Montauk is nicknamed End of the World for a reason: it sits at the very end of the South Fork of Long Island, and it has a definite feel of wilderness about it—despite being part of the Hamptons and also having a definite party scene. Beautiful, protected beaches and quaint villages rub shoulders with tony socialites and millennials attending some of the South Fork's best parties. Still, there's also family-friendly attractions, surfing, and excellent seafood spots. Here are the best things to do in Montauk.
Climb a Lighthouse
Montauk Point Lighthouse, perched at New York State’s easternmost point, is an icon of the South Fork. It’s also New York State’s oldest lighthouse. So old in fact, that it was commissioned by President George Washington himself and first lit in 1796. Climb its 137 steps (tickets to climb cost $12 for adults, $5 for children up to age 12 and include museum admission) for sweeping views and get photos of the picturesque tower at the waters’ edge. The attached museum details the history and presents various artifacts.
Catch Some Rays
Montauk is known for its wide, sandy beaches. Kirk Beach is the main town beach and is super family-friendly with free parking, lifeguards, and public restrooms. South Edison Beach is similar, but with limited parking, although it’s walkable from most hotels. Four miles west of town is Hither Hills State Park, which has a playground, picnic tables, restrooms, and lifeguards. It costs $10 to park if you’re not camping there. Gin Beach is on the sound side, so the waves are calmer, but parking is by permit only. Montauk’s most famous beach is Ditch Plains, which is beloved by surfers and can get quite crowded in summer. It has restrooms, lifeguards, and concession trailers and parking is by permit only.
Surfers flock to Montauk, and specifically to Ditch Plains beach. Watch them, join in, or take a lesson with CoreysWave, which offers private and group lessons and provides wetsuits and boards. Marram, a new beachfront hotel, offers private surf lessons for guests, as does Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa and Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina.
Montauk has some of the best fishing in the country. Fish offshore for tuna, marlin, and mahi-mahi, or stay inshore for ﬂounder, ﬂuke, porgy, bluefish, and striped bass. Bring your own or charter a boat with Double D Charters, Alyssa Ann Sportfishing, or Viking Fleet, and get ready to reel ’em in.
Visit a Brewery
Montauk Brewing Co. has made a name for itself as a craft brewer whose beers reference their location—in name and flavor. They make a crisp pilsner, light summer ale, and fruit-tinged IPAs. Their red brew barn is just steps from the beach and is open to visitors year-round looking for a cold one.
Eat Lots of Seafood
Of course, when in Montauk, local seafood is a staple. Snack on the Fisherman Platter at Gosman’s, featuring cod, shrimp, clam strips, and fries or find a spot on the dock and have a more casual lunch at Gosman’s Clam Bar. If you’re extra hungry, snag a table at Oakland’s Restaurant & Marina and order their stuffed lobster. Head to Navy Beach for toes-in-the-sand beachfront dining (local clam and corn chowder, scallops, and swordfish included) and prime sunset viewing. But the best seafood meal of all will come from flagging down one of the just-arriving boats and buying whatever they just caught.
Hear Live Music
Montauk is full of live music in the summer. May brings the Montauk Music Festival, with over 400 artists across a variety of genres. And every Monday in summer are free concerts on the Village Green. If you’re looking for more of a hipster scene, make your way to the Surf Lodge, which has hosted bands like St. Lucia, Gary Clark Jr., and Janelle Monae. There’s live music every weekend night and some weeknights in the summer, and there’s also an attached hotel if you want to keep the party going. Gurney’s Montauk, Sloppy Tuna, 668 the Gig Shack, and Oakland’s also host live music throughout the summer.
Go for a Hike
Montauk is home to several state parks with miles of trails. Camp Hero State Park, a former military base, today has trails leading past marshland and the coast. Or, walk to the bluffs of Shadmoor State Park for breathtaking views of the crashing waves below and 99 acres of trails. Montauk Point State Park, where the Montauk Lighthouse is located, also has plenty of trails—and keep a lookout for seals.
Spend the Night on an Island
Tiny Star Island is set in the middle of Lake Montauk and is home to the posh Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina. Sleep in one of their 84 rooms or 23 select villas. Amenities include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, Har-Tru tennis courts, a spa and fitness center, marina, and a private beach.
Ride a Horse
Perhaps not the first beach activity you think of, horseback riding is one of the best Montauk activities. Deep Hollow Ranch guides guests through 3,000 preserved acres of picturesque countryside and pristine beaches on horseback (there are pony rides for little ones). And lest you think it’s not authentic, Deep Hollow is actually the oldest operating cattle ranch in the United States.