Shelter Island Beaches – Your Complete Guide to Fun in the Sun

Shelter Island beaches are some of the best beaches in the Northeast, and certainly in the Hamptons.

While they may not have the gigantic Atlantic Ocean waves (and freezing temps!) and miles of sand to traverse before you even hit the water, what can we say? We’re partial to our beloved bay beaches. They’re calm, peaceful and intimate. You can literally get out of your car or bike over and set up your beach spot in five minutes flat. You also get prime boat and even yacht watching depending on the time of day you’re there. But whenever you decide to hit up the beaches in Shelter Island, you can be promised fun in the sun and prime relaxation. Think no crowds, no noise and only good vibes.

Amidst its 8,000 acres and 29 miles of East End beauty, we’ve counted about five well-known Shelter Island beaches outside of private swaths of sand and little coves that grace the island. These five beaches offer everything from a fun people watching scene to unique wildlife to family-friendly bonding time. Whichever beach you choose, you can’t go wrong. We’re breaking down our favorite Shelter Island beaches and what makes each one of them so special.

What makes Shelter Island beaches so special? For one they’re all incredibly clean. No matter where you head, you can be promised pristine surroundings and a respect of the water and environment. Another facet we love about beaches on Shelter Island is that they’re rarely crowded. Even Crescent (aka “Sunset) Beach, which is home to the Sunset Beach Hotel and adjoining restaurant, rarely gets too packed during the day. Reason being is that you need a beach pass to access any of our beaches, which isn’t that easy to obtain if you’re not a local resident. That leaves endless space for you and your crew to lounge without feeling like you’re on top of people. Beyond that, it’s the simple beauty of Shelter Island you gain at every beach vantage point that always has us wishing for one more beach day.

*All photography in this article is by Doug Young.

wades beach landscape
Wades Beach

Shelter Island Beaches You Must Visit:

Best Family Beach:
Wades Beach


Best Romantic Beach:
Shell Beach


Best Beach for Swimming:
Hay Beach


Best Beach to Explore Wildlife:
Reel Point


Best Beach for Adventures (Kayaking/Paddleboarding):
Crescent Beach

Best Shelter Island Beach For The Family – Wades Beach

Wades Beach is one of our favorite Shelter Island beaches for a number of reasons. One is that it has a roped off swimming portion of the beach that is often watched over by a lifeguard. It also features a clean changing room and bathroom facilities right there. We love the soft, gentle waves and wide open space, where even your most active brood has an area all to themselves on which to play. Picnic tables make for easy, no-fuss lunches, and the perfect setting for beach snacks. Visit anytime of day for fun in the sun.

114 S Midway Rd, Shelter Island, NY 11964

best shelter island beaches for family is wades beach
Wades Beach

Best Romantic Beach – Shell Beach

Shell Beach is considered the romantic one of the Shelter Island beaches as it’s just a remote sliver of expanse roughly three quarters in length that protrudes into the Shelter Island Sound. You would never just happen upon Shell Beach, but once you make the trip, you’ll be so grateful you did. Shell Beach lacks amenities and offerings but makes up for it in the form of clean warm waters, beautiful wildflowers and views of West Neck Harbor and South Fork. Parts of Shell Beach play host to wildlife like piping plovers as well as other nesting birds. But perhaps the reason it got its name is for the millions of beautiful tiny shells lining the beach that turn the sand an iridescent color when the sun casts itself in a certain light. This is the perfect spot for a romantic picnic, a deux, and maybe even an “I do.” Visit at dusk or sunset for a meditative beach moment.

Oak Tree Lane past West Neck Point, Shelter Island, NY 11964

best shelter island beaches for romance include shell beach
Shell Beach

Best Beach for Swimming – Hay Beach

This beach located on the northern tip of Shelter Island has magnificent views toward Greenport, East Marion, Orient and Gardiners Island with five points to access its sandy expanse. Historians tell us it got its name during the Revolutionary War, when trees were cut and picked up by ships to deliver to George Washington’s troops during winter months. After the war, tenant farmers paid their rent in hay, dropping it off on Hiberry Lane where ships picked the bales up to deliver to landlords. Anyway, regardless of nomenclature, we love swimming at Hay beach due to its vast size and total intimacy. It’s unfussy, super quiet and yet seems to just go on for miles. It offers plenty of privacy so you’ll never ram into a fellow swimmer. It’s dog friendly, too! Go in the morning for sunrise with the Northeastern views onto the nearby North Fork.

Point Lane, Shelter Island, NY 11964

Best Shelter Island Beach to Explore Wildlife – Reel Point Preserve

Grab your binoculars and birding sheets, this fragile sand peninsula of Reel Point Preserve is a picture perfect paradise for animal lovers. It was donated to the Peconic Land Trust in 1995 by Marsha and Herb Stern and is a beautiful wildlife habitat at the tip of Ram Island. With a topographic mixture of American beach grass, seaside goldenrod, and bayberry, the peninsula is a haven for migratory birds and butterflies, including osprey, piping plovers and Monarchs. Go early mornings for peak birding.

The End of Club Drive on Ram Island, Shelter Island, NY 11964

Best Beach for Adventures (Kayaking/Paddleboarding) – Crescent Beach

Home of the famous Sunset Beach Hotel and restaurant, Crescent Beach is one of the most popular Shelter Island beaches, featuring fun-the-sun crowds popping rosé all day and looking for a good time. But did you know it’s also one of the best beaches for adventures like kayaking and paddleboarding? Venture Out paddleboarding and kayak rentals is a vendor lining Crescent Beach during the summer, making it easier than ever to have an on-water adventure straight from the beach. All you have to do is head over and get sized for your next outing and you’ll be on the water in no time. Once you’re back you can check out the epic sunset, for which the beach is nicknamed before turning it in for the night, or head over to Sunset Beach and hang with the party crowd. Head out in the morning for a smooth experience before the boats come in and make waves.

Shore Road, Shelter Island, NY 11964

best shelter island beaches for adventure is crescent beach
Crescent Beach

When it comes to Shelter Island beaches, you simply can’t go wrong. Depending upon your mood, who you’re with and what you’re game for, the island offers an array of beaches that are perfect for any situation. The best part is that you can visit all of them!

(Please note for all Shelter Island Beaches, beach permits are free for residents; however, visitors can obtain a weekly vehicle permit at Seven B&B for access to all beaches on the Island. Also, camping, nude bathing, and motor vehicles are prohibited on all Town Public Beaches. Animals are prohibited on all Town Public Beaches from Memorial Day through Labor Day.)

NYC Lifestyle Photographer Ana Gambuto Designs East End Apparel With A Retro Vibe

Ana Gambuto is something of an accidental local on Shelter Island. She had fallen in love with the island years ago, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that she relocated her family of four from Brooklyn to Shelter Island indefinitely. And as a creative and entrepreneur, she’s managed to make a business out of life at the beach. Atop of being an NYC lifestyle photographer, Ana has built her creative agency, Anyday Collective with her husband. When some of her work was put on hold, she turned to apparel and design and launched Shelter Isle. This fashion brand is a line of retro-inspired sweatshirts, totes and tees that reflect the spirit of life on the East End. 

We sat down with Ana to discuss what’s currently inspiring her, how she’s navigating life at the beach with two toddlers in tow, and where to find the best chocolate soft serve on the island.  

How did you end up on Shelter Island?

We are from Brooklyn and moved out during Covid-19. We’ve loved Shelter Island for years and had been trying to buy a house out there, but we’d always either get cold feet and not find the right house, or something would be outside our budget. We couldn’t quite find what we wanted, but we truly loved it. 

We happened to find our house in early 2020. It was a covid purchase, but not like a fleeing Covid purchase. It was just before the pandemic. We did eventually flee, and then we stayed until October. Then it was like, what are we doing!? Our kids are really young. They’re one and three years old. 

So eventually we left our rental in Brooklyn and it’s still an ongoing conversation of “when do we go back?” We did not intend to live on Shelter Island this long. But we absolutely love it here, especially in the summer!

You run a creative agency, Anyday Collective. Tell us about it…

My husband is a television producer and so together we have Anyday Collective. We make all kinds of video and television content. I am still an NYC lifestyle photographer and I have a whole commercial side to that business. 

I also do high-end family portraits for families, as well as for kids and baby brands. When I realized I couldn’t do that during covid, I started Shelter Isle, a luxury apparel line of retro beach sweatshirts. We do funky sweatshirts and t-shirts for Shelter Island, the Hamptons, Montauk, Sag Harbour and more. We also do some very cool collaborations! 

We’ve turned Shelter Isle into a community effort also, where a portion of our proceeds goes to charities on the island. I’ll hand deliver orders for free, which helps me meet tons of my neighbors. 

One of them is now my best friend! I met her in her driveway. We’re actually neighbors, and we were like oh my god, we should meet up. We’ve literally never been in each other’s homes, but our kids are friends. It’s been a fun way to meet the community.

What was the inspiration behind starting Anyday Collective?

When my husband and I were dating, we realized our worlds were related and slightly overlapping but not really overlapping, more complimentary. So we started taking clients and working together. 

For example, a client would ask me during a campaign if I could shoot video, while someone he’d be working with would ask if he could take stills. So we started taking jobs together. Then we got married and got incorporated. It slowly evolved into this multi-arm production family. We have a family of freelancers who we’ve been working with for years and years.

As a professional NYC lifestyle photographer, what’s the biggest shift you’ve seen in storytelling as of late?

I think the stories themselves are more raw, more real, less pretty. And then the logistics of producing a shoot are totally different, so the way you cast a shoot, the way you set up the vibe of the shoot, the way you shoot and edit is all totally different. 

It’s hard to get a child to open up to a room full of strange adults in masks. It’s a challenge for sure.

What brought you to Seven On Shelter Island?

One of my dear friends works for a high profile client and she and I were chatting, and she realized she wanted to throw a huge event. During Covid, she needed someone who knew Shelter Island and could create deliverables. She needed a headshot project and a behind-the-scenes video and she realized that I could do those things.

I also made the merchandise and designed the logo. The whole team got sweatshirts. Since I knew everyone on the island, I told her, ‘Well, you could stay here, here or here,’ which led me to Beth and the team at Seven on Shelter Bed and Breakfast. She really is one of the only luxury options on the island now. Her B+B vibe is so elevated and really the only one I know of in New York. 

Where do you find inspiration?

Well, my personal Instagram account has always been people I know or brands I’ve worked with forever. And I followed a million people and never saw content I wanted to see, so my algorithm is not great, and honestly, who has time to fix that? 

It’s not been fun anymore for a few years but then I started Shelter Isle, so I decided to follow pure artists I’m inspired by, like Nowness, which will do amazing video installations where I’m like, whoah! What is that! Or I’ll follow local businesses, other local Hamptons or Long Island or Shelter Island vendors that I either know or hope to work with soon. 

It’s been incredibly rewarding, following a curated group on that account. It’s what Instagram is supposed to be. I want to have a place to go to find it. As far as finding it online, that account is the thing that stands out. It’s non-parenting, non photo-related inspiration.

Ana’s Shelter Island Top 5: 

1. Crescent Beach 

This beach is incredible in a photo, of course, but it’s also incredible for a parent because you can literally park directly in front of the stairs to the beach! Very helpful to haul the mess of toys and towels a shorter distance. You get me. Ideal for building sand castles!

2. Wades Beach

The sheer expanse of this beach is great for letting my toddlers just be free… they can safely wander a pretty good distance from me without me worrying, and it feels a lot more like an ocean beach than a beach on the sound. The best part is that it IS on the sound though, so there’s no scary waves to give Mama heart palpitations!

3. Crab Creek Beach

The one thing my daughter loves more than anything is skipping stones. Well, you know, throwing them toward the water with all your might, whatever you call that. Crab Creek Beach is delightfully uncrowded and it’s also got the most beautiful array of stones to throw! We like to bike over with the kids in the toddler seats that go on the back of our bikes, no car required.

4. Tuck Shop

An awesome little ice cream shop. All four of us are big fans. There’s something about soft serve that is a cornerstone of a hot day because you can slurp it down quickly – no spoon required. We’re partial to chocolate.

5. A wagon ride, a bike ride or a longgggg walk.

The fresh air on this island is like medicine… and with two toddlers I often feel trapped indoors, but I know if we get out, we’ll feel better! And a bonus tip… eat outside at The Shipwreck Boat Bar, and let the kids just eat french fries! 

Thank you, Ana for giving us the opportunity to discuss your favorite Shelter Island activities and why you share your love for the island. 

Ana Gambuto (347) 463.6971 ana@anagambuto.com

Instagram: @anagambuto

hello@shelter-me.com

10 Shelter Island Restaurants To Try During Your Stay

There is no shortage of wonderful Shelter Island restaurants. From lowkey eateries to upscale establishments offering the freshest local fare found on the East End, Shelter Island’s culinary offerings are diverse and always delicious, but which ones to try totally depends on your mood, palette and cravings. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast, a light, beach-friendly lunch or an opulent, decadent dinner, Shelter Island has something for everyone.

18 Bay

Nestled between the North and South Forks of Long Island, Shelter Island is surrounded on three sides by the Shelter Island Sound and on the fourth side by Gardiner’s Bay – meaning that it’s in proximity to some of the best farms for local produce as well as fishermen serving up the freshest catch of the day. The restaurants embody the spirit of Shelter Island. There’s no velvet rope, over-the-top Hamptons scene or elaborate, black-tie dress code. It’s come as you are and prepared to be dazzled.

So if you make the trip out to Shelter Island, you’ll likely want to enjoy some of the best food and culinary experiences the restaurant has to offer. In this story, we’re rounding out the top 10 restaurants on Shelter Island so that you know exactly where you want to go once you arrive. 

Shelter Island’s most popular restaurants are the ones that are locally-owned and operated so that the relaxed, laidback feeling of Shelter Island is maintained throughout the experience. Some people might enjoy fresh fish best enjoyed by a marina, or a Parisian-style croissant in town. There’s everything from high end specialties down to cozy cafes, and it’s all delicious. 

*All photography in this article is by Doug Young.

Here are the 10 Shelter Island Restaurants to Try During Your Stay 

Sunset Beach Restaurant | Outdoor Seating

Breakfast/Coffee/Brunch 

  1. Marie Eiffel Market & Cafe 
  2. Stars Café 
  3. The Shelter Island Pharmacy

Lunch: 

  1. Salt Restaurant Bar & Grill 
  2. Sunset Beach
  3. The Flying Goat 

Dinner: 

  1. Vine Street Cafe 
  2. 18 Bay 
  3. Isola 
  4. Commander Cody’s 

Breakfast/Coffee/Brunch 

1. Marie Eiffel Market & Cafe: For top tier French-inspired breakfasts and baked goods, look no further than this must-stop cafe in the middle of town. You’ll find everyone from locals tourists to weekenders clamoring for warm baguettes, pain au chocolat or tart tatin. The care also makes wonderful sandwiches and fresh market fare for your beach picnic. We love its freshly roasted vegetables and salads.

184 North Ferry Road

Marie Eiffel Market & Cafe | Iced Latte & Croissant

Shelter Island, NY 11965

https://marieeiffelmarket.com/

For special orders text: 212-945-8492

2. Stars Café: Each morning you can walk into town and pop in for breakfast  at this 15-year old local favorite, family-owned cafe by Pepe and Lydia Martinez. It hails one of the most filling selections in our list of Shelter Island restaurants with stellar coffee, to boot. Our choice? A fresh omelet filled with our favorite ingredients. But if lunch is more your thing, enjoy homemade soups, salads and smoothies made at its very own smoothie bar.

17 Grand Avenue

Shelter Island Heights, NY 110965

https://www.starscafeshelterisland.com/

631-749-5345

3. The Shelter Island Pharmacy: Want old school service offering up gigantic breakfasts? You sure do. Hit up this local haunt for the freshest pancakes, eggs, home fries and bacon. You’ll be glad you did. Lunch and takeaway dinner before 4pm is also a great option. Seeing as it’s an actual pharmacy, the town center spot also boasts a selection of personal care items and services so you can get your shopping done and enjoy a meal, too.

19 Grand Avenue

 Shelter Island Heights, NY 11965

https://shelterislandpharmacy.com/

631-276-4596

Lunch: 

1. Salt Restaurant Bar & Grill: We love this Shelter Island standby at the boatyard marina. It’s got great outdoor seating right on the water with views of the comings and goings of larger and smaller boats. The lobster roll is great, and the burger is out of this world. It also makes the perfect pit stop when you’re exploring the island on bike. Stop in early in the evening and catch some live music across the boatyard at the Shipwreck bar.

63 South Menantic Rd

Shelter Island, NY 11964

saltshelterisland.com

631-749-5535

restaurants to try ny poke bowl in shelter island
Salt Restaurant Bar & Grill | Poke Bowl

2. Sunset Beach: Located directly on Crescent Beach, this is the scene-and-be seen Shelter Island restaurant on the island where the rosé is popping from lunch through dinner and beyond. Based at the Sunset Beach hote, the restaurant sports a trendy clientele but the food – specifically the salads and entrees – are great, too. Rock your best caftans and linen shirts and join the party. As its name suggests, it’s the perfect sunset drink spot, where you can watch all the yachts come in to catch a glimpse of the Shelter Island sun. And, if you’re a fan of the eclectic Italian label, Marni, you might find a similar collaboration like last summer, where the brand took over the hotspot with multicolored chaises and floral print sofas. 

35 Shore Road

Shelter Island Heights, NY 11965

https://sunsetbeach.fun/

631-749-2001

flying goat entrance shelter island restaurant
The Flying Goat | Entrance

3. The Flying Goat: This epic 120 year old casual restaurant is perched atop the highest point on Shelter Island, located at historic Shelter Island Country Club. It offers delicious, hearty dining options and a lively bar area that’s perfect for watching the game. We love sipping on a cool drink while taking in the panoramic views from this perfect point on Shelter Island.

26 Sunnyside Avenue

Shelter Island Heights, NY 11965

flyinggoatrestaurant.com

631-749-5404

Dinner: 

1. Vine Street Cafe: Arguably one of the top restaurants in all of the Hamptons, this high quality, super local Shelter Island restaurant is always packed and for good reason. It’s serving up some of the most delicious fare, from steaks to fish, to pasta, to the to-die-for french fries. Vine Street Cafe never disappoints. You might even spot a few celebrities and famous chefs in the dining room. 

41 South Ferry Road

Shelter Island, NY 11964

vinestreetcafe.com

631-749-3210

the vine street cafe best restaurant to try ny
The Vine Street Cafe | Mezzi Rigatoni alla Bolognese

2. 18 Bay: This farm-to-table restaurant is a husband and wife operation by Chefs Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels that earned them a James Beard nomination. The highly sought-after eatery features a revolving menu that changes weekly, so check the websites for updates and make a reservation in advance. Pro-tip – if you can order off the ala carte menu if you’re lucky enough to score a seat at the bar. 

11 Stearns Point Road

Shelter Island Heights, NY 11965

http://18bayrestaurant.com/

631-749-0053

18 Bay | Chef Adam Kopels

3. Isola: Opened in June, 2017, this upbeat, lively Italian-by-way-of-American restaurant is serving up delicious fare like fresh pizzas, pastas and chicken. Come for the yummy dinner, stay for the live music. Score a seat on the outdoor perch and you’ll have the perfect lookout point in the historic Shelter Island Heights district.

15 Grand Avenue

Shelter Island Heights, NY 11965

631-749-9036

4. Commander Cody’s: Blink and you just might miss this locals-favorite haunt, where you’ll find the best Southern style fried chicken north of Mississippi, and certainly as a Shelter Island restaurant. Commander Cody’s has been owned and operated by the same family for years, so it’s got major Shelter Island street credit. Other must-haves include fresh peel-at-eat shrimp, oysters shucked to order, and the freshest white fish you can find. Our move is to pack it all up and head to the beach at sunset for a delicious, lowky dinner.   

41 Smith Street

Shelter Island, NY 11964

631-749-1851

If you travel to Shelter Island, you’ll want to soak up the sun, the surf and the most beautiful expanses of nature on the East End, but the good news is you won’t have to sacrifice on food. Unlike other spots in the Hamptons, Shelter Island’s incredible restaurants are low-key and delicious minus the velvet rope, who’s-who scene and dress code. Come as you are to Shelter Island and you won’t be disappointed. We hope you try some of the restaurants outlined in our list of top Shelter Island restaurants to try.