The Montauk of it all

Contributor/ Patrick Duffy

Just past the pomp and sprawl of the Hamptons sits Montauk Point.  Through the years its remained largely untouched by the champagne, caviar, and culture of its glamourous western neighbour.  Seeking respite from what made the Hamptons, “The Hamptons,” surfers and artists settled in Montauk. Over the past few years, a younger generation of vacationers seeking a different beach experience has caught on to the East End’s secret. Since their discovery, Montauk has shed its “Un-Hamptons, Hamptons” moniker to represent the new cool of the East End.

Two hotels, Surf Lodge and Ruschmeyer’s (featured above), have been at the forefront of Montauk’s transformation. Separated only by lights across Fort Pond, it’s as if Fitzgerald planned the properties himself. Robert McKinley’s savvy design of each property is derived from decades of Montauk history and respective legacies. Unique offerings to guests, stellar restaurants and bars, and original programming have made weekends in Montauk more memorable.

Surf Lodge, a renovated surfer’s retreat circa 1952, boasts a modern design incorporated into the original building.  It houses a locally sourced seafood restaurant, surfboard rentals, and weekly live concerts by well known and up and coming artists. The young, cool crowds filling the seats have made the property its party pad.  The summer of 2014 set the surf lodge apart as a go-to location for a great night out. Collaborating with Vimeo on a series of short films and events, Surf Lodge found a contemporary medium where each guest participates in building the community. Everyone takes as active a role as they choose, both in the events and in the sharing afterwards. The strengths of both Vimeo and Surf Lodge are highlighted while its empowered guests to become active participants in building and marketing the two entities.

A short bike ride around the pond will drop you at Ruschmeyer’s doorstep. The former summer camp was given a new purpose when the doors reopened in 2010.  Greeted by massive lanterns hanging from the trees with guests at picnic tables beneath; acres of land have been outfitted for oversized board games and some summer classics. Who doesn’t love lawn bowls and bocce?  There’s also rental bikes, a seasonal restaurant, a club, and a set of 19 converted guest cabins. Alongside Surf Lodge, Ruschmeyer’s is one of Montauk’s party HQ’s.  As the crowds have grown larger, Ruschmeyer’s has used programming and partnerships to direct its cultural growth.  Each week a different chef comes out from the Big Apple to treat the (very lucky) guests to their take on one of America’s favourite comforts and in doing so has made Tuesday night, “Burger Night.” We all remember how much we looked forward to “Taco Night” or “Pizza Night” as a kid. I will confess I’m a big fan of “Burger Night.”  This isn’t the only summer camp favourite they’ve re-introduced.  Ruschmeyer’s collaborated with Esquire magazine to produce “Campfire Sessions,” a series of live music events starting at dusk featuring chilled tunes and special games.

A few years into Montauk’s growth as a destination on the East End, we’ve begun to see the definition and subsequent differentiation of the two hotels at its centre. Each has used its relative strengths, both the physical property and talent behind production, to steer its own culture while holding true to what makes Montauk, Montauk.  I’m already looking forward to next summer.