Autumn is arguably the best time of year to experience Montauk, a sacred and blessed season where locals and longtime visitors enjoy the waning twilight ofsummer, minus the crowds. Yes, live music is scarce and it’s too cold to go in the water, unless you’re wiling to invest in a really good wetsuit. But the casual vibe for which Montauk is most is still running strong.
While visitors will not find themselves grooving at Ruschmeyer’s, the Crow’s Nest or the Surf Lodge, the town will not be fully populated by ghosts. Here’s a list of things to keep you going in the Hampton’s most laid-back hamlet, post-season.
Go Fishing. Recreational fishing out of Montauk Harbor continues through the fall, when porgy, sea bass, and bluefish are running through October, with blackfish in November. On the offshore side, bluefin tuna are abundant in September and October—and likely to be the stars of the show at the Montauk Marine Basin’s “Last Hurrah” tournament (Sept. 28-Oct. 13.)
Take a Hike. Lest we forget, Montauk is home to an astounding number of nature trails. Explore the cliffs at Shadmoor State Park, take a trek in Hither Woods, or check out the Seal Haulout Trail near the lighthouse. The colder it gets, the more likely you’ll be to spot a seal, migrating from Nova Scotia to enjoy his own Montauk vacation. Scared to walk into the woods alone? Guided tours are offered by groups including the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center (sofo.org) and the East Hampton Trail Preservation Society (ehtps.org) on most fall weekends.
Surf Hurricane Waves. September is hurricane season in Montauk, when a big storm down south can seriously increase the swell. Not ready to risk life and limb to prove your prowess? Drive down to the dirt lot at Ditch Plains and watch the professionals do it, from the safety of the shore.
Delight Your Dog. Canine companions are welcome on Montauk beaches all day, every day, starting in mid September. Keep a watchful eye on your furry friends as they frolic in the surf, and remember to clean up after your pet.
Play with Fire. Fires are permitted on most beaches so long as they are contained and doused by midnight. What better time than fall to host a sunset beach barbecue? Just remember to bring a bucket, to put the fire out, and carry away the ashes.
Go Shopping. We doubt that Cynthia Rowley or Surf Bazaar will make it through the season, but the girls at Kailani, Montauk’s full service Hawaiian fashion stop, will keep things going with fun fall merchandise. Getting chilly? Pick up a sweatshirt at the Montauk Clothing Company, or commercial fishing worthy rain gear and Under Armour at Plaza Sports.
Wine and Dine. There are plenty of places still open in Montauk during the fall season, in some cases with limited hours. Longtime stalwarts, serving seven days through the wretched winter, include The Shagwong, O’Murphy’s, and Manuccis. The Dock Restaurant in Montauk Harbor remains open until mid-November, drawing heat from a woodburning stove, and places like Westlake Clam and Chowder House and the new Swallow East will truck on through the weekends. Cozy up to the bar (keep in mind that the Shagwong has a quick draw machine) and learn a thing about two about life, love and fish. Just be sure not to harass or feed the locals.