I have lived in Connecticut all of my life and thought I was pretty well-versed on all of the family fun that is to be had in these parts. I honestly had no idea that Long Island was just a short ferry ride away, nor did I know that the Cross Sound Ferry out of New London over to Orient Point Long Island would introduce us to so many treasures.
The Cross Sound Ferry leaves New London eight times each day. We rode in comfort on a rather wet,overcast, brisk fall day. Upon arrival we discovered that the North Fork is a well-known wine region that competes for visitors with its very well-known sister region to the south; the Hamptons. There are over 40 wineries on Long Island and of course so much to sample. Some of our favorites include; the beautifully situated Kontokosta Winery, Waters Crest for their blending expertise and Sannino Bella Vita for their rustic, educational approach and the very tasty Spiced Wine which we will be sharing with our friends and family this Christmas.
Jo-Ann Perry of Vintage Tours in Peconic will schedule a tour of the vineyards with you should you decide to visit sans children for a couple or girlfriends getaway so you do not have to drive. She is a local and very knowledgeable about the area and the wine making process.
However, bringing the kids along will not preclude a vineyard visit.The Harbes Farm and Vineyard in Mattituck allows for combining the interests of vineyard loving parents with farm loving kids so be sure to make it a stop on your trip. Pony rides, pig races, pumpkin patches and pedal cars are all part of the fun.
Families seeking educational experiences can find other farm experiences that certainly are out of the ordinary. The Catapano Dairy Farm makes award-winning goat cheese and gives tours allowing for interactive goat milking and cheese tasting. Lavender by the Bay grows acres of the sweet-smelling flower and provides a terrific backdrop for photos in season. There are also several oyster farms available to visit.
Since our visit coincided with the beginning of the holiday season we spent some time decorating gingerbread at Gingerbread University. Gingerbread Fred, the owner met with us and offered some oven warmed gingerbread and frosting while he read us a story he authored, “Gingerbread For All Seasons“. We learned that Gingerbread isn’t just for Christmas and therefore you can decorate gingerbread flags, bunnies or hearts at Gingerbread University depending on the time of year. Successful students leave with a diploma!
There are several other family friendly locations on the North Fork. The Long Island Aquarium provides a learning experience with outdoor penguins or touch tanks. The East End Seaport celebrates the maritime history of the North Fork and offers a boat ride tour to several lighthouses that dot the area. Visits in the summer will require a stop to Splish Splash water park in Riverhead.
Should you decide to stay a night or two to take it all in, the Harborfront Inn will provide a base from which to start your exploration. The Harborfront Inn is located on the shore in Greenport village within walking distance to shops, restaurants and some attractions including the Mitchell Park Jess Owen carousel which I am sure your kids will want to ride. As a matter of fact we could see the carousel from our room balcony. The Harborfront has an outdoor pool and a complementary breakfast bar.
I am sure there are plenty of other Connecticut and Rhode Island residents that were unaware of this gem of a spot across the sound. Anytime of year is a good time to see all that the North Fork has to offer.
When will you be planning your getaway?
Disclosure: I was graciously provided an overnight stay at the Harborfront Inn and tours through the Cross Sound Ferry. I was not required to provide any opinion and all opinions are my own.
Kontokosta Winery 823 North Rd Route 25 Greenport, NY 631-477-6977 Open weekdays for tastings. Groups of 7 or more need reservations
Waters Crest Winery 22355 Middle Rd Cutchogue, NY 631-734-5065 Seasonal hours vary. Groups of 7 or more require advance reservation.
Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard 1375 Peconic Lane, Peconic, NY 631-734-8282 Open Thursday through Monday. Groups of 6 or more require a reservation. This establishment also operates a bed and breakfast: Sannino Vineyard B & B.