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Montauk’s Road Trip Moment

Montauk is only a three-hour drive from Midtown Manhattan but a million miles away from its COVID-19-induced quarantine stress

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, much was made in the press about New York City’s wealthy fleeing to the upper reaches of Long Island: Those tony enclaves in the Hamptons and beyond, much beloved by F. Scott Fitzgerald and more recently by the likes of Martha Stewart and Chris Cuomo.

This summer, Long Island’s lure has brought day and weekend tripping travelers out farther, to the end of the island that truly earns its name for its 118-mile length.

Montauk is not a town but more accurately a hamlet in the town of East Hampton on the end of Long Island. In the 60s and 70s it was known as the Hampton’s funkier cousin but was still cool enough for the Rolling Stones to write a song about the – still-running – Memory Motel and Bar and to stay at Andy Warhol’s mansion there.

City dwellers have taken weekend road trips out to the edge of the world, New York-style, making classic venues like Ruschmeyers sold out every weekend. Ruschmeyers is a five-minute drive from stunning Montauk Point state park where the Empire State’s first lighthouse still stands sentinel.

The hotel is comprised of perfect-for-social-distancing-stand-alone rustic, camp style cabins with upscale details like in-room hammocks and Jazz Club bath amenities from Details.

Signs posted at the edge of the property say, “You’re beautiful but please wear a mask,” and staff are vigilant in making sure face coverings are donned and social distance is kept.

I recently took a day-trip to the property where I was able to experience the hotel’s cabin as a day room while I explored the area in a friend’s sporty Cadillac 2020 CT5.

We took the three-hour drive from New York City, stopping along the way to collect a lunch-to-go from Backal Hospitality Group. In collaboration with Minuty Rose, BHG’s Hampton Road Trip is a curated food and beverage experience delivered directly to you (groups of 6-25 max) in insulated bags to the beach, backyard, boat and beyond.

After a two-and-a-half hour drive through Pine Barrens and the chic streets of the Hamptons, we happily devoured a gift basket of Backal’s lobster rolls and homemade hummus, washed down with a chilled Long Island rosé.

Time for exploring entailed looking for a National Park whose gate was not closed due to capacity. We didn’t find one, but we did find a stretch of pristine Montauk Beach by the main town where locals stroll down to the beach to sun but not really to swim.

Montauk’s waves pound the pure sands here so strongly that the main water sport here is not swimming but surfing, and even that in wet suits for the water is clean but chilly.

A clear summer’s day is perfect weather for exploring The Montauk Point Light House, whose tower is closed during COVID-19 but whose grounds (and gift shop) are still open.

Coastline here is rocky and full of life – crabs, seaweed, clams and mussels live in these tide pools and make beachcombing a rare pleasure on this shore.

After an afternoon of exploration, we headed back to Ruschmeyers to dine in the property’s outdoor restaurant area, picnic style but very socially distanced from our fellow diners.

Fruitti di mare came with fresh Long Island clams, mussels and scallops and was pitch perfect, paired with a pinot grigio from Sonoma.

Dessert, a homemade chocolate chip gelato, was a perfect sugar spike upon which to drive the three hours back to the city in our road-friendly Cadillac that purred along the highway on the way back as if she had had the same soul satisfying meal and boundary-opening road trip.