Are you looking for a day getaway to fish, hike or just relax? Sandy Hook, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, has all that, plus a place to stay!
The area was originally discovered by Sea Captain Henry Hudson in the early 1600’s and encompasses over 2,000 acres on the northernmost end of the Jersey shore. The almost seven-mile long peninsula juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and provides outstanding views of Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The area is run and managed by the National Park Service and is a favorite shore gateway for both New Yorkers and Jersyites alike, the area has something for everyone. Recreation, camping, wildlife, history, dog beaches, family beaches and even a clothing optional beach!
Sandy Hook was the site of Fort Hancock, the US Army base that served as an active military installation for over 100 years. The base was deactivated in 1975 when the National Park Service took over most of the peninsula.
A primary mission of the fort was the defense of New York Harbor, and the base held a number of weapons, including large mortars and artillery and, in later years, Nike Anti-Aircraft Missiles, which were installed to protect the greater metropolitan area. From 1874 to 1919, Sandy Hook also served as the U.S. Army’s first proving ground for testing new weapons and ordnance.
At the entrance to Fort Hancock is Guardian Park, a plaza dominated by two Nike missiles. The Nike Missile was the last defensive weapon system located at Fort Hancock. From 1954 until 1974, the Nikes guarded the New York area.
Once home to officers and their families, the line of buildings now sit vacant. The 18 once elegant houses are in a state of disrepair, and prior to COVID But—the National Park Service (NPS) has other ideas for these structures.
One of the storied houses is available for rent and the NPS is requesting proposals. According to the request for proposal, they are looking to: "...to lease multiple historic buildings for any compatible use of historic buildings, (such as residential, lodging, or business use related to residential or lodging use), commercial use, or nonprofit within Fort Hancock and the Sandy Hook Proving Ground National Historic Landmark, in the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway). The NPS is prepared to offer a lease term of up to 60 years."
Built in 1764 to help reduce shipwrecks, it is the oldest operating lighthouse in America and a National Historic Landmark. Located at the northern end of Sandy Hook the beacon has been in use for over 200 years and only darkened the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I and II.
The lighthouse is located within the fort, as is the Monmouth County Vocational School, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST).
Sandy Hook offers nature lovers 300 plus species of migratory birds, as well as the pristine holly forest.
And—when spring rolls around, so do the seals. Seals are known to make their way around the bay side of Sandy Hook so keep an eye out!
On the bay side there are many opportunities to swim, kayak, fish or hike. The park has extensive hiking trails, bike paths, salt marshes, and a spectacular holly forest
Sandy Hook offers a wide variety of Atlantic Ocean beaches—including the clothing optional Gunnison Beach! Gunnison is the only “nude” beach in New Jersey, and the largest on the East Coast.
There are many other family friendly beaches on the peninsula, with ample room for sunning, parking, restroom facilities and snacks. Separating the beaches is a beach designating just for fishing. The beaches are large, and there is plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the sun.