The Surf Lodge prides itself on being just that little bit different from its ritzy neighbours in the Hamptons. The summer playground of moneyed New Yorkers, East and West Hampton are scattered with exclusive beach houses, boutiques and restaurants – everyone from Martha Stewart to P Diddy has a house here. It helps, then, that The Surf Lodge is breathing distance from these chi-chi enclaves, perched right at the end of the Long Island peninsula in Montauk – celebrated for fishing, surfing and a very different type of visitor.
As you progress towards "the last resort" on the eastern tip of the island, the huge houses, manicured lawns and parades of designer boutiques gradually give way to the more modest, but no less beautiful charms of Montauk. The town claims to have more salt-water fishing records than any other port in the world, with a rash of seafood restaurants that bolster its credentials. There are no fewer than six state parks in its 20 square miles, and the surf-buffeted beaches are a major lure for boarders. Its kookier charms seduced Andy Warhol, who bought a house here in the 1970s; the Rolling Stones visited and reputedly wrote the song "Memory Motel" about the hotel and bar of the same name near his estate. More recently its windswept beaches featured in the surrealist film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
It's a sleepy place that shuts down from November to May and up until last summer had managed to remain low-key. But then a trio of board-loving New York night-spot impresarios decided that Montauk was ready for a tribute and opened The Surf Lodge.
They aimed to bring a little bit of Hawaii's "aloha" spirit to Long Island, with a healthy measure of New York cool. Built along the tranquil shoreline of Fort Pond, the setting is certainly peaceful, but the party crowd it drew in its opening season caused uproar among locals and regular visitors. Happily the vibe seems to have mellowed a little this year, with nightly live bands playing chilled summer tunes to gatherings of laid-back surfer-types.
The Lodge is made up of three unobtrusive wooden-fronted buildings on the edge of Fort Pond. One houses the reception, restaurant and bar in an open-plan design which is light and airy, while the two others contain guest rooms. Stripped-wood floors, pale walls, vintage artefacts and artfully arranged pieces of driftwood give a retro-beach feel to the reception area, which includes a sunken sofa area in the centre of the room and a selection of surf books. The adjoining restaurant is more colourful, with diner-style booths. Guests can spill on to deckchairs in the outdoor bar or into the cosier indoor bar which twinkles with nightlights in the evening.
Breakfast isn't offered beyond juice and coffee, which perhaps means the Surf Lodge is taking things just a bit too easy – and food doesn't start until 5pm (with the exception of Sunday brunch). However, the Lodge's acclaimed restaurant is headed by chef Sam Talbot, who shot to fame after appearing on US TV show Top Chef. Consequently the tables are often filled by the rich and glamorous (Gwyneth Paltrow is among those rumoured to have dug into the seafood delights here). Its locally celebrated fresh lobster rolls perfectly sum up the lodge's indulgent, easy-going atmosphere.
Despite its name, the lodge is half a mile from the beach, but there's a complimentary truck to ferry boarders to the waves and canoes loaned out to explore the pond.
Many people heading to the Hamptons take the Hampton Jitney bus, which does the 125 miles from Midtown Manhattan in just under three hours, with connections from JFK airport in four. A taxi from the bus stop to The Surf Lodge costs about $7 (£4).
A big, black number 10 was painted on the slate-grey wooden door of my room, giving it a somewhat military feel. Luckily the interiors were far less foreboding, with white walls, wooden floors and understated artwork. Brightly coloured cushions were scattered on the enormous bed while the wooden sink and pebbled floor of the shower bolstered the natural, beachy ambience of the lodge.
Each of the hotel's 24 rooms opens on to a private sundeck overlooking the pond, complete with hammocks for lazy afternoon siestas. The only rooms that deviate from this formula are the three suites, which come with a spacious living area and small kitchen. Along with iPod docks, a complimentary bar of "sex wax" (which, of course, gives surfers a better grip on their boards) is provided in each room, but be warned, there are no phones in either the rooms or hotel for guest use.
The Surf Lodge, 183 Edgemere Street, Montauk, Suffolk County, New York State, US (001 631 668 1562; the surflodge.com)
Double rooms start at $265 (£159), room only.Reuse content