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Huntington Harbor on Long Island Sound: Secure, Happening and Welcoming

Boats neatly moored beside a majestic estate inside Huntington Harbor.

Huntington Harbor is undergoing a transformation and at its epicenter is the new restaurant, Prime, among other exciting developments. It seems that the rest of the town is following suit, with lots of buildings getting facelifts, marinas getting upgrades, and activity everywhere.

About Huntington Harbor

Before the Long Island Rail Road came to Huntington in 1868, the community then known as Huntington Harbor was the town's center of transportation and commerce. Because it took several days to travel by land to New York City, most produce and people were carried by schooners making regular trips from docks. The trips took five to six hours when conditions were favorable. Bearing wood and agricultural products to the city and manure from city horses back to Huntington farms for fertilizer, by the 1860s, steamboats were taking an increasing part of the traffic. A gristmill was built in 1752 and lasted until 1930, when the dam that served that mill became Mill Dam Road. There was ferry service to Connecticut between 1765 and 1916. Boatyards built sloops, barges and, during World War II, subchasers for the Navy.

On July 3, 1899, the town became known as Halesite when George Taylor, who owned a large estate which was mostly in neighboring Huntington Bay, lobbied for a local post office. Taylor had named his property Halesite in honor of Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale, who had landed in Huntington Bay. So when postal officials told him that Huntington Harbor was too long to fit on signs, Taylor suggested Halesite, and the name became official.

Among Halesite's more famous residents were Mariah Carey and Fanny Brice. Albert Einstein spent several summers living along the harbor and sailing to Halesite to pick up mail and groceries. Henry Fonda docked his yacht there. William Randolph Hearst ensconced mistress Marion Davies in a hideaway. Actresses Lillian and Dorothy Gish rode their bicycles all around the town.

Today, Huntington Harbor provides a protected and lovely harbor for many boats while Halesite offers amenities to the boaters.

Boats neatly moored beside a majestic estate inside Huntington Harbor.

How to get there

Coming into Huntington Bay, enjoy the sight of Eaton's Neck USCG Station LIS gleaming in the sunlight.  The lighthouse is an important landmark and the four candy cane red and white stacks of the power station in Northport make a distinguishing sight behind it. Just inside Eaton's neck is a small anchorage where the USCG vessels take shelter. The entrance is tricky, narrow and shallow so consult your charts carefully. Once inside, the depth ranges from 8 to 10 feet.

As you continue into Huntington Bay, view the spectacular mansions on the high hills as you imagine who lives in them. There is plenty of depth through most of the Bay. Straight in at the head of the harbor the channel to port is the inlet to Price Bend as well as Centerport and Northport Harbors.  The channel to starboard of the concrete square lighthouse heads to Lloyd Harbor, and the channel almost straight in just to port of the lighthouse heads into Huntington Harbor. 

Built in 1912, the Beaux arts style Huntington Harbor Lighthouse resembles a small castle. In 1983, it was deemed unsafe for servicing personnel and too expensive to repair. A project to save the lighthouse has been underway since 1985. Public docking is not permitted. Tour season is June-September, and 1-1 1/2-hour tours run continuously between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Annual spring paddlefest includes a lighthouse tour. Check web site for details. Call to arrange fundraising and special events.

Click on image to enlarge.

For a larger satellite image, click here.

Huntington Harbor is an expansive protected harbor in the middle ground of Huntington Bay.  Flanked by Northport and Centerport harbors to the East and Lloyd Harbor to the West, Huntington is accessed by a relatively narrow channel leading in from the harbor light.  There is a constant procession of traffic through the channel and with good reason.  Inside, protected by hills lined with lovely homes, lie an amazing number of boats on moorings, at docks, and transiting nonstop.  Huntington is at the end of a long channel. If you come in on a sailboat and have any kind of a draft, you must be really careful, watch the chart, the markers and the GPS. Usually we have someone on the bow as a lookout. Not only do you have to watch the channel, but also the large powerboats with their big wakes. We like to go in to Huntington on a rising tide. However, for some reason we have never been too worried leaving. Outside the marked channel are packed mooring fields. So we will usually motor back out and spend the night securely attached to the bottom in Lloyd harbor.

The harbor channel is well marked and splits into two towards the head of the harbor creating a loop around the inner mooring field.  There are lots of boats to ogle, from large power vessels to tiny sailboats and utilitarian workboats.  Small marinas chock full of boats dot the shore.  New condo developments scale the hills between mansions sporting pristine lawns that drop into the sea like green carpets expecting royalty.  You get the sense that the place is alive and well balanced.  Halesite is the village on Huntington Harbor where most of the amenities are. 

It's one of the few harbors on the Sound where there is a town dock that welcomes boater's to tie up for up to 1 hour and to contact the harbormaster for instruction about longer tie ups on channel 09!  Most other towns warn you to be off in 10 minutes and give no clue about other options.  The town also has a sign thanking boaters for visiting and asks us to return again.  How nice!  We most certainly will.

The Huntington Yacht Club welcomes new applicants and offers plenty of slips and moorings for their members.

There is little room to anchor inside the harbor, so it's a slip or mooring if you want to spend the night.  One other alternative, is to anchor in the idyllic setting of Lloyd Harbor and take your dinghy in to Huntington. Mind you, it's a long trip, and if your engine dies, as ours did half way back out, you'll be rowing a long, long time. Unless you forgot your oars or manage to hitch a ride.  contact the Huntington Harbormaster for information about marina slips or moorings.

What to do

Leaving your dinghy at the Halesite town dock, you walk through the little park to the right past the large emergency response center and post office to the main street that follows the harbor.  Within a couple of blocks are a multitude of restaurants, a 7-11 convenience store, two delis (one that sells beer), a laundromat, a West Marine store, a bait and tackle shop that also repairs reels, and several marine centers.  There are also more nail salons than we've ever encountered along premium waterfront property, but hey, the women here are well groomed.  There aren't really many shops to keep one occupied.  It's more of a place to get supplies, have dinner, and return to your boat for entertainment.  There is, however, a network of preserved homes dating back to colonial times. 

So let's talk dinner. Although there are plenty of choices including pizza and bar food, there are two places that are absolutely intriguing. First, the long-awaited answer to what has taken the place of Coco's is now here. Prime, is the new restaurant on the premises that many remember as Coco's.  Coco's it is absoutely not. Gone are the rowdy crowds and spike-heeled boat bimbettes.  In their place are affluent 30+ year olds looking for a great meal in a nice atmosphere - and they are finding it to their satisfaction at Prime. Opened in November 2006 after extensive renovations to rave reviews from the New York Times, Prime is the hot spot for weekend dinner on the Sound.  But beware, reservations for Saturday night are booked out a month in advance so you'll have to plan ahead for the main dining experience.  Patrons in proper attire are welcome in the main dining areas, and it is worth it if you are hungry for some really inspired fresh American cuisine focused almost equally on fish and steak. 

The second is a tiny little french restaurant called Aix en Provence that is cozy with a traditional  menu and simple decor.  Zagat rated it one of Long Island's most romantic restaurants and we agree. The New York Times gave it a very favorable review as well back in 2000, and recommended selections included soups, crab-cod cakes, onion-Gruyere tartlet, country tapas, risotto with asparagus, orecchiette with crab meat, duck breast, steak frites, cassoulet, roast chicken, lamb shank, veal scaloppine, bread pudding, gelato, chocolate mousse, creme brulee, tiramisu.

Marine services are readily available at Knutson's.

Or try Sunday brunch at Prime.  There was plenty of room in the pleasant porch seating area.  The decor is modern yet comforting, and the bar is starkly dramatic.  All in all, it's worth the trip.

The owners are negotiating with the town of Huntington to put floating docks in for dinner patrons coming in by boat.  According to a manager, the town had granted permission only to rescind it a few days later - an unprecedented action.  The fear apparently is that the rowdy crowds would return destroying the tranquility of the harbor town. The owners have assured the town leadership that there will be no live music and that the space outside will attract a mature clientele. Nevertheless, they continue to be on hold.

The plan is to have space for about 20 boats with an hourly rate for dockage.  The area adjacent to the docks would welcome boaters in casual attire with an upscale bar menu featuring delicacies such as kobi beef burgers and finger foods with exotic dipping sauces.   We certainly hope the town of Huntington reflects their welcoming sentiments noted earlier with permits for Prime to serve the boating visitor.

Built in 1912, the Beaux arts style Huntington Harbor Lighthouse resembles a small castle. In 1983, it was deemed unsafe for personnel and too expensive to repair. A project to save the lighthouse has been underway since 1985. Public docking is not permitted. Tours are available and the season runs June-September, 1-1 1/2-hour tours run continuously between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., check Web site for dates. Call to arrange fundraising and special events. Annual spring paddlefest includes lighthouse tour, check Web for details.(631-421-1985). Also check out the first ever Lighthouse Jazz Festival planned for September 1, 2007. See below.

The Wave Bar at Prime, the new restaurant that replaces Coco's.

Useful Links for Huntington Harbor/Halsite Information

Town of Huntington

Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs

Huntington Harbormaster
Harold V. Acker
Director of Maritime Services
100 Main Street RM #310
Huntington, NY 11743
(631) 351-3192

Marine Enforcement Division,
Huntington Harbormaster
Division of Maritime Services Department

53 New York Ave., Halesite
Huntington Historical Society
209 Main Street
Huntington, NY 11743
Museums: David Conklin House, Huntington Trade School, Kissam House

Huntington Trade School
(Huntington Historical Society)
209 Main Street
Open: Tues.-Fri., 1:00-4:00 p.m.
A 1905 building which houses the Historical Society's offices and library

David Conklin House
(Huntington Historical Society)
2 High Street
Open: Tues.-Fri. & amp; Sun., 1:00-4:00 p.m.
A mid-18th Century farmhouse housing a local history museum.
Heckscher Museum
Prime Avenue & Route 25A
Huntington, NY 11743
Open: Tues.-Fri., 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Sat. & Sun., 1:00-5:00 pm
An art museum featuring a permanent collection of over 800 works of art from various artists and periods as well as changing exhibits.

The Heckscher Museum of Art, which typically has extensive collections on display, has begun its historic preservation and restoration project and is currently inaccessible to visitors. The building will re-open in January 2008.

Huntington Station

Walt Whitman Birthplace
246 Old Walt Whitman Road
Huntington Station, NY 11746
Open: Weds.-Fri., 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Sat. & Sun., 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
The 19th Century farmhouse in which the famed poet, Walt Whitman was born. The house contains a museum of furnishings and a library of books and manuscripts related to Walt Whitman.

Huntington Arsenal
(Town of Huntington)
425 Park Avenue
Huntington, NY 11743
Open: Sun., 1:00-4:00 p.m.
A fully restored arsenal building from the
Colonial period. Militia and other demonstrations are often featured.

Kissam House
434 Park Avenue
Open by appointment
A 1795 home housing a collection of antique
furnishings, artwork and costumes.

VanWyck-Lefferts Tide Mill
(Nature Conservancy)
Southdown Road
250 Lawrence Hill Road
Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724
A restored 1795 tidal mill on Huntington Harbor. The mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open by appointment.
Town of Huntington Historian's Office
Soldier's & Sailor's Building
228 Main Street
Huntington, NY 11743
Open: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
An 1892 structure which houses the Town historian's office and local history collection. Behind the building is the old burial ground dating to Colonial times.
Old First Presbyterian Church
125 Main Street
Huntington, NY 11743
Open: no regular schedule
This church, built in 1784, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has a very unusual architectural style.



Prime - "An American Kitchen & Bar"
117 New York Avenue
Huntington, NY
Halesite Harbour Deli
64 New York Ave.

7/11 Across from Coney's Marina

Huntington Light House
Town Park at Gold Star Battalion Beach Huntington Bay , NY 11743-1847
( 631-421-1985)
Aix au Provence
134 New York Avenue
The Harbor Club
Catering for special occasions.
Marinas & Clubs:
Huntington Boating Club

Huntington Yacht Club

Ketewomoke Yacht Club

Wyncote Yacht Club

Willis Marine Center
Boat Brockerage
17 Mill Dam Road
Huntington, Long Island,
New York 11743
West Shore Marina,
100 West Shore Mooring,
Huntington Depth: 3 ft
Knutson Marine
41 East Shore Road
Huntington, NY 11743 
(631) 549-7842

Town of Huntington,
Mill Dam Marina,
Mill Dam Road,
Depth: 10ft

Town of Huntington,
Gold Star Mooring and Launch Service, West Shore Road and Browns Road, Huntington Depth: 8 ft
Coneys Marine
32 New York Avenue
moorings and launch service

Town of Huntington,
South Town Dock,
Route 110, Halesite
Depth: 10ft

Town of Huntington,
Halesite Marina, Route 110,
Halesite Depth: 10ft
Marine Services:

Huntington Marine Services

West Marine, Huntington Harbor
56 New York Ave
Huntington, NY 11743

Bay Yacht Sales

Compass Rose Marine
15 Mill Dam Road

Coney's Marine Store
32 New York Avenue

Doyle Sailmakers

North Sails

An ode to Coco's

Now CoCo’s was quite something — no grass huts or grass skirts (and no Coconuts, as the name might imply as LIS is not in the tropics, nor any visions of Coco Chanel). But, plenty of great people watching. The waitresses had these neat gizmos in holsters - remote computers they radio'd your order in with. They also had a deep-water dock, usually occupied by rather big powerboats.

If you'd never been there, you wouldn't have believed the people coming off the boats. High heels, big hair, evening dresses, the works. What ever happened to boat-shoes and looking like an ‘old salt’? Like I said, great people watching, great food - lobster to die for, great service and also beer, music, and lots going on. In fact, there was apparently so much activity that the staid citizens of Huntington said their farewells with glee.

View from the former CoCo's restaurant deck to their dock and harbor.
Espresso is tied up alongside just below us.

Note: CoCo's is gone replaced by Prime, the new hot spot geared
toward a more "refined and mature" crowd.

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