Located on a thin peninsula that juts into lower New York Harbor, the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area is a park that draws more than two million visitors annually to enjoy its historic landmarks, natural areas and recreational facilities.
Sandy Hook has expansive ocean and bay beaches for swimming, fishing, picnicking, scuba diving, surfing, wind surfing and bicycling.
For nature lovers, the park has extensive hiking trails, bike paths, salt marshes, a spectacular holly forest and more than 300 species of birds.
The National Park Service took over most of the 1,665-acre peninsula in 1975, after the U.S. Army deactivated Fort Hancock. Within the fort, which served as an active military installation from 1874 until 1975, is the Sandy Hook Lighthouse.
Built in 1764 to help reduce shipwrecks, it is the oldest operating lighthouse in America and a National Historic Landmark. A primary mission of the fort was the defense of New York Harbor.
Over the years, a number of weapons were installed, including large mortars and artillery and, in later years, Nike Anti-Aircraft Missiles, which were installed to protect the greater metropolitan area.
From 1874 to 1919, Sandy Hook also served as the U.S. Army’s first proving ground for testing new weapons and ordnance.