Consider the Weather and the Commute
Will you be driving to St. James? Flying? Will your belongings be shipped to you or are you schlepping your belongings? These are important questions to ask yourself before your big move because commuting around Long Island ain't no picnic. During the weekday, traffic is heavy on I-495 and the traffic on St. James' Route 25A can get fierce. If you're driving or flying, weekends might be your easiest option. Do keep in mind the weather. This isn't the polar vortex but New York winters still have a sharp bite. With super storms becoming more common, pack and plan accordingly. While avoiding a winter move might seem like a safe bet, remember that summer attracts a variety of tourists, including vacationing Hamptonites. Word around the New York State Historic Corridor road is that locals know the best side roads to avoid this summer traffic. But you have to be a local for sure before they'll tell you the tale.
Take Your Time, But Not Too Much Time
While the housing market of St. James isn't as frantic as it was in the early days of the new millennium, prospective renters still need to act quickly. If you find rental housing that you like or even love, don't take too much time ruminating on the pros and cons before your make an offer. Once you've done your initial apartment search online, research several specific properties of interest before you plan a face-to-face visit. This way you can feel confident about making an offer, should the moment strike.
Be Flexible About Your Rental Housing Must-Haves
St. James puts a premium on historic charm. Chances are if you're attracted to living in St. James, you share a similar value. In general, St. James has not been quick to expand, fearing the loss of small town charm it might sacrifice in the process. Residential development has come in fits and starts. Expect to find historic colonials along the same block as newer cottages, capes and even ranch style houses. Finding a d uplex to rent might be easier than trying to find a one- or two-bedroom apartment for rent in St. James. Anticipate elegant amenities, like lovingly restored original fixtures, clawfoot tubs and Victorian window dressings. Remember, this is a town where there is no greater compliment than calling something "historically accurate."
While St. James is technically a neighborhood of Smithtown, its expansion over the years has created some significant delineations within the town.
The Downtown Village: Running along to Route 25A, you'll find some of St. James' most treasured historical sites in its downtown village. Perhaps the most important of these is the St. James General Store. Built in 1857 by Ebenezer Smith, the St. James General Store has been a town fixture ever since. Doubling as a post office and general store, the building was also home to the hamlet's first telephone in the late 19th century. While there was some concern regarding the fate of the general store once its rural customers begin to decline, the store has remained opened and preserved to represent the historical period 1880-1910. Locals are extremely proud of the St. James General Store. So if you don't take a fancy to it as a recent transplant, it's best to keep that to yourself.
Central St. James: Just west of the hamlet's center you'll find the only apartment building in St. James. Stonehenge Apartments offer studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments for rent, but beware of the competition. These units can go fast!
Consider the Train
St. James offers a variety of transit options, making your commute into mainland New York state and / or New York City as easy as possible. Commuters can take a 90 minute train into Manhattan or pick-up the faster express train option by driving and parking at Ronkonkoma station. For getting around St. James from spring until fall, a bike does the trick just fine. In the winter, you'll probably prefer a car. And if not, you'll want to invest in some heavy duty snow pants.
St. James is located within 30 miles of some of the best wineries in New York. With over 40 wineries located along the North Fork, taking a wine tour isn't just for tourists. Its a common weekend event for locals too.
St. James may be known as "the quaint little hamlet of Long Island's North Shore." But don't be fooled. It offers fine dining the likes of which ought to make Montauk sit up and take notice. The Trattoria, a local favorite, offers some of the finest locally sourced Italian food on Long Island. A bit idiosyncratic, it doesn't take credit cards and last we checked doesn't have a liquor license. But the food is unbelievably good and so reasonably priced that you won't even remember that you had to pay an ATM fee (or find your checkbook) to eat it. If Asian fusion is more your scene, make sure to check out Maru.
Watch Out for the Big Duck
Locals enjoy taking day trips to the nearby beaches of Montauk, kayaking the hot spots along the Carmans River and picnicking in Flanders. And if you're passing through Flanders, make sure to stop at Big Duck Park to see, you guessed it, The Big Duck. Sure, it's a little corny. But now that you're a Suffolk local, you're expected to experience the revered, the historic and the ridiculous. With The Big Duck, you've hit all three!