Story by Vanessa Yurkevich; Video by Nicholas Lindner, Olivia Camerini & Steven Sevilla • Updated 7th August 2017
(CNN) — There are two sides to the Hamptons.
One is the chaos during summer when thousands of 20- and 30-somethings descend on the island to party. The other is the tranquility of being 125 miles away from New York City.
The Hamptons are made up of villages and towns that are bordered by the Long Island Sound (oftentimes referred to as the bay) and the Atlantic Ocean.
Southampton, Watermill, East Hampton, Bridgehampton and Amagansett sit on the Atlantic side, while Sag Harbor and the Springs touch the bay.
Montauk is at the very tip and is the only village that shares both bodies of water. It’s got more of a beach town/surfer vibe compared with Southampton’s more suburban landscape.
Regardless of location, the Hamptons have changed over the past decade.
There are simply more people, more noise, more annoying-ness. But the Hamptons are still a getaway where you can breathe in clean air and be at one with nature. And the best way to enjoy the Hamptons today is like with everything else in life — a healthy balance.
Partying: Pick your poison
The Surf Lodge
The three words most spoken by millennials in the Hamptons (or at least a close second to “rosé all day”) are “The Surf Lodge.”
There’s a traffic jam just to get there, and then the real wait starts.
The venue has been around for 10 years, but it still attracts people in droves. The line to get in is always an hour long, and getting in feels like a small victory. There’s a stage for bands, and a wooden deck and beach area that looks out onto Fort Pond. “Magic hour” — when the sun is about an hour away from setting — really is magical.
The best way to get in is to book a dinner reservation, even if it’s at 5 p.m. That way you skip the line and you’re already inside when the band starts playing at 6. When big musical guests are in town, eager fans will bring their kayaks, boats, inner tubes (whatever they can find) and park themselves in the pond to get a glimpse.
“Magic hour” truly earns its name.
The Grey Lady
Near Gosman’s Dock, The Grey Lady is one of the few going-out places on the bay side of Montauk.
The place has a rustic nautical feel,with picnic tables for nice group dinners. But once 10 p.m. rolls around it’s more of a “meet me on the dance floor” kind of place. The DJs are pretty good and there’s a nice outdoor space to escape the sweaty dance space.
The line to get in isn’t as extreme as Surf Lodge, but be prepared to wait.
If you’re looking for a dance floor sans the millennial debauchery, head to Shagwong Tavern. It’s a no-frills bar with solid bar food right in the center of Montauk.
The bands are old school, the dress code is more casual, and people are there simply to have a good time, not so much to be seen. It’s a judgment-free zone, and dancing is encouraged. You’ll even find some locals cutting a rug there too!
After the party: Find your detox
The competition to get into a workout class in the Hamptons is no joke. (What happened to vacations being about relaxation?)
Recently, boutique fitness studios like Barry’s Bootcamp, SLT, Tracy Anderson and Soulcycle have all opened studios “out east,” and spots fill up quickly.
At a 11:45 a.m. Soulcycle class in an old barn in Bridgehampton, there were 75 riders and not a free bike in sight.
The workout is legit, and many of the best NYC-based instructors come out to the Hamptons to teach in the summer.
Mandala Yoga in Amagansett is a more relaxed speed. The ground-floor studio has a lot of natural light and there’s a cool breeze. Most of the yoga teachers are year-round residents which makes the classes feel more like a community.
After a good workout, you can stop by Happy Bowls for an acai bowl. There’s usually a wait to get your food, so we’d recommend placing an order then strolling around town. Our favorite toppings are strawberries, blueberries, coconut and honey.
Soulcycle, 264 Butter Lane, Bridgehampton, NY 11932; +1 631-537-3630
Mandala Yoga, 10 Amagansett Square Drive Amagansett, NY 11930; +1 631-267-6144
Chow time: Seafood is king
Lunch is served in Montauk.
The lobster roll is synonymous with the east end, which is why there is a restaurant called The Lobster Roll in Amagansett. It’s known to locals simply as “LUNCH.”
The warm lobster roll is a must: The bun is perfectly toasted and there is a generous portion of lobster. The restaurant has an extensive menu: fried blowfish, kale salads, burgers, fish platters and lots of lobster. The restaurant has been owned by the same family for 52 years, but they are changing with the times. There’s now an entire gluten-free menu too.
Crow’s Nest is newer to town and more upscale, but it still retains the chill Montauk vibe. There’s a casual lakeside bar for cocktails and mingling, which is perfect at sunset. Just up the hill is the restaurant, which overlooks Lake Montauk. Must-haves are the blue crab claw tagliatelle and the curried vegetable ragout.
Gosman’s Inlet Cafe in Montauk has incredible sushi. We recommend the summer roll. It’s not the traditional cucumber-and-fake-crab one you’re used to; this one changes every summer, but there’s always a delicious piece of fish usually topped with mango and a delicious sauce.
The restaurant overlooks the channel where the fishing boats come in after their day’s catch. The sushi is so fresh it tastes like it came right off the boat. Gosman’s dock was founded in 1943, and the restaurants there still serve fresh seafood.
Crow’s Nest; 4 Old West Lake Dr, Montauk, NY 11954; +1 631-668-2077
Sleep: A night next to the ocean
It’s impossible not to relax with a view like this.
One word you can apply to a Hamptons hotel is “cute.” There are really charming places to stay if you’re in town for a weekend.
The top of the line is Gurney’s in Montauk. It has breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, an amazing in-house restaurant (Scarpetta, which is also in Manhattan) and a great Sunday beach party.
Although not as elaborate a spread as Gurney’s, the newly opened 30-room HERO Beach Club is quaint and a little closer to town. It has a new-age Canyon Ranch vibe with a 1950s twist and the rooms are millennial chic.
We also love The Maidstone Hotel in East Hampton. It was recently redone and has the charm of a bed and breakfast. It has 19 rooms and three cottages and the new design is a “whimsical take on the traditional Americana/Hamptons aesthetic.” There are free bikes for cruising around town, and a great swing on the front porch.
On the other side of the spectrum is camping at the Hither Hills Campsite. Situated between Montauk and Amagansett, you can park your car, RV or whatever in between the beach dunes right on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s simple, easy living with a milliondollar view.
Camping not your thing? Try Driftwood Resort down the road. Both the campsite and resort are on a more secluded part of the beach than some of the other hotels, so it’s a great way to escape the chaos. Driftwood has beach or dune-facing rooms that can sleep up to four people. Both views make waking up with morning coffee even more enjoyable. The resort also provides beach chairs and umbrellas for free — a big deal in the Hamptons.
Gurney’s, 290 Old Montauk Hwy, Montauk, NY 11954; +1 631-668-2345