Since I love going to the beach, I’m on the perpetual quest to find a great beach that’s close enough for a day trip from my home base of NYC. (Bay Head, NJ, my favorite nearby beach is tough for a day trip, although it can be done if you’re motivated enough.) For years, I’ve been hearing about Sandy Hook, NJ, a beach area that’s operated by the National Park Service. You can take the Seastreak Ferry right from the East River at 35th Street and arrive in a beachy haven just 45 minutes later. One hot Saturday in July, I finally made it there.
We got off to a slow start that day, and caught the Seastreak Ferry at 1:20pm at East 35th Street, just a quick cab ride down the FDR. I didn’t know what to expect with the boat (pictured left), but I was pretty impressed. This 400-person high-speed catamaran reminded me of the ferries I had been on in Greece. It had a bar (pictured right), air-conditioning and TVs — not bad. The ticket costs $40 round trip per adult.
The first stop was Pier 11, which is not too far from South Street Seaport. A lot more people got on there. Then, approximately 35 minutes later we arrived at Sandy Hook. The boat ride was quite smooth, except for maybe 10 minutes toward the end (but once we got close to our destination, it calmed down again.) All told, it was an enjoyable ride, and I always love sailing by the Statue of Liberty.
When you get disembark, you’re not right at the beach. Instead, you’re at the historic area of Fort Hancock, where there are a bunch of old officer’s houses called Officer’s Row. You can tour the History House, which is set up as it would have been back then. But we weren’t there for history — we were there for the beach. You can’t walk to the beach but luckily unlimited rides on the National Park Service buses are included with your ferry ticket. There were two buses waiting for us.
So we opted for our bus’s first stop: Area D of the main beach. Partly because we just wanted to get on the beach and partly because it had a concession stand.
The beach was crowded, but it was a hot Saturday in July. I’m sure that popular Long Island beaches close to the city, like Long Beach and Jones Beach, were probably way more crowded. The crowds certainly weren’t unbearable, but there were a lot of people there. The beach isn’t easy to drive to, you can’t take a train and the ferry isn’t cheap. In short, I was surprised by how many people managed to get there — I guess I underestimated my fellow beach lovers.
So, how was this beach that we had taken a cab, a ferry and a bus to get to? It was good but not great. The beach was clean — didn’t see any garbage on the sand or in the water. But it didn’t live up to its pristine reputation. I was hoping for the same quality as Bay Head, NJ. But the water just wasn’t as nice. It wasn’t that clear and it just didn’t feel as clean. I’ve had better experiences at other NJ beaches — even Long Branch. The water was quite rough the day I was at Sandy Hook, so that could have contributed to its murkiness.
That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy the beach. We had a nice time and a nice swim, dodging the crashing waves. And it was way better than spending another steaming hot day in the city. We opted for the 5:45pm ferry back to Manhattan because the next ferry didn’t leave until 7:45pm and that felt too late. We arrive home without any problems. All in all, a good day at the beach.