Brief History of Montauk and the Montauk Highway

Montauk Lighthouse

Making it past the Hamptons to the end of Long Island means arriving in Montauk. Beyond the small beach fishing town, is Montauk State Park and the Montauk Lighthouse.

Well known as the road leading to tony beach towns, the highway begins much before the Hamptons sector of the island. The road starts in Jamaica, Long Island, near JFK airport; from that point and for the rest of the highways path through Nassau County, it’s called Merrick Road or Route 27A. (Not to be confused with the Sunrise Highway, Route 27, which runs just north of the Montauk Highway, and begins in Brooklyn. Although, the two highways merge in Southampton.)

As the highway continues east to Montauk, the road has a slue of supplementary names as it passes through different towns, but is mostly referred to as the Montauk Highway 27A.

Approximately 100 miles long, the highway is parallel to the Atlantic Ocean for most of its length. The last address is 2000 Montauk Highway β€” that of the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Many locals know this last stop as β€œthe end.”

The Beginning of Montauk

The original inhabitants of Montauk were the Montaukett Indians until the early 17th Century when the first white settler arrived in Montauk. Adrian Block was the first to set foot there, however, the first to actually settle there was Lord Gardiner, moving there from Connecticut in 1639.

As settlement progressed, the highway was laid out naturally as ranchers let their livestock graze on the Montauk peninsula in the 1700s.

George Washington authorized construction of the lighthouse in 1792. It was completed in 1796 as the first lighthouse in New York State. Much later, in 1879, Arthur Benson bought Montauk for $151,000. Then, Austin Corbin extended the railroad from Sag Harbor to Montauk in 1895. Corbin wanted to make “the end” the Port of Entry from overseas.

In the next century, the landscape of Montauk was developed with hotels including the Yacht Club and Montauk Manor, and subsequently beach homes and smaller motels. Developer Carl Fisher, who took part in the development of Miami, took part in the creation of Montauk.

Montauk Today

Today, the town remains a quieter vacation area β€” as compared to much of the rest of the nearby Hamptons. Major celebrity sightings, upscale shopping and the talked about summer parties stay back a few miles west of Montauk, between Southampton and Easthampton.

The lighthouse and museum, located in Montauk Point State Park, are open to visitors during the warmer months and Montauk is the sport fishing capital of New York State. Various camping sights are scattered throughout area parks and beaches in Montauk.

Montauk’s slogan says “where Long Island begins.” Perhaps “the end” is the true beginning of Long Island with centuries-old roots and where the Montauk Highway began.


  1. Montauk Historical Society
  2. Montauk Chamber of Commerce