If Montauk is not on your radar for a Columbus Day weekend getaway, you might want to reconsider. While our recent summer visit was a family hit, I would think that fall is prime if you’re looking for an authentic beach town vibe with great food and quiet walks on the gorgeous Atlantic Ocean. Not to mention good hotel discounts! One thing to note: some businesses in Montauk close for the season around Columbus Day…so confirm their dates and get your last licks in now!
Over the summer we planned a last minute weekend getaway to Sole East, located on a quiet road within walking distance of Montauk’s main strip. Although there is now a scene that has settled into this once sleepy fishing town, for the most part we were able to feel like we were somewhere simple, laid back and far away from the big apple. Sole East is a beautifully set hotel, with several inviting yards around the property. While most rooms are located inside a two-story building, ours (a garden suite) had a private entry. Just outside our front door was a grassy area with huge, comfy lounge beds and plenty of space for our kids and dog to play.
The hotel is small enough that it’s just a few steps from all the rooms to the pool, a poolside restaurant (called “Backyard”), a beachy boutique and several spacious and beautifully groomed yards, one of which had a few hammocks, a fire pit (reception had s’mores on hand when we were there).
If you are looking for a five star hotel, you may want to look elsewhere (Gurney’s is just around the corner!). Sole East does not offer room service and the cleaning crew rarely got around to tidying up our room before 3pm. The staff was not the most professional and the pool was not heated. That said, if you are going for a barefoot chic vibe and a slightly lower price point, consider booking a room here. It’s super fun and “chill”. Beginning at 4pm on Saturday there was a DJ by the pool blasting top 40 hits. Saturday evening was equally buzzy poolside, with well hydrated groups enjoying the Backyard Restaurant.
At Sunday brunch, on the other hand, we were serenaded by an incredibly talented indie-jazz duo – the singer’s voice reminded me of Basia. The Backyard’s menu had something for everyone, ranging from pancakes to pasta pesto to kale caesar salad. Check out the music lineup in advance of your visit because it changes seasonally.
We spent the bulk of the weekend exploring the east end. Because it’s such a small area, we were never in the car for more than 10 minutes, which was a huge perk. We really liked Joni’s (http://www.jonismontauk.com/) for breakfast. It’s only a five minute drive (or about a 15 minute walk) from Sole East. We picked up breakfast there in the early morning and walked to the beach (a block away) where our dog and kids could play before the crowds arrived.
The beach was beautiful, although we were disappointed to see litter and glass remnants from what must have been the prior night’s beach party. Eventually, we headed back to the hotel pool where we would hang out until the kids had their fill of the water.
One morning we skipped the pool and went to check out the Montauk Lighthouse (https://www.montauklighthouse.com/).
We had a good time building sculptures on the rocky beaches and climbing around the lighthouse on huge boulders. We then visited the lighthouse itself where you can walk to the top and visit the museum, which is located in the base of the lighthouse. On the way back from (or to) the lighthouse is the Deep Hollow Ranch (http://www.deephollowranch.com/), a working horse ranch. The kids enjoyed free pony rides. They also offer longer rides for those interested.
Also on the way back to town from the lighthouse is Ditch Plains, a beach best known for its amazing surf. If the tide is high, it’s so much fun to watch the surfers in action (note – parking can be tricky if you don’t have a permit).
If you’re into boating, it’s easy to arrange a half or full day rental in Montauk. We rented a motor boat with an inner tube from Uihlein’s Marina (http://www.uihleinsmarina.com/), which is right near Gosman’s Dock. If you work up an appetite on the boat, head to Inlet Seafood (http://inletseafood.com/) or one of the restaurants at Gosman’s Dock (http://www.gosmans.com/) for a bite or a drink. It’s touristy, but cute, and right on the water as the name suggests.
Two of our favorite casual dining spots were The Hideaway ( http://www.thehideawaymontauk.com/Home.html) and Navy Beach (http://navybeach.com/). The Hideaway is a super casual Mexican joint tucked away in the parking lot of a boatyard overlooking Diamond Cove Marina.
The food was simple and delicious, as were the margaritas. At Navy Beach, the waterfront setting is unbeatable. The outdoor tables in the sand are a must. We showed up on Sunday night to a live reggae band and lots of spontaneous dancing on the beach. Perfect way to enjoy the sunset with my family.
Harvest on Fort Pond (http://www.harvestfortpond.com/) is a classic Montauk restaurant with a pretty outdoor garden and dock from which you can feed ducks. The food was very good, although portions are family-style so go hungry and ready to share. If you don’t feel like sitting through dessert, walk a block to John’s Drive-In for an old fashioned ice cream experience.
Crow’s Nest is supposed to be another great spot for dinner but we didn’t get a chance to eat there. We did drop by one afternoon though, and It’s so pretty! There are also a bunch of casual cafes dotted throughout the main street in town. Also in town are a handful of surf and other casual shops, which accurately represent the relaxed and unpretentious culture of Montauk. Enjoy!