Roads snake onto Long Island like the tentacles of a concrete anemone as you drive east out of NYC. But past the high rises, the suburbs, the vineyards, and the nonsense of the Hamptons, those roads compress to a single, two-lane highway, which runs along the Atlantic as it nears Montauk—known locally as “The End.” A bipolar fishing hamlet (teeming in summer, deserted in winter), which sits at the southeastern tip of Long Island, Montauk is a hideout from the rest of NY for most of the year. And for surfers, it offers a respite from the East Coast’s well-documented beachbreak monotony via a coastline that boasts coves, reefs, and points, many of which sit inside its six state parks or abut a sprawling expanse of now-abandoned military property.
Exposed and raw, Montauk sucks in swell from the south, west, and east like a greedy Ponzi-schemer hoovering up 401Ks. Which means one of its advantages is actual consistency—a rare commodity on the East Coast. Another rare commodity on offer here: variety. If you’re not interested in thumping sandbar tubes, there are reef and point options nearby.
A fishing town besieged by the ever-expanding “Hamptons scene,” Montauk’s year-round inhabitants have a tendency to eschew anything that looks, smells, walks, or gawks like a Manhattan-ite. But it’s also a haven for creative types. Surfer/writer Allan Weisbecker has intermittently called this place home for large chunks of time. So has academy award nominated filmmaker and artist Julian Schnabel. Plus, if you’re really itching for “cultural” activities, the Hamptons are a half-hour away, and NYC is close (enough) as well.
Quality of Life
If you can handle cold water—and a place that oscillates from packed to absolutely empty, and overhead to absolutely flat dependant on the season, month, week, day, or hour—you’ll like it here. It has all the elements a surfer needs: good waves, a beautiful coastline, world-class fishing, an empty lineup or two, and access to one of the best cities in the world. Plus, cheap flights from JFK can help you escape, a bonus Allan Weisbecker sums up succinctly: “Of all the surfy places I’ve lived,” he says, “Montauk is the best to bolt South from.”
Average Water Temp: 55 (But gets as cold as 35 in the winter)
Average Air Temp: 50
Median Income: $54,102
Median Home Price: $700,618
Most Common Industry: Construction
Nearest city with pop. 200,000+: Brookhaven, NY (71.3 miles , pop. 448,248).
Premier Surf Spots: Ditch Plains, Turtles
Local Talent: Jason Hewitt, Charlie Weimar, Nick Joeckel, Leif Engstrom, Dylan Eckardt, Austin Eckardt
Odd Fact: Montauk is rumored to be stalked by a creature know as the Montauk Monster. Some say the military trapped it there after a failed experiment at Camp Hero opened a portal to another dimension. Others theorize it swam ashore from the nearby government-run Animal Disease Testing Center on Plum Island. Either way, it qualifies as “odd”—to say the least.