As a string of seaside communities frequented by affluent Big Apple residents, you might think The Hamptons are off limits to us mere mortals. But we were pleasantly surprised when we paid a brief visit to escape the frenetic energy of “the city that never sleeps”.
We set off on the only (double deck) Long Island Railroad [LIRR] train to Montauk from New York’s Penn Station at 9am. The single track railway takes you out to the Hamptons in the morning, returning at 11pm. The three-hour journey allows time to settle back, chat and tuck into a packed brunch, passing through each of the Hamptons, West, East and Southampton, before arriving at Montauk.
You can catch the Cannonball – a direct express train that clips 30 minutes off your journey. Our cheaper ticket merely involved a quick transfer at Jamaica in Queens.
Montauk and chill
In Montauk (location of US drama The Affair and Kate Winslet’s Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) you’ll find accommodation options ranging from self-catering to hotels and B&Bs at a wide range of prices – but booking in advance is essential. We splashed out for a stay at Gurney’s Montauk Resort and Seawater Spa.
While our bags were taken care of we were shown to the outside decking, overlooking a seemingly never-ending stretch of beach, where we enjoyed the lapping sea and a distinct vibe of “escaping from it all”. Later on, relaxing on the terrace, which is dotted with firepits to ward off the sea breeze, we tucked into a delicious feast of dipping pitta bread and fresh vegetables. Dining outside instead of in the pretty restaurant meant we savoured the sunset and also allowed us to save our dollars for a few Hamptons cocktails.
Our sophisticated beachside room had a balcony with a double lounger, offering a perfect place for breakfast tea in the sunshine the next day. After a beach walk and swim in the quiet pool nestled in the hotel grounds, we set off on an adventure.
There are so many Hamptons resorts to choose from, including Southampton, Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, many home to A-listers such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Robert De Niro, Khloe Kardashian and Robert Downey Jr. We opted for classic East Hampton and it’s as quaint, cool and beautiful as you’d imagine: traditional white wood-panelled homes with American flags hung above the porches, and the main street lined with bespoke designer boutiques from Gucci to Ralph Lauren, who is himself a Hamptons resident. You feel like you’re on a movie set.
We especially loved the Chanel Hamptons Ephemeral Boutique, fashioned in traditional Hamptons style but with a Parisian twist. We were window shopping only, of course.
Two wheels or four?
You can hire bikes from the hotel, taking to the wide cycle lanes, calling at shack stops for food and drink along the way. It’s an ideal way to see the Long Island coast, costing as little as $15 an hour.
Another fantastic way to travel around is the free beach buggies that make regular stops throughout the day, picking up from the main streets. Our driver provided us with tips for the best local seafood restaurants and gave us a lowdown on the local celebrities.
If you find yourself at Main Beach, head for The Beach Hut restaurant, where takeaway wraps and salad bowls from $15 can be enjoyed at tables on the decking or on the beach. There’s a blissfully peaceful but classy vibe there and once on the beach, we found it the ideal place to chill.
Oysters and boardwalks
For dinner, we headed to Lake Montauk, at the peak of Long Island, in search of what we’re told is the best and freshest seafood around.
After a wander through the old fishing town and along the boardwalks, we sat riverside at Westlake Fish House, where the dreamy laid-back atmosphere was accompanied by the tastiest oysters ever. Sipping the local wine, we watched the fishing boats come in as the sun set. The Hamptons proved the perfect contrast to the crazy fun and vibrant vibe of New York.
To book flights from London Heathrow to New York, visit virginatlantic.com. Book your stay at gurneysresorts.com.
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