Montauk has long been considered well off the heavily-trod Hampton path, a place to leave New York City behind rather than move it more than 100 miles east and add a beach setting. The social scene in Southampton, East Hampton, and West Hampton has always attracted a crowd hardly limited to New York’s A-list, while Montauk—a small, quiet, and mostly-locals’ town—has long suffered from second-tier status. Luckily, Montauk is still holding on to its laid back attitude, but the buzz this summer says that other towns are old news, and "The End" is where it’s at.
Where to Stay
For a true weekend escape, stay out of the fray by renting a spacious cottage-like room with cozy and comfortable decor at Panoramic View (631/668-3000, www.panoramicview.com). Their 45 rooms have mini kitchens, ocean views, and private outdoor space. There’s also a gorgeous pool with luxurious cabanas and towel service, and direct access to a private beach. The property is beautifully landscaped and the staff is highly attentive.
The polar opposite lodging choice is the Surf Lodge (631/668-2632, www.thesurflodge.com), an über hipster-haven where mostly late-twenties and thirtysomethings land. It has a relaxed camp cabin-meets-hunting lodge motif that remains light and airy, with seventies-inspired furniture and fabrics and mid-century modern touches thrown in. At night, the choice socializing spot is around the outdoor fire pit.
Sole East (www.soleeast.com) has two choices for accommodations. There’s the ultra-luxe Solé East’s Resort, with 60 beach bungalow-style rooms done up in mostly white decor and sophisticated, muted color accents. Sole East Beach is an oceanfront motel with 26 rooms recently redone in a mixed minimalist-vintage style where you’ll get high design at a lower price point.
The best choice if you want a roll out of bed and onto the beach experience is the East Deck Motel, (www.eastdeckmotel.com) for classic old-school digs with a super mellow surfer vibe. Its long wooden deck (hence the name) that runs along the length of the one-story building is the perfect place to open your lounge chair and kick back with a beer.
Where to Eat and Drink
Start your day with a fresh pastry or muffin from the Montauk Bake Shoppe, (631/668-2439, montaukbakeshoppe.com), an artisan bakery that’s the perfect place to pick up a bite on your way to the beach. Then, on the corner of Elmwood and Edison streets just a block from the water, grab a cup of high-quality hot or iced joe at Coffee Tauk, (631/668-7007, www.nycoffeetauk.com)
For a sit-down brunch or lunch in town, our top pick is 668 The Gigshack (631/668-2727, www.668thegigshack.com), which has outdoor seating and a varied menu that serves everything from omelets and brioche French toast to fish tacos and burgers. Don’t pass up on their locally-made gelato for dessert. The energy at the Gigshack gets turned up a notch as cocktail hour hits.
Also for cocktails, there’s a causal, local crowd at The Montauket (www.montauksun.com), where you can watch the sun set over Fort Pond while nibbling on sesame seared tuna or west Indian pan pizza and sipping a frozen daiquiri.
East by Northeast (631/668-2872) is another top spot for cocktails with a view and a solid choice for dinner as well. Try the "angry" lobster tacos (they’re spicy) or ceviche or shellfish from the raw bar. The Asian-inspired dinner menu is varied, with entrees such as Japanese hot rock steak or the panko crusted tuna. Harvest on Fort Pond (631/668-5574, harvest2000.com), owned by the same restaurant group, has a Mediterranean-focused menu with mains such as bruschetta with mixed seafood, and corn-fed skirt steak with arugula, red onion, manchego, roast garlic, and tomato butter.
For healthy, market-fresh cuisine that highlights locally-caught seafood, try the Backyard Restaurant at Solé East (631/668-2105) or the Restaurant at the Surf Lodge, (631/238-5190) both of which also have above-average cocktail lists.
Where to Shop
For a small laid-back town, Montauk has a solid crop of boutiques selling high-end clothing and upscale home decor. In an unassuming tiny blue box with white-framed windows that’s easy to miss, Cynthia Rowley (631/668-8076) recently opened a very un-branded surfer-girl-themed shop next to the Memory Motel called "Shop," where you’ll find fun, colorful strappy dresses and active wear that’s cute and functional all in her signature whimsical design.
Local favorite Tauk (631/668-3686) wins the prize for its smart mix of casual, beachy frocks and accessories, as well as its down-to-earth, helpful staff. Don’t miss the gift-worthy knick-knacks set on shelves lining the walls, such as small prints, textiles, and colorful handblown glass vases.
The Montauk outpost of Calypso, (631/668-3420) sells its lightweight knit cashmere sweaters, gauzy tees, and flowy raw silk dresses in its signature array of bright, pumped-up pastel colors. Former Calypso designer Joelle Klein opened nearby Share With Montauk (631/668-2205), which has fair-trade- and organic-focused clothing ranging from Breton sailor tops to printed cotton scarves to simple, stitched-together sandals.
Just a short, pleasant walk from the Montauk train station along Peconic Bay brings you to Outeast Gallery and Goods, with an eclectic, well-curated collection of paintings, sculpture, antiques, and hand-made jewelry, including coveted antique key necklaces by New York designer Lisa Michaels. For simple and elegant furniture, lighting, accessories, and other items for the home, browse around Gansett Lane Home Store (631/668-8050).
The best bookshop in town, Barnacle Books (631/668-4599), has a well-rounded stock of everything from fine art books to classic literature to hardcover editions of children’s favorites.
Getting Here and Around
Our advice is to skip driving—especially if you have to rent a car—in favor of a combination of other transportation. From Manhattan, many prefer reserving a seat on the Hampton Jitney (www.hamptonjitney.com) over chancing it on the Long Island Rail Road (www.mta.info) where seats can’t be reserved. But aside from costing more, the downside—and it’s a big one—to the Jitney is that sitting in hours of traffic is likely and a rotten way to start the weekend. The train takes about three hours, with a change at Jamaica Station. Avoid the mad dash across the platform with others in-the-know by getting on at Hunters Point, just one stop on the 7 train from Grand Central.
To venture away from walking around the streets in town, biking is a great way to get around. If bringing your own on the train, try to travel off-peak and check timetables in advance, as there are some restrictions. The place to rent in town is Montauk Bike Shop (631/668-8975, www.montaukbikeshop.com).
In the evening, quick jaunts from your hotel to restaurants or bars by cab won’t add up with some advance planning. At most, $15 will take you from one end of town to the other. Our top pick is the unmistakable can’t miss-’em orange Moko Taxis (631/668-7070).