Shelter Island’s five harbors beckon boaters. Tucked in between the forks of the east end of Long Island, about one-third of the island is a nature preserve.
Coming from the north, opposite Greenport, lies Dering Harbor, home to a fleet of classic wooden sailboats. It is protected from all winds except those from the northwest. There is a public fuel dock but no launch service. The Dering Harbor Inn (631-749-0900) and the Dering Harbor Marina (631-749-0045) offer transient space. If you didn’t bring your own, there are bike rentals available (631-749-0045). Pedal to the Quaker Burial Grounds on North Ferry Road, where 17th century stones mark the resting place of those who escaped the Puritans in New England and found refuge (or shelter).
On the eastern side of the island, Coecles Harbor provides shelter in a quiet setting. The entrance is a bit tricky as the channel is only about 25 feet wide. Follow the three green entrance buoys closely as the water shoals quickly. Once past buoy number five, the anchorage is to port. Coecles Harbor Marina lies at the western edge of the harbor with supplies, fuel, and guest moorings, launch service and repairs. The harbor can be rough with winds from the northeast.
The Mashomack Wildlife Preserve, with miles of coastline along Coecles Harbor, is a paradise of marsh, pond, and creek habitats of harbor seals, terrapins, muskrats, and hummingbirds, among many other species. Visitors should note that there’s no camping, rowing, bicycling, RV’ing, horseback riding, or pets allowed.
If swimming is how you get close to nature, check out Crescent Beach on the northwest side of the island. Foot coverings are helpful, as the beach is more rocky than sandy.
On the southern coast, two small harbors offer safe anchorages: the very small Majors Harbor and Smith Cove, located next to the ferry. Farther west — but still on the south coast — is the snuggest anchorage, West Neck Harbor. As it is almost entirely surrounded by land, this site also requires careful navigation (the channel at low tide is only four feet). Island Boatyard and Marina (631-749-3333) is a full-service facility.
If shopping is your sport, many prizes await you on the island. And whatever your activity, there’s plenty of dining to be found. Shelter Island has fine restaurants, cafés, and spots where you can pick up a picnic and get back into nature.
For more information: http://www.shelterislandtown.us/, http://www.shelter-island.org/, http://www.deringharborcommunity.org/, http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/newyork/places-preserves/long-island-mashomack.xml http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/55663.html
William C. Winslow contributed information for this article