Summertime's here, and thoughts are turning to vacation plans. But there's no reason to leave the Island for summer fun. Long Island is where it's at come summer. So all summer long, we'll be spotlighting great Long Island towns for staycations. First up: Montauk.
Since the 1970s I've been visiting Montauk. My dad is a fisherman there and we all just love it . Known as "the fishing capital of the world," Montauk is just that and so much more. It's the place to savor the splendor of the sea and the pristine natural beauty of the East End. Every summer, as my family makes the drive to Montauk, mile by mile, I shed my worries and stress and feel my whole body relaxing. The road becomes surrounded by the dense wild greens of the island, the blue sea comes into view, and all is well in the world. By the time we arrive, I'm feeling like I'm in another country and the fresh air and wide-open spaces are both invigorating and relaxing at the same time. My kids are yearning to get out of the car and run!
The area is a nature lover's delight with 5,000 acres of parkland and wildlife to explore and much more. From rolling dunes, hiking trails, and horseback riding, to world-class entertainment, spas, shopping, and activities for the family, Montauk has it all and then some.
For Horse Lovers
Visit Deep Hollow Ranch , the oldest cattle ranch in the country, or Rita's Stables and Petting Zoo where kids ages 5 and up can ride. Visit with their farm animlas like donkeys, sheep, chickens, geese, and even peacocks!
For Nature Lovers
Hikers and bikers have an abundance of trails to choose from. There's the seal-haul trail where seals can be seen often, the "walking" dunes, a short three-quarter-mile trail through fascinating sand dunes as high as 30 feet, and Shadmoor State Park with 99 acres of lush preserves, bird-watching, and shoreline views. Learn about more trails here.
For Beach and Water Lovers
Plenty of charter boats are available to take the family out for saltwater fishing.
Book a whale-watching cruise on the Viking Fleet, Montauk's most famous fishing fleet.
Reserve some surfing lessons or stand-up paddleboarding
How about family sailing lessons at Sail Montauk?
Or for the less adventurous (my speed exactly!) just rent a small paddleboat or canoe on a beautiful freshwater lake in town at Puff 'n' Putt.
For a more relaxing day, grab a patch of sand at one of the many public beaches and relax or splash in the waves to your heart's content. My kids and I have been known to just drive around and make various stops exploring whatever strikes our fancy. It's fun and it's great family bonding time.
We love browsing the stores in the town plaza and grabbing some snacks or a picnic lunch before we head to the beach.
Get your beach supplies and Montauk brand apparel and Montauk's own sandal line at The Kai Kai and the Montauk Beach store at the same location on Montauk Highway.
If you forgot your beach reading, hit up the Montauk Bookshop.
We love to browse White's Drug and Dep't store, in the plaza in town, for beach clothing, and all the summer products we need to stock up on.
The shops at Gosman's Dock offer some fun stores too. Kids will love Capt. Kid, for toys and clothing. Don't miss the I Love Montauk shop for everything Montauk to bring home with you, since when you are in Montauk, you'll most likely be saying that phrase more than once.
If walking is not your thing, try a bike rental at the Montauk Bike Shop on Montauk Highway, for some cruising fun. The minimum size is a 20-inch bike for kids, so keep that in mind, but the store does offer tag-alongs and bike trailers for the little ones, and even tandem bikes.
Play a round of minigolf at the picturesque Puff 'n' Putt in town.
Check out the Hank Zebrowksi playground for kids to get some energy out.
Drive to the very end of the road, park at the main public lot and spend an hour or more walking trails and exploring the wilderness and beautiful beaches .
No visit to Montauk is complete without climbing up the 86 feet of steps at the Montauk Lighthouse for a spectacular view! Kids 41 inches and taller can go up.
There are old documents and photos in the museum that will bore the younger kids, but older ones may be interested in hearing the years these items were from, with many dating back to the time of George Washington! There's also a cute little gift shop too where we always end up with a new souvenir.
Montauk offers many delicious choices for seafood fans and land lovers alike.
Start your day at the family-friendly Anthony's Pancake & Waffle House on Main Street where traditional breakfast fare has been enjoyed since 1952. Or pop in later to order an ice cream soda after a walk on the beach.
For lunch or dinner, pizza lovers love Pizza Village right in town with three pizza sizes, or Primavera Pizza, across from the movie theater, for focaccia sandwiches on homemade bread and brick-oven pizza.
Craving a burrito or some fresh pico and chips? Take the drive down West Lake Drive to Diamond Cove Marina and grab some lunch at The Hideaway, with a nice view of the marina.
Gosman's Restaurant has been a tradition since 1947 for many families and serves lobster your way and fresh regional fish. Though seafood takes the spotlight, there's something for everyone here and the restaurant offers a children's menu. Great place for a late lunch or dinner while enjoying some of the best views of Montauk Harbor .
Want a family-fun restaurant for dinner? Head over to Rick's Crabby Cowboy Cafe on East Lake Drive for dinner. It's known as Montauk's #1 family restaurant, featuring legendary "crabby bakes" and plenty of choices for meat eaters too. Live music and s'mores in the fire pits are also exciting for the kids, and they can explore the waterfront lawn and beach after the meal while parents savor some boat watching and relaxing.
Luxury resorts, hotels, motels, and B&Bs all offer something different yet all give you access to the activities and beaches Montauk is known for.
For a family-oriented beachside resort, try the Beach Plum Resort, just steps from the town and a beautiful stretch of beach. New management is renovating the lobby and adding updates for 2012.
For years, Gurney's Inn has been a premiere travel destination both for couples and families and is perhaps the most well-known hotel out east. Situated on a stretch of spectacular oceanfront beach, Gurney's offers distinctive dining, a world-class spa, three restaurants, and year-round entertainment.
Right across from the beach, The Beachcomber Resort is walking distance from town and offers 88 oceanview rooms, a heated pool, and tennis courts.
The Atlantic Terrace is a pretty hotel is on the beach with a beautiful outdoor pool overlooking the ocean, nice landscaping, and includes a family game room too.
Want to walk out your room onto a large deck and lounge overlooking the ocean? The Ocean Beach Resort offers that plus an indoor pool and is in walking distance from town.
Celebrating 80 years of service, the Montauk Yacht Club was named a top 10 marina destination in the U.S. by yachting magazine. Indoor and outdoor pools, spas, tennis, yoga, and volleyball are just some of the outstanding range of activities you'll find at this spacious hotel. They offer family villas, connecting rooms, summer programs for kids, and of course, simply spectacular views for all.
There are also several great camping spots like the popular Hither Hills State Park.
My kids have the luxury of staying with their grandfather in his "camper-with-a-view." I'm hoping that soon we can sneak in a real hotel and with all the choices in Montauk, I know I can't go wrong.
Montauk hosts many events during the year.
This year's Blessing of the Fleet with be Sunday, June 10th at 5pm, with water-hose fights between boats and much fun watching the parade of boats go by.
Monday night concerts on the green in the summer are popular, as is the 4th of July celebration ( Wednesday, July 4, on Umbrella Beach)
Hither Hills hosts a sand-castle contest on Thursdays at 9:30 a.m.
And there are other various fun craft, book, and vendor fairs throughout the season.
Make it a point to make memories in Montauk this year. You won't be disappointed. We never are.