As soon as you arrive in Montauk, 2 characteristics make it immediately apparent that you’re not in the Hamptons anymore:
- It’s a genuine beach town complete with surf shops, delis, and restaurants that you can actually sit down in your bathing suit.
- The ocean and beaches are plainly visible from Main St. and they are much more accessible. Just park your car on a side street and walk down to the ocean.
First impressions have you believing that surf and sand are the sole attractions here. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover:
- In the 1950s, Montauk’s legendary shark-hunting sea captain, Frank Mundus, reportedly caught a two-ton shark off shore in the Atlantic inspiring the book and movie “Jaws.” Looking to land your own monster shark, or perhaps something more manageable like a bluefish? Montauk boasts about 20 marinas with over 400 charter and party fishing boats.
- Think cattle ranching was the sole province of the Wild West? Deep Hollow Ranch, home to America’s oldest cattle ranch, is really where it all began. Ranching was a popular way of life in Montauk for over 250 years starting in 1660. Today, the ranch exists much as it did during its heyday offering private riding lessons as well as horseback beach rides and excursions through Theodore Roosevelt County Park.
- The Montauk Improvement Building, a strikingly ornate six story brick building looming over Montauk center, is sure to have you wondering who built it and why. In the 1920s, real estate mogul Carl Fisher, attempted to transform Montauk into the “Miami of the North”. The Great Depression sunk his plans and this once-upon-a-time planned residential tower is a monument to his thwarted ambitions.
- Way out on the tip, where the Montauk highway ends high above rocky bluffs, you can’t miss the 80-foot tall Montauk Point Lighthouse. Built in 1796, it is now the oldest operating lighthouse in New York State and the fourth oldest in the country. Climb 137 steps to the top of this historic beacon and drink in the panoramic views of the wide open Atlantic and Block Island Sound.
- One landmark you will most likely miss in your rush to the lighthouse is 415 acre Camp Hero State Park. It’s actually an extensive decommissioned military base that has long been a source of conspiracy. Established in 1929, buildings were soon disguised to resemble a New England fishing village from the air above. In 1958, a 100-foot wide radar tower was built to detect incoming Soviet bombers that surprisingly remains intact. In 1982 the base formally closed and many residents and outsiders alike have claimed that the radar was used by the government to conduct time travel experiments. There are also reports that children were kidnapped for scientific experiments and that a huge network of underground tunnels connect downtown Montauk to the base.