Visiting Sandy Hook Beach in New Jersey

Sandy Hook Beach is a stunning stretch of golden coastline within the Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey Monmouth County. It’s one of our favorite beaches, so if you’re planning a visit, you’re in for a treat!

With its soft sand, crystal clear waters, and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and  NYC, Sandy Hook Beach is famous amongst sunbathers and swimmers of all ages. It’s a place to relax, soak up the sun, and spend time with loved ones away from the hustle and bustle.

So, what can you expect from your visit to Sandy Hook Beach?

This article will guide you on how to travel to the beach, things to note, and everything else you need to know to make the most of your trip.

History of Sandy Hook & Views of NYC

Sandy Hook Beach has a rich history, dating back to the early 17th century when it was used as a base for the defense of New York City. Today, visitors can experience the lighthouse built to assist with ship navigation and Fort Hancock, which is now recognized as a national historic landmark. The Atlantic Highlands tower over the Sandy Hook beaches and offer some more amazing views of NYC if you’re looking for more landmarks to visit.

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What To Expect When Visiting Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook is a fantastic destination for a day at the beach or a weekend getaway, nestled in the Gateway National Recreation Area. But to ensure you have the best possible trip, it’s essential to be prepared. We’ll give you a breakdown of what to expect from our experience.

What is Sandy Hook Beach Hours of Operation?

The park is open daily from 6 am to 9 pm, except by permit. The Lighthouse Keepers Quarters and Visitor Center, other popular areas of interest, are available on weekends from 10 am to 4 pm, which is something to keep in mind if you plan to view these attractions.

Another thing to note is that while the beaches are accessible to the public for free, there are parking fees. Costs vary depending on the length of your stay and the type of vehicle you have. We recommend bringing extra cash or buying a parking pass in advance to avoid any delays.

You should also check the weather forecast before you visit, as the park usually closes due to inclement weather.

How much does it cost to get into Sandy Hook Beach?

Unlike some other famous beaches in New Jersey, Sandy Hook beaches are free to go on. While the beaches are free, you still must pay for access to the Gateway National Recreation Area when traveling.

How Much Are Parking Fees at Sandy Hook?

If you’re traveling from New York City, a taxi service can take you to the park entrance from the train station, ferry dock, or bus stop.

For most vehicles, beach parking at the Gateway National Recreation Area is $20 per day or $100 per season. If you have an oversized car longer than 20 feet, you will be charged $50 per day and $200 for season passes.

Parking fees are collected between 7 am and 5 pm. If you plan to travel to Sandy Hook between Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, there is a $20 parking fee per day. 

Seeing Sunrise & Sunset at Sandy Hook

With its unique location, Sandy Hook beaches are an excellent destination for those looking to capture the sunrise and/or sunset. Rated as one of the best spots on our Sunrise/Sunset Map and a top place in New Jersey to capture the sky’s colors.

Sandy Hook Beaches

Sandy Hook’s miles of beautiful beaches make it the ideal destination for a day at the shore. There are six beaches to choose from in total.

The first four beaches – B, C, D, and E – are on the park’s southeast side. There are two other beaches on the other end: North Beach and Gunnison Beach. Most of these areas are family-friendly, with lifeguards on duty during summer.

You can access beaches B through E near the visitor center and take advantage of convenient amenities such as showers, restrooms, and concessions. North Beach is the quieter option, with less crowded sand and calm waters that are perfect for swimming and sunbathing.

Is Sandy Hook Beach clothing optional?

Yes, there’s a nude beach. Gunnison Beach is the largest and most popular beach at Sandy Hook, with plenty of space for beach games and picnics. However, it’s important to note that the north end of Gunnison Beach has a designated nude section that is not suitable for children, so families should steer clear of this side.

Can you bring your dog to Sandy Hook Beach?

Good news for dog owners. You can bring your furry friends to the bay-side beaches (Gunnison area) for sun-filled summer fun.

If you plan to bring your dogs, note they are allowed on a leash in Horseshoe Cove throughout the year. They can also explore multi-use paths, sidewalks, and paved roads unless they are in an area where pets are not allowed. But keep in mind pets are not permitted at Ocean-side at Sandy Hoop from March 15 to September 15 every year, except for service animals.

See More Dog-Friendly Spots in NJ

There’s A Voodoo Bunker Too

If you’re looking for an adventure outside of visiting the beaches, there is a unique spot called the Voodoo Bunker on the north side of the hook that can be visited under caution. Read the complete guide for directions on how to get there.

Preparing For Your Trip

When traveling to Sandy Hook, staying hydrated in the sun is essential, so bring plenty of cold water and a cooler. There are some snack stands and amenities, but can get very crowded and sell out during the summer rush. So it’s a good idea to pack your food and water for the day.

The beaches are a bit longer, so we suggest investing in a backpack cooler for easier carrying to your beach spot. Also, we suggest using a stainless steel water canteen for your beach adventure to keep your water extra cold in the summer humidity.

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We also recommend packing healthy snacks to keep you fueled throughout the day. Our favorites are fruit salad, cold-cut sandwiches, and veggies with hummus.

Alcohol is strictly prohibited, so leave any alcoholic beverages behind. You also won’t need to pack your kayaks or grills, as rentals and shared facilities are available on the property.

Does Sandy Hook Beach have a boardwalk?

Unlike some more southern beaches like Asbury Park, Sandy Hook Beaches do not have a boardwalk.

Traveling to Sandy Hook Beach

There are many different ways to travel to Sandy Hook Beach, depending on where you’re coming from. Next, we’ll share our tips for stress-free transportation from New York City, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.

From NYC

You can travel to Sandy Hook, NJ, from New York City by water, bus, or train. Seastreak offers a high-speed ferry to the beach from Manhattan during the summer with stunning skyline views.

If you take New Jersey Transit’s Bus 834, you will arrive near the park entrance, but you’ll still have seven miles to walk to the tip of the Hook. In this case, we recommend using Beach B, C, or D since they’re closest to the bus stop.

Alternatively, you can take the Academy Lines bus service directly from NYC to Highlands. The last option is to travel by train with New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line to Red Bank and then transfer to Bus 834 to Highlands. The bus will drop you off near the entrance when you arrive, but transportation must be within the park.

From North Jersey

From North Jersey to Sandy Hook, start by heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 11 onto the Garden State Parkway, heading south. Take Exit 117 (Keyport/Hazlet) and stop at the toll booth. Continue driving and bear left to follow Route 36 East. After about 12 miles, you will reach the park entrance to the right.

From South Jersey

If you’re traveling from South Jersey, head north on the Garden State Parkway to Exit 105 towards Eatontown, bearing left onto Route 36 East. You will pass the Monmouth Mall and cross Route 35 through Eatontown and Long Branch until it turns into Joline Avenue. Continue down Route 36 as it turns left along the ocean heading north. Take Route 36 for about six more miles through Long Branch, Monmouth Beach, and Sea Bright until you get to the park.

From Philadelphia and Camden

From Philadelphia and Camden, take the New Jersey Turnpike north and exit at Shore Points (Exit 7A) onto I-195 to Garden State Parkway north. You will then take Exit 105 to Eatontown and follow the directions outlined above to travel from South Jersey.

Final Thoughts: Sandy Hook Beach

A trip to Sandy Hook beach is a summer day well spent. Its clean sands and gorgeous waters make it an ideal spot for picnics and beach activities. We recommend Sandy Hook as one of our favorite beach spots in New Jersey for locals and tourists. It’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of this great state!

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