Amelia Clark on the Shelter Island Ferry and More

Amelia Clark Practically Grew Up On The Shelter Island Ferry

If there’s one person you could consider the eyes and ears of Shelter Island, it might be Amelia Clark. The college junior was raised on Shelter Island and is part of the legendary Clark family that’s run the South Ferry since the 1800’s. She and the rest of her Clark crew work hard year in and year out making sure everyone coming from the Hamptons gets on and off the island as efficiently and safely as possible. To say she and her family are the heartbeat of Shelter Island would be an understatement.

Amelia Clark | Photograph provided by Amelia Clark

When she’s not issuing tickets on the ferry, you’ll find Amelia working at Shelter Island’s most high-end restaurant 18 Bay, babysitting some local kids, and even popping her head in at Seven! So naturally, we had to find out Amelia’s top Shelter Island picks and what she loves most about this magical place. 

Tell us about your family and the Shelter Island ferry…..

I believe we are the oldest family run ferry company on the East Coast, but it’s always been our family that ran it on Shelter Island. The house I grew up in was the original ferry house, and right outside our house is where the ferries dock at night, right on the beach. 

My grandfather and his brother run the ferry together. Before that it was their dad. My dad is the scheduler for the ferry. He’s worked there ever since we’ve lived there. My mom worked on the ferry when she was pregnant with me. I started training to work there over winter break.

How did that go?

It was really fun. There’s a lot of technicality to it. When you’re charging people, you have to go by different prices, sizes, lengths, and how many people are in the car. You have to take all of that into account. So there are a few different formulas. I’ll probably have to get retrained for summer because going back to school fills my brain back up, but it’s really fun. People who work there are so nice. We’re big on having a positive attitude and always being kind to everyone. Who would want to work somewhere that’s not a positive environment? No one wants that reflected onto them.

Is there ever any friendly competition with the North Ferry service?

18 Bay | Shelter Island Restaurant | Photography by Doug Young*

I don’t think about it as competition. They take people to the North Fork and we take people to the South Fork. Typically people will go through both of us depending on where they’re going, so I don’t think of it in a competitive way. I believe the North Ferry is a corporation. They do things differently. They are advancing more technologically, for example they have scanners. We haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m not sure we feel like we need to. 

Tell us about the training process….

It’s really hands-on. When you’re training, they have a trainer with you. So first you’re walking around with him or her for a bit to see what they do. Slowly, they implement different tasks, at first you’re loading and unloading and opening the gates. Then once you have that down, it’s OK, now you’re going to go to the windows, get money and click tickets. OK that sounds like a plan. I got that down. Then you keep doing it over the course of a week, and your trainer is there to let them know if you need any help with anything. I won’t know everything right away because there’s so much to remember and recheck up on. But everyone’s so nice and so helpful about it. A lot of people come across with a commuter or resident pass, so if you know the price of a car typically then you’re fine. 

What’s life on Shelter Island like now compared to when you were growing up?

Shelter Island Ferry | Photograph by Doug Young

I feel like it’s changed a little bit. The North Fork is getting “hamptonized,” so to speak. I can almost see it in some cases and feel it coming to us, just the people and the changing of businesses and the new businesses that come around in the summer. It’s like when I used to go to Sag Harbour as a child, it was very similar to Shelter Island. They were two small towns, but the vibe has gotten different as I’ve gotten older and it feels like it’s spreading through to here, too. I think we have a doctrine that we can’t have chains or fast food, but I can feel it spreading in different ways.  

What was it like to grow up on Shelter Island?

Shelter Island Ferry Captain | Photograph by Doug Young

I loved it. It can be complicated in some ways. There were small classes, I mean 23 kids were in my graduating class senior year. But it’s like a little family inside a bigger family. The population all year ‘round is not very big and you’re surrounded by the same kids your whole life. So their parents are your pseudo parents and they check up on you and support you. You always see your teachers around. You see them in the summer on the beach. But you can have amazing experiences because the classes are so small. You get to go on a Schooner trip in seventh grade. We went to Disney World in eighth grade. We get to go see Broadway shows fairly regularly. We also just feel like we have a lot of support that makes itself available to us.

Do you think you’ll stay on Shelter Island?

As nice as I think it would be to raise kids on Shelter Island, at some point I’d like to go away for a bit. I plan to summer here myself, and I’ll probably move back when I’m older, but I’ve always enjoyed big cities and really crowded places. I actually like background noise when I sleep. Shelter Island is eerily quiet at night for most of the year, so that’s made it difficult for me to sleep. My parents crack up. They used to take me to music festivals in New Orleans and Austin, and the noise would always help me go to bed. That was not the case for them. I’ve always felt comfortable with more people. I’m going to try to embrace that more.

What do you love most about Shelter Island?

The sense of community. It’s always been the best thing. I’ve always felt taken care of. Everyone looks out for you. I was so involved at school so I was my cousins’ TA in their art classes. When my cousin was in kindergarten, I was a TA in that class, too. And just even the involvement of babysitting. I babysat so many of those kids I’m a junior in college, so these kids I babysat are getting into middle school and high school, and I’ve watched them, all of them. All their parents know me.

Amelia Clark with family and friends at Shelter Island’s South Ferry | Photograph provided by Amelia Clark

Amelia’s Shelter Island picks:

Maria’s: “I love Maria’s. That’s always been my favorite place to go if we wanted to get food after school. The food is great, and in the summer it’s awesome to sit outside. Maria is a sweetheart. I went to high school with both of her kids. She always talks about her kids when I come in, and asks me how I’m doing. She always checks up on me.

The beaches: “Shelter island has the best beaches. Crescent Beach is awesome. The sand is less rocky. If you get there earlier, it’s really great. And everywhere is so safe. Our joke is that we don’t have a key to our house. We don’t lock our car doors. The beaches are also so safe.

18 Bay:  “Jimmy is the manager and Chef Adam and Elizabeth are the sweetest people. I’ve worked there since I was 16. They’re my other family. They check up on me all the time and are so supportive. The food is so good, too, and the menu changes every week. Sometimes they let me eat there.

Greenport: “There are so many cute shops and places to eat. I really like this one little shop called Tea and Tchotchkes. They sell crystals and really cute clothes and self-help books and tarot cards. I love going in there. I’ll go once a week to stand around and get crystals and a necklace or something.

Grindstone Coffee and Donuts, Sag Harbor: This place is so good. On Shelter Island we don’t have a lot of fast food. There’s no Dunkin Donuts etc. I’m not even a big donut person, but I love going in. It’s also across the street from Whites Apothecary, which has so many nice skincare and makeup brands. I love going in and debating whether I can afford to buy anything.

Stars Cafe: I love that place so much. They’ve got the best muffins and bread every morning, especially in the summer. They also make the best breakfast wraps and sandwiches. Right door is the pharmacy, which is really the pinnacle place on Shelter Island. The milkshakes are top tier.

Read more about the top things to do in Shelter Island here.

*View more photographs by Doug Young here.