Things to do in Sag Harbour
“Arrived at Last In Old Sag Harbour”
Herman Melville wrote these words in the early 1850’s and the sentiment is still true today for locals and visitors fortunate enough to have found their way to this town in Long Island. The little Hamlet, located with one foot in Southampton and the other in Easthampton is quiet, but also rich in history and a bit higher in volume during the heart of the summer travel season. Oh yeah, you should definitely plan some vacation time in Sag Harbour.
A World of History Welcomes Summer Guests
To get to this historic, once major whaling village, consider taking to the open water on your own private boat charter to kick off your trip to historic Sag Harbour just like the early English who settled here centuries before it became a Hamptons vacation destination.
Whaling and Early Commerce on the Water
As early as 1770, Sag Harbour’s Long Wharf was the place where its first goods were shipped out to the world, and whaling ships docked throughout the 19th century, finally reaching Long Wharf after long voyages at sea.
Drop a Few Centuries on Main Street
Whether you have a few hours or an entire weekend planned to visit Sag Harbour, a walk down Main St. will tell the story of this village located at the edge of the most important seaport and whaling port (next to New York City) of 19th century America. If you’re a history buff or just want to feel what it was like to live in the United States when it was new, you’ve come to the right place.
Historical Buildings and Museums
You’ll find all kinds of shops and food establishments, along with rich American history along this one stretch of town; including a historic church, many a museum, and art and antique artifacts.
Custom House Museum
This home and office on Main St. is the first official customs office where people entered the United States. A short half-hour tour shows what life was like for the Deerings, who ran the business while raising their nine children. This house turned museum is chock full of period artifacts.
Sag Harbour Whaler’s and Historical Museum
Originally another authentic home built in 1845, check out this museum that displays interesting historical objects and hosts many a current exhibit and event.
Annie Cooper Boyd House
This House is Home to the Sag Harbour Historical Society and a rich collection of artifacts. The original art is worth a few more steps during your nice walk downtown.
See the Old Places, Eat at the New Places
Wherever you eat, watch for and do not pass up a visit to Buddhaberry Ice Cream and Yogurt, a local favorite that attracts both townies and those on weekend vacation alike. It’s one of the most delicious of Sag’s sweet attractions and we guarantee you’ll want to come again if you hang around town longer.
Also famous, are the garlic rolls and Northern Italian food served at nearby Il Capucinno Restaurante (try the eggplant and chicken parm). Of course, you can also get fresh seafood (Calamari and seafood pasta frutti Del Mar are yum) in this cozy eatery that offers a nice wine list as well.
Lulu Kitchen, & Bar, also on Main, has a completely different ambience and cuisine. This bistro is centered around an open wood burning grill and oven that makes dining here both a gastronomical and theatre-like event. Lulu is both a large casual indoor and outdoor spot, also with a good wine list and view of the street’s action. Whether you prefer skirt steak or cauliflower steak, you’ll taste the wood burning flavor that’s uniquely Lulu’s, as you sit and watch entertaining food theatre!
Also worth mentioning: The Beacon, Bell and Anchor, Baron’s Cover (all three with great views), Dockside Bar and Grill on Bay Street, Dopo La Spiaggia and Sag Pizza, because life can’t be a whole lobster for every meal, even in The Hamptons.
Hit the Beach
Now that you’ve paid a visit to the old buildings, eaten a meal and seen a historic church or two, it’s time to spend a few hours with nature—beaches with blue skies, turquoise water and sparkling white sand that prompted you to vacation in the East End in the first place. Sag Harbour has some of the best beaches to land on in the Hamptons, most lifeguarded to give you peace-of-mind whether traveling alone or with the family.
Foster Memorial Bay
Also known as Long Beach in Long Island, this stretch of sand is often referred to as the Mediterranean Beach of The Hamptons. The outdoor beach spot’s got more of a paddle boarding-than-surfing vibe as it doesn’t have the big waves and is always warmer than the waters out in the ocean. Long Beach is a place to snorkel and a nice spot for picnicking. Bring your own or get grub at Foster’s food stand. Loved by locals and vacationers, Foster Memorial Bay has an amazing sunset view, but be careful of the rocks – there are a lot here.
A long stretch of white sand in East Hampton, this beautiful beach has room for everyone to enjoy a day of play, picnicking, swimming or just taking time to sit and soak up some sun.
North Haven Village Park – A Place To Take the Kids
This park is a beautiful place to let the kids play all day on a big playground. And you can take a turn hitting tennis balls or shooting hoops on the park’s large court. The Cottage Clubhouse staff can fill you in on the park’s activities and amenities. A great place to chillax and enjoy some recreation.
Take the Ferry to Shelter Island
Hop on The South Ferry for about 10 to 15 minutes travel time and arrive across the bay in Shelter Island that offers its own special ambience and activities. The optimum months here are May thru June, September and October, and July and August, so reserve any local restaurants or hotels you want to visit way before you head over to the island.
Shelter Island House Hotel
If you plan on an overnight or more, Shelter Island House is a great choice where hotel, restaurant and resort combine in a 19th century home. There are just six luxurious suites and topnotch amenities including bike rentals, umbrellas at their beautiful outdoor pool, and morning pastries with fresh ground coffee. The compound is also pet friendly, so feel free to pack everyone in the car, including the hound.
Biking and Birdwatching in Shelter Island
Shelter Island is known for birdwatching and bicycling, so grab a bike and head to the Mashomack Preserve to catch a Goldfinch, Mourning Dove, American Robin and even a House Hairy Woodpecker. Before you hit the nature trail on your trip here, we suggest you practice balancing your binoculars on your handlebars a few times.
Restaurants in Shelter Island to Try
Shelter Island also has awesome restaurants you’ll want to try like Maria’s Kitchen for Mexican and the Vine Street Café for American food, with its market where you can buy local foods to go.
Hotels That Must Be Mentioned
There are plenty of fine hotels in Sag Harbour, but this 4-star waterfront hotel has it all; 67 rooms with private garden terraces, heated saltwater pool, gym, tennis court, spa services, beach transportation, and phenomenal amenities. Baron’s throws BBQs and lobster bakes and is the only place in town with live entertainment every night during summer.
The American Hotel
This hotel, built as a house in 1846, is the quaintest place to stay in town. The American has just eight guest rooms decorated with antiques and a gourmet restaurant that features an award-winning wine list. Understated, The American is hugely popular so book your stay long before you travel.
Sag Harbour Marine Park
This prime spot for watching the sunset (preferably from your Yacht Hampton boat rental), is a fun place to see the other yachts and boats coming and going. Check out the rustic boardwalk in Marine Park that makes a perfect picturesque spot for your photo op.
Longhouse Reserve, East Hampton
This East Hampton reserve was built to inspire, with its lush garden and sculptures surrounding a home that exemplifies contemporary life. Designed by well-known textile designer and author Jack Lenor Larsena, Longhouse is filled with an eclectic collection of textiles and other art forms you will want to check out for a different kind of cultural experience here.
You Can Stay in Sag Harbour All Summer…
And never get bored. We haven’t even mentioned Bay Street Theater & Sag harbour Center for the Arts (Bay Street Theater is a popular non-profit regional theater worth a visit), Old Whaler’s Church, Long Island Aquarium or the fact the Richard Gere lives next door to Jimmy Buffet — either of which might be seen driving their car or strolling into town for a cup of Joe. And we should tell you there is one local 9-hole state golf course in East Hampton (Poxabogue) for those die-hard golfers who never travel without throwing their clubs in the back of the car, just in case.
Consider Bridgehampton For A Round
If you’re really looking for a golf day like no other, take a car or bus (or walk if 4 miles is a no-brainer for you) to Bridgehampton to tee off at the Bridge, one of The Hamptons more unique clubs, with its casual unstuffy style. With great views of Sag Harbour, this course that used to be Bridgehampton Motor Racing Circuit gives golfers a few hours of heaven in the middle of a heavenly trip, but it’s not an easy tee time to get as this is a private club so try to make a new friend in town!
A Final Note About This Historic Town
Sag Harbour is known for the first whaling boats in these parts, but it has also been home to famous writers over the years (besides Melville). If you get really lucky, you might get a peek at the home John Steinbeck referred to as his “Little Fishing Place” where he wrote “The Winter of our Discontent” and “Travels with Charlie” in his cozy octagonal writing hut. The village has also been home to E.L. Doctorow and playwright Lanford Wilson just to name a few.
So, when you’re here, take a tour. Take a few. Charter a private boat for many days of fun so you can enjoy everything about Sag Harbour, the very very old as well as the very cool and new.