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.
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.
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.
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.