My husband and I were looking for a quick weekend getaway and I tend to gravitate toward seaside destinations. The sounds of the crashing waves, sea and salt air, and long walks on the beach always leave me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
Wanting to avoid all the Hamptons’ hoopla in favor of a more low-key, affordable experience, we chose Montauk. Known locally as “The End” because of its position at the very tip of Long Island, Montauk boasts gorgeous beaches, an active harbor on the lake, six state parks with miles of unspoiled hiking trails, and the promise of fresh, local seafood.
Where to Stay
Rather than stay right in the village of Montauk, we chose oceanfront privacy just a short drive from town at Panoramic View. Our studio had a king-sized bed, a large bay window (which let in plenty of sunshine), a kitchenette with refrigerator, private balcony with lounge chairs, lovely ocean views, and wifi. The bright white furnishings and bedding gave it an airy, cottage-chic vibe.
Our short walk to the resort’s sandy beach was steep, but the paths were surrounded by lush vegetation and hydrangeas, wild roses and honeysuckle, all in bloom. I found myself just stopping to take in the sweet smells when the breeze kicked up. I appreciated little touches like the towel service, coolers full of cold water, and staff who set up lounge chairs and umbrellas. It was the ideal spot to read, relax, stare at the ocean, and take long walks together.
Exploring Montauk’s Natural Beauty
Perhaps one of the most famous landmarks is the Montauk Lighthouse, the oldest in New York State, located at Montauk Point State Park. You can visit the museum, gift shop, and even climb to the top for incredible 360-degree views. A quick stop at nearby Camp Hero (included in your Montauk Point parking pass) and a short stroll along the top of the bluffs, called “hoodoos,” gives a different perspective of the lighthouse at the tip of the rocky coast.
A short drive past town, we chose Shadmoore State Park for a long, easy hike. We walked all the way to Ditch Plains along the dirt trails on top of the bluffs, which offered breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and dramatic scenery, like the outline of the massive cliffs along the coastline. The terrain is mostly flat, with shadbush and grass, so bring a hat, sunscreen, and water, as you won’t find a shade tree to save your life. History buffs will enjoy visiting the World War II observation bunkers.
It’s easy to find great vantage points to watch incredible sunrises and sunsets. We made our way to the Montauket Hotel Bar, a local watering hole that attracts a mixed crowd. Show up about a half hour before dusk, order a cocktail at the outdoor window, grab your slice of picnic table, and enjoy an unforgettable sunset over Lake Montauk.
Nestled behind the sand dunes behind the I.G.A is Montauk’s public beach, Kirk Park. This wide, pristine, sandy beach has lifeguards, restrooms, and ample free parking, which is a rarity. Its close proximity to town makes it a nice spot for a picnic lunch. We picked up sandwiches, cold salads, and some seriously good fried chicken at Herb’s Market, which we ate on our blanket with the sound of crashing waves in the background.
About two miles east of town is Ditch Plains Beach, where all the cool kids hang out. Even with the damage from Hurricane Sandy, surfers still come from all over Long Island for the chance to ride the waves. We had fun just sitting on the dunes watching, but if you’d like to get in on the action, Air and Speed Surf offers board rentals and lessons. And if you work up an appetite, grab a bite at the Ditch Witch, a permanent food truck that’s been feeding the surfing community for nearly 20 years.
Dining on Succulent Seafood
As foodies, we were really looking forward to enjoying the freshest seafood Montauk had to offer. The best can be found here:
Clam Bar at Napeague: Out of the three popular roadside seafood shacks on Route 27 between Amagansett and Montauk, we preferred the food and atmosphere here. No ocean views, but you’ll be treated to golden oldies tunes and some of the freshest seafood in the area, including raw oysters and clams on the half-shell, steamers, swordfish, and tuna. The lobster used for both rolls and dinners is delivered right off the boat by a local fisherman every afternoon. Outdoor-only seating is either at umbrella-covered tables or at the bar, so in bouts of heavy rain they close early.
Red Hook Lobster Pound: This Montauk newcomer has been serving tasty lobster rolls at both their original Brooklyn location and New York City food truck for a few years. I was really impressed with the large chunks of sweet Maine lobster in my roll, which was topped with a dash of bay seasoning, scallions, and crunchy iceberg lettuce. Delicious!
Duryea’s Lobster Deck: Enjoy a quintessential New England lobster dinner, the kind where you roll up your sleeves, don a bib, and let the melted butter run down your chin with abandon. A 1-1/4 pound steamed lobster, baked potato, and cole slaw will run you a steep $33, but we loved the casual outdoor setting on the weather-beaten dock, surrounded by lobster traps and seagulls, right on Lake Montauk. It’s BYOB, so don’t forget the ice cold beer.
Inlet Seafood Restaurant: Owned by six local commercial fisherman, this popular spot serves a wide variety of fresh seafood and sushi in a picturesque setting, right at the entrance of Montauk Harbor. They don’t take reservations, so grab a drink from the bar and watch the boats cruise by — you won’t even notice the wait. The local Montauk Pearl oysters with panko and blue cheese appetizer was to die for. Service was a tad slow, but we didn’t mind because we were treated to another beautiful sunset.
As expected, summer months are high-season in Montauk and weekends are crowded. If you’re looking for a bit more peace and quiet, visit mid-week or in fall, when the kids are back in school and the ocean waters have warmed up.
All photos are courtesy of the author.