Summer is the perfect time to picnic—but fall presents more than a few gorgeous opportunities to dine outside, as well. Whatever the season, the East End is a prime location for all your most Pinterest-y picnic dreams. Here are 5 places we especially love to lay our blankets.
The Elizabeth Morton Wildlife Refuge is one of Sag Harbor’s loveliest places, a serene slip of land that encompasses both forest and pristine beach. The 187-acre peninsula sits squarely between Noyack and Little Peconic Bays and is home to diverse habitats, owing, in large part, to its topography: sandy and rocky beaches, a lagoon, a salt marsh, forest, fields, ponds, and wooded bluffs. The refuge is a great place to see painted turtles, chipmunks, deer, all manner of bird and waterfowl, and amphibian. Naturally, then, it’s a bird-watcher’s paradise, but one not need be into birding to enjoy this private space, which is almost never crowded. Bring a blanket to sit on and whatever feast your heart desires and park overlooking Jessup’s Neck.
Elizabeth A. Morton Wildlife Refuge, 2595 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor, open daily from sunrise to sunset.
The tiny beach on the North Fork’s New Suffolk waterfront offers picnic tables for the lunch-loving crowd. The 3.4-acre park includes a marina, community garden, and bay beach, with views of Cutchogue Harbor and Robins Island, as well as a 6-foot-wide walkway, built by volunteers, known as the John Page Boardwalk. A meadow that runs adjacent to the community garden has paths mown through it for walking amongst the flowers—native plants attract butterflies and birds. Now protected by the Peconic Land Trust, the waterfront is a lovely, well-tended place to enjoy a walk and a meal.
New Suffolk Waterfront, 650 1st Street, New Suffolk, open daily, year-round.
Also on the Noyac side of Sag Harbor is this fresh-water pond with its own walking trails and dock, which is part of the Southampton Trails Preservation Society’s 50-acre town park. In the warm months, you can expect to see local families sunning and swimming in the clean, crisp water, but in April and May, when the swimming season has not quite started, Trout Pond is better suited for long walks and long lunches. The park is dog-friendly Toss a beach chair in the back of your car and park it—and yourself—on the dock for the afternoon. Throw in a sandwich and a boozy cocktail and you have the makings of an exemplary spring day.
Trout Pond, 3252 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor, open daily year-round.
You may need to park elsewhere, since this park requires resident parking stickers, but if you can cut through the red tape, Southold’s South Harbor Park is idyllic, with a beach-meets-campground feel. The park is open from 9 a.m. to dusk beginning on May 1 and has a series of picnic tables with adjacent grills, so you can actually stage your own beachfront cookout. There’s also equal parts shade and sun, for the sunlight-averse. The view of the Peconic Bay—and, as a point of interest, the Elizabeth A. Morton Wildlife Refuge—is incomparable.
South Harbor Park, South Harbor Road, Southold, open May 1 to October 15, 9 a.m. to dusk.
Parking is free at this Montauk gem, which binds together a series of walking trails that overlook the breathtaking ocean bluffs. The park itself is an astounding 99 acres, although much of that is impossible to get to. Much of the trails are covered in heavy vegetation (make sure to wear pants and socks, since Montauk is known for a relentless tick problem), but closer to the bluffs, there are wide areas where you can sit and relax. Carrying a beach chair along with the rest of your belongings may prove a bit problematic, but a blanket should do the trick just fine. On your way there, stop at Herb’s Market for some beach-ready fried chicken.
Shadmoor State Park, 900 Montauk Highway, Montauk, open sunrise to sunset, year-round, seven days a week.