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 from Memorial Day
weekend through Labor Day. A $75 season parking pass is also available.
Golden Access and Golden Age Passport holders receive a 50% discount.
Highlands, Garden State Parkway Exit 117
Photo by Jessi Ticino
Photo by Jenifer Rutherford