Manhattanites move fast. That’s why every year around, say, New Year’s Day one of our main orders of business is figuring out which friends are getting a house Out East for the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Summering in the Hamptons may be the oldest cliché in the book, but we take our seasonal weekend vacations seriously.
A certified New Yorker for six years, I’m no stranger to the mass migration East. Mr Smith, new to the city, isn’t convinced. I know that as soon as the asphalt begins heating up in the concrete jungle, he too, will crave being closer to the water… Sure enough, as temperatures start to rocket, he hints at reasons to flee NYC. While friends’ houses are great for drinking parties, they can be a little awkward for romantic getaways. Hello, Montauk’s Surf Lodge…
The streets and shores of Montauk convey a sense of small-town calm and community, mixed with a swaggery seaside cool that its neighbours lack. Montauk, immortalised by Andy Warhol as ‘the little at the end of Long Island,’ has long had a reputation of casual cool, a welcome respite from its polished neighbours. People spend that extra hour on the Jitney bus to get there, but it’s worth it for the laidback vibe, great food, and slower pace of life. (Can you really relax at a Hamptons charity gala wearing your evening finest?)
Fronting the shore of Fort Pond, the Surf Lodge is one extended beach party. Outdoor daybeds, a huge fire pit and a stage on the deck set the scene for grown-up good times. We’ve heard that after dark, the joint jumps with house-rocking DJs, reggae bands and rock ’n’ roll. It’s a four-minute cab ride from Montauk centre to the Surf Lodge. As we hop out onto the gravel parking lot, I know for sure we ain’t in the Hamptons proper. One: the entrance of the hotel is lined with bikes and canoes for rent. Two: the receptionist is a super friendly, bubbly Irish gal dressed in a romper, drawing on a chalkboard.
Woven baskets festoon the patio and driftwood abounds, ratcheting up the beachy appeal. Repurposed boat lanterns illuminate the turquoise-floored den, where you can float in a wicker chair suspended by a thick braid of rope, or grab a book and collapse into coral and cream cushions. Flippers dangle from the rafters, sprays of white coral dot the shelves and a surfboard adorns the ceiling. Massive screens inside and out feature 24-hour summertime sea-centric favourites that tempt you to grab a board and re-enact iconic Sixties surfer flick, Endless Summer. But even if you can’t stand up on a board yet, you’ll be stoked about this laid-back lair.
The guestrooms are off to the side of the carpark, concealed behind a row of leafy trees. Slate grey doors with large black numbers line the façade, lending a whiff of military chic. Step inside and it’s a different ball game. Each boudoir, complete with a private porch, glass-encased shower, and bamboo hanging chair (which Mr Smith fondly calls the ‘birdcage’), opens onto the pond; a wall of windows gives a succinct space a bright, airy feel.
Facing the water is its Frette-clad centerpiece, a queen-size bed with an orgy of fluffy pillows. Beside a mirror (seemingly, ‘strategically angled’), the bed even has a complimentary bar of Sex Wax within grasp. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you sizzling romance is nigh-on mandatory here. Sighing with pleasure, we flop onto the mattress and Mr Smith whispers ‘Let’s put this Sex Wax to use’. Next thing he’s leaping out of bed, grabbing our stuff to go.
Eager to hit the waves, Mr Smith yanks me onto the Surf Lodge Jeep for a ride to Ditch Plains, the town’s famous lighthouse-studded beach beloved by surfers. We learn on the way that Montauk boasts some of the best breaks on the East Coast. Mr Smith, surfaholic, is soon hurtling into the water sans wetsuit. Me? I go for some low-gear sunning on the beach.
Hungry after a day of tackling waves (him) and catching rays (me), we are pumped to hear the Surf Lodge houses one of the most talked-about eateries in Montauk, from chef Sam Talbot. First thing to grab us as we hit the deck there? A Bob Dylan tribute artist is playing one of my favorite tunes: ‘Visions of Johanna’. ‘Isn’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet…’ Second thrill? The drinks menu. Well, you can take the girl out of Manhattan… I like my cocktails and the Surf Lodge’s selection of summer libations, from coconut concoctions to seasonal fruit sparklers, does not disappoint. As for couldn’t-be-fresher seafood – that is a given.
After dinner, Mr Smith and I head for a Strawberry Fields (Moet Ice, St Germaine, apricot, orange, strawberries) and a Lake Side Punch (rum, peach, pineapple, coconut water, agave syrup) on the private beach. The waterside bonfire is just starting and we snuggle up on one of the roomy beach beds to watch the stars come out. At night, the Surf Lodge is definitely a ‘beautiful people’ scene – but this is après-surf without the attitude.
Don’t think for a moment we neglect dessert. Sharing a peanut butter gelato and blueberry butter cookie ice-cream on our private balcony, it is hard to believe that hours earlier we were hot in the city. The moon is glistening over the lake and we are swinging in a hammock luxuriating in a quiet, cool breeze. We needed a break; so we set our antenna to find a place where sunsets are long, time slows to a lovers pace, and the only lights flickering are fireflies. I told you we Manhattanites move fast.