My happy place, Montauk, was recently written up as the most expensive place to vacation. How can I afford it and why not go somewhere else?
This month was not my first rodeo with vacationing in Montauk. It is easy to get carried away and spend frivolously but there are also some helpful hints to make this beach town reprieve match your budget.
Travel with friends. Some hotels don’t mind if you bring a blow up mattress to accommodate extra friends. The more people pitching in for the room, the less you have to pay and the longer you can stay.
While it is possible to fly a private plane to the local airport or hop on a bus or train from Manhattan, traveling by car enables you to pack lots of goodies from home, including food.
Most hotels offer some type of kitchen efficiency area. Bring a coffee pot, filters and coffee to save on that daily expense.
When I travel with friends and teens, we always pack waters and drinks to suit everyone’s taste. We also make it a general rule to NOT order drinks out, just drink tap water.
With the exception of our annual trip to the oceanfront bar and restaurant The Sloppy Tuna for our happy hour Pina Colada.
Breakfast restaurants are plentiful in Montauk and easy to walk to. My favorite is Mr. John’s pancake and steak house. The prices are reasonable and the service is fast and friendly. The crepes are served with fresh blueberries, strawberries and bananas. The egg dishes including omelettes are savory and a decent portion size. In addition Mr. John’s now serves lunch and beer, wine and champagne.
Breakfast for 2 can be seated almost immediately but if you are 4 or more you can expect to wait 45 minutes for a table.
Of course, if saving money is a thought, breakfast is an easy meal to have in your hotel. Cereal and milk, fruit and even eggs are easy to make in the hotel kitchens.
Beaches, pools, lakes and a pond.
After breakfast it is time to hit the beach. Set up your own chairs that you brought from home and an umbrella. Take a swim. This past summer most days the ocean was calm but the water is cold.
I drove to Ditch Plains beach to see what all the fuss is about. Parking is by permit only and most of the nearby streets have No Parking signs so I almost gave up. Luckily I found a street a few blocks away with no signs so I was able to park and walk the few blocks to the beach. This is the beach the surfers go to and surf lessons are given. The waves roll in from a long distance that instantly reminded me of San Diego beaches. In fact the water temperature was actually quite nice and I had a blast body surfing.
After swimming you can stop at the food truck Ditch Witch for sandwiches and drinks
In town the public beach is located near the IGA grocery store and there is parking and restrooms available. The waves at this beach often break quite close to shore so surfing is done further out.
When my boys were litttle we preferred to stay on the Long Island Sound side of Montauk near Gosman’s Dock. The hotels will give you a permit to park at Gin Beach on the sound. The beach is rocky, the waves are small and you can watch the boats coming into the inlet.
For those vacationers that do not like to swim in natural water, you may be fortunate to have a pool on your property. However, if you are on a low budget and your hotel or campsite does not have a pool do not despair! At the Montauk Downs State Park there is a POOL! For $7.00 you can use the pool all day. A restaurant, driving range, pro shop and 18 hole golf course are also available at the park.
In town our kids have always enjoyed at least one round of mini golf at Puff and Putt located within walking distance to everything. Boat rentals are also available here on Fort Pond starting at $22 (cash only) for an hour.
Each time I go to Montauk I try to have a new adventure.
I have enjoyed yoga weekends with my neighbors at Gurneys Resort and Spa, as well as lovely massages.
Attempting Karaoke with friends at Liars Saloon still makes me grin with nostalgia.
Riding bikes around Montauk made me feel young and fit.
This last time I tried fishing on a half day trip. The Viking Fleet offers morning and afternoon trips for $50 per person. Since I was on vacation I felt no need to get up early so we went to the dock area around 11:30 to buy tickets. If you purchase them on line you are charged a service fee so we just showed up.
You board the boat at 12:30 and are directed to a spot to sit and given poles and bait: minnows and squid.
Our boat stopped at 4 different spots and everyone seemed to be catching something. Sea Robins were plentiful but not good for eating so were thrown back. Fluke were caught but many sent back since they have to be 19 1/2 inches to keep.
Somehow beginners luck kicked in and I caught a big enough Fluke to keep!
At the end of the trip the mates filet the fish and you take it home in a clear baggie.
The old Chinese place that cooked fish on Main Street in town has now turned into a Jamaican restaurant called Soursop and they will cook your fish for you too. Since I apparently caught so much fish, the cook offered to prepare it 2 different ways. It was delicious and fresh and we had so much leftover that we had lunch the next day. Catching and eating your own fish is another way to stay within your budget.
Montauk is not always sunny so bring along a few old fashioned board games to play. Also good for when you want to get out of the sun for a while. I suggest Othello, a deck of cards, and Scrabble (or words with friends will do).
Finally, no trip to Montauk is complete without a trip to the lighthouse, even if it’s just a drive by. You can use your Empire pass to park or pay the $8.00 fee. An additional cost is required if you would like to climb the lighthouse. Trails and rocks surround the area and are fun to walk on however beware of ticks and poison ivy.
Places to stay
Atlantic Terrace and Royal Atlantic are my 2 favorite hotels. They are located on the ocean, have pools and are an easy walk into town. During the summer the rates are $450 per night for a room with 2 queen beds and a kitchenette. Off season, rooms are as low as $150.
If you stay further out of town you can save money too. Beach Plum Resort runs around $275 per night as does Sun and Sound and Soundview over by Gosman’s dock.
Gosman’s Retail Fish Market sells a great lobster salad and rolls that you can bring back to your hotel.
They also offer a lobster bake to go for $46 which includes little neck clams, mussels, corn and butter. If you only want the lobster they will cook it for 16.95/pound – just give them half an hour to cook it.
Favorite places to eat
It may not be budget friendly but I love the food at Harvest restaurant on the pond. The meals are extra large, meant for sharing and I haven’t had anything that I simply didn’t just love.
Lunch, the Lobster Roll restaurant, is a fun place to eat and I do love their hot lobster rolls but the place can be quite crowded due to the popularity from the show “The Affair”.
Swallow East is a favorite with their small plates and location on the docks. Asparagus fries and Classic Angus Sliders are some of my favorite choices.
The Hideaway is so well hidden in a marina that I never knew about it until this last trip. A busy Mexican restaurant with awesome drinks and 40 different types of tequila. The fish tacos were fresh and tasty and I loved the Mexican corn on the cob.
So many fun memories and new adventures to have in Montauk. Indeed it is my happy place.