→ Book now: The Shoals
Guests arriving via car to the Shoals hotel in Southold, Long Island, about 95 miles east of New York City, will quickly notice the numerous boats docked on the water, right in front of the hotel’s grassy lawn. A self-proclaimed “boatel,” the Shoals has 20 slips and 20 rooms, allowing guests to arrive either by land or by sea. But aside from welcoming boats—and having its own Chris-Craft speedboat available for charter—the new hotel, which opened in May 2022, pays homage to the sea in subtle ways.
Architect Thomas Juul-Hanson designed the hotel to hint at the property’s nautical history without relying on cheesy wooden ship wheels or rope art. Instead, guests might notice the building’s cedar-shingle exterior and that the two stories of rooms are situated for prime views of the Peconic Bay and marina. All of the apartment-style rooms have private outdoor spaces, stocked kitchenettes, open-concept living areas with modern sofas and lounge chairs reminiscent of yacht seating, plus built-in beds and modular furniture in natural materials like light wood, braided jute, and linen.
But it’s what’s outside the rooms that excites us the most: Aside from the boats, there’s an expansive lawn with plenty of lounge chairs, fire pits, and a food truck that serves lobster rolls, chicken tenders, ice buckets of rosé wine, and freshly shucked oysters. Those oysters come from the squat building just beyond the truck that is the new on-land facility of Little Ram Oysters, a women-owned oyster company established in 2018.
Little Ram Oysters’ farm is underwater (of course), right off Little Ram Island (hence the name), across the Peconic Bay from the Shoals. Until recently, owners Elizabeth Peeples and Stefanie Bassett, who are partners in business and in life, ran their oyster business from their boat, hauling up the cages and tumbling the oysters by hand before returning them to the water until they were big enough to harvest and sell to restaurants and locals. (Tumbling helps give the oysters a cleaner, rounder, tougher shell with a meatier oyster inside.)
Chef John Fraser, who took over the kitchen of the nearby North Fork Table & Inn last year, has championed Little Ram oysters and serves them exclusively at his restaurant. He got involved in the Shoals project a couple years ago and discovered that one of the buildings on the property was specially permitted by New York State for agriculture and specifically aquaculture. It used to be a scallop shack, where wives of the fishermen would shell the scallops, but had been vacant for years.
“We love that the building has always had women working here.”
“If the landlord wanted to somehow change the use of this space, they would have to go through a whole process to do that,” says Bassett. “So it was just this wonderful moment where [the Shoals owners] wanted to encourage and embrace the working waterfront and we needed a space to work, and it was a beautiful union. And we love that the building has always had women working here.”
Now, the women house their electronic tumbler and sorting machine inside. They are offering tours of the space where hotel guests and visitors can see the machine in action, have a hands-on experience with their floating nursery outside, and learn how the hatchery works. Visitors will also learn how to shuck oysters and have a tasting outside by the Shoals Food Truck. Or guests can forgo the tour and simply do the shucking class.
Exploring the North Fork beyond the hotel
Once you leave the hotel grounds, it’s tempting to turn right and continue east to Greenport, the best-known town on the North Fork (Long Island’s sleepier, friendlier neighbor to the hoity-toity Hamptons). But if you turn left, you’ll come to the charming downtown Main Road of Southold. First, you’ll pass Fraser’s North Fork Table & Inn, which underwent some changes when Fraser bought it along with some of the same investors of the Shoals in 2020. (This chef has an impressive track record of acclaimed Manhattan restaurants like Iris and 701West and the now-closed Dovetail and Nix.) But the focus on local sourcing and impeccably cooked food remains the same. And while the design is more modern now, it still has that same bucolic farmhouse appeal.
Keep driving and you’ll see the brand new Southold Social by Payard, which soft opened June 10 and is run by Adam Lovett (of local spots a Lure and aMano) and chef Francois Payard, who began spending time in Long Island when his namesake Manhattan patisseries Payard closed in 2018. Southold Social is the first project with his name on it since then. The renovated space is stylish and minimalist, with nature-focused paintings by local artist Charles Wildbank adorning the walls and a large tented patio in the back. The menu skews French, although there is a pasta section and plenty of seafood—this is the North Fork after all.
Further down the road is Maroni, a favorite from the town of Northport that opened a second location here during the pandemic. Come hungry and splurge on the tasting menu—be ready for nearly 20 fun and creative Italian and Asian American inspired bites like Korean-style spare ribs topped with gummy bears (really), shrimp scampi, truffle grilled cheese, lobster chowder, and its Beat Bobby Flay–winning meatballs. Across the street is Southold General, another recent project of Payard’s and the owners of the Shoals, where customers can buy pastries, sandwiches, and salads, plus peruse locally made grocery items. Sit in Einstein Square (so named because Albert Einstein spent time there) while you enjoy your treats.
No visit to the North Fork is complete without a stop at a winery or two (or five, but who’s counting?). If you continue down Main Road, you’ll see Duck Walk Vineyards, which has been family run since 1994. Around the corner is Sparkling Pointe, a stunning winery specializing in méthode champenoise sparkling wines, and down the road from there is One Woman, owned by Claudia Purita, who grew up in Calabria and now makes wines, including merlot, petit verdot, sauvignon blanc, and grüner veltliner.
End your excursion with a walk on the beach or a dip in the sea at Southold Town beach. After all, out here, it always comes back to the water.
Devorah Lev-Tov Devorah Lev-Tov is a Brooklyn-based food and travel journalist who has been published in the New York Times, National Geographic, Vogue, Bon Appetit, and more.