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The best tiny towns of Suffolk County

The Manhanset Hotel in Dering Harbor on Shelter Island
The Manhanset Hotel in Dering Harbor on Shelter Island

Even familiarity with Long Island provides a few head scratches – a look of gee-I-didn’t-know-that. Let’s work our way down from island to town to village in Suffolk County.

Long Island is comprised of four separate counties: Brooklyn and Queens, which are part of New York City, Nassau and Suffolk. Nassau and Suffolk counties are divided further into Towns. Nassau has three towns and Suffolk has ten. Within each town there may be incorporated villages. Suffolk, the largest of the four counties, has only 32 incorporated villages out of its 297 authorized geographic locations.

What do you use to measure a town’s size? Is it by its area? Or is it by its population?

Located on Fire Island are New York State’s two tiniest towns. Ocean Beach is only .14 square miles in size, but has a registered permanent population of 138. Located due west is West Hampton Dunes, much larger at .34 square miles, yet it has a permanent population of only 11. Both towns’ populations swell in the warmer weather with summer residents and vacationers.

But, there is another very tiny town on Long Island that is much less well known and much further off the beaten track: Dering Harbor. Occupying .24 square miles on the north shore of Shelter Island, less than 1% of the area, Dering Harbor has a permanent population of 13, but including the non-resident home owners the population is five times that – 64!

In 1874 the Manhanset House, a sprawling 300 room resort, opened at Dering Harbor. Sadly, it was destroyed by fire in 1910. The wealthy cottage owners who lived in the area surrounding the hotel bought the land for $85,000 and in 1916 they incorporated into a village. Considering its area, population and somewhat remote location, Dering Harbor is surely the best little tiny town in Suffolk County or even New York State.


  • gina bechtold 5 years ago

    GReat info! I look forward to more articles from this writer!

  • Peggy White 5 years ago

    I have been to this delightful, yet tiny town. I enjoyed reading this authors detailed info!

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