In the gently rolling foothills of the Catskill Mountains, a bucolic haven for the creative mind.This Catskills village seems to offer the best of both worlds to New Yorkers in search of escape and stimulation. “The combination of the natural beauty and the eccentric, artistic community makes it ideal,” says Holly George-Warren, a Manhattan editor and writer who has been traveling to the Woodstock area since the late eighties. “There are interesting people to talk to, but when you just want quiet, you can sit on your terrace, stare at the mountains, and wait for foxes and bear cubs to run by your backyard.” The area has long attracted artists, writers, filmmakers, and, especially, musicians. Bob Dylan and the Band recorded their legendary Basement Tapes at the house they called Big Pink in West Saugerties. “It’s really a hybrid community,” says Laura Levine, an artist and illustrator who has owned a vacation home in Mount Tremper since 1987. “Gays, straights, locals who have been here for generations, people who have just moved up – it’s a happy place to be. I don’t mean to make it sound like a Utopia, but it’s pretty darn close.”
FAMILIAR FACES Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke; Kate Pierson and Keith Strickland of the B-52’s; Marshall Crenshaw; Jules Shear; Levon Helm and Garth Hudson of the Band; and, of course, the Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian all have homes in or near Woodstock. Musicians like Ray Davies, Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, and Dave Matthews frequent the Bearsville and Dreamland recording studios.
TRAVEL TIME Woodstock is two hours away on Route 87. The bus from Port Authority to Kingston, Woodstock, and Phoenicia takes about two and a half hours. Amtrak from Penn Station to Rhinecliff takes about an hour and 40 minutes.
THINGS TO DO Achieve that philosophical apex of a sound mind in a sound body. Hike one of the trails on Overlook Mountain, then attend a meditation class at the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper. Or do Pilates or yoga at the Moving Body in Woodstock after tubing on Esopus Creek in Phoenicia. And because of its proximity to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, the area boasts many excellent restaurants. The Bear Café (845-679-5555), in Bearsville, sits on a gurgling stream and offers fresh, imaginative new-American fare, as well as a lively (dare we say glamorous?) bar scene. New World Home Cooking (845-246-0900), between Woodstock and Saugerties, serves up a heady blend of spicy world-fusion cuisine.
NICE PLACES TO VISIT For old-world charm in a funky ambience, stay at La Duchesse Anne in Mount Tremper (845-688-5260, doubles start at $80), about eight miles outside Woodstock. Or indulge yourself at the luxe – and pricey – Emerson Inn and Spa (845-688-7900, doubles start at $500, including dinner, breakfast, and afternoon tea), also in Mount Tremper.
ENTRY PRICE Rentals in Woodstock range from $3,000 to $10,000 a month; $10,000 gets you a pool, a tennis court, twelve acres, and possibly a view. Buyers can land a three-bedroom, two-bath house in styles ranging from contemporary to California ranch to a restored farmhouse – on three to five acres – for $300,000 to $400,000. North and west of Woodstock, rentals for the season run from $5,500 to $6,000, which can get you a charming log three-bedroom, two-bath house in a private location, possibly on a stream. From $350,000 to $400,000 will buy you a three-to-four-bedroom house with a fireplace, often with views or proximity to water.
REALTORS Joyce Beymer of Joyce Beymer Real Estate in Woodstock (845-679-6617); Ruth Gale of Ruth Gale Real Estate in Phoenicia (845-688-5610).
SIGNS OF THE TIMES The area’s popularity among the fashion flock has been raising eyebrows. Kirsty Hume, Angela Lindvall, Amber Valletta, and Kate Moss have all been spotted around town. Vogue even ran shots of fashion editor Camilla Nickerson showering topless outside the home she shares with her husband in Greene County. Still, “it seems like the culture there is deep and resilient enough to withstand the high and low tides,” says Jason Fine, a magazine editor who’s rented a home in the area with some friends for the past few summers. “Sure, you can walk into a club and see Ethan Hawke. But you’re also going to see the guy you saw talking to himself in the beer aisle at the supermarket.”
The last word in laid-back beach weekends hasn’t changed much since Ford was president.
Bare feet. Bicycles. Little red wagons. There’s something very seventies about Fire Island. The place has a cutoffs-and-flip-flops, communal-living, let-the-kids-run-free kind of vibe. There are no cars – water taxis carry passengers between towns, and deer walk the streets freely. The houses are, for the most part, modest and situated on tiny lots, creating at least the feeling of egalitarianism. Still, despite the laid-back attitude, this sand-swept Eden is by no means pretension-free. “I take great pride in the fact that I haven’t been to the Hamptons since the eighties,” says Rachel Zients, a 30-year-old TV producer who’s been going to Fire Island most of her life. “We’ve got this whole roll-barefoot-out-the-door thing happening. But there’s a pretension in ‘Oh, look how quaint we are.’ “
LAY OF THE LAND Fire Island is a small world, but one in which you’re more likely to bump into your old grade-school buddy than anyone you’d read about on “Page Six.” Each of the island’s dozen tiny towns has its own personality: The Pines and Cherry Grove are legendarily gay; Point o’ Woods is exclusive, and gated; Dunewood and Fair Harbor are family areas; and Corneille Estates is littered with group houses.
HOT TOPIC Want to make a good impression at your host’s dinner party? Complain about those pesky “groupers” – share-house renters – and their noisy all-night parties. Attending a bash at a share house? Complain about day-trippers: This summer, yet more public restrooms – a source of contention for years – will open in Ocean Beach. Wherever you are, complain about the deer that stroll boldly down walks and ravish gardens.
LIFE’S A BEACH For all that New Yorkers like to complain about Ocean Beach’s hard-partying element, they also take a perverse pleasure in assimilation. “We usually go out one night in O.B. to observe the absurdity of the disco scene,” says a 28-year-old book editor with a share house near the town. “It’s really fun to dance out there because it’s so ridiculous.” Houser’s Grill and the Albatross are two old O.B. standards; the Monster and the Ice Palace (in Cherry Grove) are two longtime gay hangouts. For a quieter evening, meet at Le Dock in Fair Harbor for drinks and watch the sun set.
TRAVEL TIME Bay Shore takes about an hour on the L.I.E. The LIRR has regular train service, and from there it’s a fifteen-minute walk or a five-minute cab to the ferry dock. Tommy’s Taxi (631-665-4800) offers a direct van service to the dock. The boat takes half an hour.
NICE PLACES TO VISIT There aren’t many inns and bed-and-breakfasts. Fire Island’s oldest hotel, the Houser Hotel in Ocean Beach, opened in 1921 (631-583-8900, rooms, some with private bath, cost $330 for a weekend, $110 a night midweek). Black Sheep in Exile B&B is a gay-friendly guest house and restaurant in the Pines (631-597-6565, rooms are $440 for a weekend, $80 a night midweek). Many houses are also available to rent by the weekend; www.fireisland.com offers listings and information.
ENTRY PRICE This year, three-bedroom houses rented for between $15,000 and $23,000, with four-bedrooms going for $20,000 to as high as $40,000 for the season. Sales have been slow since February, but because July and August are the busiest months for buyers, it’s too soon to tell if the slowing economy will bring real-estate prices down. Currently, $250,000 to $350,000 will get you a house on a 50-by-80 piece of land. Oceanfront or bayfront views will raise the price, and a newly built house could run you as much as $700,000.
REALTORS Dana Wallace of Dana Wallace Realty (631-583-5596); Larson Realty in Saltaire (631-583-9200).
Brag about your prewar digs in this Hudson Valley hamlet, and you’re likely to be asked “Which war?”
This preserved nineteenth-century village on the Hudson has become a low-key retreat for New Yorkers of a certain taste and income level. “As soon as I get to the Sprain Brook,” says Manhattan trial lawyer Steve Bassin, “it’s green instead of gray, and the pressures of the city just fall behind.” He writes letters by the hearth in the early morning; his wife, Carol, cooks elaborate meals in the afternoon; and at night, they sit on the porch of their Nantucket-style house for hours talking with friends. “It’s like going to your hiding place,” he says. But while the village may be sleepy, it’s not snoring. There’s a movie house and a theater company, several upscale restaurants and boutiques, and everything from antique cars to livestock competitions at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. “Rhinebeck is for people who don’t require an intense social scene and just want quiet,” says local carpenter and former Manhattan actor Michael West. Another attractive feature is the sense of community. “I feel like I’m in a place with some sense of value and not just an ant on the hill,” says Bassin. Come Sunday night, it’s never easy returning to the city: “It’s like they let me out of jail and I go back of my own accord. How stupid can I be?”
FAMILIAR FACES Liv Tyler or Eric Roberts can be found breakfasting at Blondies, and Bob Guccione Sr. buys his canvases at the Rhinebeck Artist’s Shop (he paints figure models). Authors James Gurney and Scott Spencer, illustrator Elwood Smith, and photographer Annie Leibovitz all live in or near Rhinebeck.
HOT TOPIC Not even PCBs in the Hudson raise local hackles as much as the prospect of commercialization. When CVS won initial approval earlier this year to become the first chain store in Rhinebeck, fourth-grader Emma Alban launched a protest, replete with petitions, buttons, and lawn-front signs.
TRAVEL TIME A two-hour drive on the Taconic or about an hour and 40 minutes by Amtrak from Penn Station to Rhinecliff.
THINGS TO DO In the nineteenth century, this region was dubbed Millionaire’s Row. After walking the grounds of the Vanderbilt or Roosevelt or Wilderstein estate, weekenders can dine like robber barons in Rhinebeck. There’s French at Le Petit Bistro (845-876-7400), sushi at Osaka Japanese Restaurant (845-876-7338), or Adirondack duck at the Beekman 1766 Tavern (845-871-1766). “Lines go out the door,” warns New Yorker cartoonist Danny Shanahan.
NICE PLACES TO VISIT You can stay in a Revolutionary-era room at the Beekman Arms, which claims to be the oldest continuously-operating hotel in America (845-876-7077; doubles start at $85). Or if you’d rather spend the night in the woods (yet still wake up to terry-cloth robes and freshly baked muffins), book a room at the Olde Rhinebeck Inn (845-871-1745, doubles start at $195).
ENTRY PRICE A small two-bedroom Cape in the village could go for $175,000, while a restored Victorian home on a 100-acre estate on the river might run as high as $8 million. A three-bedroom house in the center of the village rents for $2,000 a month. And if a listing is prewar, make sure to ask which war. That stone cottage might have been built by the Dutch before the Revolution, while that converted barn likely predates the Civil War.
RECOMMENDED REALTORS Helen Battistoni (845-876-7091), Terry Euell (845-876-4343), Leigh Ponvert (845-677-0200).
COMMON COMPLAINT With fairs and festivals throughout the summer, weekend crowds sometimes swell to 30,000, bringing the traffic, congestion, and parking problems most city slickers thought they had left behind. As one native mother complained, “Pretty soon, you’ll have to go to Rochester.”
KEVIN P. Q. PHELAN
Don’t be fooled by the sleepy pastoral landscape: The hills are alive with boldface New Yorkers.
In this bucolic slice of Northwestern Connecticut, a storybook landscape of two-lane roads, restored Colonial homes, and white steepled churches, the word scene doesn’t get used very often. “I’d be hard-pressed to give you a list of five places to go to be seen,” says Christopher Morley, a Wall Street bond trader who bought a summer home (and a canoe) in Falls Village with his wife, Leone Young, in 1987. “I prefer to go to places where I’m not seen.” He’s not alone. “We didn’t want an area where we felt we had to get dressed up every weekend,” says Leslee Fein, who bought a home with her husband, Harold (a music-company exec), in Goshen in 1999. “We wanted something low-key.” That isn’t to say that Litchfield County doesn’t have its share of celebrities. But it’s the large lots, lack of traffic, and dearth of nosy locals that brought them there in the first place.
FAMILIAR FACES The list is long: Joan Rivers, Dustin Hoffman, Jasper Johns, Dick Ebersol, Bill Blass, Ivan Lendl, and Meryl Streep. Harrison Ford is reportedly the area’s newest celebrity fugitive.
STREETSCAPE Harley-riding executives in full leathers can be spotted at the popular White Flower Farm filling up little wagons with geraniums. Former biker and current Whitney Broadcasting chairman Bill O’Shaughnessy bought in Litchfield last year and loves it. “Nobody is posing,” he says. “The croissants and muffins, however, are not as good as they are in the Hamptons. And you sometimes have to scramble for a New York Post.”
THINGS TO DO While the surrounding countryside offers hiking, horseback riding, and fishing, the most popular sport is perhaps competitive antiquing down in “the Burys” – Woodbury, Roxbury, and Southbury. The Litchfield Jazz Festival in Goshen brings in the heavy hitters each August (August 3 to 5 this year, with Dave Brubeck and Roy Hargrove, among others). The West Street Grill in the town of Litchfield draws the likes of Philip Roth, Diane Sawyer, Mike Nichols, and Manolo Blahnik head George Malkemus. (Hint: Ask for the Parmesan-aïoli bread; it’s not on the menu, but they’ll make it for you. Richard Gere’s a big fan.)
HOT TOPIC Where to put native daughter Harriet Beecher Stowe’s childhood home in the town of Litchfield. The owner wants it near the town’s mansion row on North Street. Millionaire neighbors fear tourists. Another pressing concern: cell-phone antennas. There aren’t enough. To avoid disrupting the eighteenth-century ambience, telcos have suggested placing them in church steeples. Locals say those plans don’t have a prayer.
TRAVEL TIME There are any number of ways to get there, from freeways to country roads that are often just as fast. The commute from midtown takes anywhere from 90 minutes to two and a half hours, depending on which part of the county you’re headed to. Washington is about two hours, Litchfield around fifteen minutes more.
NICE PLACES TO VISIT If you’re looking for a central location, the Litchfield Inn (800-499-3444, rooms start around $125) is an excellent choice (Dennis Hopper was a recent guest). For a tad more indulgence, the Mayflower Inn (860-868-9466) charges $400 to $600 a night for its brand of nineteenth-century elegance (and that’s for a “standard” room).
RECOMMENDED REALTORS E.J. Murphy Realty in Litchfield (860-567-0813); Klemm Real Estate in Washington (860-868-7313); the Surnow Group in Washington Depot (860-868-3038).
PRICE POINTS Summer rentals range from $15,000 to $60,000. A modest three-bedroom home on a side road starts at around $250,000. How high do they go? A thirteen-room “equestrian estate” in Roxbury is currently on the market for $9.5 million.
Along the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border lies a closer, cheaper, quieter alternative to the beach.
Made up of tiny towns on the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the Delaware River, Bucks and Hunterdon Counties draw a liberal, artistic crowd – Oscar Hammerstein II, James Michener, and Dorothy Parker were among the early pioneers – along with magazine editors, gay couples, and Wall Street executives. “It has a casual attitude, but the quality of life is really good,” says decorative-arts dealer David Rago, who relocated his auction house to Lambertville, New Jersey, from Manhattan in 1996. Each town has a distinct personality – from the history-book feel of Frenchtown, whose population hasn’t grown at all in the past 100 years, to the dozens of hippie T-shirt shops and hipster galleries along Main Street in New Hope, Pennsylvania – but most New Yorkers head out in pursuit of secluded farmhouses, canoe trips down the river, and country quietude. “We wanted a house down a winding dirt road with a shed out in the woods where my wife and I could write,” says Pulitzer-winning author Jonathan Weiner. “It’s nice to get away from the pressure cooker of New York and hang out with local people who are doing carpentry, teaching school.”
SOCIAL SCENE Weekenders may spend their days pricing antiques at the Golden Nugget flea market in Lambertville or riding bicycles along the tow path, but just because they’ve chosen the river over the beach doesn’t mean they’re spending all their weekend nights catching up on their sleep. Whether attending a fund-raiser for fact (Fighting aids Continuously Together) in Bucks County or a private party at an artist’s studio, the locals and part-timers manage to mix it up together.
FAMILIAR FACES Local homeowners include Rod Stewart, actress Blair Brown, TV journalist Soledad O’Brien, news anchor Forrest Sawyer, artist Alex Katz, and screenwriter Ted Tally. Frank McCourt and Sheryl Crow were seen looking at property in the area, and there’s always the rumor that Barbra Streisand is shopping for an estate.
TRAVEL TIME Expect an hour and 45 minutes by car from midtown, with a virtually hassle-free ride once you’re out of the Lincoln Tunnel, though one resident claims she can make it from Upper Black Eddy to a bar in the financial district in 50 minutes post-rush hour. The Trans-Bridge Lines service several towns in the area from the Port Authority Bus Terminal (610-868-6001).
THINGS TO DO Summer highlights include the Riverside Symphonia (609-397-7300) and Tinicum Polo every Saturday afternoon at Tinicum Park. New Hope’s early days as a theater mecca can still be felt at the Bucks County Playhouse (215-862-2041), and insiders catch jazz concerts at the Gobbler’s, a converted roller-skating rink in Point Pleasant (215-297-8607). Hamilton’s Grill Room in Lambertville (609-397-4343) is a favorite for Mediterranean food, and the bar at the Swan (609-397-1960) serves drinks in the courtyard during the summer, but the area is known for its gourmet cuisine (many restaurants are BYOB, so call ahead).
NICE PLACES TO VISIT The Bridgeton House in Upper Black Eddy (610-982-5856, doubles start at $139) and the Black Bass Hotel in Lumberville (215-297-5770, doubles start at $80) both offer incredible views of the river. New Hope’s Logan Inn (215-862-2300, doubles start at $135) was just renovated.
ENTRY PRICE Rentals for a two-bedroom cottage start at $2,500 a month and run up to $15,000 for a historic riverfront estate on 30 acres. Second homes range from $250,000 to $4 million. Fieldstone houses with fireplaces and hardwood floors can still be found for under $1 million, and new homes in Solebury or Upper Makefield townships can go for $1 million to $2 million.
REALTORS Kurfiss Real Estate (215-794-3227) and Lisa James Otto Country Properties (215-862-2626) serve Bucks and Hunterdon Counties.
HAMPTONS FACTOR Getting “accidentally” lost along someone’s mile-long driveway in order to catch a glimpse of his sprawling estate could soon become a common pastime for locals. “There is that ritzy element,” says Jennifer Chaki-Artur, general manager of a cosmetics store in New Hope. “There are people here who have private helicopters that they use to commute to New York.”
Golf, tennis, swimming in the lake. Head for the hills for an urbane take on backcountry life.
If you ever get invited to stay at a friend’s weekend home in the Poconos, whatever you do, don’t make jokes about honeymoon suites and heart-shaped tubs. “That is so much baloney!” says real-estate broker Virginia Hood. “When people find Buck Hill Falls and Skytop, they see the Poconos are an entirely different place.” Those areas, along with Pocono Farms and Lake Naomi, are country-club communities with untouched woodlands, golf courses, tennis courts, and private lakes. And though these secluded hamlets certainly contrast with the region’s nascar raceways and paint-ball parks, they don’t quite attain Hamptons-like levels of pretension, either. The social scene revolves around tennis and golf, and vacationers tend to be families with young children. “You’ve got the usual gamut of Upper East Siders, lawyers, investment bankers, and retail-shop owners,” says one Brooklyn Heights mother who’s been bringing her three children to Buck Hill Falls for ten years. “But people who need a glitzy nightlife would be quite unhappy here. It’s like camp for the whole family.” New Yorkers with second homes in the region – many of whose families have been summering in the Poconos for generations – are more apt to attend a meeting for the local arts association than a cocktail party, and whatever their profession, they’re treated like small-town neighbors. “You don’t have to worry about people finding out what you did last night,” Hood says, “because they already know.”
FAMILIAR FACES Todd Oldham, Michael Strahan, Phil Woods, Paul Sorvino, and the Phipps family have homes in the region.
HOT TOPIC On the rare occasion when the conversation veers from golf handicaps and backhands, Poconos vacationers are most concerned with how to preserve the region’s woodlands. Though land within the resort communities is protected – and many have already reached 90 percent of building capacity – surrounding forests have been razed and developed with tract houses and cookie-cutter mansions.
TRAVEL TIME The Skytop Lodge is 97 miles by car from midtown Manhattan. Bus service is available through Martz Trailways from Port Authority to Mount Pocono (570-839-7611) and takes approximately two hours.
THINGS TO DO Country clubs and resorts offer music and dancing every weekend, but the summer crowd would sooner pass the evening with a gourmet meal at the Pump House Inn in Canadensis (570-595-7501) or at the Homestead Inn in Cresco (570-595-3171). Manhattanites flock to the Cook’s Touch in Mountainhome (570-595-3599) for American cuisine and squelch Nobu cravings at the Tokyo Tea House, which is tucked away in a strip mall in Pocono Summit (570-839-8880).
NICE PLACES TO VISIT Test the waters by staying at one of the Poconos’ many cozy B&Bs – like the Crescent Lodge Country Inn in Paradise Valley (800-392-9400, doubles start at $120) or the Pine Knob Inn in Canadensis (800-426-1460, doubles start at $168). The stately and elegant Skytop Lodge (800-345-7759, doubles start at $445) provides the full country-club experience.
REALTORS Virginia Hood Real Estate (570-595-9000) specializes in Barrett Township; Kathy Louis Real Estate (570-839-3347) serves Pocono Farms and Lake Naomi.
ENTRY PRICE Lake Naomi rentals run from $800 to $3,000 a week for a lakefront home, while Buck Hill Falls townhouses rent for $4,000 a month. Pocono Farms has cozy, wooded ranch-style cabins for sale for $85,000 to $200,000, and the average Lake Naomi sale last year was $177,000 for an older home on a small lot; houses on the lake go for up to $700,000. Townhouses at Skytop start at $300,000, and empty lakefront lots average $350,000, with larger property costing up to $1.2 million. Historic homes in Buck Hill Falls start at $200,000 and top off around $1 million.
See the Upper West Side liberal in his “natural” habitat in this Arcadian patch of the Hudson Valley.
A weekend in Columbia County isn’t about proximity to New York’s rich and famous, it’s about distance from them. “I can’t see anyone else from my property, and no one can see me, and I love it!” says lawyer Ernest Rubenstein. “We don’t get that fast-lane ‘look how much money I have’ clientele up here,” agrees local broker Andrea Gabel. “People just want to come up and have a barbecue and go for a swim in their pond – they don’t want to have to worry about their dinner reservations.” The weekend population consists largely of writers, artists, teachers, and editors – and the occasional lawyer. “There’s a very different type of character here than what you’d find in the Hamptons,” says filmmaker Sedat Pakay, who moved with his wife to Columbia County from New York City in 1988. “I would say it’s a more intellectual crowd.”
FAMILIAR FACES The Columbia County intelligentsia: poet John Ashbery, Donald Westlake, Ellsworth Kelly, William Wegman, photographer and musician Christian Steiner, sculptor George Ricky, Victor Navasky, Tatum O’Neal, and filmmaking team Merchant and Ivory, who have weekended in the area for more than 25 years. “I do quite a bit of cooking here,” says Ismail Merchant. “I’m an excellent chef.”
HOT TOPICS The same Upper West Siders who pack community-board meetings in the city spend their weekends in Columbia County, so it’s no surprise that socializing here often takes the form of community protest. “Friends of” groups opposing virtually any commercial development abound. A few of their least favorite things: the Lebanon Valley Speedway – a dragway beloved by some locals – and a proposed cement plant in Greenport.
TRAVEL TIME Getting there actually is half the fun. “Once you’re on the highway, the trip is just beautiful the whole way up,” says Ila Lane Gross, who has been weekending in Chatham since 1973. The drive up the Taconic is about two and a half hours from the city. The Amtrak train ride to Hudson is two hours (1-800-usa-rail).
THINGS TO DO Hudson has become a center for antique dealers and collectors, with more than 65 high-end shops along its main street. Historic sites include beautiful Mount Lebanon Shaker Village and the Shaker Museum in Old Chatham, and Olana, the Frederic Church estate in Greenport. Christian Steiner’s wonderful Tannery Pond concert series at the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village is a low-key alternative to Tanglewood, and the Spencertown Academy offers a range of top-notch performing-arts events. For dinner, locals head to the Blue Plate Restaurant in Chatham (518-392-7711), The Red Dot (518-828-3657), and the Charleston (518-828-4990) in Hudson; and Mario’s (518-794-9495) in New Lebanon.
NICE PLACES TO VISIT The Inn at Silver Maple Farm bed-and-breakfast in Canaan is a beautifully converted post-and-beam barn with homey rooms and suites (518-781-3600, doubles start at $140). The Inn at Green River Bed & Breakfast in Hillsdale is a 1830 Federal-style house with seven guest rooms (518-325-7248, doubles start at $110).
RECOMMENDED REALTORS Andrea Gabel, Gabel Real Estate, in Spencertown, 518-392-4975. Frances Schools, Old Ghent Realty, in Ghent, 518-392-2480.
ENTRY PRICE Most houses with five to ten acres of land run about $250,000 to $500,000, but houses with larger parcels of land can top $1 million, particularly if they offer a trout stream or a pond. A summer rental from Memorial Day through Labor Day generally costs around $9,000, although rental prices can run as high as $30,000 for truly magnificent estates.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES The long-depressed city of Hudson is undergoing a renaissance, with thriving antiques businesses, a revived economy, and, most recently, a significant artistic community. Last year, internationally renowned concert pianists Vladimir Pleshakov and Elena Winther purchased an old bank on Warren Street and converted it into a 300-seat concert hall. “They’ve spent the last few decades traveling all over Europe and the United States,” says Joe Ahern, executive director of the Columbia County Council on the Arts. “They could live anywhere and perform anywhere, but they chose Hudson.”
It may share the same island as the Hamptons, but it’s a world apart (for the time being, at least).
If there’s one thing every North Fork loyalist would like to make perfectly clear, it’s that he or she has nothing in common with those see-and-be-seen, Range Rover-riding, Nick & Toni’s- dining, Polo-store-shopping residents of the high-voltage towns on the south side of the Peconic Bay. “People don’t go there to go out,” explains Carol Cohen, a clothing designer who has spent every weekend of the past eighteen years at her Southold farmhouse. “People go there to stay home.” The lush farmland between Riverhead and Orient Point (which includes the hamlets of Orient, East Marion, Greenport, Southold, Peconic, Cutchogue, Mattituck, and Laurel) sort of resembles the Hamptons of old, with its shingled cottages and roadside farm stands – before the local drive-in mutated into the Bridgehampton Commons shopping mall. That’s not to say there has been no evolution on the North Fork. It’s just that here, former potato fields have been reborn as equally view-friendly vineyards or sod farms instead of side-by-side 7,000-square-foot estates. “It’s still very rural,” says Eberhard Müller, executive chef at Bayard’s, who spends his days off on a tractor at Satur, his organic farm. “Hopefully, it will stay that way.”
FAMILIAR FACES Painter Aaron Shikler, sculptor Robert Burks, architect Richard Gluckman, Über-publicist Susan Magrino, and former Hearst Magazines head Claeys Bahrenberg, are residents. David Page of Home restaurant co-owns a vineyard in Mattituck called Shinn. Alistair Cook resides in Nassau Point. Derek Jeter is rumored to have purchased a place in Southold for his family.
HOT TOPICS The onslaught of traffic and parking-lot overflow caused by the Cross Sound Ferry from Orient Point to New London has sparked a firestorm. Fanning the flames is vice-admiral Thor Hanson, who founded the Southold Citizens for Safe Roads in 1995, when the ferry company introduced a high-speed passenger-only boat favored by eager gamblers headed to Foxwoods casino. “Our house is four miles from the ferry terminal,” says Hanson. “But sometimes we can’t even turn left onto our road. We’ve counted 130 cars coming in the opposite direction.”
TRAVEL TIME At least a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Manhattan on the dreaded L.I.E. The same goes for the no-frills Sunrise bus, the North Fork’s answer to the Jitney. The LIRR takes about three hours.
THINGS TO DO The twenty or so wineries are the area’s headline act. Farm stands are good enough to be considered an indulgence. The best include organic Sang Lee Farms in Peconic and Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue. Local restaurants like Claudio’s (631-477-0627), a fried-seafood mecca on the wharf in Greenport, are of the homey but lowbrow variety. Riverhead’s Tanger Outlet mall has 170 stores from Barneys to Cole Haan to Old Navy. Nightlife revolves around dinner parties and the village cinema in Greenport.
NICE PLACES TO VISIT The Victorian Bartlett House Inn (631-477-0371, doubles start at $140) feels like a classic New England bed-and-breakfast. The Greenporter, (631-477-0066, doubles start at $275), a fifties-style motor lodge in the middle of Greenport, will reopen in July with a new personality, a French bistro, a wine bar, a swimming pool, and a Jacuzzi. A full spa is set to follow in 2002.
RECOMMENDED REALTORS Suzanne Hahn at Hahn Realty (631-477-0551) has been covering the area for twenty years. Cook Pony Farm (631-765-5810), a South Fork transplant, is a newcomer but already well established with offices in Mattituck, Cutchogue, and Southold.
ENTRY PRICE A two- or three-bedroom house on a half-acre will sell for $235,000, but there aren’t many of those left. Four-bedroom, two-bath homes on landscaped grounds with proximity to the water go for $400,000 to $600,000. A top-of-the-market waterfront home larger than 4,000 square feet can command up to $3 million.
PARADISE IN PERIL The abiding concern is how to keep more Manhattanites from discovering this rural oasis. (“I’ve seen a variety of expensive cars that I never saw before,” says Cohen, “Even our local supermarket, the IGA, has upgraded. They have balsamic vinegar now.”) To that end, more than one North Fork regular “helpfully” mentioned the fact that nearby Plum Island, a lab for animal-disease research, recently considered raising it’s bio-safety level to 4, the worst level possible.
If you’re thinking muscle cars and big hair, you’ve never been to Spring Lake or Bay Head.
Spring Lake’s heart consists of a shimmering serpentine lake lined with magnolias and crisscrossed by hand-hewn wooden footbridges. Oceanside, a noncommercial boardwalk is perfect for joggers and cyclists, and a walkable downtown has enough quaint shops to allow visitors to leave the car in the city. In recent summers, locals at the pool bar at the Warren Hotel, accustomed to rolling off the beach in T-shirts and sandals, have found their laid-back happy hour invaded by young, cash-flush Manhattan professionals in sundresses and Prada sandals. “It’s started looking like a fashion show,” complains Jocelyn LoBuono, who returns every summer to kick back with her friends from St. Rose High School. “I started feeling like I had to dress up.” This summer, the Warren is gone. It was razed to make way for ten Victorian homes, all but one already sold at prices starting at $2.4 million. Farther up the coast lies Bay Head, another upscale beach town, recently called “not a real Jersey shore town” by one of the state’s major newspapers. While the stroller remains the vehicle of choice, Bay Head, too, has found itself invaded by young couples looking to cash in their bonuses for a stretch of white-sand serenity. On the beaches dolphins swim by in the morning, and in the fall, the fishing and surfing are excellent.
HOT TOPIC In Spring Lake, they’re mourning the loss of the Warren and talking about who scored what antique from the liquidators’ auction. Others are vehemently denying the recent rumor – not unbelievable in a town where tastefulness often crosses the line into stuffiness – that the Town Council plans to ban the ice-cream man from the streets because of all that racket. “If they got rid of the ice-cream man,” says Dorothy Lau, of the Spring Lake Historical Society, “I’d have to hit them over the head.”
FAMILIAR FACES Spring Lake counts among its residents author Mary Higgins Clark, who set her latest novel here, as well as newscaster Jack Ford and Houston Astro Craig Biggio. Olympia Dukakis and Kate Nelligan are occasional renters. Bill Parcells owns a place in neighboring Sea Girt. TV executives Roger and Michael King are known for their lavish parties in Bay Head.
TRAVEL TIME An hour and 50 minutes by train from Penn Station to Spring Lake; Bay Head is another 25 minutes. By car, Spring Lake is an hour-and-a-half (traffic free) drive down the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway; stay on Route 35 South to reach Bay Head, twenty minutes away.
NICE PLACES TO VISIT In Spring Lake, the Normandy Inn (732-449-7172, doubles start at $153) is an antique-laden dreamworld. The Bay Head Harbor Inn (732-899-0767, doubles start at $125) allows children, while Conover’s Bay Head Inn (732-892-4664, doubles start at $165), a few doors down, is geared toward couples seeking romance.
ENTRY PRICE Despite the skyrocketing buyer’s market, Realtors say the rental market in Spring Lake – $50,000 to $60,000 for the summer – has softened somewhat. Buyers’ options range from a five-bedroom ranch cottage three blocks from the beach for $299,000 to a renovated five-bedroom Victorian with ocean views for $1.4 million. In Bay Head, the buyer’s market remains white-hot, with listings ranging from $405,000 for a three-bedroom to $4.5 million for a bayfront four-bedroom.
REALTORS John & Johnson GMAC Real Estate in Spring Lake (732-449-3200); Diane Turton Realtors in Bay Head (732-295-9700).
James Taylor called them dreamlike; Arlo Guthrie immortalized Stockbridge’s Officer Obie
While it’s unlikely that he had East Hampton in mind at the time, Sartre’s proclamation is resoundingly apt to those who choose the Berkshires: Hell is other people. These verdant hills, on the other hand, would have been right up his alley. Here, refugees from the city change from peacocks to badgers – shy, watchful, and private. At his North Egremont “country store,” Craig Elliot greets the New Yorkers who come out irregularly with a sly “Welcome home.” He’ll happily fix your fishing line one day and offer to sell you the motorbike that nearly killed him the next. Around here, he’s more essential to the routing of information than a switch from Cisco, and his value is probably steadier. Lee Kalcheim, the veteran playwright and All in the Family writer who spends weekends and summers in West Stockbridge, gathers his literary friends together for volleyball and high-minded repartee. He says the Berkshires are like Greenwich Village in the sixties moved to a bucolic setting. “The peace, the tranquillity, it rejuvenates me,” says entertainment lawyer Charles Mirotznik, who can’t wait to get to his Tyringham farm on Friday nights. “It’s a world apart from the litigiousness of New York.”
FAMILIAR FACES Pass through Williamstown this summer and you might catch Bebe Neuwirth, Mike Myers, or Michelle Williams, but, of course, they’ll be working. Residents include James Taylor, Gene Shalit, Emmanuel Ax, Seiji Ozawa, Yo-Yo Ma, Pauline Kael, and theater producer Michael Frazier.
TRAVEL TIME Two and a half hours up the winding Taconic State Parkway, under conditions that provoke seething envy among the I-495 parking-lot crowd.
THINGS TO DO Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is probably the best-known of the area’s cultural attractions. Its glorious lawns and auditoriums are packed every day and evening throughout the summer with music lovers and family picnickers. This season marks Ozawa’s valedictory after 28 years. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket – home to the first theater in the United States designed specifically for dance – has become one of the greatest modern-dance venues anywhere. Shakespeare & Company has found a new home in Lenox – a vast estate that will include the 430-seat Founders’ theater and a stage to be erected in a naturally formed rock amphitheater that was last used by Native Americans.
NICE PLACES TO VISIT: Wheatleigh in Lenox (413-637-0610) has undergone a $4 million restoration; this lovely Italianate villa is now a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World. Its nineteen rooms and suites range from $435 to $1,175 per night. The restaurant offers a menu that mixes classic French with American genius. The more modest, Colonial-style Red Lion Inn (413-298-5545; rooms start at $189 in the summer) in Stockbridge is an area landmark and stands out in a region where inns and B&Bs abound.
ENTRY PRICE Summer-house rentals range from $8,000 for a three-bedroom contemporary to $25,000 with a pool and some wooded acreage. Something that will impress not only your friends but an orbiting space station as well could go for $75,000. In the Great Barrington area, $300,000 can get you a three-bedroom, two-bath contemporary.
REALTOR Dorian Held at Wheeler & Taylor Realty Company in Stockbridge (413-298-3786).
SIGNS OF THE TIMES In a peculiar case of cultural regress, the glorious old Mahaiwe movie theater in Great Barrington is being transformed into, get this, an opera house.