LATEST PAPER
54° Good Evening
54° Good Evening
Things to Do

What to do when exploring City Island in the Bronx

New York City has its own version of a small New England village in the Bronx.

City Island, the 1.5-mile-long island that juts out into the Long Island Sound, is a hidden gem that is a perfect summer day trip destination. It's easily walked from point to point and contains a number of small businesses and quaint homes that make you feel like you're not in New York City anymore.

Native City Islanders refer to themselves as “clam diggers,” while non-natives are affectionately called “mussel suckers.” The island was home primarily to oyster harvesters and shipbuilders in the 1800s, and in 1896 residents voted to leave Westchester County and join New York City. During World Wars I and II, the island was a hub for the fabrication of minesweepers and tugboats. The ship-making legacy would eventually lead to the construction of seven America’s Cup-winning yachts, according to cityisland.com.

We spent the day wandering City Island to bring you some can’t-miss spots for your first (or next) visit.

Grab brunch at City Island Diner

Head to 304 City Island Ave. for a
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Head to 304 City Island Ave. for a delightful breakfast or brunch at this cozy, no-frills diner with healthy portions and a welcoming staff. From corned beef hash and omelets to pancakes and much, much more, you can't go wrong when you order. The diner has been around since the 1930s, so they know what they're doing.

If you're looking for a coffee shop with good cup of joe and a pastry, head to Clipper Coffee at 274 City Island Ave., which sells Counter Culture coffee between $2 and $4.50 a cup and a selection of seasonal pastries like apple/blueberry and cheese danish, scones and savory breakfast items. While you're there, check out its art gallery featuring the work of local artists such as Melanie Gonzalez and Simon Cooper. If you come back in the evening, you might catch a poetry reading.

Check out the New England-like architecture

Don't bury your head in your phone screen
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Don't bury your head in your phone screen -- the houses on City Island are some of the most quaint and beautiful you'll see within city limits. Head to the Schofield Street House (65 Schofield St.), which dates back to the 1860s and is the oldest standing house on City Island. Make sure to check out other landmarks like the Samuel H. and Mary T. Booth House (30 Center St.), and the Stafford House (95 Pell Pl.).

Find your sea legs at City Island Nautical Museum

Take a tour at the City Island Nautical Museum,
Photo Credit: Colter Hettich

Take a tour at the City Island Nautical Museum, which features much of what you would expect in the way of artifacts and seaworthy models of all types of vessels. The museum also offers guided walking tours, which highlight 25 locations important to City Island's history -- many off the beaten path. It's only open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m., but they might pencil you in on an off day if you call ahead. (190 Fordham St.)

Get out on the water

If you're feeling inspired, go for a sail.
Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

If you're feeling inspired, go for a sail. Jack's Bait Tackle (551 City Island Ave.) rents four-seat fiberglass boats ($69.99/weekdays, $109.99/weekends and holidays) for fishing or just touring the waters. New York Sailing Center (231 Kirby St.) offers a range of sailing and boating classes (starting at $395, and introductory clinics start at $175), and Island Current (551 City Island Ave.) offers partyboat chartered fishing (starting at $850 for up to 12 people).

Clam it up at Johnny's Reef

You won't find anything but local action at
Photo Credit: Colter Hettich

You won't find anything but local action at Johnny's Reef (other than yourself, of course). This cash-only joint is the place to get that fresh seafood you came to City Island for. While we recommend grabbing a plate of six massive, fresh, raw clams for $6, feel free to go the fried route if that's more your style. All fried items should be ordered with a basket of fries, and tack on a cold Budweiser for just $3. If the weather's nice, Johnny's outdoor patio features dozens of picnic tables with great views of Kings Point across the water. (2 City Island Ave.)

For a more formal experience, head to The Original Crab Shanty (361 City Island Ave.), another decades-old restaurant, with oversize booths and oceanic décor that specializes in abundant, family-style feasts for cheap. Think multiple varieties of seafood (whole lobsters, jumbo shrimp), plus starters and sides for $80 to feed at least four.

Antique at Early Ruth

Antiques lovers, you're welcome. Early Ruth at 312
Photo Credit: Colter Hettich

Antiques lovers, you're welcome. Early Ruth at 312 City Island Ave. is an eccentric dreamscape of every size, shape and color knickknack you can imagine. Even if you're not in the market for a faded psychedelic painting by an unknown artist, at least stop by to chat with the management. They'll be more than happy to share stories of the island, and might have additional tips for touring the area.

Get nostalgic at 239 Play

Whether you enjoy the nostalgia of perusing rusty
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Whether you enjoy the nostalgia of perusing rusty collectibles or you're looking for that hidden gem buried under a pile of stuff, 239 Play (239 City Island Ave.) is worth your while. Record collectors: Make sure to venture all the way to the back -- the small stack up front is only the beginning. For Star Wars fans, this shop may be your only hope to find that old toy or lunchbox you've been looking for. Baseball fans will have plenty to browse as well, from old matchboxes and unopened card packs to framed photographs.

Cool off at Lickety Split Ice Cream

This shack-in-the-shade at 295 City Island Ave. would
Photo Credit: Colter Hettich

This shack-in-the-shade at 295 City Island Ave. would fit right in almost anywhere in middle America. Complete with a white picket fence and covered "patio," it features more than a dozen flavor choices. While we wouldn't dare tell die-hard ice cream fans what to order, a single strawberry scoop is great for satisfying your sweet tooth without needing a rest to digest afterward.

Party with the seagulls of Belden Point

Once you've made it to the southernmost end of
Photo Credit: Colter Hettich

Once you've made it to the southernmost end of City Island Avenue, you'll be rewarded with this lovely lookout point. From here, just past Hart Island, you'll see the beaches of Sands Point to the east, Fort Totten Park due south (just barely visible), and likely dozens of sailboats to the west in Eastchester Bay. This spot is also the gulls' favorite hangout, so keep an eye out for falling you-know-what.

Dinner and drink(s) at Sammy's

Wrap up the day with a proper seafood
Photo Credit: Colter Hettich

Wrap up the day with a proper seafood smorgasbord. The atmosphere at Sammy's Fish Box (41 City Island Ave.), which has been serving saltwater delights since 1966, is fit for fishermen and landlubbers alike. The joint is also open until 3 a.m., so take your time. Start off with a signature colada -- cognac, pineapple juice and cream of coconut -- or a City Island Iced Tea -- basically a Long Island tweaked for geography. For dinner, go big by splitting the broiled seafood combo, complete with shrimp, scallops, fillet of fish, baked clams, baked mussels and half a lobster tail.

Or try City Island Lobster House

If you're hankering for some lobster, we'd suggest
Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

If you're hankering for some lobster, we'd suggest heading to City Island Lobster House left of the bridge at 691 Bridge St. The seafood restaurant offers many fish dishes and a mean Lobster House Crab and Lobster Feast. The laid-back atmosphere and outdoor seating is a nice way to take advantage of the remaining time on the island.

Cap the night at Starving Artist Cafe

What better way to end your day than
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

What better way to end your day than with some live jazz and a glass of wine? Guitarist and jewelry designer Elliot Glick opened the Starving Artist Cafe at 249 City Island Ave. in 1997 as a place for himself and other local artists to sell their work, according to its website. In 2004, he relocated to a bigger space that could accommodate musical acts as well. Fridays through Sundays, expect to hear live performances ranging from jazz or glam rock to open-mic nights and poetry readings.

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Things to Do Photos & Videos