
The overnight options are set to expand to dry land soon. John W. Engeman Theater co-owner Kevin O’Neill will be opening The Northport Hotel, a 26-room boutique hotel with an Italian steakhouse on the ground floor, in late summer 2022.
This will mark the return of a feature which Northport was once renowned for.
“There used to be hotels on Main Street in Northport a hundred years ago, and they were eventually shuttered and converted to other commercial operations,” O’Neill tells us. “We’re just trying to bring what was here over a century ago back to Main Street — a beautiful harbor town with first-class facilities.”
WHERE (ELSE) TO DINE IN NORTHPORT
155 Main St., 631-651-5200, rockinfish.net
Salted. On the Harbor
14 Woodbine Ave., 631-651-2600, saltedontheharbor.com
18 Woodbine Ave., 631-757-4500, maronicuisine.com
Feed and Grain
73 Main St., 631-651-2684, thefeedandgrain.com
WHERE TO STAY IN NORTHPORT
Seymour’s Boatyard (Moorings and Limited Slips)
63 Bayview Ave., 631-261-6574 seymoursboatyard.com
Britannia Yachting Center (Slips)
81 Fort Salonga Rd., 631-261-5600, brityacht.com
The Northport Hotel
225 Main St., thenpthotel.com