Sandy Hook: Getting there can be half the fun!
August 20, 2014

 

It was a sunny morning turning slightly overcast as the 11 a.m. Seastreak ferry pulled away from Pier 11 near Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. By the time we got out into the East River, it was downright breezy and slight drizzle began to fall. Passengers had begun to move inside from the “steel beach” of the top deck where people had spread out beach towels and cracked into light picnic fare.  Nothing, however, could spoil our high hopes for a glorious day at the beach, made even better being brought there by boat.
 
The ferry is quite a scene among young adult New Yorkers—including many parents with babies in strollers or front carriers—who knew the routine well. Toward the end of the 40-minute journey, the sun finally asserted its presence and the clouds dispersed. As the peninsula known as Sandy Hook seemed to float closer, we quickly applied sun screen and prepared to hit the sand.

As we came ashore, those clearly in the know made a bee line for two school buses parked on the shore which filled up quickly. Our original plan had been to wander around the Fort Hancock historic district and climb up the landmark Sandy Hook Lighthouse before boarding a bus to the beach, but then we learned that the buses don’t run on a continuous loop; rather, they make scheduled trips coordinated with the ferry arrival and departures. The bus rides are included in the ferry fare and they head either north or south.  (It is good to note that Gunnison Beach in the north is “clothing optional.”)

Barbeque Sandwiches on the Beach
 
We waited on line for about 15 minutes and made it on the second bus to depart for Lot D, which, according to the map, had the greatest number of food-truck options (cash only).  We weren’t let down! The above-average and reasonably priced cuisine included home-style burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, gourmet pizza, pulled pork or chicken, and ice cream. Nothing tastes better than lunch on the beach and our spicy pulled pork sandwiches were perfect. There was also a comfort area, first aid station, and water fountains, but as a federal park within the Gateway National Recreation Area, there are no trash cans—everything you carry in (and then some if you purchase food) you carry out.

The Atlantic Ocean was just a short stroll across a stunning sandy beach. The waves were relatively calm that day and there was no rip current—perfect for Halina, age 8, and Riley, age 11, who both honed their swimming skills this summer. We spent our day mostly in the water—we got the 5:45 pm ferry back to Manhattan—but made multiple “notes to self” regarding things to do on future visits.  
 
Nature and History to Explore
 
One day was entirely too short for Sandy Hook so we plan to return in the fall to explore its many historic sites, including America’s oldest lighthouse, dating from 1764. A network of bike paths surround the island, taking riders around sand dunes, grasslands, ponds, salt marches, shrub thickets, a holly forest, and maritime forest. The piping plover and the sea-beach amaranth are among a number of threatened and endangered species that thrive on the island, drawn by the island’s location on the Atlantic Flyway. 
 
“Sandy Hook is a beach environment the way nature intended it to be,” said Brett Chamberlain, an administrator and former senior deckhand for Seastreak.  
 
Sandy Hook also offers up 20 tent sites (no showers), and you can cast a line up and down the 7-mile peninsula. There is talk of someday converting one of the former military buildings into a bed and breakfast. Get there quick before the rest of the world discovers it!
 

 

 

 

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