By William Wolf

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With the Hamptons getting increasingly crowded, there is more reason than ever seek a more leisurely atmosphere by going further on Long Island to vacation in historic Montauk, N.Y. You still have to pass through traffic, but once there life is more casual than in the social swing of the Hamptons and the options for enjoyment are intriguing.

The choice of my wife and I for years when staying in Montauk has been the Panoramic View on the Old Montauk Highway, which you approach before getting to the town of Montauk. This is a well cared for establishment with a variety of buildings all overlooking the beach and ocean. We've stayed in different rooms in the various buildings and have always been satisfied. The units have equipped kitchenettes, wide windows, a patio or terrace, air conditioning, and best of all, the resort provides access to a large, perfect beach. There is also a modest-sized pool. Prices are reasonable by today's standards and rates vary with location and the time of year (We paid $175 a night in July for a king bed room, but there are more expensive units.)

Staying there we really feel as if we are out of the crush. While many other places in the area welcome entire families, the Panoramic View does have certain rules that wouldn't be right for everyone. Children under 10 are not accepted, and neither are pets. The result is a peaceful atmosphere. There is no food served either, but Montauk restaurants are plentiful and while at the beach one can stroll on the sand to neighboring Gurney's Inn, the well-known, long-established resort and spa, and get lunch or a snack at its beachfront café. It is important to know that the Panoramic View doesn't accept credit cards, just cash or check, and it does get fully booked, so it is better to reserve well in advance. (Phone: 631-668-3000) While a car is preferable, there is service between New York City and Montauk with Hampton Jitney.

If you enjoy fishing, Montauk is an especially good bet, as fishing is a main occupation there. You can go to Montauk Harbor and find fishing boats to take you out on half day or all day trips. There are also many charter boats available. Even if you aren't that serious, just strolling at the harbor is always a delight. Another possibility is going on whale watching trips, as offered by the Viking Fleet. (631-668-5700)

One of the eateries we enjoy most is the Gosman's Dock restaurant, a short drive from the Montauk center. The large place gets busy, but you know you can always get in if you don't mind waiting on the patio and having a drink until your name is called. The wait, not always a long one, is pleasant because you can watch the boats go in and out while sipping your drink. The restaurant serves lobsters, steamers and fish prepared in various ways, and the atmosphere is pleasingly casual.

Gosman's Dock is an entire complex, where one can buy fish to take home or frequent the boutiques that have space there. One afternoon we took a short (about 45 minutes) harbor cruise from Gosman's, where a tour boat docks. It was enjoyable getting out in the harbor and seeing the view from a different perspective.

The Montauk area is also a good vantage point from which to drive to various parks, including Montauk State Park and Montauk County Park. There is also the Hither Hills State Park and camping area. Another attraction is driving out to the Montauk Lighthouse, which was built in 1796, some four years after George Washington commissioned it. Montauk's history goes back a very long way. Estimates are that there Indians were there perhaps as early as 6500 BC. It was a Dutch explorer, Adriaen Block, who landed ashore on 1614. The entire area is an interesting one to explore.

Restaurants are plentiful in the vicinity. One of the popular informal spots is "Lunch" along Route 27 at Napeague. We also were impressed with Ocean's Grillfish in the same neighborhood. Families can find inexpensive restaurants in town, including those serving pizzas or general Italian food. Seafood places, of course, are plentiful.

For those staying in Montauk but wanting to get a taste of East Hampton life, the drive is a short one. But during peak periods there is a rush on the trendy restaurants for reservations. Life is so much more casual in Montauk. (For more information on accommodations, dining and activities go to www.montauklife.com.)

  

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