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For more than 4,000 years, the Montaukett Native Americans lived on these lands — hunting, fishing, and farming cattle and sheep. They used what is now Ditch Plains Beach as a lookout point, since the surrounding moorlands kept the beach hidden until it’s seen at the edge of the cliff. It’s from the Montaukett name that the hamlet of Montauk got its name. These days, locals tend to refer to the area as “The End,” since there is no land point beyond its borders. But with 5,000 acres of beach and parklands, getting to Montauk is simply the beginning of endless outdoor adventures.
Whether you prefer planes, trains, automobiles — or bus or ferry — getting to Montauk means simply heading as far east on Long Island as you can get from New York City. Drivers can make the 120-mile trip from Manhattan by taking 495 East to Exit 70 for Manorville Road. From there, it’s south to Sunrise Highway (also known as Route 27) for the final 50 miles, passing through Bridgehampton, East Hampton, and Amagansett along the way. (It’s also 20 miles from Sag Harbor and 27 miles from Shelter Island.) Pack your patience, as the single throughway can get crowded on popular weekends, particularly in the summer. A jitney bus and the Long Island Railroad also provide service from Manhattan. The private Montauk Airport (MTP) has flights to New England destinations, including Rhode Island’s Block Island, while the Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP) in Ronkonkoma offers more options, but is 70 miles away. Car and passenger ferries also run from New London, Connecticut.
The warm summer days serve as a magnet for weekenders looking to don their chicest beachwear and bask in the comfortable temperatures in the 60s and 70s Fahrenheit. Winters hover in the upper 20s to mid-40s, so travelers generally stay away during the short days, since it isn’t just cold, but rainy and windy too. Fall and spring can range from the upper 30s to upper 60s, but it’s still no match for the peak outdoor season from mid-June to late September. As a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Block Island Sound, the ocean breeze can be strong at times, so a windbreaker or light jacket is recommended, even on sunny days.
The further east you go in Long Island, the bigger the waves get. As the easternmost point, Ditch Plains is best known for its incredible surfing conditions. But sunbathers, swimmers, and dog walkers also frequent the lifeguarded beach.
The 1,755-acre park has a two-mile ocean beach, a 190-site campground, and a 40-acre freshwater lake for fishing, as well as a trail through the walking dunes.
At the tip of the peninsula is New York state’s oldest lighthouse, authorized under George Washington in 1792 and completed in 1796 — and still in use today. There are 137 iron steps to the top of the 110-foot tower, and the lights, which flash every five seconds, can be seen up to 19 nautical miles away.