Sandy Hook

Located on a thin peninsula that juts between the waters of Sandy Hook Bay and the New York/New Jersey Bight, the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area is a park that draws more than two million visitors annually to enjoy its historic landmarks, natural areas and recreational facilities.

Sandy Hook has expansive ocean and bay beaches for swimming, fishing and boating – plus recreational areas for biking, camping, running and walking. For nature lovers, the park also offers extensive salt marshes, a spectacular holly forest and more than 300 species of birds.

The National Park Service took over most of the 1,665-acre peninsula in 1975 after the U.S. Army deactivated Fort Hancock. Within the fort, which served as an active military installation from the late 1800s until 1974, is the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. Built in 1764 to help reduce shipwrecks, it is the oldest operating lighthouse in America and a National Historic Landmark. A primary mission of the fort was the defense of New York Harbor.

Over the years, a number of weapons were installed, including large mortars and artillery and, in later years, Nike Anti-Aircraft Missiles, which were installed to protect the greater metropolitan area. From 1874 to 1919, Sandy Hook also served as the U.S. Army’s first proving ground for testing new weapons and ordnance.

Don’t miss:
Mobile food vendors offer an array of eats and treats to visitors every summer.

Insider secret:
Grab your bike or running shoes and get ready to explore Sandy Hook’s miles-long Multi-Use Pathway, a wide paved thoroughfare that is much more scenic than its name would imply. This smooth, well-maintained trail starts at the park’s entrance and leads through a shady holly forest and along the salt marsh that skirts the beach, taking in some historic sites, including the two Nike missile sites.