Farms, Fields and Ferraris Three August days and two nights by bicycle on the rural east end of Long Island, New York.
Bicycle Adventurers: Ken Hoffner and Neil Fein
Accommodations: Free tent camping in a county park and in a churchyard.
Distance: 130 miles
Bonus: Two ferry rides and welcoming roads.
Weather: A beautiful August weekend.
Every year we take turns planning our great summer bike touring adventure. This year it was Ken's turn and he hatched a plan to ride on the east end of Long Island, New York for three days. During planning, Ken was surprised to find that most of the east end of Long Island is really quite rural, with farms, fields and yes, Ferraris.
Ken sketched out a loop of roughly 130 miles that went from Hampton Bay, 85 miles east of New York City, northeast out to Montauk Point State Park, Long Island’s easternmost point, and finishing with a return trip on the north side of Long Island along Little Peconic Bay.
Two ferry rides!
On the second day, to make the loop, we took a ferry to Shelter Island, rode north across the island and caught another ferry north to Greenport.
Free tent camping on both nights!
Suffolk County has set aside five county parks for cycle tourism. The rules are that you have to arrive on a bicycle, camp in the designated "Bike Hostel" areas and leave the next day. There are no reservations necessary, and you just ride in and camp. For the first night then, we pitched our tents at Suffolk County's Theodore Roosevelt County Park near Montauk.
For the second night, Ken sent emails to the Fire Department in Orient, NY and called churches in the area to see if they would allow camping. Amazingly, everybody said it would be okay to camp in their yards. We ended up staying at the Orient United Methodist Church because they said they would leave the door to the bathroom unlocked.
Free overnight parking!
One last detail: We had to plan where to leave our car during the tour. An officer of the Hampton Bays Police Department informed us that there was ample free overnight parking at the Long Island Railroad station in Hampton Bays. Hallelujah!
Day One: Hampton Bays to Montauk
From the car to camp. 38.5 miles. Friday, August 8, 2014.
We arrived in Hampton Bays in the early afternoon. Leaving the train station in Hampton Bays, we rode through the town and easily found Route 80. Between Hampton Bays and Southampton, Route 80 has a nice wide shoulder and some pretty scenery.
Continuing through East Hampton towards Montauk, the road opens up and there are farms with cornfields, and a couple of state parks. The Montauk Highway, as it is called, also has many roadside eateries like one called, "Lunch," known for its lobster rolls.
One unexpected feature of this stretch of Montauk Highway between East Hampton and Montauk are the hills. For a long, skinny island there are some challenging hills, but with nice rewards in terms of overlooks, especially at Hither Hills State Park.
Before arriving in Montauk, there is a very challenging hill, but at its crest, there are some great views of the area. When we coasted down that hill into the town of Montauk, we immediately sensed that Montauk is a tourist mecca. There is a beachy, laid-back kind of vibe, and there were many people out strolling around and enjoying the sunshine.
While at Theodore Roosevelt County Park, our home for the night, we learned that this area had been used as a quarantine station for soldiers returning from the Spanish American War in 1898. Health authorities had feared an epidemic of yellow fever from infected soldiers returning to the US mainland, so they quarantined the returning soldiers here until they were known to be disease-free. One of the most famous soldiers to be quarantined here was roughrider Theodore Roosevelt, hence, the park’s name.
The sun fell lower in the sky. We had pedaled 38.5 miles since leaving the Hampton Bays train station. A bright full moon rose in the east as we set up our tents in the dusk of the setting sun.
Day Two: Montauk To Orient
Out to the point, then on to the ferries. Saturday, August 9, 2014.
Last night’s full moon didn't keep us awake and we broke camp at the county park and rode the five miles of steep uphill and downhill roads to the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Looking out from the point in Montauk Point State Park, you can easily see Block Island in Rhode Island, just across from the point.
The Montauk Point Lighthouse.
After visiting the lighthouse at the tip of Long Island, we turned back to the west, retraced our route, and passed Deep Hollow Ranch, the oldest operating cattle ranch in the US. Along the way we enjoyed a pancake breakfast in Montauk before finishing our route back to East Hampton, where we took Route 114 north to Sag Harbor.
From Sag Harbor, we rode a few miles into North Haven where we caught the south ferry to Shelter Island. The ferry runs every 20 minutes or so, and it costs only a few dollars for cyclists to cross the Peconic River, from North Haven over to Shelter Island.
We found Shelter Island to be a great place for cycling and several cyclists we met agreed. While only a ten-mile ride to traverse the island, we put it on our list of places we’d like to explore by bike in the future.
After disembarking from the north ferry, we rode through Greenport, found Route 25 eastbound, and rode a few miles into the wonderful little town of Orient, passing Orient's post office and general store on the way. In tiny Orient, we had no trouble finding the Orient United Methodist Church where we set up our camp under some huge trees in the churchyard.
The only store in Orient is the small Orient Country Store. A nice lady there made us some tuna sandwiches to go and along with chips and a drink, we were all set for dinner. We walked down to the waterfront in Orient and ate our dinner as the sun sank over Gardiners Bay. We listened to the sounds of shrieking gulls and sailboat ropes slapping against masts at the Orient Yacht Club.
Around 9 pm, it was almost dark and we walked back to the church and our waiting tents. It was early to bed with the full moon clearly illuminating the old, giant trees overhead.
Tent camping in a churchyard in Orient, NY.
Day Three: Orient to Hampton Bays.
Back around the bay on our final day. Sunday, August 9, 2014.
The final day, we broke camp at the Orient United Methodist Church and rode out five miles or so to Orient Point where ferries haul cars and passengers to points in New England. We watched as cars drove into the gaping mouths of ferries like pizza rolls into a hungry teenager.
We retraced our route back past Orient and Greenport and rode along the beach for many miles on Route 48 through Southold, Peconic, and Mattituck. This route has regular vistas of the Long Island Sound and we stopped at the Southold town beach to take in great views of the Sound and Connecticut's shores across the Sound.
Our route then took us into vineyard country between Southold and Riverhead. We rode most of this area on Route 48, nearest the beach, and some of the area on Route 25 west. Due to the heat, we rested in Riverhead for a while at an ice cream parlor. From Riverhead, we headed south on Route 24 back to our car at Hampton Bays. This section was mostly rural, but with steady traffic. Fortunately, the road has a very wide shoulder and piney woods off to the side to make the scenery enjoyable.
Our last major tourist attraction of the tour featured a building shaped like a duck in Flanders, NY on the side of Route 24. Built by a duck farmer in 1931, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We completed this great bicycle adventure upon rolling into Hampton Bays on Sunday afternoon. It was a great little tour and we highly recommend that you visit the eastern end of Long Island by bike some day!
For more information, see: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/FarmFieldsAndFerraris
About These Adventurers:
Ken and Neil have been enjoying their summer bike trips for several years and are thankful to their families for letting them get away on overnight cycling adventures every summer. They are Warm Showers hosts and live in New Jersey. Their favorite local bike shop is Workman’s Bike Center , 79 East Main Street, Moorestown, NJ 08057 Phone:(856) 234-6286.