Put Riverhead on your must-visit destination list. Seriously, do it right now. I know you’re thinking Riverhead isn’t an end; it’s a stopover on the way to all points on either the North or South Forks. And maybe that was true, once upon a time, but for those in the know Riverhead is full of delicious eats, an unparalleled beer scene, plenty of adventure and so much more. Here’s how to make the best of a day, weekend or week in Riverhead.
Where to Eat
If you’re anything like me, you spend the better part of any vacation exploring through your stomach. Whether you’re craving seafood feasts, tacos, or ice cream, you’ll find no shortage of delicious eats in Riverhead. Here’s where I suggest you start.
Sarikopa Organic Coffee House: You’ll find yourself returning to this cozy cafe each day during your Riverhead stay. From açaí bowls and omelets in the morning, to cappuccinos and smoothies for an afternoon pick-me-up, it’s hard to resist stopping by Sarikopa.
Farm Country Kitchen: Tucked inside a historic late-1800s colonial home, Farm Country Kitchen truly has something for everyone. You’ll find soups, sandwiches, and salads perfect for grabbing before a day of exploring or all the ingredients to host an afternoon of wine tasting in the gorgeous backyard garden that came with your vacation rental. Everything you order will be good, but a few things you don’t want to miss are the crab cakes served with a lemon dill poblano pepper sauce, the goat cheese bruschetta composed of creamy lavender goat cheese on garlic crostini with berries and tasty glazes and vegetarians (or really anyone who just misses a good old-fashioned veggie burger) will love the black bean burger, which comes pan-seared and topped with guacamole, tomato, arugula, and garlic aioli.
Snowflake Ice Cream Shop: Is it a vacation if you don’t have ice cream at least once a day? I think not. Luckily, you’ll find more than 20 delicious hard and soft-serve ice cream flavors at the funky Snowflake Ice Cream Shop. Be patient; the line is often long, but the staff is friendly, and the line moves quickly. They’re known for the Peconic Swamp Thing—chocolate raspberry ice cream with chunks of fudgy brownie—but you also can’t go wrong with a classic vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles. If you happen to be celebrating while on holiday, order one of their cakes in advance.
Funchos: You can never go wrong with tacos, and when you’re craving Tex-Mex, it has to be Funchos. Handmade tortillas and chips, thick creamy guacamole, plates of burritos, nachos and, of course, tacos. I’d make a trip to Riverhead just for Funchos. Go ahead and order up the chips, guacamole and margs and then work yourself through the taco menu.
Briermere Farms: If you’re staying at a vacation rental in Riverhead, make Briermere Farms one of your first stops. You can stock up on jams, jellies, fruit and pies at this roadside farmstand for the weekend or week. Don’t forget to make a return stop on your way out of town. Think you can make it out of the parking lot before digging into that blueberry pie?
Preston House & Hotel: If you’re craving something slightly fancier than tacos, don’t miss the Preston House & Hotel. Stop by for brunch and order up the dreamy lemon ricotta pancakes, or for something more savory, the fried chicken and cheddar cornbread waffles, or make this your cocktail spot. You’ll find craft cocktails, local beers and wine, all of which you can pair with oysters on the half-shell. New this summer is a Preston House & Hotel food truck, and even before seeing its menu, I’ve put it on my summer food bucket list. You should too.
Where to Drink Wine & Spirits
From award-winning wineries to top-notch breweries to the emerging craft spirits scene, Riverhead has tasting rooms for every type of drinker.
Spirits: You can’t get much more farm-to-glass than the distilleries on Long Island. Rum drinkers should visit Montauk Distilling Co., known for its Black Sail Rum. The distillery also makes several other types of rum, vodka, gin and whiskey. For an old-school Long Island flavor, head to Twin Stills Moonshine and try the apple pie moonshine.
Wine: You might think you have to go further north to find Long Island’s famed vineyards, but Riverhead has several not to be missed wineries. Plan an afternoon of tasting wine at Roanoke Vineyards (reservations encouraged). Stop by Palmer Vineyards on a Saturday or Sunday for a wine tasting paired with Harvest Moon Shellfish Co.’s oysters, or try your hand at being a winemaker by booking a blending session at RGNY.
Where to Drink Beer
As good as the wine and spirits are, if you’re spending only a day in Riverhead, you can’t miss the breweries. Whether you prefer your beer sour or love a dark stout, it’s the emerging craft beer scene that is putting Riverhead on the map as a destination in and of itself. Here are a few favorites:
Jamesport Farm Brewery: This microbrewery nestled on a farm in Riverhead has easy-drinking, fruit-forward brews, dark chocolatey beers and, my favorite, the Grand Central Cider.
Long Ireland Beer Company: Can’t make it to Ireland this year? You’ll find traditional Irish ale at Long Ireland Beer Company. Their tasting room, which includes a dog-friendly beer garden, makes it easy to spend an afternoon catching up with family you haven’t seen in months or years.
North Fork Brewing Company: With a farm in Peconic, North Fork Brewing grows many of the ingredients that end up in their wide selection of beers. Try them at their Riverhead brewing facility, which is open for tastings every day except for Monday and Tuesday. Sour beer fans will love The Ale Formerly Known As Purple Grain. The non-alcoholic ginger ale is also a must.
Tradewinds Brewing: You’ll find everything from sour beers to fruity IPAs, to smokey stouts at this one.
Twin Fork: If you’re looking for a brewery that is both kid-friendly and pet-friendly, you can’t go wrong with Twin Fork. You’ll find local wines on tap, plenty of food options, including pizza, charcuterie boards and pretzels and, of course, Twin Fork’s lagers, IPAs and more—plus, occasionally, they have offerings from other Long Island breweries.
Ubergeek: Stopping by Ubergeek always puts a smile on my face. They’re kid and pet friendly, the staff is incredibly nice, and all the beers are vegan. Try their A Casualty of Circumstance IPA, or go tart with Dealing With Dissonance. They also have wine, cider, seltzer, and non-alcoholic options. Plus, there are often food trucks that stop by if you’re feeling famished.
Where to Play
From museums to shopping to water excursions, Riverhead has all the ingredients you need to fill your days.
Hallockville Museum Farm: Immerse yourself in history at the Hallockville Museum Farm. Self-guided tours, which include interactive stops, are available from sunrise to sunset through the 28 acres. If you want to step inside many of the historic buildings, including the original 1765 homestead of the Hallock family, you’ll need to visit on Saturday though and take a guided tour where, thanks to technology, you can even virtually “meet” members of the family. Pro tip: Plan to spend a week in Riverhead and sign your kids up for one of the Hallockville Museum summer camp weeks for ages 5 to 12.
Long Island Aquarium: Name something better than watching a penguin waddle around. I’ll wait. You’ll find something to love and learn at the Long Island Aquarium, no matter your age. You can book a selfie with a sea lion or a penguin or even dive with sharks, or simply be awed at the coral reef display tank, one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
Get out on the water: Now that you’ve gotten up close and personal with some marine life, why not get up close and personal with the local waterways? At Peconic Paddler, you can rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard for either 1, 2 or 3 hours and explore the Peconic River and bay.
Tanger Outlets: Consider this your reminder to pack an extra empty suitcase. Whether you need to stock up on clothes for the kids, are looking for a new LBD, or even a dutch oven, you’ll find all of it and more at Tanger Outlets.
Where to Sleep
You’ll find charming cottages, tiny homes and boutique hotels throughout Riverhead.
For a quiet getaway, make your base the Preston House, a five-story boutique hotel with 20 rooms, including studios accommodating up to two guests, one-bedrooms accommodating up to four and corner suites accommodating up to six. Nearby the trendy Hotel Indigo has all the makings for a staycation. So much so that you might find it hard to want to leave the hotel. Each of the 100 guest rooms boasts spa-style bathrooms and contemporary furnishings that pair well with the hotel’s spa services, a pool, and farm-to-table cuisine at Bistro 72.
Looking for something other than a hotel? Create the private holiday of your dreams by booking one of the many local AirBnbs where you’ll find dog-friendly options, quaint, romantic cottages and stylish homes with enough room for the whole extended family—not to mention kitchens large enough to create epic, locally inspired dinners.
After a week, weekend or even simply a day here, you’ll never again think of Riverhead as flyover country, but a town fully in flight.