Locals will tell you that once upon a time Montauk was a sleepy little fishing town popular with surfers. Nowadays, however, it’s the ultimate jetset destination for affluent New Yorkers. It’s an expensive place to visit, with hotel prices starting at $700 per night for a room in the height of summer. And that’s for an average room. You’ll often hear finance guys telling you how they took a Blade (Uber for helicopters) to get there. It’s that kind of place.
If you don’t own a house in The Hamptons there are ways you can do it on a budget but you have to be savvy. I first went to Montauk for my birthday and we took the train and split a hotel room with 2 queen beds between 4 people. Next time we did it with 5. We ate pizza instead of dining out in restaurants and pre-drank at the hotel before we hit the bar. We had so much fun we decided we needed to return every summer.
What I wasn’t expecting when I went to Montauk in mid summer was the crazy nightlife, but I guess it’s New York by the beach, and New Yorkers do like to party. Outside of bars though there’s plenty to enjoy, including ocean-view restaurants, hiking trails and beautiful beaches. When Manhattan gets so hot and stuffy in summer it’s nice to escape the city and just enjoy the relaxing seaside vibes.
If you’re wondering what there is to do there, here’s a list of top things to do in Montauk, NY (from someone who’s been!). Most lists I’ve seen focus on only touristy things to do but if you’re the kind of person who wants to hit the beach, eat and drink as well, this is the list for you.
Hit the beach
The beach is what you came for, right? Montauk has miles of beaches for you to tan on, including:
- Ditch Plains Beach
- Kirk Park Beach
- Amsterdam Beach
- Edison Beach
- Gin Beach
- Hither Hills State Park
- Montauk Point State Park Beach
- Turtle Cove
If you have a car you can drive to different beaches, or if you want to party just lay your towel down on the beach outside Sloppy Tuna in town. This is where you’ll find the largest concentration of 20/30-somethings playing music and having a good time.
The Surf Lodge
At sunset everyone goes to The Surf Lodge – a hotel/restaurant/bar that overlooks the bay. It’s the place to see and be seen but on weekends it’s also super hard to get in and there are often lines of people outside. Get there early, or better still, make a reservation for dinner there a few weeks in advance. If you do try your luck at waiting in line, don’t pretend to know someone who works there (unless you actually do) – the security staff will roll their eyes like they’ve heard this too many times. Just be prepared to pay $$$ for a table and bottle service, especially if you’re in a group. Friday night and Sunday are the quieter days, with Saturday night being the busiest.
Drinks at Montauk Brewing Company
There’s nothing like a nice cold beer on a hot sunny day so spend an afternoon at Montauk Brewing Company to quench your thirst. If you live in New York you’ll probably have seen their beer all over the city but it’s nice to try it straight from the source. Order a beer flight or a pint of whatever takes your fancy and catch some rays in their backyard.
Montauk Lighthouse is a historic landmark situated on the easternmost point of Long Island in Montauk Point State Park. In fact, you’ll often hear Montauk nicknamed “Montauk End of the World” due to the fact that it’s at the end of Long Island. The lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in New York State and was built to warn approaching mariners of the dangerous rocks at Montauk Point. Visit the lighthouse for sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and Block Island in the distance. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and and $5 for children. Make sure to check their website for current opening times and remember they close in bad weather.
The Crow’s Nest
The Crow’s Nest Montauk is a restaurant and hotel with wooden furniture scattered across a large lawn. The views over Lake Montauk are excellent and it’s a great place to visit for a sunset dinner. The menu is varied, with dishes including roasted beet salad, lobster fettucine, sea bass ceviche and rib eye steak.
Get Bagels at Goldberg’s
After a night of partying you’ll need something to line your stomach the next day and ease the hangover. Goldberg’s is a famous bagel shop in the town center which usually has a long line in the mornings. Don’t be surprised if you see people you’ve met the night before wearing sunglasses to cover up their tired eyes. I usually get smoked salmon bagels from Goldberg’s every morning I’m in Montauk.
Take a Surf Lesson
Never learned how to surf? You can take surf lessons with several schools including:
Ruschmeyer’s Montauk gets rowdy on a weekend and is popular with groups since the restaurant offers long wooden tables in a beer hall style atmosphere. The hotel has cabin-style rooms and views of Fort Pond lake, plus a varied menu of pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, salads and entrees. Try their Tartufata pizza, with Mozzarella, Urbani Truffles, Porcini sauce, baby spinach and roasted tomatoes. After everyone’s eaten dinner everyone starts dancing and it turns into more of a club.
Ride horses with Deep Hollow Ranch
Want to do something a little different? Feel like a cowboy/cowgirl for the day at Deep Hollow Ranch, which is the oldest working cattle ranch in the U.S.A. You’ll ride horses Western style on Montauk’s pristine beaches and trails, taking in the breathtaking scenery along the way.
Gurney’s Montauk Resort and Seawater Spa
Gurney’s is a luxury hotel/resort situated right on the beach that also happens to be a major party spot on a Saturday. When me and my friends went to Gurney’s we were lucky enough to know someone who could get us in but otherwise you have to book a daybed with minimum spend. The party at The Beach Club is lit, with revelers dancing to techno/house music on the hotel’s 2,000 foot long private beach.
Dinner at Scarpetta
For a boujis fine dining experience, book a table at Scarpetta – the sister restaurant of the upscale Italian eatery in Manhattan. Located within Gurney’s Montauk Resort, the restaurant boasts mid-century modern decor infused with nautical accents, plus an outdoor deck with panoramic views of the ocean. The menu features a variety of Italian pastas and fresh fish dishes, including black cod and branzino.
Dance the night away at Memory Motel
Memory Motel is the kind of place where your feet stick to the floor but it’s also a lot of fun. Go to Memory Motel after everywhere else is closed and be prepared to dance on a very crowded dance floor. When your feet can’t hold you up any longer, head to the pizza window down the street to soak up all the alcohol.
Listen to live music at 668 The Gig Shack
For a relaxing afternoon/evening, sit down at 668 The Gig Shack on Montauk’s Main Street and listen to their daily live music. Order a Montauk Cocktail made with fresh, locally sourced juices (with or without the booze) and food for the table.
Visit Camp Hero State Park
Camp Hero State Park is a 415-acre state park located on Montauk Point, open for hiking, biking, horseback riding and picnicking (just not swimming). If you like fishing, the park boasts some of the best surf fishing spots in the world and is open 24 hours a day to fishermen with permits. Within the park you’ll find wooded forests, freshwater wetlands, ocean vistas and dramatic cliffs. Pets are also allowed (yay for dog owners!).
Eat at Inlet Seafood Restaurant
Love seafood? Head to Inlet Seafood Restaurant, which is one of the best seafood restaurants on Long Island. Owned by six commercial fisherman, this restaurant serves the freshest seafood landed daily by their boats and served straight to your plate. The menu features a wide selection of fish and seafood, as well as sushi. Yum!
Spend a lazy Sunday at Montauk Beach House
Exhausted from a wild Saturday night? Hit up the pool at Montauk Beach House, order a Bloody Mary and enjoy their chill house vibes. Located in the center of town, Montauk Beach House is the best place to spend a lazy Sunday before you take the jitney home.
Another popular watering hole in Montauk is Navy Beach, which is situated on a 200-foot private beach looking west over Fort Pond Bay and Gardiner’s Island. This laid-back restaurant serves coastal cuisine and has one of the largest selections of rosé wines in the Hamptons. Enjoy dinner in their nautically themed dining room or dine al fresco at picnic tables directly on the beach.
Where to Stay in Montauk
As I mentioned previously, Montauk Hotels are expensive so even the “affordable” hotels are still expensive in summer. If you want to get cheap deals then you’ll need to visit Montauk out of peak season. Montauk’s summer season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Outside of these times hotels tend to be much more affordable but the downside is that many places close during off-season and it’s cold by the beach.
Montauk Blue Hotel is where I usually stay. Right on the beach in the center of town, this hotel has clean rooms with views of the ocean. It’s nothing glamorous but it’s comfortable and rooms have 2 beds so you can squeeze four people into a room.
Montauk Manor isn’t on the ocean but it has numerous on-site facilities, including indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, complimentary car charge and a spa. Rooms also feature a kitchen if you want to cook your own food.
A Wave Inn is located in town quite close to Montauk Blue Hotel. You’re within walking distance of several restaurants and shops and the hotel has an outdoor pool you can relax at.
Mid Range options:
Breakers Montauk offers 25 rooms, a cafe + bar, an ocean view pool, direct beach access across the street, an outdoor ocean view sun deck and patio and bikes. Rooms are light and airy with coastal decor and Leesa mattresses. Depending on the size of your party there are several different room choices, including
Hero Beach Club lies directly on Umbrella Beach in Montauk and boats a chic pool with furniture from Bali, as well as a vast green lawn with bonfire pits and comfy seating. Rooms have a Montauk beach vibe with elegant modern design and high end bath amenities.
Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa is definitely the most luxurious and most expensive option in Montauk. The resort is large – it boasts five on-site drinking and dining venues (including Scarpetta), a seawater pool, a full-service spa and a sauna. It also sits on its own 2,000 foot-long beach with daybeds and cabanas.
You can get from New York to Montauk using 4 options, which are:
Car: Hire a car or drive your own vehicle. The journey from Manhattan takes approx 2.5 hours without traffic. Be sure to leave early or late to avoid delays.
Train: The train journey from New York Penn Station usually takes about 3.5-4 hours on the Long Island Railroad. I prefer the train to the bus as you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic. Check the MTA website for fares and schedule info.
Jitney: The Jitney is a bus service serving many destinations in The Hamptons, including Montauk. The bus usually departs from East 40th Street at the south west corner of 3rd Avenue in Manhattan. The service is a little more comfortable than the train since you’re given a bottle of water and you can pre-order things like bagels and wine for the road. However, it can also take quite a long time if you hit traffic like we did on our journey.
Blade: If you’re a baller you can take a helicopter from NYC to The Hamptons. Blade has two lounges – one on East 34th street and one on West 30th – where you can kick back and relax with a glass of wine before your helicopter flight. Seats on scheduled Blade flights start at $795, while private charters start at $4,770. Journey time is approx 40 minutes.