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Welcome to the End: Montauk Provides Faraway, Accessible Escape
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22 Aug 2010 EST

- by Drew Kolar, Staff Writer

New York City is a great place, but sometimes it can be stressful with all the noise and fast-paced jobs. While there are parks and beaches in the city itself, sometimes going further away for a day really takes the mind off of the hectic lifestyle. But how far should you go to really find relaxation for just one day? 

Montauk lies at the very tip of Long Island, about a three-hour train ride on the LIRR or two and a half hour drive from the city. If you’re looking for a faraway location that can still be traveled in one (long) day, this is perhaps the best and most relaxing place to go, no matter what time of year—although in-season is busy while off-season is almost totally dead.

While Montauk has many beaches to choose from, it is not just a rural, coastal town with sun and sand. There are also historic museums, restaurants, bars, golf, a lighthouse and six state parks that provide nature walks and campfires in the summer. Winter may not be ideal to find open businesses or easy transportation, but it is an adventure on its own just walking around in near silence, maybe reenacting a scene or two from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Located past the Hamptons, Montauk is a large yet spread out city, spanning about ten miles. While it is possible to walk from the LIRR to town, going much further than that would be a pain better suited for biking or driving. The Montauk Highway also has some great distractions along the way. When traffic gets backed up on the highway, Duckwalk Vineyards provides tours on the weekends and tastings daily, as well as a seating area in the back by the vines, perfect for a mid-afternoon picnic while sampling their wines. There are also seafood shacks along the way for a great dinner on the trip back to the city.

Without exploring the furthest reaches of the city, the town's center still has a few great places to hang out when not lounging on the beach. Shagwong Restaurant serves pub fare as well as a nice dinner menu, and the bar features off-track betting and lottery games by the minute. The patrons all seem to be locals, but they’re generally open to new faces. O’Murphy’s Pub is also a welcoming bar to sit at for a drink and mostly American food, though the pub itself is Irish. When taking the train, The Old Harbor House, located just off the LIRR parking lot, is a great casual waiting spot when leaving the island (but be warned that in the off-season, they close early).

Drivers will be happy to know that town itself offers free parking lots, though many of the other beaches usually have a $10-per-day fee, while the lighthouse lot is $8 during open hours. The beach in town, however, is still a fine hangout, and it’s the Atlantic Ocean at your feet, which is less rocky than the still waters of Fort Pond Bay and Block Island Sound. The beach also has good surf conditions and easy access to civilization, making lunch just a few quick steps inland.

The Montauk Point Lighthouse closes at 4PM for direct access, but it is perfectly visible and more peaceful after the park itself shuts down and the lot becomes free. Standing at the edge of Long Island is a somewhat humbling experience and a great end to a day’s journey before venturing back to town to experience some of the nightlife while waiting for the train. 

If you’re driving, however, hitting the highway for some seafood is a better choice. Cyril’s Fish House is popular, though the crowds can get a bit annoying unless you have their popular BBC drink in hand. Just down the road, however, is the new, more relaxed and better-priced Mahon’s Seafood Shack—but beware mosquitoes when eating outside after dark. Still, Little Neck Clams on the half shell are always a tasty choice. 

Beaches may not be for everyone, but Montauk does its best to provide a large range of activities for most people to enjoy. While the train ride is limiting, of course, driving up provides a great day-long party—just don’t expect to get back to New York at any reasonable hour thanks to the many diversions and slow traffic. Whether it’s a relaxing day on your own or a great adventure with friends, Montauk can provide enough distractions to help you forget the stresses of city life.

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