Sandy Hook

Quick Facts

Sandy Hook

New Jersey

(732) 872-5970

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

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, just a quick trip by car or ferry from Manhattan, offers pristine beaches and stunning views of the harbor and the New York skyline.

With seven beaches open to the public, the peninsula has plenty of room for everyone from sunbathers to fisherman. Adventurous visitors can try their hand at windsurfing in the bay while others can relax on the beach. However, this park is not just sand and surf. The historic district of Fort Hancock contains gun batteries and military structures dating from 1895, and the Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest in the United States. Visitors tired from a day in the sun have many opportunities for alternative recreation due to the Hook's set of hiking and multi-use trails, observation decks, and historical structures. Those who are looking for something a bit different can explore the salt marshes and maritime holly forest.

Sandy Hook is a welcomed oasis for many varieties of flora and fauna. Most notably, the peninsula is home to osprey and piping plovers. The National Park Service has taken steps to protect both species by ensuring safe nesting sites for the birds. Visitors can also 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.

Map of Sandy Hook

Latitude, Longitude: 40.478162, -74.016260

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Activities

  • Boating

    Non-motorized car-top boats can be launched from Beach Area C and Horseshoe Cove. Horseshoe Cove is popular with recreational boaters. Landing on a beach with a motorized boat is prohibited.

  • Bird Watching

    Sandy Hook is one New Jersey's best birding spots because it is along a major migration path. Spring and fall are peak seasons, but various species may be seen throughout the year. Waterfowl, gulls, raptors, songbirds, shorebirds, ducks, loons, and more are observed annually. Least terns and piping plovers nest in Sandy Hook.

    Plum Island, the Spermaceti Cove boardwalk, the Horseshoe Cove salt marsh, North Pond or the fields at Fort Hancock are birding hotspots. More information can be obtained at the New Jersey Audubon Society's Sandy Hook Bird Observatory.

  • Bicycling

    Bicyclists may use the 7-mile multi-use pathway that starts at the park entrance and loops around Fort Hancock. The pathway is shared by pedestrians and in-line skaters, and it may become quite crowded during the summer. Visitors may bring their own bike, or they can rent a bike from Ray's Bike Rentals. Ray's is located at 60 Hartshorne Drive; it is open seasonally during the spring and summer.

  • Fishing

    Surf fishing is permitted at all beaches except when lifeguards are on duty. An annual pass for nighttime fishing can be purchased at the Ranger Station (24 hours daily) or at the Sandy Hook Visitor Center (10-5 daily).

  • Hiking

    Hiking trails begin at the Sandy Hook Visitor Center and at Area M near 9-Gun Battery. Walking ocean beaches is permitted, but some areas are closed during the spring and summer shorebird nesting season. Visitors may also hike along the 7-mile multi-use pathway that starts near the park entrance. Pets are allowed but must be kept on a leash.

  • Historic Sites

    The Fort Hancock Historic District encompasses sites associated with Fort Hancock, which was an active army fort in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Visit the Fort Hancock Museum, Battery Potter, Nike Missile Launch Site, or Sandy Hook Lighthouse by strolling site to site. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse has a gift shop and exhibits on New Jersey lighthouses. The lighthouse Keeper's Barn features a video on the lighthouse's history.

  • Picnicking

    Blanket picnics are allowed on the beach, and the North Beach Observation Deck has tables and a view of New York Harbor. Charcoal grilling is permitted only at Guardian Park in Fort Hancock.

  • Water Sports

    Windsurfing and kite-boarding is best on the bay across from Beach Area C. Swimmers should be aware of rip currents; it is highly recommended that visitors swim only at beaches with a lifeguard present.

Seasonality/Weather

Summer is peak season in Sandy Hook, and weekends are especially busy. When parking areas are full, the park closes until spaces become available. Arrive before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. to avoid waiting. Lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at five ocean beaches from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

Most sites in the Fort Hancock Historic District are open weekends with extended summer hours.

The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is open daily in spring, summer, and fall.

Park Partners

HS Concessions

HS Concessions provides food, drinks, and beach supplies at Beach Area B, C, D, E, Gunnison, and North Beach. The Sea Gull's Nest Restaurant is at Beach Area D. Concessions are open daily from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, with limited services in spring and fall.

(732) 872-0025

Directions

Driving

From North Jersey and New York: - South on the New Jersey Turnpike - Exit 11 onto the Garden State Parkway (South) - Exit 117 (Keyport/Hazlet) - After toll, bear left and follow Route 36 East - 12 miles to park entrance (after crossing the Highlands Bridge) -Stay right to enter the park.

From South Jersey: - North on Garden State Parkway - Exit 105 (Eatontown), bear left for Route 36 East - Continue on Route 36 East, pass Monmouth Mall and across Route 35 through Eatontown and Long Branch (Route 36 is called Joline Avenue here). - Continue on Route 36, which turns left and follows north along ocean. (Route 36 is called Ocean Blvd. here) - North for six miles through the towns of Long Branch, Monmouth Beach and Sea Bright to park.

From Philadelphia & Camden, New Jersey: - New Jersey Turnpike north to Exit 7A (Shore Points) onto I-195 - East on I-195, to Garden State Parkway north. - GSP north to Exit 105 (Eatontown). - Then follow "From South Jersey" directions above.

Flying

Newark Liberty Airport is approximately 40 miles away.

Public Transportation

By New Jersey Transit train, the North Jersey Coast Line to Red Bank. New Jersey Transit Bus 834 stops near the park entrance. Phone 1-800-772-2222 for schedule.

Academy Lines bus service operates direct from New York City to Highlands. Phone 732-291-1300 or 1-800-242-1339 for schedule.

During the summer, visitors from Manhattan can take ferry shuttles directly to Sandy Hook, with shuttle bus service from the Fort Hancock Ferry Landing to North Beach, Gunnison Beach, and Beach Area E.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(732) 872-5970

Permits

(732) 872-5945

Links