By HARRIET EDLESON
Published: August 30, 2002
It's around 7 on a Saturday evening, and you've made it to Duryea's, a small, open-air seafood restaurant tucked down a side street in Montauk, in time to snag one of the picnic tables overlooking the water. Your lobster dinner ordered, you open the bottle of wine you bought at the nearby liquor store, pour generously into a plastic cup, and watch the sun dip slowly over Fort Pond Bay as you wait for your number to be called.
This, you tell yourself, is why you'll be up at dawn on Monday morning and catching that 7:11 train for a three-hour commute back to Manhattan.
From Montauk, on the farthest spear of the land that separates the Atlantic Ocean from Long Island Sound, the sea views can take in sunrises as well as sunsets -- especially from the Montauk lighthouse at the very tip. You're never more than a mile from the water. Not only is Montauk on a peninsula -- the eastern end of the South Fork -- but it also has several lakes.
For weekenders, life in Montauk is laid back -- leisurely bike rides between the lighthouse and the town center six miles to the west (just watch the traffic), boating or surfing, buying fresh fish at the farmers' market and cooking it for dinner, maybe even catching the fish from the beach.
"It's just very simple,'' said Mark Mangold, a singer and songwriter who, with his wife, Catherine Brabec, a film director, bought a town house here two years ago as a second home. ''It's also being close to the other Hamptons if you want to go.''
Yes, the other Hamptons.
Montauk, usually defined to include the hamlet by that name and a few square miles on its outskirts, is in the Town of East Hampton, but it is so different an experience that it is not identified with its famous neighbors. It also issues a different kind of invitation. More than 60 percent of its land is public and undeveloped -- a place of windblown pines and rolling dunes, much of it open to the public for hiking and walking. In the harbor, shiny cabin cruisers dock near well-used commercial fishing boats.
A Summer Place
Montauk has close to 6,000 full-time residents, who brave cold winter winds. In summer, the population quadruples. There is no stoplight downtown, so cyclists, runners and walkers are on their own.
The Atlantic's waves are high at Ditch Plains Beach, which is often packed with swimmers and surfers, and Hither Hills State Park has not only a beach but also popular campgrounds and trails for hiking in the dunes. Gin Beach, on the sound, is popular with families.
The golf course at Montauk Downs State Park ($30 on weekdays and $36 on weekends) is rated second only to the Black Course at Bethpage among public golf courses in New York State. Competition for tee times is stiff, despite an automated reservation system. The park also has six sought-after tennis courts. There are several marinas, but a slip can be difficult to get -- many boaters reserve in February.
Near the green, a small park where art shows and festivals are held, stores sell souvenirs, clothing and the like. The town is also dotted with restaurants. Seafood is the natural choice at Duryea's, whose owners also run a wholesale seafood business. The Oyster Pond Restaurant and Bar has an inventive menu, and its popular bar draws a young crowd. For a taste of old Montauk year-round, there's the Shagwong Restaurant, which has been around since 1937.
Second homes in Montauk can run into the millions of dollars. In Culloden Shores, modest one- or two-bedroom houses marketed in the early 1960's by R. H. Macy sell for at least $300,000, if you can find one, said David Ryan of Pospisil Real Estate. This week a three-bedroom ranch house near Lake Montauk was available for $465,000, and an oceanfront house off Route 27 was for sale for $25 million. Condominiums are cheaper but in short supply. A one-bedroom co-op apartment near Fort Pond Bay was available this week for $99,000.
Montauk is about 120 miles east of New York City. Take the Long Island Expressway (Interstate 495) east to Exit 70, Manorville. Go south to Sunrise Highway (Route 27), which becomes Montauk Highway. Follow that east to Montauk. The drive can take less than three hours or more than four and a half, depending on traffic. There is bus and train service from New York.