At the eastern tip of the Bronx sits a quaint seaside island with a laid-back nautical vibe and coastal New England charm. This tiny spit of land, 1.5 miles long and a half-mile wide, retains much of its character from its mid-1900 days as a shipbuilding hub and remains a center for recreational boating. It’s crammed full of colorful residential architecture, and its marinas, yacht clubs and shorelines afford picturesque views of the Long Island Sound, Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges and, in the distance, the New York City skyline. Come to watch the swooping seagulls, take in the salty air and sample fresh seafood—you’ll feel like you’ve escaped the City.
How to Get There
The island is served by two buses, the local Bx29 and BxM8 express (very limited service) from Manhattan. There are stops along City Island Avenue, which runs the length of the island. You can also take the #6 train to the end of the line at Pelham Bay Park (check elevator status for wheelchair access prior to traveling) and transfer to the Bx29.
What to See
Start your visit at the north end of the island, where you can admire the Samuel Pell House, a Victorian-style landmark built around 1876 for a wealthy oysterman. The elegant Second Empire structure retains much of its original detail, with slate shingles, floor-to-ceiling windows and ornamental woodwork.
Then head down the Sound side of the island along King Avenue, lined with clapboard cottages decorated with summer florals, to see Pelham Cemetery. Graves at the sloping green space date back to the Civil War, with many of the tombstones reflecting the island’s maritime associations, marked by nautical ranks and decorations of ships, sailboats, tools of the sea and sea animals. You can catch views across the water to Hart Island, famous as the site of NYC’s largest potter’s field.
Follow Tier Street three blocks to west end of the island for a bit of pop culture. The summer house featured in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums is at no. 21; look beyond its gated private beach area for sweeping views of the City and bridges. Scenes from A Bronx Tale, Awakenings and Long Day’s Journey into Night were also shot on the island.
Where to Eat
Ready to dine as soon as you arrive? Just across the bridge from Pelham Bay Park, try Sea Shore Restaurant and Marina, especially popular at sunset thanks to its marina views. The menu ranges from seafood platters and family-style paella to classic Italian dishes. Expect a generous complimentary bread basket along with marinated vegetables to start your meal. The outdoor patio dining and restroom are wheelchair accessible.
For a greater emphasis on grilled meats, try Artie’s Steak & Seafood Restaurant, in the middle of the island. It has something of a Mediterranean vibe and serves up a variety of steak cuts and oversize burgers. There’s outdoor patio dining but no accessible restroom.
The Black Whale offers outdoor dining in its whimsically decorated and shaded backyard space. It’s known for its eclectic menu—Cuban sandwiches, meatloaf, tequila lime shrimp—and excellent desserts. No accessible restroom is available.
Near the southern tip of the enclave you’ll find Lobster Box, serving some of the freshest seafood around. The restaurant, housed in a building said to be one of the oldest on the island, has been around since the 1940s and has been frequented by stars such as Frank Sinatra and Andy Garcia. As its name suggests, lobster is the way to go. Outdoor dining is available under a tent, and a wheelchair-accessible restroom is available through a ramped entrance at the back of the restaurant.
For a more fast-casual dining experience, try Tony’s Pier, right by the water. This popular spot has a no-frills seafood menu and views of the Long Island Sound. The outdoor patio area is wheelchair accessible, as is the restroom.
Make a point to visit Lickety Split Ice Cream Parlor before your return to the mainland. This charming cottage—white picket fence and all—dishes up ice cream in waffle cones, plus shakes, sundaes and soft serve. Birthday Bash and Red Velvet are among the popular flavors. Enjoy your sweet treat in the outdoor area or step over to nearby Hawkins Park. There’s no accessible restroom.
Where to Shop
To bring back a memento from your island visit, check out Kaleidoscope Gallery, which has distinctive arts and crafts for children and plenty else for adults: handmade jewelry, outdoor decor, unique greeting cards and, courtesy of local artists, paintings and ceramics. You’ll find a wheelchair-accessible entrance and pathway inside the store.
If you can manage the four-inch step up, visit J.W. Foley Rarities & Obscurities, less than a block away. The assortment of curiosities includes taxidermy, skulls, scientific instruments, architectural salvage and various anitiquities—interesting to peruse even if you’re not looking to buy.
General Accessibility and Covid-19 Precautions
• Some of the roads are uneven in places.
• Some of the side streets lack sidewalk space; however, they tend to have minimal traffic so walking on the street is OK as long as you remain vigilant.
• Wear a mask at all times, indoors and outdoors, except when eating or drinking.