Monmouth County, New Jersey.
Ferry: In summer, take the New York Waterway or Seastreak ferry from Manhattan to Fort Hancock, then the free shuttle bus to North Beach, Gunnison Beach or Beach Area E. Off-season, take Seastreak's daily commuter ferry to nearby Atlantic Highlands, NJ.
Ferry departure points in NYC:
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.
The Sandy Hook Visitor Center, Lighthouse Keepers' Quarters and Barn, Multi-Use Pathway, and restrooms at all six beach centers are wheelchair accessible. Beach wheelchairs are available at the Visitor Center. All parking lots have handicapped spaces. Get more information.
A barrier beach peninsula at the northern tip of the Jersey shore
Sandy Hook—part of Gateway National Recreation Area—is a 2,044-acre barrier beach peninsula at the northern tip of the New Jersey shore. This perennially popular destination is just a quick trip by car or ferry from Manhattan or inland New Jersey and offers pristine beaches, stunning views of the harbor and the New York skyline, as well as historical landmarks including Fort Hancock and the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. Sandy Hook comes alive during the summer and is always a busy weekend destination, offering a wide range of activities that highlight nature, history, and outdoor recreation.
With seven beaches open to the public, the peninsula has room for everyone, from sunbathers to fisherman. Strong swimmers can ride the ocean waves or try their hand at windsurfing, canoeing or kayaking in the bay while others soak up the rays on the beach. Alternatively, the beach is a beautiful place to walk and observe shore birds and other wild marine species. In the evening, the beach offers a prime spot to see the lights of New York Harbor. Special evening programming includes summer beach concerts hosted by the Sandy Hook Foundation and family campfires with national park rangers.
Sandy Hook is also a wonderful destination for nature enthusiasts. A network of scenic hiking and multiuse trails in the famous Holly Forest provides wonderful opportunities for visitors to see wildlife. Occasional ranger-led night hikes through the forest also give the adventurous an exciting sensory experience.
Sandy Hook is not just a refuge for urbanites, but is also an oasis for many varieties of flora and fauna that thrive on the site's unique ecology. Horseshoe crabs and other critters are the focus of many educational hands-on park programs for both children and adults, but for many, the site's real stars are the osprey and piping plovers that nest in Sandy Hook's carefully maintained salt marshes. The sensitive nesting habitats of these unique birds are protected by the National Park Service and other groups. Visitors can take part in a variety of birding activities, including tours led by local bird experts. With over 300 species seen at Sandy Hook, visitors are sure to spot some interesting feathered residents.
For history buffs, Sandy Hook offers the historic district of Fort Hancock, with gun batteries and military structures dating from 1895 and the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the oldest continuously operated lighthouse in the United States. Ranger-led tours of the lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters are available periodically.
Things to Do
Special Events in October
Monarch Butterfly Walk
10/10, 10-11:30am, Beach Plaza, Lot E
Walk with a park ranger to see this remarkable insect, whose migration route ends in Mexico. Call 732-872-5970 for reservations.
NJ Lighthouse Challenge Weekend
10/17 & 18, 8am-6pm, Lighthouse
Tour the Sandy Hook Lighthouse and each of the other 10 New Jersey Lighthouses along the Atlantic coastline and Delaware Bay which are open for tours during this annual event sponsored by the NJ Lighthouse Society.
Fall Bird Walk
10/18, 10am-12pm, Spermaceti Cove, Bet. Lot D & E
Join Monmouth County Audubon Society for a walk along the ocean and bayside to look for fall migrants. Wear comfortable shoes and bring binoculars.
25th Annual Beach Sweep
10/24, 9am-12:30pm, Seagull's Nest, Lot D
Join Clean Ocean Action's Beach Sweeps in its biannual, statewide beach cleanup that occurs at over 70 locations throughout the state of NJ. Each beach sweeper becomes a citizen scientist for the day as they record each piece of debris that they collect. This data impacts research and legislation. Bring gloves, attend rain or shine, and dress for the weather. Visit Clean Ocean Action's website or call 732-872-0111.
Stars of Sandy Hook
10/24, 7-10pm, Beach Plaza, Lot E
Join a park ranger and the Amateur Astronomy Association to view the night sky. Bring telescopes and/or binoculars.
Spooky Tales: Ghost of Fort Hancock
10/30, 7:30-10pm, Officer's Row: Building 18
Get into the Halloween Spirit on this moonlight walk around Historic Fort Hancock where ghosts have been known to linger. Cider and fall snacks will be provided. Bring flashlights. Fee program. Cost: $5 per person. Call 732-291-0055 for reservations.
History, swimming, windsurfing, surfing, fishing, strolling, boating, hiking, bird watching, biking and picnicking.