Updated: Apr 30, 2021
Sandy Hook beaches can be very, very popular. On a busy hot summer weekend, in-the-know drivers get there before 10 am to snap up one of the 4,000 parking spots available. At 4,001 cars, the park closes its entrance to all cars.
The choice parking spots are grabbed in the first few lots after the entrance to Sandy Hook park of the Gateway National Recreation Area of the National Park Service. But even when the lots are full, it's easy enough to walk to the beach and head in any direction about an eighth of a mile to find a socially distanced spot.
Welcome to New Jersey's first beach resort and still one of its most popular. This is Beach Walk Mile Post 3.
Forget Coney Island. Let's Go to New Jersey.
At the narrowest part of Sandy Hook, the Shrewsbury River, Raritan Bay and the Atlantic Ocean almost touch. What better place to develop New Jersey's first day-trip beach resort and siphon off some of the beachgoers to packed Coney Island. That's just what the Sandlass Family did in the 1880s, developing Highland Beach as "the nearest available ocean beach on the New Jersey coast." At their resort, visitors could ride the Highland Beach Gravity Railroad (one of the nation's first roller coasters), shower and change clothes in the bath house, listen to music at the pavilion, drink at the bar and, of course, shop. Eventually, Highland Beach was usurped by more exotic beach locations in the South and the Caribbean. For a time, the "resort" became a local draw as the Sandlass Beach Club, then a state park and now part of the National Park Service.
Sun on an Inflatable Island. Surf. Kite Board. Paddle. Kayak. Take an Eco Tour. Do SUP Yoga. Swim. Bike. Run. Walk.
In the three-mile stretch of beach past the entrance:
* Park in Lot C, where Sandy Hook Kayaks rents kayaks and paddle boards that are used in the calmer waters of the Sandy Hook Bay. They are expanding their offerings to provide eco tours, SUP yoga class and renting inflatable islands where you can sit on a beach chair and float in the bay.
* Surfers head to The Cove north of the rock jetty by Lot C while ocean swimmers congregate in front of the beach pavilion.
* On windy days on the bay, kite-boarders perform amazing water stunts.
* Take a break from the water by walking, running or biking along the pathway by the pavilions. The first section offers views of the ocean, and then the path dips into the brush past Lot E for a mostly unfettered six miles of paved trails.
A Dog-Friendly Beach.
Even during the warmest months, dogs can find a respite at Sandy Hook. Pets are permitted on ocean-side beaches from September 15 to March 15 but are allowed on a leash on bay-side beaches year round from Plum Island to Horseshoe Cove.
Paddle Over to Bahrs Landing for Lunch, Dinner or a Snack,
Across the Sandy Hook Bay from the entrance is Bahrs Landing, the closest option a take-out or sit-down meal. With its expanded outdoor seating plus Moby's Outdoor Deck, you don't need fancy summer attire to enjoy their fresh seafood, including Jack Bahrs’s famous 1917 Manhattan clam chowder (red), as well as German specialties such as wiener schnitzel. It’s so popular that the fictional Tony Soprano references the restaurant when he takes Carmela on a ride in the
Stop by Bahrs Gift Shop and Discover the Other 99 Things at the Shore
Get the scoop on quiet beaches, historic sites and outdoor adventures with the #1 NJ Travel Guide. Say hi to owners Jay and Becky Cosgrove
“Whitecaps” episode of The Sopranos. Next to the main restaurant, the owners run the seasonal Mobys Lobster Deck, with cherry stone clams and oysters, live lobster, and sandwiches served on paper plates.
Tips for Visiting the Southern End of Sandy Hook
What's New: There's an LED sign at the park's entrance and new signage throughout. Inflatable Island rental, SUP yoga and eco tours are part of the kayak and paddle board concession at Lot C (on the bay side).
Access & Parking: State Route 36 is the only access to the park via car. The first lots, particularly Lot B, fill up quickly. The largest lot is Lot E. At Fishing Beach Road, parking is along the road and only a few dozen cars can be accommodated. The park service announced on April 22, 2021 that daily admission is now $20 per car from Memorial Day to Labor Day and $100 for the season. There is no fee for people walking, running or biking into the park. The Seastreak Ferry operates summer service from Manhattan directly to Sandy Hook on the bay side near Fort Hancock and the Coast Guard station.
Amenities: In season, food trucks are scattered in Parking Lots B, C, D & E. Changing
rooms and toilets are available in Lots B, C, D & E.
Attractions: Ocean and bay beaches are easily reached east or west of the parking lots.
Beaches: With only limited parking along the road, Fishing Beach is the best place for socially distanced sun bathing at the beach.
Starring Role: In Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck gloomily sits on the beach at Sandy Hook looking across at his failed life in Highlands.
This spring, summer and fall, follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he walks the entire 139 miles of the Jersey Shore from Sandy Hook to Island Beach State Park, from Old Barney to Beach Haven, from Brigantine to Cape May.