Cheesequake State Park
The park offers a variety of outdoor experiences. During the busy summer months, the park suggests calling ahead to determine if it has reached its maximum carrying capacity.
Open fields, salt and freshwater marshes, a white cedar swamp, a sample of the Pine Barrens, and an outstanding example of a Northeastern hardwood forest make up this 1,284 acre park. Look around for wildlife. Migratory birds fly over this area during their annual migrations; the local birding list includes 186 species of birds within the park.
The park offers a variety of recreational activities from swimming and sun bathing at Hooks Creek Lake, hiking along scenic trails, and picnicking, to camping, fishing, and biking. The Interpretive Center is easily accessible from the Trail system and contains exhibits about the different habitats, plants, animals, and man’s former uses of the area.
Directions: Garden State Parkway travelers should take exit 120 (from the “local traffic” lanes.) At the first traffic light, turn right onto Morristown Avenue, and follow it to the next traffic light—the intersection with Gordon Road. Turn right onto Gordon road, and follow the signs into the park (approximately ½ mile).
Hours: From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, the park is open from 8:00am to 8:00pm, and the office is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm. Hours vary during the remainder of the year.
Telephone: (732) 566-2161.
Perth Amboy Harbor Walk
Waterfront resources under development as part of the Harbor Walk include the 1904 Ferry Slip to Tottenville, Municipal Marina, 1929 Armory, ca. 1880 Raritan Yacht Club headquarters, 1880 Great Beds Light, and ca. 1780 Kearny Cottage. Except for Great Beds Light which sits in the waters of Raritan Bay, all are located near the waterfront on Smith Street, Front Street, Water Street, and Catalpa Avenue.
Directions: From Exit 10 of the New Jersey Turnpike, take state road 440 east to the State Street exit. Continue on State Street until you come to the intersection with Lewis Street. Turn right on Lewis for one block, then left on Madison, and follow it to the waterfront.
Hours: The public park area is generally open from dawn to dusk.
Telephone: (732) 856-0290 ext. 4318.
Allaire State Park
The economy of the historic village of Allaire was built upon the natural resources of the area. Explore the Pine Barrens, freshwater wetlands and streams, and the floodplain of the Manasquan River that made this a desirable site for early industry. Over 200 species of plants have been identified within the park. Look for the spectacular wildflowers throughout the spring and summer. Allaire also provides an excellent birdwatching opportunity.
A nature center, a historic railroad, and the historic village are on site. Camping, fishing, biking, canoeing, hiking, picnicking, interpretive exhibits, and demonstrations by people in period costumes are among the available activities.
Directions: Take exit 98 from the Garden State Parkway to I-195 west. Exit 31B off I-195 will lead you to county road 524. Turn east (right), and follow CR524 for about 1.5 miles. The park entrance is located on the right.
Hours: The park is open during the summer from 8:00am to 8:00pm. During the winter, the hours are 8:00am to 4:30pm, and in the spring and fall, they are 8:00am to 6:00pm.
Telephone: (732) 938-2371.
Belford Seafood CO-OP
The Belford CO-OP is a cooperative commercial fishing operation located on the shores of Sandy Hook Bay. The community of Belford is more than 200 years old and is reported to be the oldest fishing port on the East Coast. Many of its fishermen are third and fourth generation. It maintains a fleet of approximately 30 boats, including six lobster boats, six clamming boats, fifteen trawlers, and three seining boats. A retail sales outlet for fresh seafood and the “Pirate’s Cove” restaurant are maintained at the site.
Directions: To reach Belford, take exit 117 from the Garden State Parkway and follow state road 36 east to Main Street, Port Monmouth. Turn right around the jug-handle crossing SR36 onto Main. Continue north 1 mile to Port Monmouth Road, then east (right) to the co-op.
Hours: The interpretive exhibit for this site is accessible only during daylight hours. The retail outlet is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, and Sunday from 8:30am to 12:00noon.
Telephone: (732) 787-6500.
Website: None at this time.
Leonardo State Marina
The marina remains one of the most popular and desirable state facilities, largely due to its proximity to Sandy Hook Inlet and the fruitful fishing grounds of Sandy Hook Bay. It includes 179 slips and is capable of accommodating boats up to 45 feet in length. On-site facilities include a luncheonette, bait and tackle facility, restrooms, a pump-out station, and boat fueling station.
Directions: Take exit 117 from the Garden State Parkway east along state road 36 to the community of Leonardo. Drive for 8.6 miles to a jug-handle for Leonard Avenue. Cross 36 and drive north toward Sandy Hook Bay to the first stop sign (four blocks). Take a left onto Center Avenue. Drive three blocks and turn right onto Concord Avenue to the marina.
Hours: The marina office is open daily from 8:00am to 4:00pm. The marina is open twenty-four hours a day from April 1 to October 31. From November 1 to March 31, the marina is open from 8:00am to 11:00pm.
Telephone: (732) 291-1333.
Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook
This high point (266 feet above sea level) provides visitors with a panoramic view of Sandy Hook Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, the New York City skyline, and historic Fort Hancock and the Sandy Hook Lighthouse at Gateway National Recreation Area. Geologic forces created the uplift. Exhibits interpret the geologic story, the skyline views and landmarks, and help orient visitors to the area. The overlook is part of the Monmouth County Park System.
Directions: From exit 117 of the Garden State Parkway, follow state road 36 east to the community of Atlantic Highlands. Take the Navesink Avenue/Scenic Drive jug-handle (on the right), and follow the signs to the park entrance, roughly one-quarter mile north of SR36.
Hours: The park is open daily from 8:00am to dusk.
Telephone: (732) 842-4000 ext. 4256.
Gateway National Recreation Area
Sandy Hook is a 1,665-acre barrier beach peninsula located at the northern tip of the New Jersey Shore. It is the result of accumulations of sediment moved by the longshore current. The Hook features seven miles of ocean beaches, the waters of the Sandy Hook Bay, salt marsh, dunes, a maritime forest, habitat for migratory shorebirds, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, and Historic Fort Hancock.
Sandy Hook Light & Dwelling, and the
Spermaceti Cove Life Saving Service Station #2 at Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook includes multiple maritime history destinations, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sandy Hook Lighthouse has guided ships into New York Harbor since 1764.
The US Army first fortified the Hook in the War of 1812 and later tested weapons at the Sandy Hook Proving Ground. A century ago, Fort Hancock and a series of gun batteries were built to protect the harbor, and the fort served this role until 1974.
Today many of Fort Hancock’s buildings are used by environmental and educational groups. The Fort Hancock story is told at the Fort Hancock Museum and History House, a restored home on “Officer’s Row.”
Swimming, hiking, fishing, wind surfing, bird-watching, and ranger-guided programs are just a few of the recreational opportunities at Sandy Hook. On busy summer days, the park advises visitors to arrive early in the day as it often reaches its maximum carrying capacity before noon. Visitors can expect to find the usual amenities of a National Park System unit.
Directions: Take state road 36 east from exit 117 of the Garden State Parkway to the community of Highlands, and follow the signs to the park.
Hours: The visitor center operates daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The grounds around Sandy Hook Light are open every day. Lighthouse tours, conducted by the New Jersey Lighthouse Society, are offered on weekends from April through early December and daily during the summer.
Telephone: (732) 872-5970.
Steamboat Dock Museum
The Steamboat Dock Museum of the Keyport Historical Society interprets the history and maritime traditions of Keyport which was first settled as a private plantation in 1714 by the Kearny family. By the 1830s, Keyport had become a major port for oystering and for produce on its way to New York City.
Directions: Keyport can be reached by following state road 36 east from exit 117 of the Garden State Parkway. County road 4 (Broad Street) connects SR36 to the waterfront at the museum.
Hours: Open May through September, on Sunday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm and on Monday from 10:00am to 12:00noon. Guided tours are available by appointment.
Telephone: (732) 739-6390.
Website: None at this time.
Twin Lights State Historic Site
The Navesink Lighthouse station, known as Twin Lights State Historic Site, was an important maritime navigational aid for ships entering and leaving ports from the northern New Jersey coast and New York Harbor. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the north tower, the museum, and grounds. On the site is one of the original life boat stations built by the U.S. Government (in 1848) to assist shipwrecked victims along the Jersey Shore. It was moved to its present location in 1954.
Directions: Take state road 36 east from exit 117 of the Garden State Parkway to the community of Highlands and follow signs to the park. Oversize vehicles and trailers are restricted from the access road.
Hours: Open daily from 10:00am to 4:30pm - Memorial Day through Labor Day, and Wednesday through Sunday from September through May.
Telephone: (732) 872-1814.