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SITUATED BETWEEN LONG Island’s North and South Forks, Shelter Island is a very distinct sort of island getaway. About three hours from Manhattan and reachable via a brief automobile ferry from either Greenport or North Haven, the 8,000-acre isle is bordered by the Peconic River to the west and Gardiners Bay to the east. As beach escapes go, it’s less fussy than the Hamptons and more laid back than the North Fork. The narrow shoreline is strewn with rocks and shells, while the inside is all woodsy marshlands, with brackish and freshwater ponds. Life here proceeds at a hypnotically slow place; cyclists braking for a family of untamed turkeys could pass for a traffic jam.
The standard home of the Manhanset people, Shelter Island was appropriated by King James I of England and was a part of his original grant to the Plymouth Colony in 1620. Once colonized, the land passed through several more hands, acquiring the name Shelter Island around 1652. By the early 1900s, several millionaires had built houses there; more summer homes and cottages cropped up after World War II. Within the 2020 census, the island reported roughly 1,600 full-time residents, though that number swells in the summertime, as demonstrated by the weekenders crowding André Balazs’s chic Sunset Beach hotel and two historic island inns which have recently been modernized.
While fishing and farming were the dominant industries years ago, today’s residents usually tend to be hotel employees, interior designers or restaurateurs. An increasing variety of artists are opening studios as well, says the abstract artist Margaret Garrett, 57, who has kept a studio and residency on Shelter Island for 25 years and curated the summer exhibition “Once on This Island” on the Shelter Island Historical Society. The show features the work of Willem de Kooning, Jules Feiffer, Janet Culbertson and other creatives who’ve sought inspiration here over time.
Despite a flood of pandemic newcomers, the coastal calm of the island stays largely unspoiled; just head to the secluded beach at Crab Creek or the miles of vivid green trail in Mashomack Preserve to see for yourself. (A latest mobile payment system makes it easier than ever for nonresidents to search out parking, which was once a pain point for day-trippers.) “Working in a studio surrounded by nature affects me on a cellular level, which in turn affects my work,” says Garrett. “The mixture of solitude and community is right for an artist.”
Right in time for its ninety fifth birthday, this Crescent Beach hotel has undergone a down-to-the-studs face-lift, bringing the storied property into the twenty first century. Owners and Shelter Island residents since 1961, the Petry family partnered with Cape Resorts (which also runs Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor and a number of other hotels in Cape May, Latest Jersey) for the renovation and management of the hotel. Cape Resorts’ Colleen Bashaw led the redesign, specializing in preserving original details like circa-1927 chandeliers and a number of the wicker and rattan furniture while adding bursts of color and pattern via wallpapers from Zina Studios and textiles from Shumacher. The result: 33 Adirondack-inspired rooms with custom-designed oak cannonball beds and scallop-edged side tables within the important house and 16 stand-alone one- and two-room cottages accented with vintage Shelter Island maps, flat-weave sisal rugs and custom green floral throw pillows covered in Schumacher’s Exotic Butterfly print. There’s also a game room with a Ping-Pong table and vintage Pac Man console and a latest fitness center and spa complete with three treatment rooms and wet and dry saunas. caperesorts.com/pridwin.
One other longstanding property with a fresh look, the many-gabled Chequit dates to 1872 but was bought by the Soloviev Group in 2020 and renovated by Latest York’s Glen & Co. Architecture + Design. The important constructing now has 19 rooms in a minimalist gray, beige and white palette, with all-new bathrooms, some featuring claw-foot tubs. (Two separate buildings house a further 16 guest rooms which have yet to be renovated.) Shiplap partitions, decorative oar signs and narrow low-ceilinged hallways channel a nautical vibe. A small pool is being installed out back, in time for next summer, but the most important draw for now are the pair of recent restaurants run by beloved Greenport chef Noah Schwartz: Weakfish Sushi & Noodle and the Tavern, with its raw bar and billiards table. Each spots feature outdoor seating on the hotel’s wraparound porch and newly added patio. thechequithotel.com.
Valerie Mnuchin has teamed up together with her father, Robert Mnuchin, the previous co-owner of the Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, Connecticut, to open a restaurant named after her paternal grandfather, Léon, a Belgian émigré who spent half of his life on the East End. It’s housed in a newly erected farmhouse-style constructing with exposed picket trusses, canvas-upholstered banquettes and an open hearth with a blackened steel hood and a soapstone top. The live fire seems French- and Italian-inspired dishes resembling striped bass with spicy peperonata and grilled rib-eye served with herbed crispy potatoes; handmade pastas, locally sourced salads and seafood crudos are also on the menu. leon1909.com.
The Eccentric Bagel
Shelter Island survived centuries with out a bagel shop, but when this takeout spot with brightly hued picnic tables and ’80s-era-MTV-inspired décor (think black-and-white triangle-patterned floors and a mustard-yellow ceiling and wall textured with zigzagging lightning bolts) opened in April, it was immediately mobbed. The brainchild of native Latest Yorker Darryn Weinstein and his wife, Amy, the cafe sells egg, za’atar and jalapeño-cheddar bagels topped with all the pieces from Sriracha cream cheese and lox to scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato and avocado. eccentricbagel.com.
Elizabeth Peeples and Stefanie Bassett, co-owners of Little Ram Oyster Co., farm their bivalves north of Little Ram Island, a peninsula on the eastern side of Shelter Island. In April, they introduced a latest processing facility on the Shoals “boatel” in Southold, across the Peconic. Guests can sample Little Ram oysters from the Shoals’ on-site food truck or join for a tour of the corporate’s floating oyster nurseries, which incorporates shucking instruction and a tasting. They are going to see the huge aluminum oyster-tumbling machine in motion and learn the way various environmental aspects impact an oyster’s flavor. (Little Rams, for the record, are known for his or her brisk minerality and medium salinity.) littleramoysters.com.
White Oak Farm & Gardens
Lavender, hydrangeas and pink gerbera encircle a handful of metal chairs and tables within the storybook backyard of this garden center and landscape-design firm, which began hosting visitors in its wine garden last yr. Every weekend through the top of summer, guests can order cheese-and-charcuterie boards from the King Andrew Cheese cart parked on-site, grab a glass of the home rosé (White Oak partnered with the North Fork’s Lenz Winery to make its own) and play bocce while listening to live music from local bands including the Bodega Tallboys and Rob Europe. whiteoakfarmandgardens.com.
Ram Design Home and Marni Marine
Half a dozen interior designers have debuted studios and shops on Shelter Island in recent times. At Ram Design Home, founder Cristina Peffer showcases ceramics by Lily Hoffman, photography from the Robin Rice Gallery and minimalist furniture from Alfredo Paredes, the previous chief creative officer of Ralph Lauren. And now, for the second summer in a row, the Sunset Beach hotel is hosting a pop-up by the Italian fashion label Marni, stuffed with boldly patterned clothing, wide-strapped platform leather sandals and chunky jewelry, together with the Marni Market collection of colourful handbags and baskets handwoven by Colombian artisans. ramdesignhome.com; marni.com.
What to bring home, as suggested by locals we like
Matte Pedestal Bowl by Megan Hergrueter
“The handmade nature of those pedestal bowls, available within the Havens Store on the Shelter Island Historical Society, adds some nice texture to a kitchen,” says Sarah Zames, the founding father of the inside architecture and design firm General Assembly and a daily on Shelter Island. “Having it a bit higher also differentiates it from a typical fruit bowl.” From $60; shelterislandhistorical.org/havensstore.html.
Lilielle Pillow, Manufactured from Wool, Linen and Hemp, From Heiberg Cummings’s the Atelier
“These are only the suitable materials for cuddling up, and the colours are very organic,” says Marie Eiffel, a French transplant and owner of Shelter Island retail stalwarts Marie Eiffel Market and Marie Eiffel Fashion, each on North Ferry Road. “You possibly can throw them on the ground, pile them up and lay down on them or put them on a chair, sofa or bed — they only look good with all the pieces.” $425; hcd3.com.