East End Getaway has curated a guide to the towns across the North and South Forks, highlighting some of the best of what to see, do, and what the insiders know. This information will help you map and plan your next getaway to the East End of Long Island. Today, we take you inside the town of Riverhead.
Brief Overview of Riverhead
The town of Riverhead on the North Fork is located on the mouth of the Peconic River. It contains the following hamlets: Aquebogue, Baiting Hollow, Calverton, Riverhead, Laurel and Wading River. Riverhead is located just under two hours away by car – about 80 miles from New York City.
Riverhead is a great destination for families and couples of all ages looking to tour and visit the vineyards, breweries, restaurants, shops, and array of events held all year long.
Riverhead was founded in 1792 after the American Revolution. At the end of the 20th century, the town of Riverhead saw an influx of Polish immigrants. This eventually led to the creation of Polish Town. There visitors can discover a variety of local small businesses and Polish American restaurants and pubs. This is also where the popular Polish Town Fair is held annually.
Parks and Recreation
Riverhead is also home to four separate beaches which are open year round. These beaches are Iron Pier, Jamesport Beach, Reeves Beach and Wading River. Each beach offers boating access for residents and visitors alike. Visitors can enjoy activities such as kayaking, swimming, sailing, boating, fishing, and much more.
Stotzky Memorial Park on Columbus Avenue in Riverhead is an excellent spot to relax or let out some extra energy in between exploring the region. This particular park is widespread with picnic areas, open fields, a playground, two soccer fields, baseball fields, a dog park, tennis courts, and more.
As you enter Wading River on North Country Road, sit and watch the resident ducks swim by at the Wading River Duck Ponds. The best time to visit is in the early mornings before 9am or in the late afternoon after 4pm.
How to Travel to Riverhead
There are several convenient ways to travel to Riverhead. From Manhattan, the most direct and fastest route is by train on the LIRR from Penn Station with a switchover in Ronkonkoma. There is a train station in Riverhead and nearby stations in Speonk, Westhampton, and Hampton Bays on the South Shore/South Fork. There are also bus routes from Manhattan with the Hampton Jitney and their luxury line, the Hampton Ambassador. The Hampton Jitney has both a North and South Fork line, with a preliminary stop in Manorville.
Traveling from Connecticut? The Cross Sound Ferry travels between New London and Orient Point and offers a full, daily timetable schedule.
Places to Go
The town of Riverhead on the North Fork has several notable places of interest for individuals and families of all ages. For those who wish to discover more about local history and culture, visit such sites and attractions as the Railroad Museum of Long Island and the Suffolk County Historical Society and Hallockville Museum Farm.
There are dozens of wineries that stretch across the town of Riverhead. A selection of wineries to discover in Riverhead are Palmer Vineyards, Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue, and both Farrm Wine and Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard in Calverton.
Riverhead is also home to such breweries and distilleries as Peconic County Brewing, Tradewinds Brewing, North Fork Brewing Company, Long Ireland Beer Company, übergeek Brewing Company, Jamesport Farm Brewery, Twin Fork Beer Co., Twin Stills Moonshine, Montauk Distilling Co., Riverhead Ciderhouse and Long Island Spirits in Baiting Hollow.
The majority of the breweries and wineries in Riverhead are open year round as well as seven days a week.
A must is stopping at one of the many farm stands across the town of Riverhead. Top picks include Hubbards Farm Stand, Golden Earthworm Organic Farm, Briermere Farms, Breitenbach Farms, Helen’s Greenhouses & Flower Farm, 1760 Homestead Farm, Harbes Orchard, Schmitt’s Farm Stand and Goodale Farms in Aquebogue (Note that most of these farm stands are open seasonally, or through the holiday season).
There is also the indoor East End Food Market in Riverhead. It is open on Fridays between 3-7pm May through October and 9a-1p on Saturdays the end of November through April. The market hosts a wide range of local vendors from across the North Fork.
Specifically for families, places in the town of Riverhead to visit include the Long Island Aquarium, East End Arts, Safari Adventure, Lavender by the Bay Calverton, Roanoke Lavender Farm, Tanger Outlets, Splish Splash Water Park (open Memorial Day to Labor Day), Hallockville Museum Farm, Long Island Science Center, Riverhead Raceway and All Star for bowling and arcade games.
Where to Dine in Riverhead
The town of Riverhead on the North Fork has an abundance of casual and fine dining establishments. Many of these restaurants are family owned and operated, and have been in business for decades. Several of these restaurants are also within walking distance of the businesses throughout the vibrant downtown Riverhead neighborhood.
We divided the following recommended restaurants by hamlet:
Barrow Food House on Main Road serving home cooked food with produce sourced from the family’s farm down the road. Amanda and Kyle are a husband and wife chef team who grew up on the North Fork and set out to bring a menu that focuses on handmade fast casual options with the best ingredients. Barrow Food House is closed on Mondays.
Il Giardino Restaurant off of Main Road brings a piece of Sicily to the historic hamlet of Aquebogue. Chef and Owner John Gambino focuses on sourcing fresh seasonal ingredients from the local farms and waters. Their gorgeous garden hosts outdoor dining in the spring, summer and fall months.
Modern Snack Bar is a North Fork landmark that has been around since 1950 and is instantly recognizable with their iconic neon sign. Located right off of Main Road, Modern Snack Bar serves great home cooking with dishes ranging from Soft Shell Crab and Long Island Duck to their famous Lemon Meringue pie.
On The Docks is an American restaurant overlooking the marina on the Peconic River. With breathtaking views of the Lighthouse Marina and Meetinghouse Creek, On The Docks in Aquebogue features an indoor and outdoor bar and live music. The menu features a raw bar and entrees like Horseradish Crusted Salmon and Chicken Francaise. Happy Hour is Tuesday-Friday from 4-7pm.
Cooperage Inn is a popular and quaint country American restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner. Live music and events take place all year round on select nights. Dishes to try include Herb Panko Crusted North Fork Blackfish, Paella, Braised Short Rib Stroganoff, and Chicken Pot Pie. Cooperage Inn also has regular rotating specials.
Golden Jalapenos is a fun Tex-Mex restaurant on the North Fork that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their menu includes a variety of breakfast burritos, salads, tacos, enchiladas, Chimichangas, Paellas, and more. The restaurant also features a full bar. Golden Jalapenos also delivers to Calverton, Manorville, Wading River, and Riverhead.
J&R’s Steakhouse has been around for over 20 years and is known for their top quality prime rib, steaks, and seafood. Both indoor and outdoor dining is available. Prix Fixe and Happy Hour menus are available on select nights. In addition to Calverton, J&R’s Steakhouse has locations in central Long Island including Rocky Point, Medford, and Islip.
Jerry and the Mermaid on East Main Street in downtown Riverhead is a family friendly and family-owned seafood restaurant that serves lunch and dinner. Their menu includes a selection of hot and cold appetizers, salads, pastas, and seafood like Cajun Pan Roasted Salmon and Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna. They also have a signature cocktail list as well as a beer and wine list.
Farm Country Kitchen is a new American restaurant set in a rustic refurbished farmhouse on the Peconic River shore. Serving lunch and dinner (closed Tuesdays), Farm Country Kitchen serves a selection of homemade soups, sandwiches, paninis, wraps, salads, and rotating entrée specials. Dinner menu highlights include Island Ciopino, Gnocci Shiitaki, and Crescent Duck.
The Birchwood of Polish Town is a true Polish Town landmark in Riverhead that serves traditional Polish cuisine and American classics. Their generous menu includes a wide variety of seafood, steaks, roasts, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and so much more. The restaurant also hosts an array of events year round for families of all ages.
Stonewalls is located on The Woods Golf Course and serves French American cuisine for lunch and dinner. Dishes on the lunch menu include Mussels, an Open Face Steak Sandwich, and a Spinach Pear Salad. For dinner, try Duck a l’orange, Filet Mignon, Grilled Swordfish, or Chicken Milanese to name a few.
Star Confectionery is located in the heart of downtown RIverhead and has been a staple on the North Fork for generations. Open for breakfast and lunch, Star Confectionery serves milkshakes, pancakes, omelets, French Toast, sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, and more. Breakfast is served until 11:30am. Cash only.
Snowflake Ice Cream Shop on West Main Street in Riverhead serves a wide variety of ice cream as well as novelty items like ice cream sandwiches, sprinkle cones, and dip tops. Just for dogs, Snowflake serves Muttwiches that feature two Milkbone dog biscuits with premium vanilla ice cream. Open everyday beginning at 10am.
Dari-Land on RT 25 across from All Star bowling has been open for over 25 years and serves takeout ice cream treats as well as smoothies, special order cakes, and more. Open seven days a week.
Desmond’s Restaurant & Pub at East Wind Long Island is a New American restaurant with Italian influences. They offer a pub menu and dinner menu that is served daily. On Saturdays there is a breakfast buffet, and brunch is served on Sundays. Live music and events rotate monthly. Happy Hour is served Monday-Friday from 4-8pm.
La Plage is an elegant French-American restaurant on the Sound. This romantic dining destination features a full wine list and cocktail menu and serves lunch and dinner. Fresh seafood and produce is caught and brought in daily. Notable dishes include the Gold and Red Beet Salad, Slow-Braised Pork Osso Bucco, and Pan Seared Branzino.
North Tavern on N Country Road is a family-owned American restaurant that is well known for their fun hometown atmosphere. Dishes to try include everything from Long Stem Artichoke Salad and Grandma’s Pierogi to Pop’s Pot Roast and the Overstuffed Corned Beef Reuben Sandwich. North Tavern is open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday beginning at 4pm.
Annual Activities in Riverhead
Oktoberfest and Halloween is another popular time to visit Riverhead with a wide range of events taking place throughout the town. These events include Halloween Fest in downtown Riverhead and the Hallockville Museum Farm Halloween Trunk-or-Treat.
Riverhead hosts a number of holiday fairs during the months of November and December including the Holiday Parade and Bonfire.
Lodging in Riverhead
The town of Riverhead on the North Fork has a wide variety of hotel accommodations and lodging options.
Aqua by American Beech is a stunning beachside hotel on the Peconic Bay in Aquebogue. Newly renovated, this chic hotel offers a wide range of amenities including a sauna, firepit, and beach access as well as a variety of watersports like paddleboarding and kayaking. Their rooftop suite is truly a one-of-a-kind experience on the North Fork with a private deck and balcony with a private staircase that leads to the garden.
Hotel Indigo Long Island is a pet-friendly IHG Hotel located just down the street from Tanger Outlets and Splish Splash. Guests will enjoy an onsite outdoor pool, fitness center, wood-burning fireplace and their onsite restaurant Bistro 72. Bistro 72 serves farm-to-table dishes and local wine pairings. The pool is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Onsite parking is available.
Hyatt Place Long Island/East End is a pet friendly hotel with 100 spacious guest rooms located immediately next to the Long Island Aquarium. Amenities include complimentary breakfast, digital check in, free parking, pool, electric vehicle charging, fitness center, onsite restaurant, and much more. Their outdoor restaurant, Seaside Grill, serves lunch and dinner and is open seasonally from Memorial Day to mid-October.
The Inn And Spa At East Wind is a luxurious hotel that offers rooms and suites with modern amenities. Amenities include an indoor pool, fitness center, and hair and makeup salon. In addition to a hotel, East Wind is a one-stop destination for a restful day on the North Fork. Visitors will discover a range of dining options, a spa, shops, and a carousel.
The Preston House & Hotel is located directly across from the Long Island Aquarium and is centrally located in downtown Riverhead within an easy walking distance to nearby restaurants and shops. Amenities include an in room Lavazza espresso machine, turndown service, 24/7 fitness room, and access to an offsite indoor pool and seasonal outdoor pool. Their upscale restaurant serves dinner and weekend brunch year round. Onsite parking is available for guests of the hotel and restaurant.