The time is just before rush hour, but on the road from Patchogue to Montauk, you barely know it. It’s winter and under pewter skies and dying slivers of light, Sunrise Highway seamlessly merges with Montauk Highway as it meanders through every Hampton--from Bays to Bridge and more--and piney woods, then finally, through copses of bare trees neatly parted before you in the night. We drive on until we reach The End: Montauk Point, the easternmost spot in New York State, just floating on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s an hour and change away from the vibrant village of Patchogue … but a universe apart, particularly for couples already in their own worlds. For them, there’s no desolation in Montauk’s isolation. After all, romance burns its brightest when the world is tuned out, but once the chill sets in at the tip of the South Fork, you don’t have to--nature’s already done it for you. Because for lovers, this destination is not fair-weather like summer crowds--it’s eternal, the sunshine, without even a spotless mind on which to draw it
We pull up to Sunrise Guest House, a four-bedroom, homey retreat just beyond the loop of a still active, albeit sleepy town. Ample parking, including a thoughtful designated space for the mobility impaired, plus a self check-in make the luxury of time our friend.
It’s cheery with its red shutters and scarlet-cushioned chairs paired up alongside colorful bistro tables along the farmer’s porch, stationed in anticipation of the sunrise that gives the lodgings its name.
We walk in to the cozily lit living room, unobstructed by the formality of a reception desk or foyer. Instead, an immediate welcome is the first impression we get, where large checkers await challengers on a maple table, a couch posts up behind a salvaged wood-style coffee table, and two leather easy chairs become invitations with the presence of jaunty throw pillows in Americana patterns.
To the left, a flow into the breakfast room, where two tables are nestled beside window ledges with binoculars for those hoping for a glimpse of seals, whales, and, in summer, dolphins. It’s here that owners Stacy and John Grisch unobtrusively offer homemade veggie-laden quiches and dessert breads like pumpkin and banana; classic muffins and bagels; fresh fruit; Greek yogurt; Irish oatmeal; hot coffee, gourmet teas, and organic milk; and assorted Dickinson’s preserves, Justin’s nut butter, and more offerings that show attention to the details that make up life’s little luxuries.
My name is on the chalkboard by the stairwell, as is the owners’ contact information and check-out and breakfast hours, and I read it with a little thrill. It’s funny, but in an age where everything is digitized, seeing your name personally written feels like a friendly wave, even when the message is just your room number and a note: “key is in door.”
We quietly make our way up the stairs--it’s late and, thanks to the board, we know that other guests may be having peaceful moments we’d be loathe to disturb. On the landing is a bookshelf I make a note to come back to for even more of an escape from the busyness of our everyday lives near Patchogue.
A turn of the key at Room 2 has us pleasantly surprised at what the wildly affordable off-season rates offer visitors to Montauk. There’s a full-sized navy sofa accented with tastefully beachy toss pillows and a rustic chest serving duty as a coffee table. Directly before it, a fireplace--the clear show-stealer from the flat-screen TV in the corner we would surely not use this weekend.
Around the corner is a classic queen bed, made up to the luxurious nines with puffy pillows and layers upon layers of bedding perfect for snuggling under as winter winds audibly blow across the ocean outdoors. We can hear it beyond the many windows of the rooms, including the ones above the bench seating in the bedroom.
An unexpectedly spacious bathroom impresses, its driftwood gray floors and marble vanity a contemporary surprise after the more homey decor of the rest of the bed-and-breakfast. Gleaming white subway tile lines the walls, and beneath a delightfully high-pressure rainfall showerhead, rock-style flooring.
We fall asleep easily in such comfortable surroundings, and before we know it, the sun rises to greet us, stretching fingers of tangerine sherbet and lilac over an indigo Atlantic finally visible after our evening drive out east.
It’s in this moment--hands held in bed, peering around the corner to the fiery-touched sea as a quietly serene day of winter hikes, boutique shopping, and uninterrupted quality time begins--that you realize the true beauty of that simple request: “Meet me in Montauk.”
The Muse at The End. When it comes to taste, whether it’s style or flavor, this open-year-round gem is where you’ll get your fill. Affordable elegance is the best way to describe our date night recommendation, with creatively elevated interpretations of accessible, comforting dishes that are plated with gorgeous detail. A nightly prix fixe (excluding holiday weekends) for a mere $35 makes fine dining on a Montauk getaway budget-friendly; attentive service in the off-season lull adds to the romance of the intimate surroundings.
The Wild Atlantic. Experience it in its most glorious and untamed state and watch the waves crash onto endless swathes of deserted sands in the winter. Many 4WD owners find their zen driving across it, too--just make sure to have the right permits if you choose to do so. There are also dozens of easy hiking trails nearby for romantic walks along towering dunes, well-marked trails, and toward panoramic views.
Couples Spa Day. Deborah Thompson Day Spa & Boutique is open year-round and offers a lovely couples treatment room on the main floor. A small boutique with fun gifts provide amusement after treatment, but for more, the main street just steps from this retreat offers plenty of shops keeping winter hours.
Montauk Brewing Company. One of Long Island’s favorite beer brands and a pioneer in our region, this brewery has a small tasting room that’s warm and “hopping” even in the cold.