Lying right at the easternmost tip of Long Island’s South Fork is the charming little historic hamlet of Montauk. A very popular weekend getaway from New York City, it is known for its magnificent sandy beaches, miles of hiking trails and many excellent restaurants.
Due to its spectacular setting at the spot where the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound meet, it is often known simply as ‘The End’. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, the area was settled by Europeans in the mid-1600s with the country’s oldest ranch and historic Montauk Point Lighthouse now counting among its major sights.
While there are many things to do in Montauk which are related to its rich history, many visitors come to the Hamptons for their peaceful nature and isolated setting. Surrounding the small settlement are six state parks for visitors to explore with beautiful beaches, dramatic coastal scenes and exquisite views guaranteed wherever you go.
12. Deep Hollow Ranch
As it is home to lots of picturesque countryside and pristine beaches, Deep Hollow Ranch really is a treat to horseback ride around. At its sprawling site in between Lake Montauk and the open Atlantic, you can step back in time and experience the cowboy and cowgirl life of old.
Supposedly the oldest ranch in the entire United States, Deep Hollow was impressively founded all the way back in 1658. Now owned and operated by the Keogh family, its barns, pastures and corals provide a fascinating insight into America’s rich ranching history.
The highlight though is taking a scenic horse ride through its rolling dunes, fields and hills. As you plod or canter along its winding paths, you’ll enjoy the same stunning scenery and views that cattle ranchers of years gone by did.
11. Gin Beach
Located right at the entrance to the large lake is one of the area’s most popular stretches of sand: the gorgeous Gin Beach. Usually very calm and quiet, it is a great spot to sunbathe, swim or stroll along with a couple of seafood restaurants and cafes also lying nearby.
As it is set on the Long Island Sound side of the peninsula, its protected waters are normally perfect for swimming and splashing about in, if a little cold. The views here over the estuary and ocean are spectacular as are the sunsets that paint their sparkling surface a mesmerizing mix of warm colors.
Aside from lounging on the beach and exploring its small rock formations, visitors can amble along peacefully or stop for a bite to eat or drink at one of its local eateries.
10. Montauk Brewing Company
One of the best places in town to enjoy a freshly pulled pint, the Montauk Brewing Company can be found right in its small but lively center. At their atmospheric tap room, you can sample some of their incredible IPAs, ales and lagers before buying some bottles and cans to take back with you.
Since being established in 2012 by three high school friends, the local company has come on leaps and bounds with it now counting among the country’s top one hundred craft breweries. At their cool, cosy but often crowded bar, you can try tasty brews such as Summer Ale, Driftwood and Wave Chaser.
Friendly and welcoming staff members are only too happy to explain more about each beer and give you recommendations depending on what you’re after. Once having tried a few, you can stock up on some cans at its shop where you can also buy some merch to remind you of your time in Montauk.
9. Shadmoor State Park
Further up the Atlantic side of Long Island from downtown is the scenic and serene Shadmoor State Park. Besides boasting loads of stupendous landscapes, scenery and viewpoints, it also has all kinds of fun outdoor activities for you to enjoy.
Towering above the wild waves, its prominent bluffs look out over the windswept beach and waters below. From up high, you can see all along the craggy coast with seabirds often spied soaring about in the wind.
In addition to its fantastic views and hiking trails, there are also freshwater wetlands, groves of trees and interesting rock formations to clamber about. As it used to be part of the coastal defense system for New York City during WWII, the park also has some old bunkers to see overlooking the ocean.
8. Kirk Park Beach
Another picture-perfect spot to hit up is the beautiful Kirk Park Beach which lies almost adjacent to the center. Despite its close proximity, its wonderfully white sands feel a world away from the busy shops and restaurants which are conveniently located just a short walk away.
Stretching over 500 feet in length, its golden shores are watched over by vigilant lifeguards during the summer season with its bathrooms and showers accessible all year-round. Thanks to its inviting waters and soft powdery sands, both locals and tourists come here to sunbathe, swim and take in the fine scenery.
After topping up your tan at the beach, make sure to stop by the iconic John’s Drive-In on your way back into town for delicious burgers and ice creams in a retro setting.
7. Lake Montauk
One of the defining features of ‘The End’ is of course the reflective Lake Montauk which is lined by private homes, marinas and waterfront restaurants. As well as being home to the largest commercial and sporting fish fleets in the state, it has great outdoor activities and water sports for you to try out.
Although it was originally the largest freshwater lake on Long Island, it ceased to be in 1927 when real estate developer Carl Fisher blasted a hole through its northern shoreline. His dream was to turn Montauk into the ‘Miami Beach of the North’ though his extensive entrepreneurial endeavors went bankrupt just a couple of years later during the Great Depression.
Asides from strolling along its shores and sailing and swimming about, you can take ferry rides out to Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard and New London in the sunny summer months. Other than that, there are always plenty of excellent restaurants to check out while its superb sport fishing is known up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
6. Camp Hero State Park
Sure to delight both nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, Camp Hero State Park occupies the easternmost end of Long Island. Once a military base during WWII, its pristine woods and wetlands now have countless trails for visitors to hike, bike or horseback ride along.
Due to its strategic setting at the entrance to the Long Island Sound, the area was commissioned by the US Army in 1942 to prevent a potential invasion of New York by sea. Nowadays, people can see its old bunkers, barracks and the base’s large, rusting radio tower peeking out above the treetops.
As it was largely kept wild and untouched, lots of birds and animals inhabit the park while gorgeous beaches line the shore. On top of this, many of its clifftop paths offer up spellbinding views over the ocean and the lonely Montauk Point Lighthouse off in the distance.
5. Gosman’s Dock
On the opposite side of the lake’s inlet to Gin Beach is the vibrant and ever-popular Gosman’s Dock. Both one of the best places to shop and dine out in town, its handful of small stores and restaurants boast breathtaking views out over the shimmering waters before them.
What started out in 1943 as a single seafood restaurant has since grown into a lively shopping area with clothes, shoes, jewellery and toys now all on sale. Due to their success, the Gosman’s have also opened up a clam bar and gourmet fish market while a sushi bar, grill and clam and chowder house are also set besides the water.
In summer, their outdoor eating areas are a peaceful spot to while away the time, watching boats sail in and out of the majestic Montauk Harbour.
4. Hither Hills State Park
While Montauk has more than enough hotels and B&Bs for you to choose from, many people prefer to camp overnight at the Hither Hills State Park. Located just a short drive down the peninsula, its tranquil beaches, ponds and woods border both Napeague Bay and Harbour.
Once destined to be a recreational complex with casinos and hotels, the idyllic area was thankfully turned into a park in 1924. Since then, generations have headed to Hither Hills to explore the great outdoors, swim in the sea and stay at its cosy campsites.
Among the myriad activities on offer are hiking, hunting and fishing with cross-country skiing even available in winter. Plenty of picnic areas and a playground are dotted about while sweeping sands and sublime views are never far away.
3. Ditch Plains Beach
If you’re after yet more sun, sea and sand then the delightful Ditch Plains Beach is a fantastic place to head. Lying just up the Atlantic coast from Montauk, it is renowned for its superb swimming and surfing with lifeguards patrolling the beach in the summer months.
Backed by steep, rugged cliffs and lush coastal vegetation, its broad beach makes for quite the sight with phenomenal vistas to be enjoyed up and down its sparkling shoreline. Thanks to its sizeable swells and super long break, it has long attracted surfers with bodyboarders and wakeboarders also heading here in recent years.
Besides splashing about in the water and lounging lazily on its sands, you can also enjoy windswept walks atop of its towering cliffs. Afterwards you can grab some grub at the Ditch Witch Food Truck before plunging back amidst the waves.
2. Montauk Point State Park
While its lovely lighthouse is certainly its standout sight, Montauk Point State Park has much, much more going for it. As well as dramatic cliffs and viewpoints, it has a wealth of wonderful nature and wildlife to see with all kinds of awesome outdoor activities being on offer.
The easternmost extremity of not just the South Fork but all the state, it lines the Long Island Sound with Camp Hero set just to the south of it. As you hike about its nature trails and through its verdant woods, you can often spot seabirds swirling about while seals sun themselves along the shore.
In addition to learning more about its fauna and flora from the informative plaques scattered around, there are also playgrounds, picnic areas and a concession stand in summer to make use of. With so many fabulous panoramas over the sound and ocean to enjoy, Montauk Point State Park is definitely not to be missed when in town.
1. Montauk Point Lighthouse
Perched right at the very tip of Long Island is the area’s most famous and photographed landmark: the iconic Montauk Point Lighthouse. The oldest in all the state, it overlooks the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Block Island Sound with a small museum now teaching you all about its history.
Remarkably built back in 1796, its distinctive red and white tower stands 110 feet tall with a quaint little lighthouse keeper’s house lying at its foot. Actually commissioned by Founding Father George Washington, it is very well-preserved with the views from atop of its 137 steps simply being out of this world.
If you want to learn all about the National Historic Landmark, make sure to step inside its museum which houses old artifacts, historical photos and exhibits on its fascinating past.