Captains and families on the Long Island Sound do not have to go far for a fun weekend on their boat. Long Island’s north shore has six “exits” off the Long Island Sound that are worth a visit. These include three bays, two harbors and an inlet. Each location has a nice town.
At these six north shore ports of call, you will find boutiques, bars, micro-breweries, entertainment and good food. Some have museums and historical walking tours. If you just want peace and quiet, there is always a place in the bay where you can throw the hook and be alone. During some of our visits, we would combine the best of town offerings with the solitude of the bay by splitting a couple of night’s dockside and another night or two at anchor.
This is the first of a six-part series on Long Island’s North Shore places to play.
Manhasset Bay, Exit One
I am happy to report that the first exit off the Long Island Sound, Manhasset Bay, is very open to boaters. It is located on the west end of the Long Island Sound between the Great Neck and Port Washington peninsulas. It was first settled in the 1600s by the Dutch and then the English for fishing, farming and cattle.
In the days of early aviation, Manhasset Bay was an important place for aviation development. Between 1939 and 1940 it was where all passengers departed to Europe via the flying boats as they were called. Today this bay is known as one of the best places for boaters in the northeast United States. This is because of its protection from the bad weather and seas, services, shopping and entertainment and its proximity to New York City.
Navigating here is simple. The entrance is almost a mile wide and should be entered keeping the green marker off Great Neck to starboard and the marker on Success Rock off Barkers Point to your portside. The only real hazard the first half-mile in the bay is during peak weekends when it seems everyone is zooming in or out. When you reach Plum Point look for the No Wake sign. The bay constable and other boaters will be on you if you ignore this. The entire bay is 5 MPH.
It is easy and delicious to dine in Port Washington. There are many good restaurants within walking distance of shore. Just up the road from the town dock are Port Washington’s favorites that include Ayan’s Shish Kebab and the Belgium style La P’tite Framboise. On that corner, you will find Ralph’s Ices, Ayan’s Mediterranean Market and the Harbor Deli.
While there, browse the Dolphin Book Store. Further up the street is the classic Irish restaurant, Finn MacCools. It is one mile to the LIRR station that offers direct service to Penn Station taking 50 minutes. Main Street here offers a few sushi places, bagels, five places for pizza, coffee, Mexican, Middle Eastern food and more.
If you dinghy or water taxi to the gazebo in Port Washington North you can stroll to the top-rated restaurants, Diwan for Indian cuisine and upscale La Piccola Liguria for Italian.
Nearby by you can also find pizza places and fast food. The gazebo is the start of the Bay Art Walk. This is 1000 feet of art and interpretive signs that are worth a viewing.
Dock and Dine
La Motta’s Restaurant is located at the Manhasset Bay Marina. Pre-COVID, on Fridays, La Motta’s had live music playing to a party atmosphere under the stars adjacent to their docks. They are waiting to see if the music will be back for 2021.
At the end of the channel is the Louie’s Grill and Liquors dock. Personally, I like their happy hour over their dinners.
At Safe Harbor’s east marina you can get counter service at the New England style clam shack called Butler’s Flats. For their west marina, a new place is opening this summer called Nino’s.
Provisioning, Shopping and Boat Supplies
Manhasset Bay is very boater-friendly for all your needs. Directly across the street from the Port Washington North gazebo is the Stop & Shop plaza that can take care of all your provisioning. There is a Home Goods store and different outlets for quick food.
Walking 5 minutes north you will find another shopping center which includes a West Marine, ACE Hardware, Walgreens, Targets and TJ Max. Across the street is the well-stocked Black Tie Liquors.
Mooring and Anchoring
Manhasset Bay is about three miles long and curved giving protection on three sides. For staying overnight, boaters here have the option to use mooring balls, dropping the anchor or tying up at slip.
To attract boaters here, the Town of North Hempstead offers over a dozen yellow mooring balls on a first come first serve basis for 48 hours free. These are on the main channel. There are mooring balls in the bay at the Manhasset Bay and Port Washington Yacht Clubs. You should call in advance and see if they reciprocate with your yacht club.
I recommend throwing the hook in the lower section of the bay off Leeds Pond. We have always found it peaceful there. It is also a good place to swim in the summer. Depths average 10 feet and the hold is good. This is a good location to be if the summer winds come from the south.
If the winds kick up from the north, anchor up in the little cove between the Safe Harbor Marina and Plum Point.
To get to shore you can either dinghy over to the town dock or the gazebo north of the town dock. There is also a water taxi that monitors channel 9 that will take you anywhere.
The Town of North Hempstead offers free pump out by calling on Channel 9.
Safe Harbor Marina has plenty of transient slips at their two marinas near the bay entrance where a reservation will not likely be needed. Hail them on Channel nine for directions. Slips are $4 per foot under 50 feet and $5 per foot for $50 to 75 feet. Electric costs $15 and $30 depending on amps needed.
Manhasset Bay Marina while closer to town advised that transient slips may not be available and it would be best to call them in advance. Their fuel prices are usually a little lower on average than many other Long Island marinas.
Pack a Bag
Getting out on the water and doing this weekend trip is easy. It can also be done spontaneously as no reservations are needed anywhere except a top restaurant. If the weather is good pack a weekend bag, take your favorite book and bottle of wine and be a guest of the bay.
Tab Hauser writes and photographs about travel and boating worldwide. He currently runs GlenCoveCruises.Com charters out of Glen Cove. You can find some of his cruising stories by web searching “Long Island Boating World Tab Hauser” Email questions on cruising to firstname.lastname@example.org.