Monmouth County, New Jersey.
Ferry: In summer, take Seastreak Ferry from Manhattan to Fort Hancock. Off-season, take Seastreak's daily commuter ferry to nearby Atlantic Highlands, NJ. Get map & directions to the ferry departure point at Pier 11 or E. 35th St.
Public Transit: Take NJ Transit for transit within NJ. Bus 834 to Highlands drops off near park entrance. NJT's North Jersey Coast train line to Red Bank links to Bus 834.
Take Academy Lines for bus from NYC to Highlands.
Open daily, dawn-dusk
Accessible restrooms are available at all Beach Centers and at Guardian Park in Fort Hancock. The North Beach Observation Deck and Lighthouse Keeper's Quarters are both accessible. All parking lots have handicapped spaces available. Get more information.
Gateway NRA (NPS), 732-872-5970.
A historic fort at Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Fort Hancock at Sandy Hook—part of Gateway National Recreation Area—provided coastal defense for New York Harbor from 1895 until 1974. During the height of the Cold War, the fort housed Nike missiles prepared to intercept warplanes threatening New York City. Just a quick trip from Manhattan by ferry, this National Historic Landmark district at Sandy Hook is open for the public to explore.
The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the nation's oldest continuously operated lighthouse. Due to its strategic location, it was defended by British loyalists to ensure the safe passage of British ships into New York City during the American Revolution. Fully restored, it has been guiding ships into New York Harbor since 1764.
Designed to be invisible from the sea, the first of the many concrete gun batteries at Fort Hancock was constructed as early as 1890. They have housed a wide range of artillery over the years. The first guns had only the limited range of 7 miles, but by 1919 artillery range increased to 20 miles. The Mortar Battery included an extensive tunnel system meant for storage of guns and ammunition. During World War II, the tunnels were converted into a top secret command center for defense of New York City. Battery Potter, one of the oldest gun batteries, is open to the public via ranger-led tours.
Other buildings still on view today include a renovated chapel, homes for the enlisted men and officers, a YMCA building, and the former post movie house which is now used for music and live theater. While not all are open to the public, these historic structures offer a dramatic foil to the beaches and surf available at Sandy Hook.
Things to Do
Special Events in May
Twilight by the Bay
5/10, 7-8:30pm, History House Porch, Bldg. 1
Experience Fort Hancock at twilight and learn about its history on a one-and-a-half-mile walk with a park ranger. Parking is available behind History House.
World War II Harbor Defense Lantern Tour
Join a park ranger and Army Ground Forces Association (AFGA) members in army uniform for a walk that includes Battery Potter and Battery Gunnison. This night tour takes a look at how Fort Hancock's big guns protected New York City during World War II. Volunteers from AGFA will be interpreting Battery Gunnison/New Peck as it was manned in May 1943. Bring a flashlight and camera and wear sturdy shoes.
Battery Gunnison/New Peck Preserved
5/17, 12-4pm, Gunnison Beach Plaza
Stop by and watch members of the Army Ground forces Association in period uniform and costume conduct drills and prepare for Sunday's Costal Defense program.
Ocean Fun Day
5/18, 11am-3pm, Barracks 22
Spend the day with your family enjoying hands-on fun while learning about the environment. Join New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium (NJSGC) and its Ocean Fun Day partners for this popular pre-summer event. Learn how to use a seine net or join the youth fishing clinic. Test your boating safety knowledge or become a beachcomber and search for natural treasures on a guided tour. Hear from NJ scientists and researchers about the inner workings of the ocean and how to protect it for generations to come.
Mortar Battery/Battery Potter
Batteries will be open with tours provided by park rangers and volunteers.
Coastal Defense Day
5/18, 12-4:30pm, Gunnison Beach Day
Participate in loading the guns, learn to track ships and visit the plotting room and magazine. Volunteers from the Army Ground forces Association bring Battery Gunnison/New Peck and its 6-inch guns to life as they were in May 1943.
Fort Hancock Walking Tour
History, scenic views, biking, rollerblading and walking.