Scores of getaways along the north New Jersey shore are located within an hour or so of Manhattan. Asbury Park, Point Pleasant, and Sandy Hook Beach are easy to access for those living in New York City and those who want to add a little beach time to their NYC getaways. Many of these visitors hop aboard a luxurious catamaran, which provides high-speed service from Manhattan to Sandy Hook in under an hour, without having to worry about the traffic report.
Whether they arrive by land or sea, visitors will find beautiful scenery that seems to invite exploration. Unlike other New Jersey beaches, the beaches in Sandy Hook have the distinction of being part of a national park: the Gateway National Recreation Area to be exact. Ringing the New York Harbor, the park has units in Staten Island, Queens, and New Jersey, offering exciting options for recreation.
The New Jersey contingent of the Gateway NRA encompasses more than several miles of beaches along the bay and the Atlantic Ocean on a small swatch of land that just off into the water. When the weather is warm, many visitor flock to the Sandy Hook beach to enjoy time at the tip of the New Jersey shore.
While there is a whole lot to do at this site, typical seaside activities are quite popular. During the warmer days of the year, Manhattanites, Garden Staters, and visitors from far-flung places pack up their sunglasses, page-turning novels, and bathing suits, heading straight for the seashore.
Lifeguards patrol five beaches in Sandy Hook in a season that stretches from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Swimming is only allowed at guarded beaches, like the Ocean City beaches and Cape May beaches. Surf fishing is an option only when the lifeguards are not on duty.
During the summer season, several concession areas are open, providing snack, drinks, and any vital items needed for a day at the beach. A full-service restaurant, overlooking the beach, provides tasty meals in a relaxed atmosphere. In the spring and fall, the shops are open limited hours to serve the needs of Sandy Hook beach visitors.
Besides swimming and soaking in the sun, Sandy Hook Beach is a popular place for surfing, picnicking, boating, and bird watching. A paved multi-use trail, used by bikers, inline skaters, and people out for a stroll, winds from the park entrance to Fort Hancock. Now a museum, the historic site once played an important role in protecting New York Harbor in the Revolutionary War and beyond.
In fact, the entire park preserves some pretty interesting historical sites. Along Jamaica Bay in Queens, historic sites like Floyd Bennett Field, Fort Tilden, and Jacob Riis Park are open for exploration, air shows, ranger-led programs, and recreation. Back along Sandy Hook, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse is now a museum.
Standing watch over the harbor, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse and its twin, the Navesink Highlands, have stood as a beacon for centuries. The U.S. Coast Guard continues to keep the automated lights operating, and visitors can climb to the top of the Sandy Hook beacon. The New Jersey Lighthouse Society leads tours, which begin in the keepers's quarters. Now renovated as a museum, the exhibits explain the unique history and the people whose job it was to keep the Sandy Hook Lighthouse lighting up the night.
There's no charge to enter the national park, but parking fees are collected during the summer. Annual passes can be purchased for the beaches in Sandy Hook, Jacob Riis Park across the bay in Queens, and other parking areas. Seniors with the Golden Eagle Pass pay half price.
The closest accommodations to the beaches in Sandy Hook can be found right across the bay in Highlands. This sleepy seaside borough is home to bed and breakfast inns and other lodging providers. Plenty of New Jersey beach resorts are within a short drive in places like Point Pleasant, Asbury Park, Manasquan Beach, and Belmar Beach.
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