Once known as the “un-Hampton,” this former whaling port now boasts the kind of upscale amenities that have long characterized the rest of the South Fork. Yet some of that “olde time charm” remains in the shops, homes and byways that dot this scenic village.
Sag Harbor’s centuries-old streets are lined with grand houses, some of which hark back to whaling days. These historic houses sit cheek and jowl with restaurants and shops where you just might get a peek at literary or Hollywood celebrities browsing through store racks or dining at the next table. Local sites include Canio’s Books, which features author readings; the classy American Hotel, and, at the north end of Main Street, a small windmill which houses the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
Close your eyes, smell the salt air, and you can all but imagine the hustle and flow of whaling days when Sag Harbor’s streets were a cacophony of foreign accents and its connections to commerce spread around the world.
Sag Harbor’s streets slope down to the bay like rivers running to the sea. If you stand at the end of Long Wharf, the harbor is a picture postcard of pleasure boats that come from far and wide to moor in Sag Harbor. And while whale oil and lumber no longer move in and out of Sag Harbor, you can imagine the tall ships sidling up to the Long Wharf.
The village offers all manner of dining and refreshment, and a short bike or car ride brings you to a glorious sunset over Noyac Bay or a cooling plunge into the Atlantic Ocean. At the windmill/visitor’s center, in addition to some friendly help, you can pick up a map showing where to find the local architectural and historical treasures, museums, shops and eateries.
Old Custom House. Main Street. Built in 1789 when Sag Harbor and New York City were designated the first ports of entry in the U.S. It also housed the first post office on Long Island in 1794. The museum is in the 18th-century home of the port’s first U.S. Custom Master and displays historical documents and period furnishings. Open Memorial Day-Columbus Day. ( 631- 725-0250)
Sag Harbor Whaling Museum. Built in 1845, this mansion features an historical boat collection, ship models, whaling tools and artifacts, period furnishings, oil paintings, scrimshaw, toys and documents. Open May-September. ( 631- 725-0770)
Sag Harbor Fire Department Museum. Sage and Church Streets. The Sag Harbor Fire District was created in 1803 and is the oldest volunteer fire department in the state.The building, built in 1833, was once both the village hall and fire department headquarters. Displays equipment dating to the 19th century and a mural depicting early fires. ( 631- 725-0779)
Barcelona Neck. Route 114. 532-acre wildlife sanctuary, with four miles of marked hiking trails traversing upland oak and hickory forest, swamp and marsh. Hunting, bird-watching. Access by free seasonal permit. Call 631- 444-0273 for permit information.
Bay Street Theatre. Long Wharf. Home to exciting productions of comedies, dramas and musicals, many of which have gone on to successful runs Off Broadway and throughout the country. Regularly features first-time performances of works by renowned playwrights such as Lanford Wilson, Terrence McNally and Joe Pintauro. The theater also lights up with concerts, cabarets, play readings and lectures, as well as special events for children. ( 631- 725-9500)
The Sag Harbor Community Band plays a concert every Tuesday evening after July 4 until Labor Day on the waterfront at 8 p.m. Bring a folding chair and enjoy a bit of Americana with music from Strauss to Sousa.
Walking Tour of Historical Main Street. Tour Main Street and surrounding streets with a stroll through the roads lined with the homes of early colonists, whaling captains and wealthy industrialists.
For more information, call the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce at 631-725-0011 www.sagharborchamber.com