I remember tying on my very first lobster bib at Gosman’s when I was roughly the same age my little guy is now.
We would drive out East bright and early to the very tip of Long Island with no reservations and crawl through town slowly on the lookout for beachfront hotels with “Vacancy” signs. Once we’d spotted a contender, my Mom would run into the front office and emerge five minutes later, shooting my Dad and I a thumbs up sign and a big smile, where we would cheer from inside the car.
Of course this tradition of “winging” your Montauk accommodations is a thing of the past; the majority of those Vacancy signs are now preceded by a glowing red neon “NO” from May straight through September — demanding 3 and 4 night minimums at rates no one could have dreamed of back then. But despite all the changes that this once sleepy fishing village has seen in recent years, Montauk has always been and will always be a place for families. So with that in mind, we packed our bags and hopped aboard the LIRR with our little family for a nice mid-week break, doing our best to avoid the weekend crush.
The good news is that the influx of visitors has brought a lot of vitality to this town, including great little shops, exciting new businesses and some truly fantastic restaurants. We got all of this to ourselves, plus a gorgeous stretch of beach, AND managed to evade the nightmarish 5:30 pm Sunday night Hamptons train back to NY. Throughout our three leisurely days, we scouted some brand new spots and returned to old favorites, making memories that I hope our son Jake will look back on just as fondly as I do one day.
Where to Eat & Drink
Navy Beach: Navy Beach’s brilliant location right on a calm, private beach means that the kids can play in the sand within eyeshot of your Dark & Stormy. Come for an early dinner and stay for the spectacular sunset over Fort Pond Bay from one of the best vantage points in town. Great tunes (with live music some evenings), comfy sunbeds and incredible dishes like their Soy-glazed Goldeneye Tilefish with coconut sushi rice, wakame, red curry sauce and sesame make this place one of our favorite spots.
South Edison: We’ve been loyal fans of South Edison’s fresh caught seafood dishes served with locally sourced produce since they opened in 2010. Start with a dozen Montauk Pearls, then dive into the South Edison Clam Bake (linguica, shrimp, cherrystone clams, lobster, garlic aioli, fingerling potato, corn, house made baguette, cippolini onion.) Don’t forget to save room for the saltwater taffy that comes complimentary with the check.
The Crow’s Nest: With an impossibly picturesque location overlooking the lake, gorgeous outdoor seating amongst fairy lights and hanging lanterns and solid Mediterranean-inspired fare, the Crows Nest has perfected the art of summer dining. Their menu is full of delicious things like Grilled Octopus with olive oil, crushed chickpeas, olives and mint (a must-order,) Dayboat Scallops with chickpeas, chanterelles and pea tendrils (another must-order) and Grilled Naan with goat butter and sea salt. Though the fire marshall has shut down the marshmallow roasting action that used to go down around the firepit, kids will still love exploring the expansive grounds and skipping rocks in the lake at the bottom of the hill.
Gosman’s: Generations of families have cracked claws together at this harborside Montauk institution, famous for its whole steamed lobsters. Opened in 1943 as a chowder stand pedaling lobster rolls, Gosman’s Dock has now grown into a bonafide complex housing three different Gosman’s restaurants, a clam bar, fish market and even clothing and toy stores.
La Brisa: La Brisa is a bright spot in the center of town, offering authentic Mexican food at decent prices for the neighborhood. We love the homemade hot sauces and breakfast tacos, friendly service and Shazam-worthy playlist. Ice cold micheladas hit the spot on a really hot day.
Red Hook Lobster Pound, Sweet’tauk & Joe & Liza’s Ice Cream: We are happy to report that the Red Hook Lobster Pound/ Sweet ‘tauk /Joe & Liza’s Ice Cream triumvirate is back for the second season in a row at the same South Etna Avenue location. Come in for gourmet lemonade infusions, Maine style lobster rolls and scoops of Sag Harbor-made pistachio ice cream, all under one roof.
Coffee Tauk: It’s all about the New Orleans Iced Coffee at Coffeetauk. Located on a corner just one block from the beach, coffee snobs from all over town stop here for a proper cup of joe, as well as for their fresh baked goods, free wifi and gelato.
Where to Shop
Candied Anchor: Though we were sad to see the barbershop go (my husband actually did get his hair cut there on quite a few occasions) we were thrilled to find that its been replaced by a cute little candy store. Candied Anchor stocks a huge range of sweet stuff from watermelon twizzlers to Lego candy to chocolate candied seashells (that taste just like M&Ms) to Brooklyn-made saltwater taffy. They also carry a range of Tattly temporary tattoos, gorgeous hand-loomed turkish beach blankets and party supplies like striped paper straws and birthday sparklers.
Local Knit: Local Knit has moved across the street to a bigger, sleeker, whitewashed space — the perfect canvas to display its graphic T-shirts with great designs, borrowed from local businesses. The slightly distressed ring-spun cotton tees are super soft and come in kids sizes; Jake lived in his Lazybones tee for the duration of our stay. Get nostalgic for your summers spent at The Montauket, Duryea’s, or The Shagwong and essentially you’ll be giving back to the community, since a percentage of each sale goes directly to the featured business.
Greenlines: Who can resist a little red pair of boardshorts emblazoned with Greenlines’ sunny 70s-esque logo? Not us. The company uses recycled and organic materials to create timeless, high-quality designs inspired by surfers. Find them in town, near Bliss Kitchen.
*Share With: Owned by former Calyspo designer Joelle Klein, this conscientious beachwear and accessories shop is stocked with fair trade, recycled, sustainable, and reclaimed products. Francophiles will adore the creamy white Le Fin sweatshirt for sale in her adjacent space.
Montauk Juice Factory: The brand new Montauk Juice Factory opened its doors just four weeks ago serving organic, raw, cold-pressed juices made with local produce. Their Dope Beet is complex and really delicious – a blend of beet, pineapple, cucumber, parsnip and jalapeno. Kids might opt for the simpler but just as tasty Beach Break (watermelon, mint and hibiscus) or Purely Pineapple (the label reads: “Pineapple. That’s it.”)
White’s Drug & Dept Store: Your one-stop-shop for sunscreen, Advil, diapers, contact solution, iPhone 5 chargers, beach towels, sand toys and the fabulous crab flotation suit pictured above. Whatever you’ve forgotten at home, try White’s – they probably have it.
Where to Stay
We stay at Royal Atlantic, right on the beach in the center of town. It’s definitely old-school, but what the hotel lacks in modern decor and posh bedding it makes up for in direct beach access and ocean views. The rooms are clean and decent-sized, and most come with kitchenettes and balconies. Book a 2nd floor oceanfront room and you’ll wake up to the sound of waves crashing outside your door. (Families with toddlers might consider booking on the ground floor, since the terraces are not completely enclosed.) You can bring your own corkscrew and pick up a couple bottles of txakoli or Duckwalk blueberry port to take out on the balcony once the kids turn in for the night — Jake was so knocked out from the ocean waves that he fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
If you don’t mind spending a little extra dough, Montauk Yacht Club, Sole East Resort, and the new Montauk Blue Hotel are also good options for families.
What to Do
Go to the Beach: Slather on the sunscreen and head to the beach. There are plenty to choose from — calm and clear Gin Beach, white and sandy Hither Hills, or surfers’ fave Ditch Plains, to name a few. Just hold on tight to your younger kids – the undertow can be strong out here.
Swim in the Pool: The Royal Atlantic’s is heated, and there’s a beach bar pumping tunes all afternoon. Many of the hotels in Montauk have pools, which is especially great for kids because the ocean can sometimes be a bit too frigid for tiny toes.
Take a Pedal Boat Out: There’s more to Puff ‘n Putt than just miniature golf — they also rent pedal boats, kayaks and paddle boards to take out on Fort Pond. $22 will get you 30 minutes of pedaling, a lovely activity on a beautiful day.
Dance in a Gazebo: For whatever reason, kids love gazebos. Jake preferred the one in the Gosman’s complex over the one right in town. Blast your iPhone and get down to “Happy;” Pandora not included.
Build a Bonfire on the Beach: 7-11 has everything you need to get your bonfire going — firewood, lighter fluid, marshmallows, sticks and even pre-packaged kits for making s’mores. Check the regulations to make sure you build your fire to code.
*Transportation Tip: Moko Taxi, the MVP of our stay, showed up within 2-3 minutes every time we called. Reliable, friendly and fairly priced.
3 hour LIRR train from New York’s Penn Station; change at Jamaica or Babylon
Address: 4 Old West Lake Dr, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-2077
Address: 17 S Edison St. Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 685-1465
Address: 16 Navy Rd, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-6868
Address: 500 W Lake Dr, Montauk, NY // Phone:(631) 668-5330
Address: 752 Montauk Hwy, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-8338
Address: 83 S Elmwood Ave, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-7007
Address: 721 Montauk Hwy, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-8038
Address: 725B Montauk Hwy, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 807-4635
Address: 732B Montauk Hwy, Montauk, NY
Address: 764 Montauk Hwy Ste A, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-2205
Montauk Juice Factory
Address: 12 S Etna St, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-8682
White’s Drug & Dept Store
Address: 95 The Plaza, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-2994
Address: 126 Edgemere St, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-5103
Montauk Yacht Club
Address: 32 Star Island Rd, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-3100
Sole East Resort
Address: 90 Second House Rd, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-2105
Montauk Blue Hotel
108 S Emerson Ave, Montauk, NY //Phone: (631) 668-4000
Puff ‘n Putt
Address: 659 Montauk Highway, Montauk, NY // Phone: (631) 668-4473