The North Fork of Long Island  is fertile farms, rolling vineyards, pebble-strewn beaches, one-stoplight towns, white-steepled churches, Colonial saltboxes, and village greens. Like the better-known South Fork  across Great Peconic Bay, the North Fork was first settled in 1640 by colonists from New England, and that heritage flavors everything, from the look of the villages to the independent mindset of the people.
Unlike the South Fork, the North Fork is still predominantly rural, with a correspondingly smaller number of tourist hotels and “attractions.” This is changing, but for the moment at least, the North Fork is still sleepy, friendly, and unpretentious.
You can easily explore the North Fork in a day, although the area is so achingly beautiful—especially near the windswept beaches of Orient Point —that it’s well worth lingering a while longer. Highlights include the historic villages of Cutchogue , Southold , and Orient ; the bustling harbor town of Greenport ; and four-mile-long Orient Beach . The region is also known for its many vineyards , most located in the vicinity of Cutchogue.
Accommodation options on the North Fork are largely limited to simple beachfront resort motels and B&Bs. Shelter Island  has several historic inns. As in other shore areas, rates tend to be on the high side in season (Memorial Day–Labor Day) and reasonable the rest of the year. Two- or three-night minimum stays are often required in summer, especially on weekends.
Two major roads traverse the North Fork. Route 25 to the south is the more popular route and can get congested on summer weekends. Sound Avenue/Route 48 to the north offers a good alternative.
To reach Shelter Island  from the North Fork, take the North Ferry (631/749-0139, www.northferry.com ), which leaves from Route 114 at the foot of 3rd Street in Greenport . From the South Fork , take the South Ferry (631/749-1200, www.southferry.com ), which leaves from Route 114 in North Haven, about three miles north of Sag Harbor .
Both ferries operate every 10–15 minutes from about 6 a.m. to midnight, and cost $9–12 one-way for a car and driver, plus $1 for each additional passenger. Less expensive round-trip tickets to and from Greenport or to and from North Haven are available ($12–13) but cannot be applied to a trip that combines the two ferry services.