City Guide: Sag Harbor, New York

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The village of Sag Harbor, located on the northern part of the South Fork of Long Island, is typically home to under 3,000 year round residents but swells during peak summer months, as the area is a popular vacation spot. Considered part of “The Hamptons” (which includes the towns and villages of Westhampton, South Hampton, Sagaponack, Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Amagansett, and Montauk), the area is under two hours from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan (or a short ferry ride from Fairfield County, Connecticut). Sag Harbor became a US port of entry in 1789 with a growing population involved in servicing whalers and West Indian trade ships. and became a thriving whaling industry in the 1800s. There are many historic homes, museums, outdoor recreational areas, and dining and retail options throughout Sag Harbor and the surrounding towns that the whole family will enjoy.

Getting started: Discover Long Island is a great resource for all things Long Island, which includes two counties (Nassau and Suffolk), over a dozen towns, two cities, and over 200 villages and hamlets.  Visitors can filter their research to interests such as wine vineyards, health and wellness, farms, and family friendly attractions. Check out this section that highlights the Hamptons and includes a full calendar of events, shopping options, and information on beaches, restaurants, and water experiences.  

Parking in Sag Harbor: Parking in the main villages of the Hamptons can be a challenge during peak summer months. Many of the main village areas are in close proximity to hotels, shops, and restaurants. There are several lots throughout the Sag Harbor Village that offer free two or three hour parking, and there is a large paid parking lot at Long Wharf. This pamphlet has help information and a map for Sag Harbor. Find information on parking in East Hampton here and parking in Southampton here. The Hampton Hopper is another great choice; it offers a free route in Montauk and commuter routes through Southampton, East Hampton, Amagansett, and Montauk. 

8 Family Friendly Places in Sag Harbor:

  1. The Annie Cooper Boyd House and Sag Harbor Historical Society in Sag Harbor: Built in the late 1700s, the house was actually next door to where conservationist and artist Annie Cooper Boyd lived in the mid 1800s. The youngest of 13 children, Boyd painted over 600 pieces of art, many of which feature local landscapes. Her daughter donated the house, possessions including over 500 books and thousands of correspondences, and property to the Sag Harbor Historical Society in 1990. There are also hundreds of pieces of clothing and period housewares and furniture. Visitors can tour both floors of the home and see many period pieces of furniture and some of Cooper Boyd’s artwork.
    Kids will love the miniature replica farmhouse.
    Travel Tips: The home is open from May through Columbus Day weekend; free street parking is available (but harder to find on busy summer weekends); there is a restroom inside the home; the house is not handicap accessible; plan on 30-45 minutes for a tour.
    Bonus: The Sag Harbor Historical Society also oversees the Jail Museum.
  1. Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton: The 607 acre park overlooks Gardiner Bay and includes plenty of camping, fishing, picnic, and beach areas; boat rentals; and hiking trails. Visitors can also walk out to the 1860 lighthouse that has been decommissioned. 
    Kids will love the playground, sports courts, and the beach!
    Travel Tips: The park is open  dawn to dusk; there are plenty of restrooms located throughout the park- some open year round; visitors must make camping reservations online.
  1. LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton: Home to famous textile designer Jack Lenor Lawsen, who came to New York from the Pacific Northwest in the 1950s and built his (first) cylinder home on a 10 acre property. He later purchased 16 additional acres that are used today to display up to 65 outdoor sculptures. There are over a dozen permanent pieces in his collection, in addition to sculptures on loan from other collections which are moved to different locations throughout the grounds, each year. Lawson traveled extensively to Japan (over 40 trips) and his collection includes many sculptures by Japanese artists. Lawsen passed away in 2020 and there are plans to turn his 13,000 square foot private house, LongHouse, into a home museum and space for functions. 
    Kids will love the Hand in Hand scavenger hunt, Ai Weiwei’s dozen bronze Zodiac Head collection, Takashi Soga’s moving kinetic sculpture, WoodHenge (their version of Stonehage), Yoko Ono’s Play It By Trust all white chess set installation, and the different artistic benches (go ahead- sit on them!)
    Travel Tips: The grounds are open throughout the year and tours run from the end of April through October; check here for special events and programs; check out placards throughout the gardens with QR codes for an audio cell tour; no public restrooms on site; plenty of free parking; plan on 90 minutes to fully tour the gardens and sculptures and take a tour. 
  1. The Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum in Sag Harbor: Housed in the former 1845 home of the Benjamin Hunting family, one of the prominent whaling families of Sag Harbor, the museum opened in 1936 and is spread throughout four rooms of the first floor (the Masonic Temple and offices are on the second and third floors). Sag Harbor was a large whaling port in the 1700s and early 1800s. Permanent exhibits showcase the history of the Sag Harbor whaling industry include many authentic artifacts, furniture, an authentic Giraffe paint, and tower clock gears. Post 1850s Sag Harbor focused more on manufacturing and factories.  An upcoming 2022 rotating exhibit called “The Art of Whaling” will include prints and paintings of the local artists.
    Kids will love the whaling tools (irons, lances, and spades) and the scrimshaw.
    Travel Tips: The museum is typically open from May 1st through mid October from Thursday through Monday; there is street parking and a parking lot behind the building; there are restrooms and a small gift shop kiosk located near the admission desk; the entire museum is handicap accessible; plan on one hour to explore all four exhibit rooms.
  1. Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor, named after the Algonquian name for “at the great spring”, was created by Mrs. Russell sage and opened in 1920. There are 10 athletic courts, several athletic fields, and a series of playgrounds for varying ages and abilities, including an outdoor gym for adults.
    Kids will love the whole complex.
    Travel Trips: The park opens at 6am and closes at sunset; there is a small parking lot in front of the playgrounds and parking is also allowed on Main Street; restrooms are located near Picnic Area 2. 
  1. The Morton National Wildlife Refuge in Southampton protects 187 acres of land that separate Little Peconic Bay from Noyack Bay. There is a 1.2 mile Wild Birds Nature Trail loop path (packed hard sand) on Jessup’s Neck peninsula that includes salt marsh, ponds, a lagoon, and a small boardwalk with higher views of the beach. Visitors can also walk up to two miles on the beach- just be careful to stay out of the sand dunes.
    Kids will love looking for a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, turtles, frogs, ducks, and osprey.
    Travel Tips: The refuge is open 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset; there is a $4 per car fee (payable at electronic kiosk); only portapotties available in the parking lot; plan on 45 minutes to walk the loop; stay on the trail to avoid ticks and poison ivy; more information on Morton Refuge here and more information on the entire Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex here
  1. The Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton is THE spot for the under 10 crowd. The museum features replicas of everything from a library to hardware store to art studio, garden, pirate ship, and firetruck, and plenty of costumes for dress up play. There are two designated areas just for toddlers. Be sure to head outside for a round of mini golf on the course that includes changeable courses/holes and say hello to Domino, the resident bunny who resides near the entrance.
    Travel Tips: The museum is open seven days a week by reservation session; the entire museum is handicap accessible (but leave the stroller in the car- no child will want to sit still); plenty of free parking a short pathway away from the main entrance; restrooms are located near the admission desk; check here for a list of programs and special events; plan on 90 minutes to explore the entire museum. 
  1. The South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center in Sag Harbor sits on 1100 acres of the Green Belt Preserve. The center owns 3 acres of the property and the rest is protected, untouched land. Opened in 2006, it began as a small space to protect the eastern Tiger Salamanders, now an endangered and protected species, that were found to have inhabited the areas; now, the complex includes an indoor natural history exhibit, touch thanks for sea life, an observation patio, and hiking trails.
    Kids will love the ecosystems, holding various sealife, and learning about tracking sharks in  nearby water.
    Travel Tips: The indoor museum is open 10am-4pm; the museum is handicap accessible via a lift (no need for a stroller); restrooms are located on both floors and there is a small gift kiosk near the admission desk; plan on 60-90 minutes to explore the indoor exhibits and the outdoor space.
    Read our full post here.

Bonus:

  • Be sure to check out Havens Beach, Foster Memorial Beach, and Windmill Beach. Find Information on Westhampton Beach here
  • Information on the Sag Harbor Cultural District Walking Tour here and app here.
  • And check out the Sag Harbor Customs House, 1790s home to US Custom Master Henry Packer Dering,  which is open during the peak summer season.

Eating Local: There are hundreds of dining options throughout the Hamptons; a few good indexes are this one from Discovery Long Island (you can filter the massive index by city), this one from Eater New York, and this one from East End Taste. Sag Harbor seems to have one of the larger amount of restaurants in the area. In addition to advice from locals and friends who frequently visit the Hamptons, we had the chance to dine at some of the following spots:

  • The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, an iconic spot (considered the first residence in Sag Harbor in 1846) with several, intimate dining rooms including a front porch and lively bar area, and a “American-French” inspired menu. We’d recommend bringing the children for lunch over dinner.
  • Dockside Bar and Grill in Sag Harbor, with indoor and outdoor dining options across the street from the Sag Harbor Yacht Club and offering a variety of seafood (and non seafood) options.
  • Lulu Kitchen and Bar in Sag Harbor, for wood fired pizzas, a large raw bar, and tons of small plates made on the wood fire grill
  • LT Burger in Sag Harbor and Westhampton, for burgers, sandwiches, amazing milkshakes and floats, and a great “kids box” option.
  • Sag Pizza in Sag Harbor, for 12″ AND1 18″ pizza pies!
  • Grindstone Coffee and Donuts in Sag Harbor, for delicious donuts.
  • Sagtown in Sag Harbor, if you’re a coffee aficionado .
  • Goldberg’s Bagels ,for a wide variety of (daily) homemade bagels
  • Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor for breakfast and lunch, including tons of burritos, tacos, omelets, and a kids menu. This was our favorite spot of the trip.
  • Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton, for homemade cookies, cupcakes, and tons of chocolates.

Staying Local: We had a wonderful stay at the Sag Harbor Inn, a less than half mile walk to the heart of the village. The hotel is directly across the street from the Sag Harbor Cove Marina, which is filled with boating adventures during summer months. There are 45 rooms and amenities include beautifully appointed rooms with balconies overlooking the harbor, an outdoor (seasonal) pool, plenty of parking (the entire village is easily walkable from the Inn), and a beautiful breakfast room with a (more than) continental breakfast offered each morning. 

For more of our City Guides, check out this index, and follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Disclaimer: We collaborated with Discover Long Island for this trip and received media passes to some attractions. All opinions expressed are my own. 

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10 Comments

  1. Amazingly detailed explanations! My last trip there I didn’t know any of those opportunities. Love to take another trip back. I’m curious as to the difference between a village and a hamlet.Thanks so much for sharing the many activities possible.

  2. I love the way you’ve organized this post with specific features kids will like at each spot. Also that outdoor sculpture garden is WAY more colorful than most I’ve seen, so it would be my first pick.

  3. Sag Harbor looks like a great spot for a family trip! The beaches look so amazing and it would definitely be fun to visit Tate’s Bakeshop! Their cookies are so good!

  4. We have always wanted to visit the Hamptons. So it was great to read more about Sag Harbour. What a great variety of places to stay with lots to do for everyone. I love all the options for outdoor fun. We sure won’t go hungry if we work through that list of suggestions!

  5. So many amazing things to do! Cedar point looks pretty cool! I have a question about the sand dunes, why do you need to stay away? I am just imagining sinking sand now which I would hate to get trapped in haha.

  6. As a Massachusetts native whose grown daughter has relocated to NYS, I’m loving your coverage of Long Island and the Hamptons. We both need our beach breaks and it’s a good way to stay connected despite the distance, even if a Cape Cod weekend is too far for her. 😀

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