8 Ways to Spend a Day at Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook (part of Gateway National Recreation Center, a 3 part National Park in New York and New Jersey) is the peninsula at the intersection of ocean and bay, in Monmouth County. It’s a New Jersey treasure that has hosted generations of family beach days, class trips, and outdoor adventures. We packed up bikes and beach gear and traveled to Sandy Hook in April. The weather was 80 degrees at home, but certainly cooler at the shore. It was a perfect day to explore.
Hit the paved trails at Sandy Hook and see ocean, bay, and forest all in one trip! The multiuse pathway is 7 miles long, with plenty of parking lots along the way, so you can choose multiple places to start your journey. During the summer you can rent a bike on the island so, no bike rack, no worries.
Sandy Hook is home to Fort Hancock, a Nike Missile Base, and multiple hidden historical landmarks. Veterans of the Nike Missile system offer monthly tours and living historians offer tours of the park’s gun batteries on select dates. Park rangers also offer tours throughout the day and early evening. While exploring we found plenty of monuments and educational information to stop and learn about.
While we didn’t make it there during our visit, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse offers tours beginning at 1 PM daily until 4:30 PM. Children 48 inches and over can climb the lighthouse. Find the lighthouse in Fort Hancock, and don’t miss seeing the Navesink Twin Lights on your way in and out of the park.
Of course, there’s the beach! Lifeguards are only on duty in season, and in posted areas. There’s plenty of sand to play on though, and the breeze is perfect for kite flying. Search for shells, sea glass, or lounge with a book. Feeling environmental? Participate in a beach sweep – Clean Ocean Action offers two a year.
Make it an overnight at Sandy Hook and reserve one of the 20 campsites offered in Horseshoe Cove. Sites are primitive with only a fire ring, grill and picnic table. Camping is available April-October.
6. Nature Walks
Sandy Hook is a perfect place for plant identification and birding. We were shocked to find cactus as we wandered. The American Littoral Society plans many FREE events on Sandy Hook for families. Take a solstice walk, search for horseshoe crabs, or learn how to identify native trees and plants. There are 325 species of birds, and seals often find their way to Sandy Hook as well.
Picnic on the beach or anywhere in the park. The views are different everywhere you go – bay side, ocean side, shaded or sunny. There are grills and tables in Fort Hancock and in season Sandy Hook hosts food trucks. Remember Sandy Hook has a garbage in garbage out policy so anything you bring in that becomes trash needs to be taken back out.
The American Littoral Society offers surf fishing classes for a fee and also manages the tagged fish program. If you catch a tagged fish, the Society can tell you where the fish has been. Salt water fishing needs a permit, so plan before you go!
There’s plenty more to Sandy Hook – you’re bound to have a full day doing these 8 things or the countless more I’m hoping to find on my future visits.
Things to know before you go to Sandy Hook:
- Parking fees are only in effect from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so your off season trip to Sandy Hook is free! Parking is $15/car before 5 PM in season.
- Restrooms are available, but are limited off season.
- Bring a bag for your garbage and take it with you.
- Poison ivy can be rampant at the park – be careful in wooded areas.
- Check the Sandy Hook calendar of events and make the most of your visit!