Only one bridge connects City Island to the mainland Bronx, and that’s the way residents like it. This small neighborhood is self-sufficient and suffused with seaside charm. The locals pride themselves on the relaxed vibe emanating from this perpetually summery place, but of course, visitors will find plenty of things to do in City Island — including enjoying its myriad seafood restaurants, beach clubs and walkable streets.
1. City Island Is at the Extreme End of the Sound
The Long Island Sound, that is. City Island is located in the extreme western end of Long Island Sound. If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic on the Throgs Neck Bridge and looked out your window longingly at the water, that tiny island out there is City Island.
2. It’s Small — Really, Really Small
Not only is City Island itty bitty on a map (measuring just half a mile wide and about 1.5 miles long) but it’s got a teeny-tiny number of residents. At 4,518, the population of City Island accounts for less than .05 percent of the total population of New York City and just .31 percent of the population of the Bronx.
3. But It’s Big on Boats
For a postage stamp-size island with a minuscule population, City Island has a strong boat culture. City Island has produced seven America’s Cup-winning yachts and served as a major producer of sea vessels for the Navy during the First and Second World Wars. To this day, City Island boasts three yacht clubs.
4. Don’t Let All the Yacht Clubs Fool You
Although City Island lays claim to three yacht clubs, City Island is definitely still in the Bronx. These yacht clubs maintain a strong NYC flavor; you won’t find too many of those rarified Nantucket types here. Places like the Harlem Yacht Club cater to the local community while appealing to real salts of the sea.
5. Jack’s Bait & Tackle Is a Local Landmark
It might not be anything fancy, but Jack’s Bait & Tackle is a local landmark — a place where residents can stock up on fishing and boating supplies and day-trippers can rent boats. Catering to the local fishing community since the 1940s, Jack’s sells bait wholesale online in addition to running the City Island storefront.
6. A Waterfront View Is Still Expensive, Even in the Bronx
The median resale value of homes in City Island is $497,500. That may sound decent compared to the $1,173,119 in median resale value Manhattan commands, but it’s substantially higher than the Bronx’s borough-wide median resale price of $395,000. Which goes to show that the value of a waterfront view is high no matter where you go.
7. And There’s Not a Whole Lot of Changeover
The small but stalwart band of City Island residents tend to be lifers, hanging on to their properties for decades or passing them down from one generation to the next. Last quarter, there were only 12 homes listed for sale on the entire island, marking a 25 percent drop in new inventory from the prior year. Those who do buy into the island tend to stay, which gives the place an intimate, small-town vibe. Neighbors know your name, your kid’s name, your sister’s name and your dog’s name.
8. The Local Charm, However, Is Priceless
Some call may call it kitschy, some may call it charming, but just about everything on City Island Avenue is authentic. As the one and only commercial avenue on the island, City Island Avenue covers all your bases — that is, if your bases include a disproportionate number of seafood restaurants, pubs, ice cream parlors and rummage shops.
9. 239 Play Has Your Non-Essential Needs Covered
Looking for a vintage Mr. Potato Head, or hoping to bolster your naked Barbie collection? The store 239 Play is a treasure trove for junkophiles and hoarders of knick-knacks, old toys and little odds and ends.
10. And City Island Diner Will Take Care of the Essential Needs
That is, coffee and donuts. The City Island Diner is where locals go for their coffee and donut fix. It is also where Jerry Seinfeld and Ricky Gervais go for coffee.
11. If You’re Feeling Fancy, Make a Reservation at Artie’s
Of all the restaurants on City Island, Artie’s is known for whipping local seafood into delicious Italian-style dishes and serving it in a white-tablecloth setting. Locals outnumber visitors in the dining room, and couples in the know order the Zuppa Di Pesce, which is basically all the seafood that can fit onto a platter for two, smothered in a sauce of your choice.
12. For Fried Fish on a Paper Plate, Head to Johnny’s Reef Restaurant
Many restaurants serve great seafood, but few have quite as spectacular a view as Johnny’s Reef. This self-service establishment may be no-frills, but its location on the southeastern tip of the island means that diners can enjoy one of the most exquisite views on the island as they feast on top-notch seafood. Be warned: The deck gets packed on the weekends, so arrive early if you want to eat outside.
13. You’re Either a Clam Digger or a Mussel Sucker
In local parlance, clam diggers are island natives, while mussel suckers are day-trippers.
14. The Artisanal Ice Cream Scene Hasn’t Hit City Island Yet
And there’s no shame in that. Lickety Split is a classic ice cream spot operated out of a gingerbread cottage on City Island Avenue. Don’t expect to find any tahini-infused ice cream concoctions or imported ingredients here. It’s just traditional Breyer’s, served up in waffle cones.
15. Hawkins Park Is the Best Place on City Island to Sit with a Cone
Hawkins Park is across the street from Lickety Split and is the best place on City Island to sit and enjoy your cone before hopping on the bus and heading back to the mainland.
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