How to Have a Day in Sandy Hook, NJ

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If you’re looking for a nature-filled day of fun in the sun, look no further than Sandy Hook Beach in Middletown Township. This hidden gem is more than just a beach. In addition to the miles of sandy shoreline, including a nude beach, there are so many areas, including the historic Fort Hancock, to explore. Keep reading for all the adventures awaiting you on Sandy Hook. 

sandy hook

How To Get There

Sandy Hook is a little over an hour’s drive south from Hoboken, or you could take NJ transit to Red Bank and hop on Bus 834, which will drop you off at the entrance of the park. Additionally, there’s a “Seastreak Ferry” from NYC between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. 

Things To Do

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the admission fee to Sandy Hook Beaches is $20 for cars and SUVs, which is a bargain considering how many activities you can pack into the day. America the Beautiful Access Pass and America the Beautiful Senior Pass holders receive a 50% discount for beach passes, while active military members and veterans with these passes will see free admission. Check out the official park site for more on how to obtain these passes.  

Read More: A Day Trip to Cold Spring, NY: A Hudson River Village

Beaches

sandy hook beach

While the indoor activities are still closed due to Covid-19, there is so much to explore outdoors. Sandy Hook has 7 miles of beaches to check out. 

On the east side are sandy beaches with views of the Atlantic (and Manhattan depending on where you are), and on the east side of the peninsula are bay-side beaches, which have calmer waters and are also dog-friendly. 

sandy hook beach

If you want, you can even head to one of the northernmost beaches to Gunnison Beach, where there is a nude beach section. 

Adventurous Activities

In between all the beaches are nicely kept walking and biking paths, which are paved with yellow lines to help direct traffic north and south. With miles to explore from the park entrance up to the end of the peninsula, adventure awaits for avid bikers and leisurely family riders alike. 

Looking for some playtime on the water? Head to Beach C Bayside Lot C to Sandy Hook Kayaks. There you can rent everything from one or two-person kayaks to stand-up paddleboards. Don’t worry if you need some help, they also offer lessons. Sandy Hook Kayaks also now offers inflatable island rentals which can hold chairs and a cooler to take the fun on the water.  

Camping

sandy hook

To keep the fun going multiple days in a row, Sandy Hook also offers overnight campsites for tents via reservations right in the middle of the park. If you are looking for a night in nature between May to October, make sure to pack your tent and sleeping bag. These areas can have up to six occupants and one car, so plan accordingly!

Fort Hancock

sandy hook

Once you’re ready for a break from the sand, head north to Fort Hancock, an old Army base with a history dating back to the Revolutionary War. When you first arrive on base, you’ll see rows of yellow houses (formerly officer quarters) with other buildings (including a chapel, gym, and theater) intermixed. You can pop up into McFly’s On The Hook if you’re feeling hungry, or are looking for a quick iced beverage. 

fort hancock

There are a few can’t-miss spots to visit when walking around, which you can see during a self-guided historic walking tour. Definitely visit the lighthouse, which is the oldest operating lighthouse in the U.S. You can’t go in, but you can walk around and see it shine bright. 

fort hancock

From there you can meander through the old homes, some have been refurbished while others look like ruins of days past. There are quite a few batteries to explore too. The one right across the street from the lighthouse is now an eerie walkway to an empty area where four large mortars once stood. There is also a Nine-Gun Battery to walk by, which was erected in 1904. 

fort hancock

Perhaps one of the best views in all of Sandy Hook is atop the Gunnison Battery, at the entrance onto Gunnison beach, which boasts wonderful views of the city on a clear day. 

fort hancock

If, after a day exploring the Fort, you still haven’t had your fill, you can stay overnight. You can actually rent houses on Fort Hancock, giving you unique 24-hour access to all the area has to offer.  

Where To Eat

While you can eat at McFly’s On The Wall within the park, there are more options just outside the entrance. 

2nd Jetty | 40 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright

2nd Jetty

(Photo credit: @2ndjettyseafood)

Just across the Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge (the main bridge that takes you across the water to Sandy Hook to the North or Sea Bright to the South) is 2nd Jetty, a favorite watering hole for locals. The seafood is fresh, and as of this May, they now have a full-service bar.   

Rum Runner | 816 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright

Rum Runner

(Photo credit: @mcloonesrumrunner)

If you drive a bit farther south, you’ll pass Rum Runner in Sea Bright – an upscale option with amazing water views both indoors and out. The decor is extremely trendy and light, with large windows to highlight the water. This place has everything from flatbreads to tacos, and of course, so many seafood dishes to choose from. 

See More: Must-Visit Outdoor Breweries in North Jersey

1st Cup Coffee | 96 First Avenue, Atlantic Highlands

A few minutes farther inland (and on the way back to Hoboken) is Atlantic Highlands. You can spend a while walking the cute main street. If you stop in town, make sure to try a cup of joe from 1st Cup Coffee. Along with a menu of classic and unique beverages (the Cafe Borgia is amazing), they also support local establishments by selling their products including flowers, mugs, jewelry, and more.

Nicholas Creamery | 84 1st Avenue, Atlantic Highlands

nicholas creamery

Sometimes there is just nothing better than a sweet cone of ice cream after a sun-filled day at the beach. Nicholas Creamery has unique flavors made in small batches using all-natural, seasonal ingredients. This place is on the way back to the Hoboken area in Atlantic Highlands is a can’t miss, sweet stop to end your trip to Sandy Hook. 


Written by:

Jean is a born and raised Jersey girl, currently calling Jersey City home. After leaving for school in Washington D.C. and a quick stint in Manhattan as a news producer, she just wanted to get back to her NJ roots across the river. As a new dog mom, Jean loves exploring new parks or discovering new towns City with her pup Kona and is always on the hunt for the latest restaurant opening or the hottest new business. When she’s not meandering the streets, you can find her grilling on her roof, sipping rose, and looking out over that beautiful skyline. Follow her on Instagram at @jeanthequeeen to stay up to date on her latest adventures.