Skip to comments.On the Hook for sun, fun (History and Nudity at the Jersey Shore)
Posted on 11/26/2005 11:16:54 AM PST by Coleus
Nearly three centuries ago, the merchants of lower Manhattan kept losing ships to the sandbars that lined the narrow channel leading to New York City. Upset over the growing losses, the merchants banded together and built a lighthouse on the edge of Sandy Hook in order to guide ships safely to the young city. The lighthouse was so effective that the British took it during the Revolutionary War to ensure their ships made it to Manhattan.
The Sandy Hook lighthouse still shines its light 19 miles out to aid passing ships, a 70-foot-tall reminder of the importance of the sea to New York and New Jersey. Now, 241 years later, it sits inside one of the busiest national parks in the Northeast. "Sandy Hook is much more than a beach; it's a 2,000-acre natural wildlife habitat," said Richard Wells, superintendent of Sandy Hook, who has the enviable job of managing this sun-drenched peninsula. More than 350 birds - from the endangered piping plover to the majestic osprey, a threatened species - use Sandy Hook as a home or a migratory stop. And the waters near its six beaches are full of bluefish, striped bass and flounder.
Sandy Hook packs in more than 20,000 visitors on busy summer weekends, and 2 million visitors a year come to swim (with or without their bathing suits), ride on its five-mile bike trail, and wind- and kite-surf. Explorers also can take in a piece of American history when the protection of New York harbor from foreign military enemies was a real concern for the young nation. "I bring everyone here who comes to visit me," said Kendra Erickson of Bedminster, who took her in-laws Leigh and Lee-Marie Knapp on a tour of the lighthouse one recent day.
For more than a century, Sandy Hook was a military base, used to train troops, test artillery and protect the harbor. Remnants of its former life are on display at Fort Hancock, where buildings used to house soldiers still stand. Most are used as either museums or office and classroom space, but the park is working on a plan to bring bed-and-breakfasts and more restaurants to the site. There is already one restaurant at the park, the Seagull's Nest, which hosts a sunset ceremony every day, complete with a rendition of "God Bless America."
Visitors can walk atop the artillery batteries of Battery Potter on the weekends and see the gun encasements that were designed to protect New York Harbor. During the summer, volunteers dress up in period costumes at the Gunnison Battery. The guns are magnificent, but they were never used in battle. The problem was that as soon as guns got strong enough to take out ships, the submarine came into use. In fact, German U-boats patrolled the coast off Sandy Hook during both world wars, mainly sinking oil tankers, said Tom Hoffman, park historian.
Walk along the recently completed five-mile bike trial and see a variety of wildlife, but don't stray, because the park is full of poison ivy, especially on top of its sensitive dunes. But beach visitors can pick the fruit - fat purple beach plums that grow everywhere on the peninsula. Everyone is allowed to bring a pint home when the fruit ripens later in the season. There are six beaches at Sandy Hook. Each boasts stunning views of the endless expanse of the Atlantic, and on a clear day beach-goers can spot the parachute drop at Coney Island, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Manhattan skyline, only 14 miles away. Sit on the beach and you can watch the commerce of New York and New Jersey pass by, from oil tankers and naval ships to passenger cruise liners.
But Sandy Hook's most popular spot - Gunnison Beach - is also its most controversial. There, thousands from all over the East Coast come to frolic in the buff - it's New Jersey's only legal clothing-optional beach. Federal laws don't prohibit the practice specifically, and a few other national parks also host similar clothing-optional beaches around the country. Officials don't like to talk about the beach for fear of arousing more controversy. However, they admit the beach is so popular that the parking lot is often the first to fill up on weekends, and people walk as much as a mile from other lots to get there. Signs far from the beach warn about the potential for nudity, and visitors approaching the beach are greeted with a huge sign that reads, "BEYOND THIS POINT YOU MAY ENCOUNTER NUDE SUNBATHERS."
The beach is one of the things that make Sandy Hook one of the most unusual day trips in the Garden State, and one could spend days exploring every nook and cranny of the peninsula. Still, everything about Sandy Hook revolves around its lighthouse, the oldest in the nation. The structure used to sit just 500 feet from the tip of the peninsula but now is more than a mile and a half away, thanks to sand traveling up the Atlantic and settling on the peninsula. Even so, the lighthouse still performs its essential function, guiding ships safely up the channel to New York City even though boats today are equipped with global-positioning software, radio waves that bounce off the surface of the Earth and computers with quick access to Google Earth. "Even with all your modern-day radar," said Hoffman, "you still depend on seeing a light marking a spot in the dark."
Hours: The park is open from sunrise to sunset. Beaches have lifeguards from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Swimming is allowed only on guarded beaches.
How to get there: Take the Garden State Parkway to Exit 117 and follow Route 36 east toward Gateway National Recreation Area. Ferry service is available on weekends during the summer from Manhattan.
Fees: A parking fee of $10 is charged until 4 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Season parking passes cost $60.
Tips: Sandy Hook has only 5,000 parking spaces and during busy summer weekends they fill up. The park closes to automobiles when it is full. Arrive before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. in order to avoid getting stuck outside the gate. Tours of the lighthouse start at 1 p.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends. Sandy Hook is a carry-in, carry-out park. So, visitors must take their trash home. No dogs are allowed on the beach during the summer.
Off the tip of Sandy Hook, NJ, is the oldest working lighthouse in the country.
It was designed and built in 1764 by Isaac Conro. The light was built to aid mariners entering the southern end of the New York harbor. It was originally called New York Lighthouse because it was funded through a New York Assembly lottery and a tax on all ships entering the Port of New York. Sandy Hook Light has endured the occupancy of British soldiers during the Revolutionary War and exposure to the elements on the end of Sandy Hook. The view of the New York skyline from the bridge crossing into the Hook illustrates the importance this light played in the history of New York harbor.
Sandy Hook Lighthouse is part of Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook, NJ. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse was restored in Spring 2000.
Been to a number of nude beaches. No big deal after the first 10 mins or so.
Posting an article dated, Sunday, July 31, 2005?
There was a nude beach just north of the KSC when I was working there.
Years ago, when I was a Webelos Den Leader, my Cubs were invited to join a Boy Scout Outing at San Francisco's Battery Chamberlain. It was pretty neat, we got to see the guns, and we slept in the old ammunition bunkers. What we hadn't been told in advance was that Battery Chamberlain overlooks clothing-optional Baker Beach. That was enough years ago that I was truly surprised at the places that I saw jewelry being worn.
The boys took everything in stride, but on the way home, we had a little chat about behaviors that you see in San Francisco are not necessarily acceptable in the rest of the Country. I also had to give each of the parents a little heads-up about what the kids had experienced.
When I used to fly banners over the beaches in So. Cal, there was a nude beach somewhere south of Mahattan beach. We were too high to really see anything. Not even real the gender of anyone. Later I found out that it was basically a gay beach. Didn't really look after that.
LOL! I am with you on this one.
Funny, but that's exactly what they say about me at the nude beach.
**sigh** not another one.
I think that most of the nude beaches in CA are Gay beaches. The nude beach at San Onofre is totally Gay, and disgusting. I have come to the conclusion that most public nudity is simply exhibitionism, which the Gays just seem to be more into.
One of my favorite - my grandfather was a Coast Artillery officer at Fort Hancock, and my father was born while they were stationed there.