Sure, the Hamptons are great. The area oozes luxury, there are scads of celebs and the party goes on all night. But that also means bumper-to-bumper traffic, lines around the block and summer rental prices that’ll stun a Wall Streeter. Those looking for a little less – less shoulder-to-shoulder, less over-the-top, less pain in the pocketbook – might do well to take the North Fork.
Though Memorial Day weekend is already upon us, interested renters take heart, there are still summer homes available in the North Fork at prices latecomers could only dream of seeing in theHamptons. So while the South Fork is a scrum right now, the North Fork has the welcome mat out – as long as you don’t make too much of a ruckus.
“It’s definitely not too late to find something,” says broker Eileen Tonsmeire of Prudential Douglas Elliman.
And your odds go up if you’re looking to rent for just a month. Homeowners “are more agreeable [to that] than they would have been a month or so ago,” Tonsmeire says.
In fact, this year, more than in years past, North Fork brokers have rented houses by the month, rather than for the entire Memorial through Labor Day season.
But if you’re looking for the full season, broker Chip Puccio of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty estimates that the average three-bedroom house with air-conditioning is going for $25,000, while $35,000-plus gets a “monstrous house where you can have tons and tons of guests.”
“The rental prices on the North Fork are at least half as cheap as those in the Hamptons,” says broker Suzanne Hahn of Brown Harris Stevens.
Puccio agrees that the price difference is major: “For $15,000, you can get a place on the creek with a dock for the season [in the North Fork]. For $15,000, you can get a week out in the Hamptons, if you’re lucky.”
And for those who’ve trekked to the Hamptons in summers past, the trip to the North Fork might seem like a breeze. The heart of the North Fork is closer to the city than the South Fork’s primary summer destinations are. And like the Hamptons, it’s accessible via the Long Island Rail Road and Hampton Jitney.
Sandwiched between Long Island Sound on the north and the Peconic and Gardiners bays on the south, the town of Riverhead on the west and Orient Point on the east, the North Fork is vineyards and antiquing, farmstands and quiet beaches.
One of the primary reasons the North Fork isn’t as congested is that it has two major thoroughfares (as opposed to the Hamptons’ single Montauk Highway). The area also has only three public beaches (limiting the number of day-trippers) and a citizenship interested in maintaining its slow pace.
“It’s a different market out here,” says Puccio. Summer renters “go to the Hamptons to see the celebrities. The celebrities here don’t want to be seen … Here, in the morning at 10 you can go out and get a coffee and come back. In the Hamptons you need to leave the night before. Plus, you can get dinner reservations here.”
It’s worth noting, though, that it can be difficult to find a place still serving dinner, or even an open deli, at 9 p.m. in many North Fork hamlets. (The early-bird specials – four courses for $20 at 4 p.m.! – are popular out there.)
That’s not to say the area has no pulse at all. The maritime village of Greenport is filled with boutiques and quaint cafes. Both the North Fork Table and Inn in Southold (with an executive chef who worked at Aureole and a pastry chef who won a James Beard Award for her work at Gramercy Tavern) and the popular Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport have been bestowed with many a “best.” (Four of the six highest-rated eateries in the new Zagat Hamptons Restaurants guide are actually in the North Fork.)
But if you do want a dose of velvet ropes and VIPs, the South Fork is 45 minutes away by ferry from Greenport (through Shelter Island and a drive between ferry stops) or just by jumping in your car.
“This year, we’ve had summer-rental customers who haven’t rented on the North Fork before but are coming here because they don’t want to be on the South Fork,” says Hahn. “It’s become a place people want because it’s low-key and the vistas are wide.”
This 3-BR wood-frame house has 1 1/2 baths, a private beach, a washer/dryer and a deck that overlooks Peconic Bay. Contact: Chip Puccio, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s, (631) 734-5439
New Suffolk $20K/July
Sitting atop Peconic Bay, this 5-BR, two-bath house has a private beach and a den. Contact: Deirdre O’Connell, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s, (631) 734-5439
A short walk from a deeded bay beach, this 4-BR, two-bath has a loft area and an outdoor shower. Contact: Sheri Winter Clarry, Corcoran, (631) 899-0613
Greenport $6K/July $7K/Aug-LD
This 2-BR cottage is down the street from the beach. Contact: Eileen and Jim Tonsmeire, Prudential Douglas Elliman, (516) 551-7673
This custom-designed Contemporary sits on 3 acres and has six bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, a pool and a private beach. Contact: Suzanne Hahn, Brown Harris Stevens, (631) 477-8001
This restored 1920s Nassau Point waterfront estate sits on more than 2 1/2 acres with its own peninsula and has four bedrooms, three baths, a dining room, an eat-in kitchen, a fireplace in the living room, a terrace and a slate patio. Contact: Brown Harris Stevens, (631) 734-5657
Perched on a bluff 95 feet above Long Island Sound, this 5-BR manse has a pool, balconies and a covered patio. Contact: Enzo Morabito, Prudential Douglas Elliman, (631) 537-7900