It’s a hot August day, and I’m in the hip fishing village of Montauk, New York, at the tip of Long Island. Three friends and I just arrived at Ruschmeyer’s, a Neverland for summer-loving grown-ups who want to relive their childhood camp memories. A staffer resembling a J. Crew model escorts us across the central lawn (known as the Magic Garden) past crowds of thirtysomethings playing Ping-Pong and bocce ball. Our cedar cabin, one of 19 that were built in 1952 when the property was an actual summer camp, has a yellow-and-black Moroccan rug, beautiful wicker beds, and a hammock for lounging. Bubble wands sit on the nightstands, and ingredients for s’mores cool in the fridge. This is definitely a step up from the YMCA camp I went to as a kid. There, the bunk bed mattresses were wrapped in plastic and our welcome gift was bug spray.
Spanky, the restaurant maître d’, arrives and ticks off a list of activities. One friend decides to join a yoga class; the others opt to paddleboard. I grab a beach cruiser bike and ride around Fort Pond, past the crowded outdoor bar of the Surf Lodge hotel, and am reminded that this once quiet village is quickly becoming the summer alternative to the flashy Hamptons. By sunset, we’ve all returned with an appetite. Luckily for us, the culinary team comes from New York City’s Fat Radish restaurant. We feast on wood-smoked monkfish and a delicious white clam pizza. After dinner, we retreat to the Magic Garden, which is now illuminated by paper lanterns strung from the trees. We join a group around the fire and swap childhood camp stories that largely involve sneaking over to the boys’ side and smuggling Boone’s Farm wine into the cabins. A game of truth or dare ensues, and I feel 15 again when I’m challenged to skinny-dip in the pond. Someone brings over a round of margaritas from the Electric Eel bar, but it will take many more before I shed any clothing. By the time the group is legally buzzed, a DJ is spinning pop tunes that inspire us to dance late into the night. Back in our cabin, I realize with relief that there’s one tradition this summer camp hasn’t embraced: the early morning wake-up call to the bugle of reveille.
Ruschmeyer’s, 161 Second House Road, Montauk, NY. Open late May through mid-September
This appeared in the July/August 2012 issue.