When you think of a weekend getaway to a beach, how often do you associate it with a historical site? My guess is not too often, but if you were to visit Sandy Hook National Park you would be amazed at how much you could learn all while relaxing and enjoying the view. This is the intrigue of the National Park Service; you may stumble upon a historic treasure hidden surreptitiously in a rather ordinary location, such as the beach at Sandy Hook.
Located in New Jersey and connected to the chain of parks known as Gateway National Recreation Area, this barrier spit stands out beyond its historical features. According to locals and those who work at Sandy Hook, the peninsula offers more than most beaches along the Jersey Shore, and they have proof to back their boasting.
One of the most noticeable features at Sandy Hook National Park is the lighthouse. Although it may be a staple of many beaches in the New England area, spotting it in New Jersey is a much more unique sight. What makes it even more special is that it is the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States. In fact, it was built alongside 11 others during the colonial era, yet it is the only one that still remains standing. While you venture to climb the lighthouse-or if you’re scared of heights like me-you could take some beautiful pictures, but your adventure doesn’t stop there.
While you’re there it will be hard to miss all the historic houses that surround you, and taking a self-guided or Ranger-led tour of the historic Fort Hancock district you will come across plenty of treasures, from cannons to forts to colonial architecture. Don’t miss Battery Potter which is the first disappearing gun battery in the U.S. If you’re interested in more colonial-era artillery you may be interested Battery Gunnison, the famous 6-inch disappearing gun in service from 1905-1943. Interesting enough, despite the incredible fortification none of the weapons were ever used.
As many people are probably aware, in October 2012 Hurricane Sandy made landfall just north of Atlantic City, New Jersey which is about 95 miles south of Sandy Hook. However, with the span of the hurricane nearly 1,100 miles in diameter, it caused a significant amount of damage to the historic National Park. To this day buildings, such as the forts mentioned above as well as the U.S Coast Guard building are in the process of being rebuilt or repaired with extensive damage throughout.
Nonetheless, The Jersey Shore as well as Sandy Hook is operating on a normal schedule for the summer season and all are encouraged to visit!
There are numerous ways to have fun and to learn at Sandy Hook. Whichever adventure you choose, you can be certain that it will be a day well spent. Finding a national treasure is not as difficult as it may seem. More often than not you will find yourself on historic grounds and you would be amazed to find out that it is a National Park, but that is the beauty of America’s best kept secret! Come out and enjoy your National Parks today!
– Posted by Rob Revzin and Lib Tietjen