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Visiting Montauk in the off-season

Montauk has Ditch Plains, where a jetty creates

Montauk has Ditch Plains, where a jetty creates longboard waves and Turtle Cove, next to Montauk Point State Park. (Ditch Plains requires a parking permit, free to town residents and $375 for nonresidents, and Turtle Cove has no public parking; footpath only.) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The Montauk Point Lighthouse was completed in 1796, less than two years after it was authorized by George Washington.

But the eastern tip of Long Island always has been a beacon.

And it becomes even brighter in autumn. The crowds depart and the appeal grows, whether you're intent on recreation or ready for Montauk's most seductive attraction - doing nothing.

Montauk encourages you simply to watch the waves. This is, after all, a beach town, even in the off-season. And the main reason you come here at any time of year is to enjoy the rhythms of the ocean.

Walk along the beach on a brisk, sunny day. See how hypnotic it becomes under a full moon. Yes, there's a lot of shoreline on Long Island, but none quite this magical, this removed from the rest.

Montauk has been inhabited for more than 4,000 years. Native Americans, the Montauketts, welcomed the Dutch and the English. Visitors ranged from Captain Kidd to Theodore Roosevelt. This fall, it's ready for you.

Top of the lighthouse: 137 steps.

 >> Montauk events

ABOUT THE AREA

Old Montauk Highway, where resorts dot the beachfront, became a road in the 18th century. It was used by cattle ranchers. Montauk itself was grazing land. By 1895, a railroad linked Montauk to Sag Harbor. And in the last century, Carl Fisher, known for developing Miami Beach from a mangrove swamp, tried to make Montauk, then a fishing-and-hunting destination, into its northern twin, a summertime Miami Beach.

It never happened.

Fisher, an Indiana businessman and builder with an affinity for real estate, bought more than 10,000 acres for about $2.5 million. He developed a lot of them starting in 1926. Montauk Manor opened the next year. But the 1929 stock-market crash finished Fisher's plans.

The tall office building in the center of town is one of his monuments, along with Montauk Manor, what's now Montauk Downs golf course and the yacht club on Star Island, among others. During World War II, Montauk served as a naval base. Motels and hotels date back many decades, Gurney's Inn to the 1920s. But the surge didn't occur until the 1960s.

THE 'UN-HAMPTONS'

Although it's part of the Town of East Hampton, Montauk never has been "Hamptonized" in the boldface-name style. Yes, more stylish restaurants have opened in the last decade. Celebrities including Robert DeNiro and Ralph Lauren own residences. And the federal government has just found a buyer for Bernard Madoff's beach house, for more than the $8.7 million asking price.

But, generally, the paparazzi won't find you here.

Gosman's still steams lobsters. So does Duryea's. Shoppers can find T-shirts and beachwear, sweatsuits and sweaters, essentials and souvenirs. Big-name boutiques, however, haven't overrun the downtown stores. There is one movie theater. It shows one movie.

Montauk is seasonal: pre-, post-, high-, off-. At many places, rates dipped after Labor Day and are poised to drop again after Columbus Day. Weekdays are cheaper than weekends. And, of course, studios are less expensive than two-bedrooms. Following are a dozen of Montauk's mainstays, with rates current as of press time.

WHERE TO STAY

BEACH PLUM RESORT MOTEL: 779 Old Montauk Hwy., 631-668-4100, beachplumresort.com

Rates: $95-$425

Situated across the road from the beach. Studios, one and two bedrooms apartments. Suitable for families.

BEACHCOMBER RESORT: 727 Old Montauk Hwy., 631-668-2894, beachcomber@duneresorts.com

Rates: $105-$225

Closing October 31 and will reopen May 1.

Across the road from the beach. Studio efficiencies; one- and two-bedroom suites. Suitable for families.

HARTMAN'S BRINEY BREEZES MOTEL: 693 Old Montauk Hwy., 631-668-2290, brineybreezes.com

Rates: $249 for two nights through November.

Renovated studio apartments; Hartman's Briney Breezes in on the north side, across from the ocean.

MEMORY MOTEL: 692 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-2702

Rates: $49-$99. Will be closing December 1 and will reopen the beginning of March.

Are you a Rolling Stones fan? This motel on the main street downtown inspired the song on the 1976 album, "Black and Blue." Twin- and double-bed rooms available.

MONTAUK MANOR: 236 Edgemere St., 631-668-4400, montaukmanor.com

Rates: $99-$240; through December, you can stay four consecutive nights (Sunday-Thursday) for the price of two.

Historic site, landmark building on a hill overlooking Montauk. Studio, one and two bedroom apartments. Suitable for families.

MONTAUK YACHT CLUB: 32 Star Island Dr., 631-668-3100, montaukyachtclub.com

Rates: $99-$119 midweek ($149-$170 weekends) through the month of October.

Restored and refurbished landmark, which includes water-view rooms and two suites. Suitable for families.

OCEANSIDE BEACH RESORT: 626 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-9825, montaukmotel.com

Rates: $115-$325 weekdays ($85-$115 weekends).

Doubles to suites with Jacuzzis; second-floor ocean-view rooms. Suitable for families.

PANORAMIC VIEW: 272 Old Montauk Hwy., 631-668-3000, panoramicview.com

Rates range: $195-$595.

The oceanfront resort has studio apartments, one and two bedroom suites, as well as beach cottages.

ROYAL ATLANTIC BEACH RESORT: 126 S. Edgemere St., 631-668-5103, royalatlantic.com

Rates range: $100-$650 ($70-$250 in October).

The resort includes ocean-view and oceanfront rooms, one and two bedroom suites, town houses, including full kitchen, fire place, and whirl pool. Suitable for families.

SANDS MOTEL: 71 S. Emery St., 631-668-5100, montauksands.com

Rates: $80-$160 midweek ($265-$395 for two-night weekend stays). Studios and one-bedroom apartments, 2-bedroom cottages.

THE SURF CLUB: 20 Surfside Ave., 631-668-3800, duneresorts.com

Rates: $160-$275 through Oct. 11; $90-$180 thereafter.

The resort includes one- and two-bedroom units with garden, poolside or oceanfront views. Suitable for families.

WAVECREST OCEANFRONT RESORT: 170 Old Montauk Hwy., 631-668-2141, wavecrestonocean.com

Rates: $160-$214 midweek ($177-$197 weekends).

Situated on the beach side. Studio and one-bedroom units, most with ocean views.


CASUAL EATING

BIRD ON THE ROOF: 47 S. Elmwood Ave., 631-668-5833

Good for breakfast and lunch, omelets and sandwiches.

DURYEA'S LOBSTER DECK65 Tuthill Rd., 631-668-2410, duryealobsters.com

Very casual, tables outdoors; best for lobster to eat in or take out. Open till Columbus Day.

JOHN'S PANCAKE HOUSE: 721 Main St., 631-668-2383

Popular for breakfast: pancakes, crepes, waffles, eggs; also, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads, seafood specials.

JONI'S: 34 S. Edison St., 631-668-3663

Casual; outdoor tables, takeout. Tasty sandwiches, wraps and salads.

 
RECOMMENDED RESTAURANTS

AQUA EAST17 S. Edison St., 631-668-4147, aquaeastmontauk.com

Italian cuisine; best for pasta, seafood and the "polenta board" with toppings.

EAST BY NORTHEAST: 51 Edgemere St., 631-668-2872, harvest2000.com

Retooled this year. Reliable for seafood, steak, and a view of Fort Pond.

FISHBAR ON THE LAKE: 467 E. Lake Dr., 631-668-6600, freshlocalfish.com

First-rate seafood, inventive and traditional; informal style, with a view of the marina.

GULF COAST KITCHEN: 32 Star Island Rd., 631-668-3100, montaukyachtclub.com

New American, coastal cuisine, fine seafood. Handsome appointments, waterside setting.

THE HARVEST ON FORT POND: 11 S. Emory Ave., 631-668-5574, harvest2000.com

Dependable, popular New American, Mediterranean fare; situated waterside.

HAVANA BEACH CLUB: 448 W. Lake Dr., 866-377-8132, havanabeachclubny.com

Cuban food and drink, from Cubano sandwiches and stews to mojitos, plus a buffet.

INLET SEAFOOD: 541 E. Lake Dr., 631-668-4272, inletseafood.com

Snappy seafood, including sushi; friendly service; water views.

SECOND HOUSE TAVERN: 161 Second House Rd., 631-668-2877, secondhousetavern.com

Old-fashioned style, warm service, savory "comfort" food for the family.

THINGS TO DO

SEAFARERS

*Charter boats, fishing boats, open boats - they're all available at Montauk Harbor.

*Viking Fleet, for example, charges $85 a person for porgy and sea bass fishing. Trips are from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. for weekend night fishing through November (462 W. Lake Dr., 631-668- 5700).

*If you'd rather charter a vessel, Uihlein's Marina and Boat Rentals charges $150 per hour for a fishing boat that holds six. Deck boats that hold six to 10 people are also available for $170 an hour ($495 for eight hours). Add a captain for $50 an hour (444 W. Lake Dr., 631-668-3799).

MORE INFO: charterboatmontauk.com, montauksportfishing.com and fishingmontauk.com.

HORSEBACK RIDING

*Located about three miles east of downtown Montauk, Deep Hollow Ranch is the country's oldest cattle ranch. Today, enjoy Western-style riding, pony rides or shoreline rides at Diane and Rusty Leaver's piece of history. A 90-minute ride on trails and the beach costs $75 a person - 30-minute ($35) and one-hour ($65) rides available (631-668-2744, deephollowranch.com).

 GOLF

*Montauk Downs State Park boasts an 18-hole public golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. It's open year-round, with $46 greens fees for state residents on weekends and holidays - $24 for twilight golf (631-668-5000, montaukdowns.org).

*For miniature golf, go for a round at Puff & Putt, open weekends only (659 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-4473).

 

SPAS

*Even if you're not staying at Gurney's Inn, you can get a day pass ($30) to the resort's spa, which has a saltwater pool, sauna, steam room and Roman bath in addition to services that range from hydrotherapy and facials to nail treatments. At the resort itself, October room rates start at $125 for an ocean view studio and go up to $500 for a beachfront cottage (631-668-2345,  gurneysinn.com).

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