A Guide to Going With the Flow in Historic Cold Spring Harbor

Town of Huntington 2
Public pier overlooking Cold Spring Harbor’s eponymous waterfront (Photo by Joe Mabel)

A Guide to Going With the Flow in Historic Cold Spring Harbor

Often overshadowed by the bigger and more bustling Huntington Village just to its east, Cold Spring Harbor is a gem of Suffolk County’s North Shore that’s hiding in plain sight. It has its own nationally recognized landmark in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, John Lennon once owned a house within its tranquil confines, and its name was even the title of Billy Joel’s debut album — yet there are a surprising number of Long Islanders who don’t know just how idyllic and downright lovely this little corner of our island really is.   

The name “Cold Spring Harbor” is derived from the various cool freshwater springs that can be found in the area, but the full history of the hamlet revolves far more around the great body of saltwater along which in resides. From its earliest days in the 17th century the area’s economy was based around its port and local mills, but like many other nearby coastal areas, whaling would eventually become its economic bread and butter up until the industry’s decline in the mid-19th century. 

Today, the Cold Spring Harbor community embraces its history through multiple museums, protects its natural beauty through parks and preserves, and entertains its guests with its underappreciated Main Street area. 

Next time you stop by, be sure to check out a few of these great local spots:

Great Places to Eat and Drink

There may only be a handful of restaurants and other eateries in Cold Spring Harbor, but every last one of them is worth trying. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or an upscale dining experience, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

For easy snacks, quick lunches, and fantastic coffee, stop by Sweetie Pies on Main (181 Main St., 631-367-9500, sweetiepiesonmain.com) or The Gourmet Whaler (111 Main St., 631-659-2977, gourmetwhalerny.com). Both offer a variety of unique drinks and homemade baked goods to go with a wide variety savory items on their breakfast and lunch menus. 

Lovers of live music can’t miss Grasso’s (134 Main St., 631-367-6060, grassosrestaurant.com) when they visit Cold Spring Harbor. Sit down for a meal and an intimate show from a wide range of artists playing music in various styles. Their Sunday Jazz Brunch is one of their most popular offerings. 

When you visit an area with “harbor” right in its name, you’d be remiss not to at least consider sitting down for some seafood. Sandbar (55 Main St., 631-498-6188, sandbarcoldspringharbor.com) may be the best place in town to do just that. And don’t worry if you’re not the seafood type: They’ve got plenty of fantastic land-based options as well.

A little further down Route 25A from all the Main Street action, right by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, is Harbor Mist Restaurant (105 Harbor Rd., 631-659-3888, harbormistrestaurantli.com). There you can enjoy an immaculate upscale dining experience with gorgeous waterfront views.   

Where to Stay in Cold Spring Harbor

The Harbor Rose Bed & Breakfast (253 Harbor Rd., 516-482-2740, www.theharborrose.com)

Hampton Inn & Suites Huntington Downtown (227 Main St., 631-812-7054, hilton.com/en/hotels/isphdhx-hampton-suites-huntington-downtown).

A Ton of Shopping Opportunities

Little hidden gem Main Street areas like the one in Cold Spring Harbor always offer a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. You’ll find all kinds of intriguing trinkets, unique gifts, and interesting additions to your wardrobe at the various shops that reside along this small strip. You’ll also have an opportunity to support small business, which is always a good thing. 

If you’re looking for some distinctive home décor, glassware, lighting, and creative gift ideas, then stop by Heritage Candle and Home (29 Main St., 631-692-5788, heritagecandles.com) and MADE by Michael Russo (143 Main St., 631-498-6729, madebymichaelrusso.com). 

For the best of Cold Spring Harbor’s boutique shopping, you’ll find Living (123 Main St., 631-659-3742, livingcsh.com), BIXBY (94 Main St., 516-896-0619, bixbycollection.com), and Ooh La Shoppe (99 Main St., 631-229-3778, oohlashoppe.com) all within easy walking distance of one another. 

Whimsey at the Beauty Tree (65 Main St., 631-367-7675) is a quaint and cozy gift shop with a tremendous array of intriguing offerings including handbags, jewelry, home goods, soaps and candles, and much more. 

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The Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum recounts the region’s rich maritime past. (Getty Images)

Outdoor and Indoor Activities

Two of the biggest draws for Cold Spring Harbor are its natural beauty and its fascinating history. Both are preserved with great care in this beautiful hamlet, and there are many places where you can appreciate this careful preservation yourself. 

You’ll find 47 pristine acres of North Shore natural wonder at Cold Spring Harbor State Park (95 Harbor, 631-423-1770, parks.ny.gov/parks/coldspringharbor/maps.aspx). The trails that wind throughout this forested expanse offer some incredible hiking with scenic views of the harbor. You can even bring your dog (on a leash).

Uplands Farm Sanctuary by The Nature Conservancy (250 Lawrence Hill Rd., 631-367-3225, nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/long-island-uplands-farm-nature-sanctuary) is a 97-acre preserve that was once home to a dairy farm. You’ll still see the farm buildings and a silo standing on the property should you decide to come for a scenic hike through its 2.5 miles of trails. 

Some of the area’s most interesting history is preserved by the Cold Spring Harbor Fire House Museum (84 Main St., 631-367-0400, cshfirehousemuseum.org) which is housed in the hamlet’s first firehouse, and The Whaling Museum and Education Center (301 Main St., 631-367-3418, cshwhalingmuseum.org), which offers regular exhibits offering insight into the area’s storied whaling history.  

The Whaling Museum and Education Center has a variety of family-friendly events throughout the summer months, including an opportunity to create scrimshaw-style keepsake boxes every Thursday in July and August. Scrimshaw is the technique of stippling and scratching on fossil ivory, horn, and bone.

“This summer, we’re giving Long Islanders fun opportunities to discover the creative side of our region’s maritime history, which reflects a larger American story,” Executive Director Nomi Dayan tells us. “Every adult and child should have a chance to create their own scrimshaw-carved keepsake box, not only because it’s an enjoyable experience, but because it’s a direct link to a compelling heritage that made Long Island what it is.” 

Where to Eat in Cold Spring Harbor

Sweetie Pies on Main (181 Main St., 631-367-9500, www.sweetiepiesonmain.com)

The Gourmet Whaler (111 Main St., 631-659-2977, www.gourmetwhalerny.com)

Grasso’s (134 Main St., 631-367-6060, www.grassosrestaurant.com)

Sandbar (55 Main St., 631-498-6188, www.sandbarcoldspringharbor.com)

Harbor Mist Restaurant (105 Harbor Rd., 631-659-3888, www.harbormistrestaurantli.com).

Other events include a Harry Potter-themed scavenger hunt, a Pokémon parade, the Sharks of Long Island virtual lecture, and the second annual Sea Glass Festival. Check the official website for more information. 

If you’re looking to take to the picturesque waters of Cold Spring Harbor, then you can join a kayak or standup paddle board tour with JK Kayak & SUP (130 Harbor Rd., 800-489-0398, jkkayak.com) or charter a fishing expedition with Cold Spring Charters (516-641-3401, fishingchartercoldspringharbor.com

Owner of JK Kayak and SUP Jim Parisi offers a uniquely casual yet edifying experience with his aquatic tours of Cold Spring Harbor.

“All of my tours are guided and include about two or three instructors,” he tells us. “We pass the Cold Spring Harbor Labs, James Watson’s house, John Lennon’s old house, we discuss the history of the harbor, and we also just chat. It’s a very, very social thing.” 

Tours can be scheduled with your family or a large group, or they can include other groups where you’ll get a chance to meet and socialize with like-minded locals. 

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1 Bungtown Rd., 516-367-8800, cshi.edu) is not just a local landmark, but a national one. It has been home to eight winners of the Nobel Prize in its 125-year history. Visitors can stop by the DNA Learning Center for DNA Saturdays or go online for their free Meet a Scientist virtual lectures. 

Another great landmark to visit when you’re in town is the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Aquarium (1660 NY-25A, 516-692-6768, cshfishhatchery.org). They’ve been educating visitors about local marine life for more than 40 years with the help of the largest living collection of freshwater fish, reptiles, and amphibians in New York State.