Editor’s Note: My First Summer on the North Fork was an eight-week series of columns written by a young teacher taking the summer off and staying on the North Fork for the first time. She visited Shelter Island for her final installment.
As we reach mid-August, the reality that school is approaching has set in, and I’m realizing my summer days on the North Fork are coming to an end. As a way to celebrate the end of the season, I decided to “go big” with three of my girlfriends.
So, on one of the hottest days in August, my friends forsook their jobs in Manhattan, and we jumped on the ferry to Shelter Island. I set my sights on Sunset Beach Hotel and Restaurant for my final column.
The views and atmosphere of the bar were better than those seen on their website. The sun began to descend when we pulled into the gravel parking lot. Families and young couples sporting classic seersucker shorts and floral cover-ups meandered from the adjacent Crescent Beach to the restaurant in search of respite from the sweltering heat, and a cold drink to quench their thirst.
We shimmied passed the hostess and waiting patrons, and headed up to the second-floor bar. I immediately felt like I was in a tropical paradise, with the views of the bay, floral colored tiling, and bar staff dressed in all white outfits.
Amy Levine, who summers in East Quogue, put it perfectly when she told me, “It’s almost as if a short ferry ride has taken me to a tropical island.”
“It is a bright outdoor area with a view of the water,” she said. “I feel like I am at a resort.”
Needless to say, the girls and I also felt we had found paradise after a long, hot week of work and travel.
What immediately caught my attention after the stunning view, was the beverage list. The word rosé was splashed on the page in many forms: rosé sangria, frozen rosé, or just regular old bottled rosé wine. Before I had to ask, the bartender offered a sample of the frozen rosé, which was sweet and wildly refreshing on a 93 degree day.
As I mulled over my drink decision, I watched the other bartenders create unique and vibrantly colored concoctions for their thirsty and sunburnt clientele. I tried to take in the vibe of this multi-level and multi- purpose establishment. From the lounge couches adorning the bottom floor, to the rooftop tables overseeing the breathtaking view of the water, Sunset Beach provides a multitude of seating choices which are not only comfortable but also suit your mood.
I was able to catch up with one of the bartenders, Sara Bei, who informed me the decor and atmosphere is meant to reflect the blissful island of St.Tropez. According to Bei, Sunset Beach often plays host to both visitors from foreign countries vacationing on Long Island’s quaint and peaceful East End, as well as urbanites retreating from the hustle and bustle of the relentless city for the weekend.
“Weekends are like a party; there is a DJ, and a young crowd that enjoys the late night hours that Sunset Beach offers,” Bei said with a smile as warm as the summer sun.
Having experienced both the North and South shores of Long Island, visiting reveler Spencer Hillside opined that Shelter Island “is the flavor of Montauk, with a local vibe. I feel like Montauk is popular right now, but this is a great alternative. Here, you get the lively and trendy atmosphere without the crowd.”
Levine later added, “Shelter Island draws an unpretentious crowd compared to many other places on the East End.”
Between the beach and beverages, there is no way you can go wrong when visiting Sunset Beach Restaurant. Whether it is for a full meal, or just drinks with girlfriends, it provides the perfect atmosphere to relax and enjoy the taste of something refreshing and different from everyday life on the North Fork.
It is located at 35 Shore Road, Shelter Island Heights, and I recommend visiting on a weekend night to take advantage of the lively atmosphere before summer’s end.
The author is a 26-year-old Connecticut school teacher spending summer break in Peconic for the first time and blogging about it on northforker.com. Read her previous columns below: