Sandy Hook Lighthouse (1764) has the distinction of being the oldest standing lighthouse in New Jersey. It is located at Fort Hancock on the Sandy Hook Peninsula which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
Sandy Hook Lighthouse was originally called the New York Lighthouse because of money raised to build it came from New York lotteries in 1761 and 1763 and taxes on ships entering the Port of New York helped to pay for its upkeep.
The Lighthouse once stood 500 feet from the tip of Sandy Hook, but due to topographical changes now sits about 1 l/2 miles from its original location. The structure was built by Isaac Conro to aid the Marines entering the Southern end of New York harbor.
Sandy Hook is one of the beaches where I love to go shell hunting--especially after a storm. I've found a myriad assortment of shells on the beach here. In the Fall and the Winter you have the beach to oneself--in the summer...well, you've got lots of company.
Pay by the carload ($10) and it makes it a real bargain in this area! Sandy Hook is the site of Wednesday evening concerts--Beach E--from 6 pm-8pm. We've seen everything from the Jazz Lobsters to an Irish Step Dance demonstration and tunes. The State Park begins charging for the privilege of using the beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day--all other times or after 4 pm you can drive over the peninsula for no charge.
At the tip of Sandy hook is a mostly deserted military base called Fort Hancock. Most of it has fallen heavily into disrepair, but it is interesting to view the old buildings and homes. Along the western side of the penninsula is a row of identical waterfront houses, all abandoned. It's erie.
The Gateway National Recreation area on Sandy Hook is home to the oldest working lighthouse in the United States. Built in 1764, it's been working continuously from that time. The only exceptions being times of War. We were told by a local that the lighthouse had originally been on the end of the "hook" but after 200 years plus, the ocean had receded a bit , placing the lighthouse in the center. Tours are given on the weekends throughout the spring, summer and fall.
Just over the bridge off of Sandy Hook, you will find an unusual lighthouse. Oringinally built in 1828, Twin Lights looks more like a castle than a lighthouse. It's a large brick building with a light Tower at either end. Beautiful view of the river and ocean and surrounding towns can be had at the top of the light. Only the South tower is still in operation. The grounds, museum and tower are open for touring. Free to get in.
Sandy Hook is a great place to spend a day at the beach. It is also a great place to learn about military history. This is all part of the New Jersey portion of Gateway National Park (New York has a portion as well). Admission into Sandy Hook is $10 from Memorial Day Friday to Labor Day.
Built in 1862, the Twin Lights are located on top of the hill in Highlands, across the bridge from Sandy Hook. You can go up one of the towers and get a pretty good views of Sandy Hook, Sea Bright, Shrewsbury River, and on a clear day maybe the Verazzano Bridge. The best part about the Twin Lights is that it is free. However, climbing the stairs is not recommended for people with a heart condition.
Monmouth County in NJ contains the most accessible beaches to NYC, Northern NJ, and Philadelphia residents.
When visiting Sea Bright or the Highlands, stop by Sandy Hook National Park and explore it's coves, beaches, and the lighthouse.
The New York Harbor was set up to be very well protected against enemy attack. If you look at a map, coming into the harbor via the Ambrose Channel, there are two pieces of land that jut out to look like a Gate. This is where Gateway National Recreation Area got its name. Fort Tilden was constructed in the Queens arm of the "gate" and Ft. Hancock at the New Jersey arm. The first battery installed was Battery Potter, in the 1893, the 1st steam lift gun battery. the 2 12" inch guns had a 7 mile firing range. Soon after, in 1894, the 1st concrete batteries were installed. Eventually, cannons and even nike missiles were installed at Ft. Hancock. Like Ft. Tilden, there are batteries, magazines and living quarters to see on the bases...a reminder of how well this area was protected throughout history
Sandy Hook has a pretty good trail system...the one through the holly forest is exceptional. Mostly because it's a holly forest. It's so peaceful--very few places I've been I can walk through the woods and hear the ocean in the background. There are also trails that go to little ponds and through the primary and secondary dune system down to the beach.
This is the oldest working lighthouse in the country, built in 1764. It was occupied by the British during the revolutionary war, too. Pretty interesting stuff. The movie they have about it is great and there are tours given on the weekends in the summer. Right down the road there's the Twin Lights of Navasink...another interesting lighthouse. It's way up on a hill and was the place where the 1st wireless telegraph was demonstrated. The NJ coast is dotted with great lighthouses, but these two are a must see.
Navesink Twin Lights Lighthouse
A double lighthouse perched 250 feet above Sandy Hook. Built in the 1800's, it was one of the first lighthouse to use electricity. Very beautiful building, lighthouse can be climbed for amazing views of the Atlantic, NYC and Sandy Hook.
In near-by Alantic Highlands you can take a dinner cruise around Sandy Hook bay and the Navesink River.
Fort Hancock is located at the northern tip of Sandy Hook. It is still a semi-active army barracks. This is a great place to see what an actual military barracks look like.