Cold Spring Harbor is an ideal day trip from NYC
Ah, Long Island – the burbs to some locals, and an extension of Brooklyn and Queens to others. Whatever you recognize or assume about Long Island, New York, there’s no denying the quaintness of its towns and the allure of its landscape.
One charming picture-perfect hamlet on Long Island’s North Shore is Cold Spring Harbor––different from “Cold Spring” in the Hudson Valley. This easy day trip or afternoon escape lies about a 40 miles from Midtown Manhattan. You won’t find anything terribly exciting in the former whaling village located in the town of Huntington, but that’s the idea. What you will find is peace and quiet, and instagram-worthy scenes of fisherman at work and native islanders roaming around.
What is Cold Spring Harbor all about?
Cold Spring Harbor refers to the freshwater springs that run through the area and into the harbor. You might recognize the name as home of the world famous genetics lab, though visiting probably won’t be on your list of things to do. But if you intend to experience Cold Spring Harbor, spend a little time browsing the whaling museum and fish hatchery, where you’ll find the largest living collection of New York State freshwater reptiles, fish, and amphibians. And, of course, save time to take in the great outdoors in Cold Spring Harbor State Park.
One afternoon, I spent a few hours on the way back to the city from Connecticut, mostly because I was curious, and also because I had read that it’s a lovely place. Cold Spring Harbor also happens to be the title of Billy’ Joel’s first solo album, released in 1971, and as a fan of The Piano Man, I wanted to understand the significance of this town. Huntington dedicated Cold Spring Harbor State Park to Joel in 1991, so even though his first record wasn’t the biggest hit, he remains connected to the area, which showcases a plaque in his name.
Places to check out in Cold Spring Harbor
Beyond the museum, hatchery, and park, on the main drag you’ll find Cold Spring Harbor Antiques, a smattering of specialty shops, a few decent eateries such as the Gourmet Whaler, and a fantastic wine store. When I visited on a weekend, The Wine Shoppe was offering free tastings inside, as well as a guitarist outside on the front porch.
Cold Spring Harbor has a small-town-America feel, and offers spectacular water views, lovely Victorian architecture, and a pleasant escape from the chaos of Manhattan when you’re in need of a quick recharge without the commitment of a weekend getaway.
If you’re new to the New York City area and have yet to explore Long Island, Cold Spring Harbor is an excellent place to start. Or if you’re in the city for an extended stay and want to leave for a few hours, take a day trip to Cold Spring Harbor.
How to get to Cold Spring Harbor
On the East Side of Manhattan, hop on FDR Drive. Take I-278 West, Grand Central Pkwy and I-495 East to NY-106 North/NY-107 North/North Broadway in Jericho. Take exit 41 North from I-495 East. Continue on NY-106 North. Take NY-25A East to Spring Street in Cold Spring Harbor. The trip should take about an hour, longer depending on traffic.