GATEWAY NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
Highlands, Garden State Parkway Exit 117, 732-872-5970, www.nps.gov/gate
Sandy Hook, a slender, seven-mile slip of sand that juts north
along the northeastern tip of Monmouth County and divides
the Bay Shore area from the oceanfront beach towns, is part of
the Gateway National Recreation Area. This 2,044-acre barrier
peninsula offers ocean beaches with concessions and changing
facilities as well as a view of the Manhattan skyline. The Inlet
side—the western shore—of the peninsula is lined with protected
bay beaches. The bay side is perfect for wind surfing, kayaking,
parasailing, Jet Skiing and boating. Motorless car-top boats can
be launched from Beach Area C and Horseshoe Cove. Body
surfers and surf fishermen enjoy the ocean waves. Clothing is
optional at secluded Gunnison Beach.
In addition to Sandy Hook’s beautiful beaches, you’ll find sand
dunes, salt and freshwater marshes, 264 acres of maritime forest,
and a bird sanctuary, which is a prime local spot for birding.
Nature lovers revel in the 300-plus species of migratory birds.
The park includes a visitor center and Multi-Use Trails for walking,
biking and skating. At the northern end of the peninsula, Fort
Hancock, a U.S. Army Coast Artillery Post that protected New York
Harbor from 1895 to 1974, and the Sandy Hook Proving Ground,
where the U.S. Army tested new weaponry from 1874 to 1919, are
National Historic Landmarks, as is their neighbor, the Sandy Hook
Lighthouse, the nation’s oldest lighthouse.
Highlands and Sea Bright are the closest towns to Sandy Hook,
where you can pick up lunch and beach supplies on the way in
to the park or enjoy cocktails and dinner at day’s end. Seastreak
provides ferry service to Sandy Hook beaches in the summer from
nearby New York City. Gateway National Park at Sandy Hook is a
dog friendly beach on the Inlet side of the Hook. Although there is
no entrance fee to Sandy Hook, there is a $15 per-car parking fee.
A $75 season parking pass is also available. Golden Access and
Golden Age Passport holders receive a 50% discount.
Photo ©Michael S. Miller
Photo by C. Leslie