The summer will be unlike most others we have lived through. Travel abroad will be challenging, and even domestically some states have out-of-state quarantine orders. It’s a great time to discover New York State however, and as a follow-up to our popular article on 10 of Nassau County’s historic and beautiful places, we’re presenting Suffolk County now. Several members of the Untapped New York team are originally from Long Island, both Suffolk and Nassau counties, so these guides have been a personal treat for us to put together.
Suffolk County has a great deal to discover, from historic buildings from the 1700s to ethnic eateries rarely found in New York City to small parks and quaint downtowns. Suffolk County’s history is rich with stories of rebellion, industrialization, and preservation, and most of these sites can be found via historic walking paths. Here is our guide to ten places to discover in Suffolk County!
Argyle Lake in Babylon
Babylon is a village in the Town of Babylon on Suffolk County’s southern coast. Unlike many Nassau County villages, Babylon remained sparsely populated until nearly 1700, when Babylon began to harvest salt hay, often used to feed cattle. Supposedly, a woman named Mrs. Conklin was so unhappy living across from a tavern in the village that she compared it to the biblical city of Babylon, a symbol for sin and rebellion. Her house still stands on Deer Park Avenue, with a cornerstone reading “New Babylon, This House Built by Nat Conklin, 1803.”
Babylon played a significant role during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, as a number of residents like Captain Joel Cook led troops. After the railroad was built in Babylon in 1867, the area became a resort town due to its proximity to Fire Island, constructing a number of hotels by the water. While working at the Argyle Hotel, a number of black workers formed the Babylon Black Panthers, considered to be the first professional black baseball team. Babylon is also home to one of the oldest African-American communities on Long Island, which grew following World War II and the Great Migration. Famous Babylon residents include Guglielmo Marconi and Robert Moses, whose statue on Main Street has recently become the subject of calls for removal.
Three buildings — The Babylon Library, Babylon old Town Hall (now home to the Babylon Historical & Preservation Society) and the Nathaniel Conklin House — are listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the village of Babylon. Babylon is home to Argyle Park, financed in part by Long Island Rail Road President, Austin Corbin, which was named for a town aristocrat who was the heir to the Dukedom of Argyll. The park is known for its large Argyle Lake, previously named Blythebourne Lake, as well as triple waterfalls and white-railed viewing areas. For a view of the Great South Bay and the Robert Moses Causeway, take a walk around the Babylon Village Docks. Right by Argyle Park is the village’s two main roads, East Main Street and Deer Park Avenue, that house a few dozens restaurants and shops.
Babylon has a rather diverse culinary scene, ranging from Cantonese to tapas. Popular Asian eateries in Babylon include Long Island Pekin, well known for its Peking duck and soup dumplings; Fancy Lee, a Pan-Asian restaurant specializing in sushi; and Monsoon, a rather upscale Asian fusion spot. Latin American eateries range from Swell Taco to Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar to NoaMar Markets, with a variety of products from Spain. American restaurants include The Brixton and Post Office Cafe, while Italian options include Molto Vino and Ristorante Gemelli. Other notable options include Ninja Ramen & Poke Bowl, Doughology, and Mexican spot Mamey.
2. Stony Brook
Stony Brook is a rather historic hamlet in the Town of Brookhaven that is home to Stony Brook University (which served as a temporary coronavirus field hospital), with almost 27,000 enrolled students. Stony Brook was originally referred to as Wopowog prior to colonization, and in 1699, a grist mill was constructed at Mill Pond and was replaced with its current one in 1751. The area remained rather isolated until the LIRR reached Stony Brook in the 1870s, and in the 1840s, efforts were made to dredge Stony Brook’s harbor by painter William Sidney Mount although they were soon after abandoned.
Stony Brook is often associated with Setauket and Old Field in the “Three Village” area, which is where philanthropist Ward Melville supported the restoration and preservation of historic buildings. Melville would later donate 400 acres of land to establish Stony Brook University and create a New England-style village at the Stony Brook Village Center, modeled similarly to Colonial Williamsburg. Today, Stony Brook houses the largest academic medical center on Long Island at Stony Brook University Hospital.
West Meadow Beach
Many of Stony Brook’s historic homes and structures remain throughout the hamlet, including the Grist Mill and the William Sidney Mount House, along with a house designed by Stanford White that is privately owned. Other places on the NRHP include Hawkins Homestead, Gamecock Cottage, and the Nathaniel Longbotham House. Stony Brook is also home to the West Meadow Beach Historic District, with a wetlands preserve and a few remaining cottages that were built around the 1920s. Stony Brook houses the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages, with many works by Mount, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and William Merritt Chase. Parks around Stony Brook include Avalon Nature Preserve, T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park, and Forsythe Meadow County Park. The university also has some architectural gems of its own, like the modern Simons Center for Geometry and Physics and the Charles B. Wang Center, as well as the 26-acre Ashley Schiff Preserve.
Stony Brook’s many restaurants are rather scattered, but the quaint village center features eight eateries including Country House Restaurant, Pentimento Restaurant, and Robinson’s Tea Room. Stony Brook, and surrounding St. James and Centereach, is often considered Long Island’s Chinatown due to the presence of over a dozen authentic Chinese eateries, and popular options include Jianghu Restaurant, the very casual China Station, and Red Tiger Dumpling House. The area remains one of the most diverse on Long Island, and other ethnic options include Ssambap Korean BBQ, Persian eatery Basil Cafe Restaurant, and The Curry Club.
3. Port Jefferson
Port Jefferson, a village in the Town of Brookhaven, is one of the more popular tourist destinations in Suffolk County, yet the area has quite of a lot of obscure sites and under-the-radar eateries to explore. In the mid-1600s, the first settlers bought a tract of land from the Setalcott Indians, which included Port Jefferson and neighboring villages on the North Shore. Known as Sowasset, or “place of small pines,” Port Jefferson began to develop into a small settlement of five homes in the 1680s after Irish Protestant shoemaker John Roe built a home in the current downtown, which still stands today.
There is some debate about whether John Paul Jones had a ship manufactured in Port Jefferson, but it is certain that the village constructed its first shipyard in 1797. A small fort was built on Port Jefferson Harbor after two British warships sent boats into the harbor during the War of 1812. As Port Jefferson further grew its shipbuilding industry, P.T. Barnum actually bought a tract of land in the village as the home base for his circus, yet residents were quick to stop him. By the 1940s, the harbor was repurposed for oil transportation and rum-running for a short time during Prohibition. The downtown was revitalized in the 1970s after its 1963 incorporation, including new waterfront shops and restaurants.
Many historic buildings from the 1840s through the 1870s can be found in the Port Jefferson Village Historic District, with many structures in the Greek Revival and Italianate styles. Other Port Jefferson locates on the NRHP include Bayles Shipyard and the First National Bank of Port Jefferson along Main Street. Right in the downtown is Danford’s Hotel and Marina, which features a walkable pier and a small park. Other Port Jefferson Parks include the quiet Harborfront Park, Rocketship Park, and Founders Park. As the county begins to open up more, notable museums include The Mather House, reminiscent of the mid-19th century, and the Long Island Explorium. The village also features a number of sculptures and murals by local artists, as well as a few small galleries.
Port Jefferson’s downtown is a mix of both historic and new, and many restaurants try to fuse classic recipes with more contemporary cooking styles. Old Fields Restaurant, which opened its first location in 1956, is best known for their marinated steaks but also has introduced more modern options like street tacos. Popular seafood options include The Steam Room and Fifth Season Restaurant, while Italian options range from Ruvo to Pasta Pasta. Tacos and other Mexican options are available at Barito Tacos & Cocktails and Salsa Salsa, while baked goods are the star at East Main & Main and The Secret Garden Tea Cafe. Other notable restaurants include Slurp Ramen, Cest Cheese, and Prohibition Port Jefferson. A little further inland at Port Jefferson Station, next to the train station, are two more seafood spots: the dive bar Tara Inn serving affordable lobsters and more, and PJ Lobster House.
4. Sag Harbor
Sag Harbor is a small village in the Towns of East Hampton and Southampton known for its beautiful views and a lively downtown with upscale restaurants and shops. First settled by the English in the early 1700s, Sag Harbor most likely takes its name from a tuber grown by the Pequot known in Algonquian as sagabon. During the Revolutionary War, Continental Army forces under the command of Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs raided a British Loyalist party and captured 90 British soldiers in Sag Harbor in what became known as the Meigs Raid.
Following the war, Sag Harbor became a major whaling center, and the Second Continental Congress would choose Sag Harbor as the first official port of entry into the U.S. in 1789. Sag Harbor’s whaling industry is mentioned in Herman Melville’s work Moby Dick in four different chapters, and the whaling industry grew as a result of the efforts of many African American whalers like Paul Cuffee. In 1843, ship captain Mercator Cooper is credited with the first formal American visit to Tokyo and mainland East Antarctica, both trips leaving from Sag Harbor. The village was also the site of torpedo testing during World War I, which was observed by Thomas Edison. Authors like the poet George Sterling were born in Sag Harbor, and John Steinbeck lived in Sag Harbor for the last 13 years of his life.
Sag Harbor was home to one of the earliest African-American beachfront communities in the United States, and many historic houses still exist in areas like Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest, and Ninevah. The entire Sag Harbor Village District is included in the NRHP, as are the First Presbyterian Church and the William A. Barnum Boathouse. A number of other historic buildings throughout Sag Harbor include Temple Adas Israel, the oldest synagogue on Long Island, the summer home of President Chester A. Arthur, and the Old Whaler’s Church. Although temporarily closed, the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum houses artifacts from the 1800s during the height of the whaling industry, and the Sag Harbor Customs House on Main Street dates back to 1765. In addition to numerous walkways by the water, Sag Harbor is home to Mashashimuet Park and Otter Pond, and the World War I Memorial on Main Street.
Sag Harbor’s restaurant scene leans heavily towards American bistros and Italian restaurants, but each eatery has a unique small village charm. Eateries like Page at 63 Main offer rather upscale American fare with an emphasis on seafood, while The Beacon serves up seafood dishes like lobster rigatoni and sesame crusted tuna. More casual places like Harbor Market & Kitchen and Dockside Bar and Grill offer options like sandwiches and pizza, and Italian eateries like Il Capuccino Ristorante offer homemade pastas. Estia’s Little Kitchen serves eclectic Mexican-American fare, while Sag Harbor Baking Company and Grindstone Coffee & Donuts is a great place for dessert after a meal by the water.
Huntington is a hamlet in the Town of Huntington with one of the largest downtown areas in all of Suffolk County. Its central business district is named Huntington Village, although it does not have a village form of government. The Matinecock Indians were the earliest residents of Huntington, but the native population soon declined after European settlement. Three men from Oyster Bay, Richard Holbrook, Robert Williams, and Daniel Whitehead, secured a deed for the land, and the town of Huntington became an established community by the end of the 1600s with a school, a church, flour mills, saw mills, brickyards, tanneries, a town dock, and a fort. However, since the area relied on farming, slavery existed in Huntington, and the 1755 census revealed that there were 81 slaves belonging to 35 families.
During the American Revolution, Huntington adopted a “Declaration of Rights” stating that “every freeman’s property is absolutely his own,” and supposedly Nathan Hale began spying on the British around Huntington Bay. The British used Huntington as their headquarters following the Battle of Long Island. Following the war, Huntington’s population doubled in just a few years, and after the arrival of the LIRR in 1867, the area shifted from agriculture and whaling towards tourism and commuting, becoming a major summer resort area. World War II saw a massive increase in population with plenty of large estates, and from 1950 to 1960, the Town’s population increased 165%.
The Heckscher Museum
According to the Town of Huntington, “The vibrant cultural scene in Huntington village—featuring a Fine Arts museum, independent cinema, first class concert venue, and local galleries, as well as superb restaurants, has earned Huntington village the nickname ‘The Little Apple.'” The hamlet of Huntington is home to 26 places listed on the NRHP, including sites like Fort Golgotha and the Old Burial Hill Cemetery, Old Town Green Historic District, the Henry Townsend House, and the Walt Whitman birthplace. The West Neck Road Historic District houses 26 buildings, some of which dating back to the mid-18th century, and Huntington is home to many historic homes and estates like the Potter-Williams House and the Gilsey Mansion. Heckscher Park, also on the NRHP, is known for its large pond, tulip festivals, and the Heckscher Museum of Art, housing works by Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, and Frederic Church. Nearby Caumsett State Park in Lloyd Harbor and Cold Spring Harbor State Park offer views of Oyster Bay and Huntington Bay, and notable sites in the downtown include The Paramount and The Book Revue.
The Ida Bunce Sammis house, home of the one of the first two women elected to New York State Assembly
With a rather extensive downtown, Huntington offers a very diverse selection of dining options from Argentinian to Cuban to Afghan. For Latin American fare, Sur Argentinian Steakhouse and Cafe Buenos Aires offer everything from Argentine tapas to steaks to ropa vieja, while Quetzalcoatl Fine Mexican Cuisine and Oaxaca Mexican Food Treasure serve up authentic southern Mexican options. The downtown boasts plenty of Italian eateries like Restaurant Joanina, Osteria da Nino, and Porto Fino, and pizza is the specialty at Little Vincent’s and Jonny D’s. Popular Asian eateries range from TOA Asian Fusion to MB Ramen to Albert’s Mandarin Gourmet, and Thai favorites include RaCha Thai Cuisine and Thai Thai Villa. Steaks feature prominently on the menus of Prime and IMC, while Mediterranean-style fish is the star at Neraki and Parea. Huntington also has a vibrant bar scene, including Vauxhall, Finley’s and Nag’s Head Ale House.
To the east of Huntington is the village of Northport, a historic maritime village known for its Victorian era village center. Originally called “wading place creek” by the Matinecock, Northport was later purchased by the English in 1656 and soon after became known as Great Cow Harbor. Unlike Huntington, Northport remained rather unsettled by the 1830s, with only eight homes including Skidmore House on Main Street built in 1761. However, after the village became a major shipbuilding community, the population grew to over 1,000 by 1860 with three ship yards and a number of general stores. The LIRR arrived in Northport in 1868, but it was moved in 1873 to a new location a few miles away from Main Street, so Northport created a commuter trolley in 1902 which lasted for 22 years. The trolley was actually revived in the 1970s and 1980s to transport tourists along Main Street. Every year in September, Northport hosts Cow Harbor Day in honor of the village’s history.
Northport maintains much of its historic character in its Victorian-esque downtown, which contains two NRHP buildings, the Northport Public Library in the Jacobethan Revival style and the US Post Office. A recently added structure to the NRHP list is the Stanley H. Lowndes House, built by its namesake oyster magnate. Northport’s culture is preserved at the Northport Historical Society and Museum, and one village over in Centerport is the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium located in Vanderbilt’s Eagle’s Nest estate. Northport is perhaps best known for its Northport Memorial Park, created in 1932 along the harbor, making for some picturesque sunsets. Other parks of note include nearby Cow Harbor Park and Scudder Park.
Northport’s culinary scene is not as diverse as Huntington, but Northport is well known for its high-quality Italian and American eateries, many of which have been open for decades. One of the best known restaurants in Suffolk County in Maroni, whose chef-owner Michael Maroni died last year, which serves classic Italian dishes and and a constantly changing tasting menu. Robke’s on Fort Salonga Road serves American and Italian cuisine, while The Purple Elephant offers American and seafood options. Long-time favorite Tim’s Shipwreck Diner continues serving both traditional diner fare and more complex American dishes, while Pumpernickel’s offers authentic German cuisine. Other notable restaurants in Northport include Copenhagen Bakery, Aunt Chilada’s Mexican Grill, and Bistro 44.
Patchogue is a village on Suffolk County’s south shore and is part of the Town of Brookhaven. Like Northport, Patchogue remained largely unsettled until around the 1750s, a century after the land was first colonized. Humphrey Avery, a man from New London, CT, purchased seven of the nine necks of land in Patchogue, and in order to pay off debts a few years later, the Governor agreed for him to sell his land through a lottery, which was so successful that he bought back a part of the land. The Baker family was particularly prominent in the 1700s in Patchogue, and Captain Jonathan Baker was imprisoned during the American Revolution for secretly supporting the British.
Patchogue opened a paper mill in 1798, Patchogue’s first factory, and a number of other mills began to open in the following few decades. By 1850, shipbuilding and lumber became fruitful industries for Patchogue residents, and Patchogue was one of the first communities on Long Island to have a school district, opening in 1795. Once the LIRR was installed in 1869, the area became a center of tourism, and hotels and boarding house lodges began sprouting up, as well as theaters featuring vaudeville acts. Although the emergence of malls drew tourists away from the downtown, Patchogue rebuilt itself and was named among the 2019 Great Neighborhoods by the American Planning Association.
In 2017, the village put together the Downtown Patchogue Walking Tour, which details 31 different locations across Patchogue, five of which are listed on the NRHP. Notable locations on the walking tour include the United Methodist Church, built in the High Victorian Gothic style, the Union Savings Bank, Conklin’s Stationery Store, and the newly built New Village. Many buildings along East Main Street were built over 100 years ago, including the Congregational Church of Patchogue, Brickhouse Brewery, and the Dove Building. The village also features a number of murals including the Hans Gabaldi mural and the Zoeller mural of the Patchogue River. Patchogue is home to a handful of parks like Shorefront Park, which faces Patchogue Bay, Father Tortora Park, and the Village of Patchogue Community Garden.
Carnegie Library in Patchogue
Patchogue is home to a number of creative and modern eateries in its downtown, including a number of upscale seafood restaurants like Catch Oyster Bar and South Ocean Grill. RHUM on East Main Street serves “Island inspired cuisine” like jerk chicken tacos and Dominican ribs. There are a number of American eateries like barbecue joint Bobbique, the bistro PeraBell Food Bar, and casual eatery The Tap Room. For a taste of Mexican-Colombian fusion, try Gallo Restaurant for dishes like their Mountain Platter and arroz con pollo. Philly cheesesteaks feature on the menu of Beyond Philly, while specialty cheese and wine are offered at The Cheese Patch. Other noteworthy eateries include That Meatball Place, Smallcakes Cupcakery & Creamery, and Locale Gastro Bar and Pizzeria. Patchogue is also home to the Blue Point Brewery. On a visit last week, Main Street was bustling with pedestrians and the restaurants were busy with outdoor dining.
8. Shelter Island
Shelter Island is a town all the way out east on Long Island, accessible via ferry from Greenport or North Haven. The island is made up of the village of Dering Harbor and a number of unincorporated neighborhoods. Shelter Island was originally inhabited by the Manhasset tribe, who named the island Manhansack-aha-quash-awamock, or “Island sheltered by islands.” Shelter Island was originally included in the Plymouth Colony land grant by James I, and by 1651 after changing ownership a few times, the island came under control of Barbados sugar merchants, including Nathaniel Sylvester. The Sylvester estate became a large provisioning plantation, and slaves were used on the plantation until the 19th century; it is estimated that 200 blacks are buried at the Negro Burying Ground near the estate.
Shelter Island resident Jonathan Nicolls Havens was a member of the First Continental Congress, and the British shipped hay from the island during the American Revolution. Under architect Robert Morris Copeland, many classic American style homes were constructed, and around 70 summer cottages were built in Shelter Island Heights. Figures like the “Borax King” Francis Marion Smith and advertising mogul Artemas Ward settled on Shelter Island bought residences on the island, yet the island suffered during the Great Depression as many people moved away. The area has since grown into a community of around 2,300 residents with a handful of shops and restaurants scattered throughout.
Shelter Island is home to 10 structures and areas on the NRHP list, including Camp Quinipet, a Methodist camp founded in 1922, and the Shelter Island Windmill. The site of the Sylvester plantation, Sylvester Manor, is now used as an education farm, while the Smith–Ransome Japanese Bridge was designed for Smith’s estate. Other notable buildings include the James Havens Homestead, the Shelter Island Country Club, and Manhanset Chapel. The entire Shelter Island Heights Historic District is also listed, including buildings like the Chequit Hotel and the Shelter Island Heights Pharmacy. Although the island is filled with nature, many of the island’s beaches are private, so parks like Fiske Field and the Mashomack Preserve are more accommodating to visitors. Other notable points for sightseeing include Ram Island and Dering Harbor.
The island is only home to a handful of eateries, many along North Ferry Lane, but each craft their menus around local ingredients from the island and Eastern Long Island. Perhaps most notable is 18 Bay, an Italian eatery know for creative dishes like pappardelle with rabbit ragout and striped bass with Sylvester Manor farm fennel. Another nearby upscale eatery, Vine Street Cafe, offers a selection of carefully constructed dishes like crispy duck confit and fluke almondine. More casual eateries on the island include Maria’s Kitchen, which serves affordable Mexican fare, brunch eatery Kyle’s, SALT Waterfront Bar & Grill, and French eatery Marie Eiffel Market. Seafood is can also be found at Commander Cody’s Seafood shack and The Islander, Shelter Island’s diner.
9. Greenport & North Fork
Suffolk County’s North Fork is rather touristy during the summer due to its numerous wineries, but each village and hamlet along the 30-mile peninsula has a unique charm and culture. The North Fork consists of a number of small communities like Greenport, Mattituck, Jamesport, and Southold, and each has its own personality that should be explored while on a trip all the way east.
As one of the largest areas in the North Fork, Greenport village is one of the North Fork’s cultural centers, with numerous ethnic eateries, upscale shops, and recently constructed parks by the water. Originally called Winter Harbor, Greenport was a prominent whaling and ship building village. Greenport actually was a center for speakeasies and rum running during Prohibition, and restaurants like Claudio’s, which is still open today after 150 years, served illegal alcohol to customers. Structures like the Greenport Railroad Station, the Congregation Tifereth Israel Synagogue, and the entire Greenport Village Historic District are listed on the NRHP. Greenport’s Mitchell Park houses the Greenport Carousel, originally built in 1920, and the Inlet Pond County Park offers beautiful scenery and wildlife viewing. Greenport is home to dozens of creative and eclectic eateries including Lucharito’s, Mediterranean restaurant Olive Branch Restaurant & Cafe, The Frisky Oyster, and Front Street Station. Tikal offers Guatemalan dishes like fish soup and enchiladas with green sauce, while the tiny Rinconcito Hispano serves Salvadoran food like pupusas and fried fish.
Bedell Vineyard on the North Fork
A bit west of Greenport is Mattituck, a hamlet with a very small downtown and a number of historic sites. Known as “Great Creek” by the Algonquian, Mattituck was sold to Theophilus Eaton, the governor of New Haven and was eventually settled by English settlers in 1662. Colonial Mattituck “had a minister and school teacher, a blacksmith, carpenter, cooper, weaver, fuller, tanner and miller,” according to the Town of Southold. After the LIRR added a stop at Mattituck, Love Lane became a bustling center of commerce and culture, and the increased business for farmers allowed Mattituck’s agriculture industry to thrive. The area today is known for its annual Strawberry Festival as well as its numerous wineries. Three structures, the Richard Cox House, the Andrew Gildersleeve Octagonal Building, and the Jesse and Ira Tuthill House are listed on the NRHP. Along Love Lane and Main Road in Mattituck are a number of popular restaurants like Love Lane Kitchen, The Village Cheese Shop, Salvadoran place Lucia Restaurant, and aMano Restaurant.
On the waterfront in Southold
Another quaint hamlet is Southold, first settled by English Puritans from New Haven in around 1640. Southold remained part of Connecticut until 1674, but when the colony of New York was supposed to be handed over to the Netherlands, Long Island’s eastern towns, including Southold, refused to join. New York Governor Sir Edmund Andros eliminated residents’ rights to land if they continue to resist by staying a part of Connecticut. Like Mattituck, the area grew once the LIRR reached the North Fork, as Southold developed a small downtown as well as museums like the Southold Indian Museum and the Horton Point Lighthouse Nautical Museum. Places of note in Southold include New England Colonial–style residence Samuel Landon House, the Henry W. Prince Building, and the Southold Historic District. Popular restaurants in Southold include Wednesday’s Table, Latin Fuzion Restaurant, and North Fork Roasting, and the Southold Fish Market which has seating.
Other notable downtowns to check out on the North Fork are Jamesport, known for its antique shops and rather upscale dining options, Aqueboque, part of the North Fork’s wine region, and Cutchogue. Architecture fans should make a stop at the Big Duck in Flanders, an quintessential example of roadside architecture.
On Suffolk County’s North Shore sits Setauket, which encompasses the hamlets of Setauket and East Setauket. Setauket is often associated with nearby Stony Brook, as many of its businesses cater to Stony Brook University students. The land that would later become Setauket was purchased in 1655 by English migrants, and it was the first settlement in the Town of Brookhaven. Setauket took its name from the Setalcott Indians who lived on the land prior to colonization, but it was temporarily renamed Ashford by Captain John Scott. The Revolutionary War Battle of Setauket saw the British defeat the Continental Army, and the current Setauket Presbyterian Church now sits on the site of Loyalist fortifications. Setauket was also the base of the Culper Ring, a Revolutionary War spy ring led by Setauket resident Benjamin Tallmadge that alerted George Washington about British plots. Following the war, Setauket acted as a major shipbuilding center, including ships like the Wanderer which served in the Union navy as the USS Wanderer. Setauket soon after became a resort town after the LIRR was built in 1873, and with the philanthropy of philanthropist Ward Melville, the area developed even further, especially after the construction of Stony Brook University.
Setauket is known for historic sites like the Thompson House, built in 1709, and the Setauket Presbyterian Church and Burial Ground, which houses the remains of Tallmadge and fellow Culper Ring leader Abraham Woodhull. Two other sites on the NRHP include Caroline Church, originally constructed in 1729, and Bethel Christian Avenue Historic District, an African-American neighborhood built around the Bethel AME Church. The Frank Melville Park is named in honor of Ward Melville’s father and contains sites like the Satterly Barn, built in the early 1700s, and “Patriot’s rock,” once a meeting place of the Setalcott Indians. Other notable parks in Setauket include East Setauket Pond Park, Laurel Ridge Setauket Woods Nature Preserve, and California Park. Setauket is also home to the Three Village Historical Society as well as the Sherwood-Jayne House, built around 1730 in East Setauket.
Setauket offers a selection of along its Main Street and NY-25A, including SE-Port Deli, serving classic sandwiches and salads, and Ichi Sushi & Ramen, offering traditional Japanese fare like Tonkotsu ramen and classic rolls. Also along NY-25A is Bliss, a modern Italian-American eatery, known for dishes like chicken and chorizo paella and ricotta stuffed shells. Along Main Street is classic Italian restaurant Mario’s as well as Japanese and Asian Fusion restaurant Tai Show North, as well as Indian favorite The Curry Club.
Bonus: Westhampton Beach
The village of Westhampton Beach, technically not considered the Hamptons despite its name, is a village in the Town of Southampton. The Hamptons are often viewed as a very touristy, expensive area, but Westhampton Beach maintains a rather close-knit, small community feel. English colonizers first settled around present day town of Southampton in 1640, which at the time was Shinnecock land; the Shinnecock Reservation exists today by Shinnecock Bay with a population of 662 per the 2010 census. In what became known as the Quogue Purchase, colonists were awarded a large plot of Shinnecock land after ownership disputes, and this land at the time was called Catchaponack, or “place where large roots grow.” In 1727, Hezekiah Howell built Westhampton Beach’s oldest home, the Howell Homestead, which was owned and maintained by the Howell family for the next 200 years. Westhampton built its first school in 1795, and for 150 years the village relied heavily on fishing and farming. When the LIRR arrived in the 1860s, hotels like the Howell House, financially backed by P.T. Barnum, and many upscale homes began popping up, although many were destroyed by the 1938 New England Hurricane. Westhampton Beach suffered substantial erosion in the 1960s, and it wasn’t until 1992 that the Army Corps of Engineers began repair efforts in the community.
Westhampton Beach is home to three structures listed on the NRHP: the U.S. Post Office, the Crowther House built in 1910, and the Foster-Meeker House built around 1750. Other notable historic structures around the village include the 1896 Wilcox House and the 1903 “Kemah” Estate in nearby Westhampton. The area is home to a number of local farms, including duck farms, as well as parks like Westhampton Beach Village Green, The Great Lawn, and Rogers Beach. The area is also home to the village of West Hampton Dunes on a barrier island, named one of America’s top restored beaches. Westhampton Beach is only a short drive from the Hamptons as well, including East Hampton and Southampton, which offer more upscale eateries and stores in their downtowns.
Although not the most diverse community in terms of food, Westhampton Beach offers a selection of American, Italian, and bakery options as well as a handful of Asian eateries along Main Street. The very small Brunetti Pizza offers a variety of pizzas from artichoke to soppressata to San Gennaro, while Boom Burger on Montauk Highway serves rather casual fast food options like burgers, chili, and even fried Oreos. For more upscale eateries, Starr Boggs and The Mill Roadhouse both serve American meat and seafood classics like swordfish and duck breast. Sushi 1 Restaurant is one of the only Asian eateries in the area, serving up authentic sushi and sashimi. Other notable eateries include Beach Bakery, Mambo Kitchen, and Margarita Grille.
Next, check out 10 beautiful places to discover in Nassau County.