Montauk, New York (CNN) — The once-sleepy beach town of Montauk, New York, has transformed into one of the hottest summertime escapes on the East Coast.
The enclave at the east end of New York's Long Island peninsula hosts chaotic summer crowds, but things slow down considerably in early fall, making it the best time to visit this Hamptons hub.
The crowds are gone, the weather is still nice, you can actually get dinner reservations and the hotel rates are much more affordable.
And you'll have plenty of room to spread your towels on popular beaches such as Ditch Plains and admire the surfers who prefer to avoid the busy summer months.
Where to eat
Duryea's Lobster Deck boasts a scenic location, an amazing Lobster Cobb salad and more.
The town of Montauk has tons of great dining options, and going out to eat here has a much more casual vibe than other parts of the Hamptons.
In the morning, a breakfast wrap from Joni's Kitchen and an iced turmeric latte from Left Hand Coffee hit the spot. In the same area you can also find Bluestone Lane Coffee and Goldberg's bagels.
Herb's Market is great for groceries and deli sandwiches, and on busy weekends they also have a secret late-night menu that comes in handy when you need a burger and fries pick-me-up.
Sit-down dining options are so abundant it's almost overwhelming, but there are some standouts.
Duryea's Lobster Deck is great for lunch or dinner. They are known for their Lobster Cobb salad which you definitely shouldn't miss, but they also have an excellent clam chowder and a selection of decadent seafood platters. It's a great place to dine with a group as the plates are large and perfect for sharing.
Swallow East is a nice spot for a group dinner that doesn't break the bank. While the décor may not be trendy, there's live music and really solid food that's served family style.
Menu highlights include the tuna poke, flank steak, orzo mac 'n cheese and asparagus "fries." Most of the dishes range from $15-$25.
A great spot for a sit-down lunch or dinner right in town is The Gig Shack. While it may not look like much from the outside, it serves up some of the best seafood in the game and even has an Instagram-famous bartender. The spicy tuna tartare taquitos, Caesar salad with blackened fish, fish tacos or margaritas are all worth a hit.
Navy Beach, a casual beachfront eatery, takes the cake for the best place to watch the sunset, but it can get a little rowdy during "magic hour," especially in the summer months. It's without a doubt the place to experience the sunset known as "Montauk Magic."
For something a bit fancier, The Crow's Nest is one of the most beautiful properties in Montauk. Don't sweat it if you have to wait for your table, they also have a bar down by the water to pass the time until dinner.
Showfish is the latest offering from Gurney's Star Island. The tagliatelle with Maineuni butter, calabrian chile and Jonah crab hits it out of the park.
Gurney's Star Island Resort & Marina
Dinner menu highlights include the local fluke and yellowfin crudo, fresh whipped ricotta, blue crab claw tagliatelle and the East Coast halibut.
The latest addition to the Montauk dining scene tries hard to impress -- and it delivers. Showfish at Gurney's Star Island Resort & Marina is upscale but never pretentious. Creative cocktails round out an enticing menu, one in which diners can opt for the whole lobster.
Goldberg's, 28 South Etna Ave., Montauk, NY 11954; 631-238-5976 Swallow East, 474 West Lake Dr., Montauk, NY 11954; 631-668-8344 Navy Beach, 16 Navy Rd., Montauk, NY 11954; 631-668-6868 Showfish, 32 Star Island Rd, Montauk, NY 11954; 631 668-3133
Where to drink
Montauk's sunsets are best enjoyed with a beverage in hand.
Courtesy Gurney's Resorts
Even if you came to Montauk to relax, it's worth checking out some of the bars. Options are more limited as summer winds down, with many bars closing for the season in September.
But the bar at the fire pit at Gurney's Montauk Resort is one of the best spots in town and it's open during the fall months.
The deck is situated far enough from the rooms that the late-night crowd doesn't disturb hotel guests. The crowd is eclectic, from Instagram influencers to Wall Street execs.
Most of the bars in Montauk also have a restaurant and many are attached to hotels. Pro-tip for the busy season: Make a dinner reservation to skip long lines in the evening. (But that shouldn't be a problem in the fall).
At Ruschmeyers, a resort that closes for the season after Labor Day, the expansive lawn and fire pit evoke summer camp. Plus the on-site restaurant has a killer lobster roll, delicious cocktails and an inviting bar area. That's not all: The camp-y resort is dog-friendly and cozy in the best sense of the word.
Ruschmeyers is hopping in the middle of the summer, but it's lovely in the off-peak season.
On lively weekends the place is packed, but the outside area is large enough to escape the chaos. For those who like to dance, there's a backroom that fills up post-midnight.
The Surf Lodge Deck -- one of the best places to have drinks in all of the Hamptons -- is a former Irish dive bar turned Hamptons hot spot.
Surf Lodge shuts at the end of September for the winter. During the summer months, it hosts a concert series featuring some pretty noteworthy names: St. Lucia, AlunaGeorge, Noname, Skylar Grey and Jessie J, to name a few.
Lower Manhattan bar Grey Lady also has an outpost in Montauk. It's closed by mid September, but the rustic spot with a great area for food and drinks outside is definitely worth a visit when the season rolls around again.
Another seasonal venue, Memory Motel stays open until 4 a.m. for night owls. The dance floor is always packed in season. And yes, this is an actual motel where the party usually spills out onto the lawn in front of the rooms.
Ruschmeyers, 161 Second House Rd., Montauk, NY 11954; 631-483-5154 Grey Lady, 440 West Lake Dr., Montauk, NY 11954; 631-210-6249 Memory Motel, 692 Montauk Hwy, Montauk, NY 11954; firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to sleep
Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa sets guests up right on the sand.
Courtesy Gurney's Resorts
Most people who frequent Montauk rent homes for the summer or are lucky enough to know someone who owns a place, but for those headed out for a weekend, there are plenty of lovely hotels to choose from.
Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa is the only five-star resort in Montauk. Gurney's is open year-round and has everything you'd ever want right on the property: an exclusive beach club during the day, great dining and 146 gorgeous rooms, suites and beach cottages with ocean views.
The resort features other exclusive amenities such as pop-up fitness classes led by best-of-the-best NYC instructors and Higher Dose infrared saunas. And if you like it so much you'd like to move in, you can. Gurney's residences are situated adjacent to the resort and allow home owners to enjoy all the amenities of the hotel.
Gurney's is the essence of luxury and lifestyle in Montauk, and this top resort brand is only continuing to expand.
Gurney's Resorts recently purchased the Montauk Yacht Club Resort, now known as Gurney's Star Island Resort & Marina. The property is set to reopen in May after a $13 million upgrade.
Hero Beach Club is a simpler yet still trendy spot. While it doesn't have all of the amenities of the Gurney's resorts, it's situated on a quiet beach and is closer to town.
For a more low-key vibe, choose Ruschmeyers as your base. The camp-y resort is dog-friendly and cozy in the best sense of the word.
Where to work out
Montauk has gone from a sleepy town to a Hamptons hot spot.
Outside of dining, nightlife and the breathtaking beaches, there is also a budding wellness scene in Montauk.
For detoxers, there are pop-up work out classes at both Gurney's properties as well as Surf Lodge.
Many studios in NYC also have permanent outposts right in Montauk. New York Pilates has never been better than taking a class overlooking the ocean, and the ever-popular Soul Cycle also has a studio right in town.
And call us old-fashioned, but nothing beats a run along Old Montauk Highway.
Getting to Montauk -- 125 miles from New York City -- is no easy task, but it's definitely worth the trip. From NYC, you can travel by air (sea plane or helicopter), car or train (Long Island Railroad).
Flying out to Montauk is definitely the fastest way to get there, but it comes with a hefty price tag. BLADE offers regularly scheduled flights to South Hampton, East Hampton and Montauk. You can choose to buy a seat on a scheduled flight or charter a private flight.
Just one seat on a BLADE flight costs about $795 but will get you to Montauk in about 40 minutes.
Flying is by far the most luxurious option, but for something more cost-effective, the train does the trick. The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) from Penn Station reaches Montauk in about three hours.
After the summer rush getting a seat on the LIRR is possible, but on crowded days you can find yourself standing up the whole way on the packed train. Driving out east can take even longer, depending on traffic. But hey... it's all part of the experience, right?