Monday, January 5, 2009

Winter Weekends: Takin’ It Easy in Oyster Bay

Oyster Bay was recently featured in this New York Times article...

Winter Weekends: Takin’ It Easy in Oyster Bay
Published: January 2, 2009

Dutch and English settlers discovered a smooth, scenic bay on Long Island’s North Shore, named it for its oysters and built a harbor town. Three centuries later, Billy Joel wrote, “I wish that I was back in Oyster Bay, takin’ it easy.” Suburbia has encroached, but the hamlet of Oyster Bay is still a charming little place, and the area around it invites exploration.

The most famous local citizen is not Billy Joel but Theodore Roosevelt. Sagamore Hill, the rambling Victorian home he built in 1885, is a National Historic Site (516-922-4788;, where winter tours run from Wednesday through Sunday ($5).

From the big veranda to the rooms filled with books and mounted heads of unlucky animals, Sagamore Hill looks like what by all accounts it was — not just the summer White House where Roosevelt brokered a peace between Russia and Japan (earning him a Nobel Peace Prize), but paradise for a big brood of children and a roomy container for the outsize personality of its owner.

The house sits on 83 acres on a peninsula that is an ideal place for a walk, even in the dead of winter. Paths and a nature trail with forests, meadows, a salt marsh and a beach are open from dawn until dusk.

This is the renowned Gold Coast, and another estate lives on as Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park (1395 Planting Fields Road; 516-922-9200;; $6 to park on winter weekends). Greenhouses are open daily; the winter specialty is camellias.

A house tour that paints a picture of life in the Revolutionary War era is at the Raynham Hall Museum (20 West Main Street; 516-922-6808;; $5). And just outside of the village, there’s yet another experience at the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Aquarium, which houses fish, reptiles and amphibians native to New York State (1660 Route 25A, Cold Spring Harbor; 516-692-6768;; $5).

If Oyster Bay touring inspires an appetite for oysters, you can find them prepared several different ways at Canterbury’s Oyster Bar and Grill (46 Audrey Avenue; 516-922-3614).

The Inn at Fox Hollow (7755 Jericho Turnpike, Woodbury; 800-291-8090; is an all-suite hotel with off-season rates from $219 to $339.

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