Trips & Trends

Montauk Within Your Means: Top 5 Musts

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

By Jennifer Ceaser

While the Hamptons is never going to be a great bargain, there are ways to make the trip a bit more affordable.

Our pick for the best town is Montauk: It’s sleepier (and cheaper) than East Hampton or Southampton, more charming than Westhampton, and you can get a taste of both the ocean and Long Island Sound.

Here are five ways to stay on a budget (and one place you should splurge!) on your East End expedition.

GO: On a weekday, in the off-season, and leave the car at home

The single easiest way to save money (and find a room!) is to go on a weekday (which includes Sunday) in the off-season. After Labor Day, hotel rates drop by as much as $230, and occupancy goes down, too.

Also, while some restaurants are always busy, obviously it’s easier to get a reservation on a Tuesday than a Friday, and you’ll likely get more attentive service.

Plus, Montauk locals swear September and early October are the best times to visit: The water is warmest and the crowds are thinner.

And forget the car: A round-trip fare on the LIRR from Penn Station to Montauk is just $31.82 (for a WebTicket) and the Jitney is $53; many hotels offer shuttle service and cabs are plentiful. 

STAY: Panoramic View Resort & Residences and Gurney’s Inn

These two neighboring oceanfront resorts are among the oldest in Montauk, and therefore occupy seriously primo real estate, with A-list neighbors like Robert De Niro and once upon a time, Bernie Madoff.

Most rooms in the cliff-side properties offer unparalleled views of the ocean and both have over 1,000 feet of private beachfront. While Panoramic View has turned its focus to selling condos, Gurney’s is primarily a hotel (with timeshares), which makes it a better option if you want a full-service experience.

Included in Gurney’s rate is shuttle service for the LIRR and Jitney, breakfast and dinner credits, and use of the spa and indoor pool. There’s also nightly entertainment, kid’s activities and a beach bar.

Panoramic is a more DIY affair, with kitchenettes in the simple, 1950s-era rooms (there’s no food and beverage service) and few frills, outside of the lovely new outdoor pool that overlooks the ocean.

You can find cheaper places to lay your head, but only if you are willing to put up with paper-thin walls in low-end motels (there are no hotel chains in Montauk) or the all-night party joints that are the Surf Lodge and Sole East. Panoramic View studios (sleeps 3), from $245 starting Sept. 13. Gurney’s Inn studios (sleeps 1-2), from $235 starting Sept. 7. 

EAT: Joni’s

There’s always a line at this health-conscious spot housed in a cute saltbox cottage in downtown Montauk. But there’s a reason – Joni’s has some of the tastiest breakfast and lunch options in town, and at affordable prices.

Starting at 7 a.m., you can pick up generous breakfast wraps filled with organic scrambled eggs and your choice of three ingredients, including roasted tomato and smoked apple bacon, for $5.95.

For lunch, try the Thai Me Up! sandwich, with gingery tofu, shredded carrots, and spinach wrapped in rice paper and served with an addictive spicy peanut sauce, $8.95. Other faves include the fish tacos (made with the catch of the day) for $11.95.

There’s also a kid’s menu with chicken nuggets and turkey dogs, both $4.50. One drawback — you can’t come here for dinner; Joni’s closes at 5 p.m. 34 South Etna, #9, (631) 668-3663.

DRINK: Nick’s Restaurant

Okay, we can’t say the food is so great at this oceanside spot, but its location, right on the beach, can’t be beat. (In fact, Nick’s is the only restaurant/bar in Montauk on the ocean.)

Try for a spot on the breezy upstairs deck for happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with half-price domestic beers) and stick with basic grub, like six clams on the half shell, $8.95. Or enjoy the free live music from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every night on the ground-level patio. 

VISIT: The Montauk Point Lighthouse

Located on the easternmost tip of Long Island, Montauk Point’s lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in New York State, built in 1796. It’s quite a haul, but once there, you’re rewarded with some of the most stunning, pristine scenery in all the Hamptons.

It’s enough just to walk around the grounds, but you can also tour the lighthouse and nearby buildings — which include the fog signal house and keeper’s home — daily until winter. Tour, adults, $9; children, $4. 

SPLURGE: Dave’s Grill

Yes, it’s a bit pricey and reservations are hard to come by, but for our money, this dockside restaurant is worth the hassle. (Just ask Bon Jovi, who was spotted dining there last Sunday.)

Start calling Dave’s at 4:15 p.m. the day of for a rezzie — persevere, and you’ll be rewarded with a menu featuring super-fresh fish and crustaceans pulled straight from local waters.

Try a bowl of Dave’s famous CIOPPINO – overflowing with fresh fish, lobster, scallops, clams, shrimp, mussels and calamari. It runs $38.95 but is big enough to split with your fellow diner. The restaurant is open from May to October for dinner only.

2 Comments

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Nice! Montauk rules.

Posted by: David | August 24, 2010 at 11:27 am

Um, I would like to go right now.

Posted by: Kristin | August 24, 2010 at 12:37 pm

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