The East End’s Iconic Roadside Attractions

The Big Duck in Flanders. Photo credit: Courtesy FOBD
The Big Duck in Flanders. Photo credit: Courtesy FOBD

Next time you’re traveling down the whatever-has-the-least-amount-of-traffic road to the East End, extract yourself from the thought of sunbathing and take notice of Long Island’s quirky and iconic roadside landmarks.

Although Long Island is famous for its majestic beach scenery and active nightlife, nothing makes a better memory then to fully engage in a “here’s a weird thing we can take a picture with” adventure.

Deep in Riverhead lives a domesticated, extremely photogenic, 30-foot-tall duck that has caught the attention of travelers for almost decades. The building was originally built in 1931 by Riverhead duck

farmer Martin Maurer on West Main Street in Riverhead to help promote his duckfarming business. The Big Duck was established to gain customers’ attention. Today it still garners a lot of attention.

Maurer’s innovation to create a remarkable building shaped as a broad-billed creature, grabbed the attention of hundreds who saw the land animal and had to stop and ask “What is that thing?”

Although the duck shop closed in 1984, the Big Duck’s life was saved thanks to the non-profit organization Friends Of The Duck and Long Island’s Heritage who campaigned to save it.

The Duck was generously donated to Suffolk County in 1987 and a year later they moved the quack-tastic building to Route 24 near the entrance of SearsBellow County Park.

In October of 2007, the Duck was returned to its original Flanders nesting area and is now used as a tourist information center and gift shop, selling duck souvenirs to the endless flock of visitors.

Riverhead is proud of this historical building which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. It commonly gets recognition as one of the wackiest roadside attraction destinations.

Nothing puts a smile on the faces of kids and exhausted travelers more than a whimsical out-of-the-water feathered friend. Have drivers fatigue and can’t take the traffic any longer? Stop by The Big Duck which offers a large picnic area.

If ducks aren’t your thing, catch a glimpse of the unusual, but beautiful, 70-foot steel sculpture, titled “Stargazer” by Linda Scott. This iconic landmark was originally designed as an archway for the office of an Animal Rescue Fund in East Hampton. It is located alongside of CR 111 which connects central Long Island with the Hamptons. The Stargazer is a monument of a local deer eating a tree branch while looking towards the sky. Many consider it the “gateway” into the Hamptons.

According to a recent statement on Linda Scott’s website, “The Stargazer is the connection of the above to the below, we are conscious relationship to the Universe, we are responsible for our planet and its future.”

If your summer photo album is in desperate need of a roadside image that slightly resembles a freaky-tiki man dressed as a clown, visit the tip of Long Island’s tail—Montauk. “The Ronjo” was a motel in Montauk located on 55 South Elmwood Avenue. It has since been made over into a resort.

Montaukers are pleased that the Hawaiian statue that has made The Ronjo famous has been left intact. Residents love this landmark and although it doesn’t have the friendliest face, vacationers have often mentioned that the legendary statue is one of the best things to see in Montauk.

Iconic landmarks are one of the most important aspects of a vacation. Not only do they provide us with directional assistance, (“You’ll see an ugly tiki man right outside, you can’t miss it”) but they allow us to go outside the realm of a traditional vacation. They create a unique experience, a legendary story, and a must-see attraction.

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