The sand is harder and rockier than most beaches, but that doesn’t stop me from eagerly traipsing through it, following my family toward the sea. I’ve made countless memories at Sandy Hook, so much so that it almost feels like a second home.
Sandy Hook, a coastal landform, is only about 45 minutes from most Middlesex County locales. This unique location offers beautiful beaches, unique sights, historical attractions, and charming dining in the nearby Highlands.
Mostly home to beaches, the area is often plagued by strong currents, cooler tides and harsher sand. Tourists searching for soft sand and traditional beaches often avoid this area.
However, for those who are willing to look a little closer, Sandy Hook beaches can be a secret oasis. These beaches can be used for surfing, fishing and swimming. They are rarely crowded, except on weekends during the summer peak, providing peace and tranquility.
There is no fee to enter the beach, which is part of a larger park, although there is a $15 parking fee during the summer season.
The beach also has a visitors’ center, which offers bathrooms, showers and vending machines. The center has food trucks during the summer season.
Sandy Hook offers more than a beach oasis though, as the area is home to dozens of scenic sightseeing opportunities.
To get to Sandy Hook, travelers must cross part of the Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge, a sprawling concrete overpass. In addition to being a sightseeing opportunity within itself, the bridge provides the opportunity to see the eclectic collection of beach houses that dot the Highlands and Sea Bright, and the motley crew of boats docked in the river.
I would encourage any budding photographer to turn their attention to Sandy Hook.
The area also hosts a collection of historical sites.
Fort Hancock is the most popular historical site in Sandy Hook. A former United States Army fort, Fort Hancock hosts a collection of houses for those originally stationed there, cannons, batteries and a Nike-Hercules missile, a surface-to-air missile developed in 1958. Although the area has fallen into disrepair over time, I can still recall several fond memories of wandering around this installation with my family.
The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is also a familiar historical marker. Built-in 1764, this attraction is the oldest lighthouse in the U.S. Although the lighthouse is still in operation, it has been automated and is now open to visitors as well. I would highly recommend visiting the Sandy Hook Lighthouse as the view from the top is amazing.
The Twin Lights State Historic Site and Museum is another phenomenal historical attraction. The Twin Lights historical landmark was built in 1828 and became the first lighthouse to generate its own electricity in 1898. In 2015, the historic site underwent a massive renovation that added over $2 million in museum exhibits. The Twin Lights State Historic Site and Museum was later hailed as one of the best small museums in New Jersey. I can remember eagerly gazing at the maps depicting Sandy Hook bay and rushing down the familiar white-tiled hallways with my younger brother in tow.
Beyond the historical aspect of Sandy Hook, there are plenty of charming dining locations as well.
Upon returning from Sandy Hook, Bahrs Landing Restaurant is right next to the Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge. Bahrs is well-known for its unique décor; an old-school scuba diver statue, a model boat, a ship’s wheel and a swordfish are just a few of the pieces that define this restaurant. The huge bay windows also provide a gorgeous view of Sandy Hook Bay.
The food at Bahrs is fantastic. My family always gets the Fried Calamari, and my mother loves the New England Clam Chowder. My personal favorite is the Garlic Shrimp Scampi, which I would recommend to anyone who loves classic seafood dishes.
After eating dinner at Bahrs, you could easily pick up some ice cream at Moby’s Freeze, an adorable locale next door. Patrons can order at the porthole near the entrance, but only after ringing the golden bell. Moby’s offers standard popsicles and ice cream bars, as well as 15 hard flavors and some floats.
Overall, Sandy Hook offers a unique beach oasis, beautiful sightseeing opportunities, several historical attractions and charming dining. I would recommend Sandy Hook to anyone from New Jersey or beyond.