High heels or trekking boots? Yes please!
New York City is an all-time favourite city escape destination drawing people back time after time to enjoy the never stopping beat of the urban life. How about packing a pair of trekking boots for your next visit and escaping the hustle to mountain lakes or rugged coastal hills of the Atlantic Ocean?
Text and images: Valtteri Murto
Montauk – On the edge of the world
During summer months the sandy beaches and bustling restaurant scene of Montauk get full of upscale vacationers from New York. Once the temperatures get colder, the tourist hordes leave behind an authentic fisher village, stunning coastal nature and six state parks left to be explored.
Located in the easternmost tip of Long Island, Montauk has been a strategically important spot for maritime navigation and military alike. Since 1796, the National landmark, Montauk Point Lighthouse, has guided vessels in the coastal waters of the Atlantic. Experiencing the first rays of morning sun from the eternal waves of the Atlantic is an experience worth an early wakeup.
Right next to the lighthouse lie the remains of the abandoned USAF airbase Camp Hero. The perfectly located area was preserved as a state park once the military personnel had left, and the barracks and turrets are open for exploration. As the nature is taking over the facilities, including a massive Radar Station used to early alert of Soviet nuclear attack, it is no wonder that there are many rumours, fictional stories and even conspiracy theories set in the surroundings.
Cragged cliffs and Atlantic gales have provided inspiration for generations of artists ranging from Andy Warhol to Paul Simon. Speaking of inspiration, the fisherman Quint of the 1970s blockbuster Jaws was based on the Montauk based shark hunter and fisherman Frank Mundus.
Fishing has always been a central part of life at Montauk, and fresh catch is available at restaurants and shacks located in the fishing harbour.
For an authentic glimpse of old fisherman spirit, it is worth checking out The Dock. Serving fresh seafood and classic bar eats, the grill is known for the bad humour and relaxed atmosphere. Beware that no matter how much you would love to share your dish or some of the odd memorabilia decorating the walls on your Instagram feed, there is a caveat. Besides checks, whining kids and sensitive drunks, cell phones are forbidden here.
Montauk is a three-hour trip from New York City, either by LIRR from Penn Station or by a rental car. For car rentals, the most convenient starting point is JFK airport to avoid the traffic of central Manhattan. One perk of driving is the opportunity to have a stopover at ‘The Hamptons’, the other beautiful coastal towns of Long Island.
Bear Mountain State Park – above the everyday life
Located 50 miles upstream of Hudson River, this state park has been the go-to escape for New Yorkers for over a century. After inauguration steamboats were whistling up and down the river to take the citizens to their escape from the Big Apple.
Several operators offer day trips or one-way fares to Bear Mountain even today. For a less traditional transport, a rental car from New Jersey is a preferable option. Taking the PATH train to west bank of Hudson is a great way to avoid the Manhattan traffic.
Bear Mountain offers a variety of outdoor activities throughout the year. Trails for hiking and biking come with varying difficulty, and during winter months also skating and cross-country skiing is possible. The peak of the namesake mountain offers spectacular views over Hudson River and the historic Bear Mountain Bridge. During clear weather, even the silhouette of Manhattan may be seen in the horizon.
Most beautiful and popular time to visit Bear Mountain is from October to November, once the autumn foliage takes over. During winter, some of the areas and roads are closed so it is worth checking out the weather and possible closures if visiting during the colder months.
For those staying overnight, there are options from camping to lodges and the Bear Mountain Inn. If you are visiting on a day trip, be sure to enjoy the skyline of Manhattan from the New Jersey side before hopping back to subway and the hectic city life.