You'd never expect to find nudist beaches at a National Park, would you? But there is one that is actually a part of the beautiful Gateway National Recreation Area known as Sandy Hook.
This part of the beach, called Gunnison Beach, is the only nude beach in New Jersey, and the largest one on the East Coast of the United States.
The beach takes its name from the Gunnison Battery, a fortification built in the 1800s to protect New York Harbors. You can even still see some of the gun emplacements overlooking the beach.
This beach attracts over 5,000 naturists per weekend in the summer months, according to Friends of Gunnison. The mission of FOG is to promote events and "protect and improve naturist recreation".
Friends of Gunnison are very emphatic that this nudist beach is not sexually oriented in any way and ask that visitors leave their cameras at home. The crowd that enjoys Gunnison Beach are not exhibitionists; they just don't want to travel to an exotic beach like Orient Beach in St. Martin in order to get a nice even tan!
A thirty minute ferry ride from Manhattan is all it takes.
Gunnison Beach itself is a wonderful place to visit, with or without clothing. It has a long, wide, beautiful shoreline full of beautiful seabirds, even some endangered species, such as the piping plover.
Sandy Hook Park itself is a really interesting spot to explore by bike or on foot. There is something interesting to see at every turn. Not the least of which is the nudist beach!
In keeping with the national
park, the terrain is beautifully rugged, so don't expect snack stands
and restaurants to cater to you. You have to bring in whatever you want. (And be sure to carry out or dispose of what you no longer want. Keep Sandy Hook the beautiful, pristine beach that it is.)
Within minutes, however, there are many great hotels, motels and restaurants. Seagulls Nest, a unique restaurant located right in Sandy Hook, was a great spot for simple fare with beautiful sunset views and a friendly staff. However, it was pretty much destroyed by Super Storm Sandy in 2012, and so right now they are waiting for funding to rebuild and open up again. A five minute drive, though, will bring you to either the Highlands, to the North (opposite the bay) or Sea Bright, to the south.
There you will find dozens of great restaurants, including the great seafood restaurants that are the specialty of the area.
Though you can get to Sandy Hook by the fast ferry from Manhattan, it is difficult to get around without a car if you want to explore the surrounding areas for restaurant or lodging. The opposite route -a great idea for vacationers, since you can have the best of both worlds- is to stay at a lovely seaside inn and visit the big apple whenever you want to.
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