A faux lighthouse and massive anchor greet guests outside of Sea Shore Restaurant & Marina, a City Island staple. Known for its king crab legs and killer sunsets, the restaurant has been serving seafood fans since 1920. Sea Shore Restaurant & Marina, 591 City Island Ave between Beach and Cross Sts, Bronx (718-885-0300, seashorerestaurant.com)
Day trippers, take note: You can rent boats, from $70, at Jack’s Bait & Tackle, which has operated on the island since 1945. Jack’s Bait & Tackle, 551 City Island Ave at Cross St, Bronx (718-885-2042, jacksbaitandtackle.com)
The City Island Diner exterior is outfitted with a maroon awning that reads clamdiggers cove, a moniker that describes those born and raised on the island. But mussel-suckers (nonnatives) and clam-diggers alike chow down on comfort food—French toast, omelettes and the like—at this neighborhood joint. City Island Diner, 304 City Island Ave at Fordham St, Bronx (718-885-0362)
The South Minneford Yacht Club stands on the site of the former Minneford Shipyard. South Minneford Yacht Club, 148 City Island Ave at Earley St, Bronx (718-885-3113, southminneford.com)
The Minneford Shipyard was founded in 1926 and churned out yachts, America’s Cup boats and minesweepers until it closed in 1980. It has operated as a marina since 1985. South Minneford Yacht Club, 148 City Island Ave at Earley St, Bronx (718-885-3113, southminneford.com)
Boats docked at the South Minneford Yacht Club, which now operates as a private cooperative marina. South Minneford Yacht Club, 148 City Island Ave at Earley St, Bronx (718-885-3113, southminneford.com)
Jo-Jo Mandarino, owner of City Island Lobster House, started his career 38 years ago as a bus boy at Sammy’s Fish Box. “You’d be surprised how many people don’t know about City Island,” he says. Luckily for him, the oversized lobster next to the restaurant’s sign is difficult to miss. City Island Lobster House, 691 Bridge St at Minnieford Ave, Bronx (718-885-1459, cilobsterhouse.com)
Even if your budget doesn’t allow for the purchase of a yacht, you can still marvel at the fishing crafts and sailboats at Barron’s Marine. You don’t have to be a member to wander through and gawk at the boats on a Saturday afternoon, while seafarers take a break under the canopy. Barron’s Marine, 350 Fordham Place at Fordham St, Bronx (718-885-9802, barronsmarine.com)
The Touring Kayak Club has been operating from its post since 1929 and hosts kayak races, open to both members and guests, throughout the year. Touring Kayak Club New York, 205 Beach Street at King Ave, Brnx (718-885-3193, touringkayakclub.org)
Pelham Cemetery is the only waterfront graveyard within the five boroughs. It overlooks the 101-acre Hart Island in Long Island Sound, which operates as a potter’s field, with many unclaimed or unidentified bodies buried there each year. Pelham Cemetery, 340 King Ave at Tier St, Bronx
Despite the fact that it’s surrounded by water, public beachfront is hard to come by on City Island. For unlikely pristine water views, comb through the Pelham Cemetery’s nautical-themed tombstones and peer out at the Sound through overgrown shrubs. Pelham Cemetery, 340 King Ave at Tier St, Bronx
If you’re lucky, you’ll catch Barbara Burn Dolensek, the vice president of the City Island Historical Society, holding court at the museum. She can command a room of tourists and locals, rattling off the story behind every boat, picture, and book within the building’s walls. City Island Nautical Museum, 190 Fordham St at King Ave, Bronx (718-885-0008, cityislandmuseum.org)
Model boats are on display at Trader John’s. Trader John’s, 239 City Island Ave at Schofield St, Bronx (no phone)
Tattered buoys and life vests are displayed outside of Trader John’s. Make your way through the jam-packed aisles, filled with model sailboats, fishing reels and rustic nautical prints; you might find a memento that piques your interest. Trader John’s, 239 City Island Ave at Schofield St, Bronx (no phone)
After entering City Island’s sole park, Ambrosini Field, walk past the playground and behind the baseball field, where you’ll find a quiet beach with two benches.
A view of boats from the shore at Ambrosini Field (Ambrosini Field, City Island Ave between Centre and Winter Sts; nycgovparks.org)
The outdoor seating area of Johnny’s is filled with blue metal picnic tables that look out over Long Island Sound. Service is quick and drinks are strong, but make sure you’re ready to order when you get in line. Johnny’s Famous Reef Restaurant, 2 City Island Ave at Belden St, Bronx (718-885-2086, johnnysreefrestaurant.com)
Even though the busy City Island Avenue is filled with restaurants and shops, there are plenty of secluded retreats in the neighborhood that line the waterfront—like this seaside home with a white picket fence, overlooking Eastchester Bay.
The North Wind Undersea Institute, founded in the 1970s, provided a destination for locals and island visitors to learn about marine life. Though it’s now closed, visitors can still check out the private building that housed it from the sidewalk. 610 City Island Ave between Beach and Cross Sts, Bronx
This Victorian mansion, now a private estate, once served as a museum and as a sea captain’s playground. The property is situated across from the welcome to city island sign. 610 City Island Ave between Beach and Cross Sts, Bronx
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A 1.5-mile-long enclave in the Bronx, City Island feels about as far away from New York City as you can get without leaving the five boroughs. The area has roughly 4,100 permanent residents, although plenty of day-trippers visit during the summer. Because of its proximity to Long Island Sound, the isle played an important role in shipbuilding during the 19th and 20th centuries. It serviced boats traveling to and from the city, and its factories were instrumental in assembling minesweepers for both World Wars.
That changed in the 1980s, when the already shaky boat-construction industry all but evaporated. “The last major boat—an America’s Cup winner named Freedom—was built in 1980,” says Barbara Burn Dolensek, the vice president of the City Island Historical Society. A former sailmaker’s loft was converted to apartments, while the site of a shipping yard became the Boatyard, a condo building. Despite these changes, the enclave retains much of its maritime roots. Dolensek devotes her time to preserving the area’s history at the City Island Nautical Museum(190 Fordham St at King Ave; 718-885-0008, cityislandmuseum.org), which displays artifacts and documents that detail the neighborhood’s founding.
Shopkeepers uphold the area’s aquatic past in their own ways. John Persteins, who runs Trader John’s (239 City Island Ave at Schofield St, no phone), fills his shop with model sailboats, nautical rope and a display case of fishing reels. Jack’s Bait & Tackle (551 City Island Ave at Cross St, 718-885-2042), open since 1945, also showcases lures and fishing equipment. But the store’s most prized possessions are two striped bass—weighing in at 58 and 62 pounds—caught in the Long Island Sound and now mounted on the wall.
Many longtime residents have no intention of abandoning their island in the city. “Leave? Are you kidding me?” says Dolensek. Other denizens seem to echo her appreciation for the balance between city life and more far-flung suburbs that the isle affords. “[And] you don’t need a ferry to get here!”
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