The Bayard Cutting Arboretum is a state park hidden between Heckscher State Park and the Connetquot River. Located in the Village of Great River close to Patchogue and right off Sunrise Highway, Bayard is a great place to visit, even when the temperatures dip and the walking trails are covered in snow. The Arboretum is a year-round destination for arts, culture and horticulture. Voted the best public garden on Long Island, it is a favored location for wedding photography or a casual stroll and a cup of tea.
Early spring is an especially nice time to see the manor house. Previously owned by the Bayard Cutting family, William Bayard Cutting’s widow donated the land and buildings in the 1930s. William Bayard Cutting was from a wealthy railroad family and made his fortune in numerous industrial enterprises, including real estate development and beet sugar refining. He bought his expansive estate from noted tobacco manufacturer and thoroughbred racehorse owner George L. Lorillard in the late 1880s, and built the manor house, which then became known as “Westbrook.” The historic mansion is still filled with wood carvings, stained glass and original furnishings, which are on display year-round.
Executive Director and botanist Nelson Sterner operates the Arboretum. According to Sterner, the Arboretum is a piece of living history, with trees onsite over a century in age, some of which are the county’s most rare. He named the Sargent’s Weeping Hemlock as an outstanding specimen, standing 35 feet wide and approximately 20 feet tall. He also favors the weeping beech tree right outside the café. It’s the only living example in the world of its size. You can walk beneath it, on a boardwalk.
From November through April, there is no charge to park vehicles on the grounds (the fee in high season is $8). Attractions include a tea parlor and café where you can enjoy a light meal. Or take Victorian high tea with a reservation at the Hidden Oak Café, on the main floor of the manor house. High tea is served on an eclectic mix of china settings with a three-tiered tray of traditional finger sandwiches, cakes and cookies. Guided tours of the upper level of the manor house are offered for $10 per person.
Fresh from the chicken coops; organic eggs are sold from the arboretum’s farm for $5 a dozen. The farm was started in 2012 and runs educational programs for adults and children. In the summer months, a CSA (community supported agriculture) operates to provide Long Island families with locally harvested vegetables.
Free concerts are held on Sundays in March at 2 p.m., sponsored by the Islip Arts Council. Musicians include violin and piano soloists, as well as flute and guitar ensembles. Concerts are held in the Carriage House.
Stop by for a day of music, food and nature. Enjoy the grounds and the collection of conifers, oaks, dwarf evergreens, as well as natural wildlife. Free outdoor walking tours of the grounds are available starting at 11 a.m.
The Bayard Cutting Arboretum is located at 440 Montauk Highway in Great River. bayardcuttingarboretum.com