- Gateway National Recreation Area
Fort Hancock, N.J.; 732-872-5970
The beach known as Sandy Hook— seven miles of Atlantic coastline—is reason enough to stop Jersey- bashing. Hop on the SeaStreak Ferry from 34th Street or Wall Street ($31 round-trip), and watch Manhattan’s skyscrapers shrink from view. Forty-five minutes later, meet the free five-minute shuttle to the free, lifeguarded beach. The sand is a very clean off-white, and there’s approximately 800 feet of it between the boardwalk and the oceanfront. This means that you’ll have breathing room—no one’s beach blanket will be within fifteen yards of yours. Sandy Hook’s water quality is excellent because it’s in a protected park facing the Atlantic Ocean and separated by a peninsula from New York and the rest of New Jersey. The water is much cleaner than at the city beaches. Waves accommodate boogie boards, but leave the surfboards at home. On-site military forts, hiking trails, and the country’s oldest lighthouse make beach breaks fun. Drivers should arrive mid-morning, before the 5,000 free parking spots fill up.