Horseshoe Cove is a great spot to camp for a day—or a week—to take advantage of everything Sandy Hook in NJ has to offer. Take the ferry from the city or drive in, and plan to enjoy some beach time... but not the kind you see on MTV's Jersey Shore.
Sandy Hook feels like it’s too good to be true. A clean national park that’s also a beach, a campsite, and home to a weird pseudo-ghost-town of old military dorms and houses? Yep, it’s got all of that, plus fishing, kayaking, and one of the nicest multi-use paths that I’ve ever seen. Fishing, biking, hiking, running, and did I mention some epic beach time? It’s all a ferry-ride away from the city, and now, you can camp there as well. So load up a cooler and a few duffel bags with camping equipment, bring a bike and a bikini, and get over to Sandy Hook, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
What Makes It Great
Sandy Hook is technically in New Jersey, but shares its Gateway designation with parks across the bay in Queens, including Floyd Bennett Field and the Jamaica Bay Wilderness Refuge. The ferry ride doesn’t take long, and it’s actually a pretty fun trip. Depending on which one you take, you can dock right on the tip of Sandy Hook, which leaves you a mile to hike to get to the 20 recently opened campgrounds.
While the beaches and trails are open to everyone, the campgrounds are gated off (though walking in is simple enough) and the park is only open to registered campers after 10PM. The campsites are arranged in a horseshoe shape and are well designed, with a small lean-to for firewood in each, as well as a picnic table and barbecue, ready for you to make yourself at home. There’s even a bike rack near each site so you can lock up easily.
The campgrounds are fairly Spartan, but you should plan to spend most of your time at the beach or on the bay. The multi-use walk and bike path runs the length of Sandy Hook and provides a good way to get around. The beaches are fantastic, and if you’re feeling risqué, Sandy Hook is home to one of the only nude beaches on the East Coast (though most of the beach sections in the park aren’t designated nude beaches).
Definitely try the classic Bahrs Landing Seafood Restaurant & Marina, located just over the bridge. It’s been in business since 1917, and it’s a great spot for simple seafood dishes. If you want decadence, definitely get the lobster bisque.If you’re there for a few days and you want to get back into the world, take the bridge out onto Route 36 and you’re right in town. The bridge is ultra-bike and pedestrian friendly, so it’s a safe trip.
Who is Going to Love It
Beaches are busy on the weekends and some weekdays in the summer, but not nearly as busy as some of the close-by Jersey Shore beaches, and these are much more family-friendly.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Horseshoe Cove can be found at Sandy Hook, Hartshorne Drive, Sandy Hook, NJ 07732.
Bike rentals are available if you don’t want to bring one, and if you’re not much for cooking on an open fire, just outside of the park, you can find a ton of awesome spots to eat in Highlands, all within easy biking distance (though a long walk).
Camping is $20 per night, and if you take the ferry in and out ($46 round-trip), that’s the only fee you’ll pay. Bringing a car will cost an extra $15, but that’s still one of the best camping deals around. Book in advance though, since this park is likely to fill up fast.