Between Long Island's North and South forks, this 11½-square-mile island offers at least a partial escape from the summer traffic-and-crowd snarls of the Hamptons. Quiet country lanes wind across the island's rolling land, nearly a third of which has been set aside as a nature preserve that's a bird-watcher's delight.
Taking advantage of its hilltop elevation, Shelter Island Heights is the island's center of activity. Its Queen Anne, Victorian, and Colonial Revival houses, stores, and inns show off embellished porches, scalloped shingles, and carved friezes. This relaxed place becomes even mellower in the off-season, when many restaurants and other businesses reduce their hours or close for extended periods. If you're planning an off-season visit, call ahead to see what's open.