An Insider's Guide to the Real Montauk
These days newspapers and magazines are rife with tales of woe when it comes to Montauk. It's changed, overcrowded and filled with drunken hipsters. Sometimes it does seem like that, particularly at 2:30 am in the morning on July 4th. But as an insider who has vacationed in Montauk for more than 20 years, with more than half of that time as a homeowner, I am here to tell you how you can find the real, unsullied Montauk.
I am talking about the legendary Montauk. The one that is relaxed, low-key and filled with natural beauty. With almost 70% of Montauk dedicated to state or federal parkland, it's not going anywhere.
Here is how to experience the real Montauk.
Surprise! Some of the best places to stay are not on the beach but a smidgen inland. Montauk has water everywhere, however, so you won't sacrifice that.
David Pharaoh Cottages
Named after the last living Indian king of Montauk, Montakett Indian Leader David Pharaoh, the David Pharaoh Cottages (part of The Crow's Nest Hotel and Restaurant) are a hidden gem in Montauk. Situated on Lake Montauk, the cottages all have kitchenettes and living spaces and were recently renovated by the owner, famed hotelier Sean MacPherson.
Quiet and secluded on South Lake Drive, the cottages are just a five minute stroll to the Crow's Nest complex. The whole place has a boho feel--think British colony meets pirate filled Nassau with a dash of Morocco. Everything is an easy walk to famed surfer beach, Ditch Plains, but bicycles are complimentary and the Hotel will provide the necessary parking pass, if you have a car.
For a quiet day, stick close to home and relax on the sandy shores of the southern part of Lake Montauk. Try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding (boards provided by the Hotel) on the calm waters. Hungry? The restaurant is divine--my favorite on the East End.
Stone Lion Inn
Another quiet option is the Stone Lion Inn. I like it for it's clean contemporary vibe.
Located on fresh water Fort Pond, each unit comes with a separate eat-in kitchenette and it's own private terrace or balcony. Watching the sun dip down over Fort Pond is one of the most spectacular sites in Montauk.
A car is handy if you are staying here (the hotel also provides a beach parking pass), but is not strictly necessary. You can walk to town, and Montauk has plenty of cabs for father distances. The Stone Lion Inn adjoins another terrific Montauk dining spot, East by Northeast Restaurant.
Montauk's dining establishments can get crowded during the high season, and many places don't take reservations. The safest bet is to dine early. All is not lost, however, if you lingered too long at the beach or elsewhere. All of my recommendations are great places to have a cocktail while you wait on a table.
I have already mentioned two of my favorite restaurants, The Crow's Nest and East by Northeast. Both serve local seafood and locally grown fruits and veggies. I especially like The Crow's Nest's emphasis on organic foods, plus their multiple fire pits (just like sitting around the campfire, glamping style) and beachside bar, which will entice you to make an evening of it.
Want to watch the fishing boats come in? Forget the crowds at Gosmans.
Salivar's and Inlet Seafood
If you can tear yourself away from your outdoor pursuits, lunch is always less crowded everywhere, especially on a sunny day.
I am going to assume you know all about surfing and the pleasures of the ocean beach.
So Go Fishing!!!
You haven't seen the real Montauk, until you have seen it from the water. There are plenty of large "party" boats (the Lazybones is infamous) where you can pay a nominal fee and walk on for a set cruise. If you can swing it,however, I suggest that you book a half-day charter boat. You will have a more personal experience that you will always remember.
There are many charter captains based at Star Island Marina, where we dock our fishing boat. I recommend Mike of the Cujo. Mike often assists my husband with captain duties on our boat. He knows what's biting and where. You won't go home empty handed and nothing beats seeing the lighthouse from the water.
What to do with your catch? Many restaurants will prepare it for you. Call ahead.
Shadmore State Park
Back on land, you should explore the many hiking trails in Shadmore State Park. You will experience the flowers and butterflies that populate Montauk's moors as well as hidden World War II bunkers! Best of all, most trails led to a path along the top of Montauk's beach cliffs where the view can't be beat.
Take a trail map at the entrance. It is so quiet in there amongst all of the flora and fauna that it is easy to get twisted around. Tick and bug spray is prudent.
Vintage and Collectibles
If you like to poke around flea markets to score that perfect vintage find, head over to Montauk's Community Church on route 27 just outside of town towards the lighthouse. Yes, you read that right. If you think this next photo looks like junk, you need to check out Eddie Ross' book, Modern Mix immediately! Believe me, jewels can be found.
The Community Church rummage sale, held every Saturday morning between 9:00 and 12:00, is well stocked with hidden treasures of all sorts. There's clothes, books, jewelry, furniture, kitchen and dish ware, and more. Recently, I got a darling vintage straw bag in fine condition, shell and coral necklaces and some other trinkets plus the dishes and glasses for my son's first kitchen, all for less than $30.
As for other shopping, naturally there are souvenir shops and women's clothing stores galore (not much for the guys, however, so come prepared fellas.) I like the well curated, mid-priced selection at Summer Stock located at Gosman's Dock. It's a great place to find a party dress in a pinch.
Another little known fact is that the Montauk branch of Calypso St. Barths (on the circle in town), is the repository for most of the sale items from the chain on the East End. I am all about the bargain and I have scored plenty at the Montauk Calypso.
Frankly I could go on and on about the place. My family and I love it and have built a mountain of memories in Montauk. Drop me a comment if you need further information or have any questions.
Photo credits: Crow's Nest bedroom from their website. Stone Lion Inn photos from their website. Inlet Seafood photo from sailingmontauk.com. Summer stock photo from their Facebook page. All other photos, my own.