Family beach weekend near New York

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Unwinding in Montauk, a shore destination for all seasons

Long Island, the fish-shaped island east of New York City, always has been a popular beach destination for New York City dwellers. The area comprises an escape that feels like a world away. But it only requires a short drive (or train ride) to get there.

The farther out on the island you go, the more picturesque and beautiful it all seems to get. One of the easternmost points of the island, on the south of two forks, is Montauk, only a 3-hour drive from the city.

Though Montauk is a retreat in many ways, it can still be a bit of a party scene and during the summer can get get very crowded. For those looking for more seclusion, the Montauk Yacht Club, an exclusive waterfront hotel, offers just that. With a private beach overlooking Lake Montauk, guests can enjoy leisurely afternoons in the sand while their children play safely in the calm, shallow waters of the lake.

This award-winning resort has an award-winning marina as well, a favorite docking spot for the yachting crowd. There are also two outdoor pools, one indoor pool, two restaurants, a fitness center, a spa, and tons of activities right on the property.

Rooms at the Yacht Club are beautiful and spacious, though I suggest splurging a little bit more for a waterfront room—the sunrises make it all worthwhile. Families also can request connecting rooms, and have the option for room service dinner if the kiddos are too tired to go out.

View from private lake beach at Montauk Yacht Club

What to do

Hiking is a fun activity in which to engage at the resort. There are numerous trails, many of them leading right onto secluded beaches and dunes.

In terms of area attractions, there also is plenty to see. Take Montauk Point Lighthouse, for example. This is the oldest lighthouse in New York state. Commissioned by George Washington in 1792, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012 for its historic significance in the Federal period as a main shipping point to and from New York. It is here where the South African slave ship, the Amistad, docked under the control of the slaves who had broken free from their captors and were in search of a way back to their homeland. (They were later acquitted of any crime by the U.S. Supreme Court with the assistance of President John Quincy Adams and given their freedom to return home.)

If you’re planning to visit the lighthouse, get there early enough to explore the museum as part of your visit. Be sure also to allow yourself time to go to the top of the lighthouse. If your schedule permits, stay late enough to watch the gorgeous sunset.

Where to eat

Of course you can’t leave Montauk without having some fresh seafood. The Dock Bar and Grill is a fun casual eatery. Rooms here are decorated with signs containing some colorful language; to be honest, the signs intimidated my kids a bit. Thankfully, the food was good, and the fish was fresh—it came right off boats tied to an adjacent dock.

Viewfinder Tip: Most casual eateries in Montauk are cash-only. Be sure to hit the ATM before you go.

Another must-visit spot in town is John’s Drive Inn, arguably the most family-friendly place around. People come here for the ice cream and rave about the soft-serve with sprinkles. When we went, I opted for a banana split with the works, including extra hot fudge.

These kinds of surprises are what make Montauk great. The town is such a departure from everyday life, such an escape, it’s almost impossible to believe it’s so close to New York. We can’t wait to go back and experience more.

What is your favorite getaway close to home?

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Carol Cain

Carol Cain has always been fascinated with the way people from different backgrounds and experiences interact and take in the world around them and how it influences the way in which they share their stories. Now she gets to share those stories, as well as her own travel adventures and photography on her award-winning travel blog, Girl Gone Travel, and through various brand partnerships and publications from around the world. Stop by on Twitter and say hello!

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