|Three Mile Harbor, NY |
|Gateway to the Hamptons |
|For years Shelter Island and Sag Harbor have vied for the title - the “Un-Hamptons.” But it always seemed that East Hampton’s Three Mile Harbor was the real deal – the most un-Hamptony place on the South Fork. The pretty, bucolic two-mile long harbor has a quietly developed eastern shoreline lined with low-key marinas - and a western one seemingly undisturbed by the ubiquitous backhoe. In fact about a half mile of that shoreline is the edge of an acre nature preserve owned by the East Hampton Town Trustees. |
Although its address is East Hampton, Three Mile Harbor is actually about three miles from the “village” (hence the name). Putting the frenetic E.H. scene, chronicled so obsessively in the popular press, a world away. Yet a quick cab ride (or slower bus trip) finds fabulous restaurants, high-end shops, world-class galleries and food halls that rival Manhattan. Take the art, entertainment and political world's best and brightest and mix in locals, anglers, commercial fishermen, sailors, surfers and casual tourists for a people watching feast.
Three Mile Harbor for the Boat
The approach to the harbor is flanked by two jetties – marked with a flashing green light on a wooden scaffolding. The signage makes the rules clear: 5 mph, no wakes and no jet skis. Once inside the harbor, privately maintained buoys clearly mark the channel, last dredged to 18 feet in ’02. A sandbar extends about a half mile from the entrance, running along the western edge of the channel to Buoy 22. The gracious, knowledgeable and always helpful local gendarmes at the Harbormaster’s Office work hard to keep the area peaceful and quiet and the water pristine. This is, of course, a no discharge zone; the town provides a free pump-out boat as well as free dockside pump-out.
Favored with seven marinas, three with full-service boatyards, a mooring field and a large anchorage, finding a home in Three Mile Harbor can be a relatively easy proposition. The choices are as varied as the harbor itself, but on big week-ends reservations are a major comfort factor. The marinas line the eastern shore, starting just behind Penny Sedge Island, and march south into the little inner harbor. The mooring field is about midway and most of the harbor, west of the channel, is a designated anchorage with 9-12 feet of water.
Harbor Marina - The first tie-up, on the east side of the entrance channel, Harbor Marina is partially tucked behind Penny Sedge Island. Views from the docks, in three directions, are of natural, untouched beach, nature preserves and expanses of water. Landside is a well maintained boatyard, ships store and Bostwick's second floor restaurant for casual dining - inside or on the open air porch which promises glorious sunsets over Northwest Woods. Operated by the accommodating Mendelman Family -- as are Gardiner's & Halsey's -- Harbor attracts a mix of anglers and recreational boaters - serious sailors and powerboaters. Penny Sedge Island is practically right off the docks - the island, owned jointly by the marina and the Nature Conservancy, has a private beach available to Harbor Marina’s guests. And larger Maidstone Beach is an easy walk or dinghy ride.
Maidstone Harbor Marina - Hidden away in a placid basin, Maidstone’s entrance channel skirts the most outer docks of East Hampton Point. A pretty, quiet, mostly seasonal, marina, its mature plantings and swaths of lawn gently sloping up from the docks artfully enhance the sense of seclusion. Docks edge the basin and march down the center. The views are mostly of the basin itself and the mature stands of trees and shrubs that ring it. A cement patio furnished with chaises surrounds a small, inviting kidney-shaped pool that looks out over the basin (and has a part-time life guard). At the head of the basin, surrounded by carefully tended perennial borders, is the former home of Riccardo's Seafood House – now empty.
East Hampton Point Marina Resort - Directly on Three Mile Harbor, luxurious East Hampton Point is a magnet for larger cruising craft. This very pleasant, upscale mini-resort, beautifully maintained by a service-oriented staff, is a destination in itself. The East Hampton Point Restaurant has five dining "rooms" – inside and out -- and a bar, all with spectacular views. The complimentary recreational facilities are nestled in a woodland setting that stretches from the docks to Three Mile Harbor Road. Shrubbery shelters the sparkling pool -- surrounded by chaises, tables and chairs, and market umbrellas. The tennis courts, almost adjacent to the road, sport comfortable shaded seating. Tucked in among the manicured plantings are handsomely decorated, rental "cottages" -- two-story, one or two bedroom townhouse units with kitchens, dining and living areas. The dockside boaters’ lounge has a TV and complimentary Wi-Fi – which extends to some of the docks. A courtesy van makes regular runs to the beach and to the East Hampton village shopping district.
Shawong Marina - About midway along the two-mile harbor’s eastern shore - equidistant between Maidstone Beach and Three Mile Harbor -- high bulkheads guard the entrance to Shagwong’s quiet basin rimmed with docks. A small beach with mini dunes and beach grass sits on the north side of the approach and a variety of chairs populate the grassy knoll behind it. The picnic area on the south side of the entry benefits from spectacular views across the harbor to the hilly, wooded shoreline and the undisturbed marsh. The off-the-beaten track feel may appeal to those seeking a quieter, more secluded environment. Shagwong is now managed by East Hampton Point making all the EHP recreational facilities and services available to Shagwong guests – it’s an easy walk north and use of the E.H.P. dinghy dock is included. (A large, waterfront stretch of lawn adjacent to the docks is, on occasion, the site of tented weddings or club cruise events.)
East Hampton Town Trustee Moorings - In the center of Three Mile Harbor, on the right side of the channel, just past red nun # 24, are the eight East Hampton Town Moorings. The location is quiet and the views of the western shore are remarkably bucolic - only a very occasional structure interrupts the wild, unsullied expanses of green. Well-mudded 500 lb. mushroom moorings, reportedly good for a 4 boat raft, are first come first served and managed by the E.H. Town Trustees. The Three Mile Harbor Harbormaster’s dock is just south of Harbor Marina for water and stationary pump-out (but not dinghy tie-up). Fees are collected by the pump-out boat.
Halsey’s Marina - A peninsula carpeted with a carefully-tended lawn juts into Three Mile Harbor; next to it a basin cuts deeply into the shoreline - together these provide the bones for this intimate “big boat” marina. The best description of Halsey’s is impeccable and manicured - and this applies to the craft docked there as well as the facility itself. Shade trees, flowers and grassy expanses, populated by picnic tables and grills, create a peaceful dockside setting bordered on three sides by nature preserves – providing unexpected quiet right off Three Mile Harbor Road. A whitewashed club room adds to the appeal of this small oasis.
Gardiner’s Marina - Almost at the head of Three Mile Harbor, in its southeast corner, well maintained Gardiner’s is tucked into a very secure basin just north of the East Hampton Town Docks. Deep water slips for vessels to 105 feet rim the bulkhead complemented by another set of docks on the outside. Umbrella-topped cement tables with benches dot the grass strip that separates the docks from the parking spaces. Three Mile Harbor Road is about 100 feet away, but a natural hedge blocks most of the traffic noise.
Three Mile Harbor Boatyard – The southern-most facility in the Harbor, the docks are at end of the channel across from Gardiner's Marina and the East Hampton Town Docks. TMHBY offers extensive boatyard services in a down-home environment. The marina aspect has benefited from a significant spruce-up with new pedestals, satellite TV – and more planned. Some slips have finger piers, but others are stern-to. Landside the view is of weathered boatyard buildings and docks. Waterside the view is straight up the harbor. Its dinghy dock is open to all. This is the closest marina to the village of East Hampton – 2.5 miles away.
Anchorage - The designated Three Mile Harbor anchorage is virtually the entire harbor west of the channel – with the exception of the water skiing area reserved in the northwest corner. While the Town of East Hampton does not provide formally, dedicated dinghy dockage for anchored and moored boats, Town Trustees allow dinghies to tie up, if space is open, at the Town Dock – south of Gardiners in the Inner Harbor. On the other hand, Three Mile Harbor Boatyard graciously signs its dinghy dock "Open to All" - and there's no charge! East Hampton Point has a dinghy dock ($10/day), and makes its superb facilities available to boats moored in the harbor – a $25 daily pass provides access to all the facilities except van service. Harbor Marina provides dinghy access to Bostwick's. Inquire when reserving about landing or tie-up charges.
Three Mile Harbor for the Crew
Founded in 1648, the village of East Hampton was home to farmers and fishermen who migrated from Connecticut. Early in the 20th century, E.H.’s character began to change as the area became the summer playground of some of New York’s wealthy families, and later of artists and writers. Its reputation as a magnet for the glitterati and literati of New York and, lately, of Hollywood has made the summer colony as much a state of mind as a location.
In her beautifully designed paean to the harbor, “Three Mile Harbor: East Hampton’s Priceless Gem,” long-time resident Sylvia Mendelmen, owner of Harbor Marina, describes the beginning of this shift: “Pleasure boating became a popular pastime… In 1903, Pavilion … advertised rentals of sailboats, powerboats and rowboats on a weekly or seasonal basis… and in 1906, the naturalist John Burroughs, along with his family, arrived in their 30 foot boat.”
Perhaps the touch of Burroughs’ pen was one of the catalysts, but the East Hampton community has long and assertively protected its roots along with its uplands, wildlife, wetlands, waterways and harbors. In fact it is the only town in New York State with a Natural Resources Department -- which manages 3,000 acres of nature preserves – the most recent addition to its portfolio is 5-acre Dayton (Gull) Island in Three Mile Harbor (purchased for $3.8 million in March).
Nearby Beaches There are two public beaches at the mouth of Three Mile Harbor – one on either side of the entrance – and a new one inside the harbor. On the western side of the entrance channel on the Bay – crescent-shaped Sammy’s Beach is most easily accessed from the Gardiner’s Bay. The bottom drops off sharply so boats can pull close to the shore -- but it is wide open and has no services. On the eastern side of the entrance jetties, full-service 400 foot Maidstone Beach can be accessed from the harbor side -- life guards, heads, picnic area, pavilion and a ball field. Pull the dink up on a small harborside beach and walk across the short expanse to the large beach on the Bay side. Just outboard of the Harbormaster’s Dock, Dayton (Gull) Island, rimmed with beach, was recently purchased by the Town of East Hampton Trustees for $3.5 million. On the channel side the bottom drops off sharply making is possible to beach the bow of a larger power boat and still have the stern in 12 feet of water. On the inside, the shallower drop-off makes it perfect for beaching a dinghy. The Town welcomes visitors for picnicking – there are no services, but the original 65-year old Clifford Keyes family house is still there. Billy Joel shot a video dedicated to East End Baymen here (also called Goose Island).
Dinghy or Kayak Exploration There are two creeks off Three Mile Harbor that offer good wildlife viewing and are deep enough for a dingy or a kayak. About midway on the western shore, very shallow Hands Creek winds through the salt marsh – most dinghies can manage this quite well. It’s home to several Osprey nests and also to some very lovely homes. On the northeast side of Three Mile Harbor, near the entrance, is an unmarked, unamed creek that wanders through the salt marsh. It is fairly deep – at least at high tide – and a 25 footer might make it through – so there’s plenty of water for dinghies. Several Ospreys make their home here as well.
Attractions near the harbor The closest East Hampton neighborhood to Three Mile Harbor is the Springs. Once a community of baymen and farmers, it first emerged in public consciousness as the well-publicized home of the late New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne and his business partner executive chef Pierre Franey. Claiborne date-lined many of his food columns with “The Springs” and he and Franey shot much of their joint PBS series here. Building on this tradition, the Springs General Store offers gourmet items prepared by chef/owner Kristi Hood as well as basic provisions. A picnic area next to the store makes a perfect rest stop.
Many resident artists claim that the light in East Hampton has a remarkable quality that enhances their creative process. In 1954, the then undisputed leader of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Jackson Pollack, and his wife artist Lee Krasner, moved to a small homestead overlooking Accabonac Creek in the Springs. Now preserved by the Stony Brook Foundation, the Pollack-Krasner House and Study Center is a little over a mile from Harbor Marina or dinghy up to Maidstone Beach and walk from there. Through October there’s a special exhibition
East Hampton Village : It’s about 2.5 miles from the foot of the harbor to the edge of EH's shopping district (and the harbor is two miles long) – which makes it a bit far to walk. Cabs are available, Enterprise will deliver a car to the docks and a public bus travels along Three Mile Harbor Road – from Maidstone Beach to the East Hampton Town Dock to the village and to the East Hampton Railroad Station to NYC. If you’re docked at East Hampton Point, the resort provides regular van service into East Hampton village (as well as to the beach).