Gateway National Recreation Area | GUNNISON BEACH AT SANDY HOOK

Gunnison Beach at the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area

Gunnison Beach at the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area


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Gunnison Beach at the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area is a nude beach, though you can still go to it and keep your clothes on. There are different sections for clothed and nude bathers. I walked out to the beach but didn’t take any photos because I didn’t want to look like a pervert with a camera. From what I observed, there were more clothed people than naked, and the demographics definitely leaned towards male. With the number of rainbow flags planted along the beach, I suspected this was not only a nude beach, but a predominantly gay beach. My hunch was right. A number of gay media outlets call it the best gay beach in New Jersey.

Gunnison Beach is located within Fort Hancock and is served by Parking Lot G. While there is no fee to enter Sandy Hook or to enjoy the beaches, there is a fee to park at any of the beach access parking lots from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend between the hours of 7 AM and 5 PM. Such lots will have a US FEE AREA sign at the entrance (Parking Lots B, C, D, E, G, I, J, and K). Daily and seasonal passes are available. See the National Park Service’s official Gateway National Recreation Area Fees and Passes web page for the latest prices. Again, fees are for parking only, so if you walk, bike, or get dropped off, there is no charge to use the beaches.

Parking Lot G holds approximately 850 vehicles, and it will fill up on a nice summer weekend. Depending on where you park, the bathhouse and concession area are a tenth to a quarter-mile walk from the parking lot. There are no nude people in these public areas. People do not take off their clothes until reaching the ocean.

Except for service animals, pets are not allowed on the Atlantic Ocean beaches from March 15th through September 15th. You can bring them to the Sandy Hook Bay beaches anytime provided that they are on a leash.

Lifeguards are on duty at Gunnison Beach from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend between the hours of 10 AM and 6 PM. Lifeguards do keep their clothes on.

BEACH REVIEW

It’s a long, long, long way from the parking lot to the ocean at Gunnison Beach. It’s like the Bonneville Salt Flats of sand. As mentioned above, the parking lot isn’t even near the beach, so you have up to a quarter-mile walk just to get to the concession area where the sand begins. It’s another .4 mile to the ocean from there. Watching people walk across the beach is like watching them walk across the desert. The only thing missing is the camels. Unless you want to get naked or are looking for a gay beach scene, there is no reason whatsoever to come to Gunnison Beach. There are better and more easily accessible beaches at Sandy Hook.

Hike across Gunnison Beach at Sandy Hook, Gateway National Recreation Area

Hike across Gunnison Beach at Sandy Hook, Gateway National Recreation Area

Satellite view of Gunnison Beach

Satellite view of Gunnison Beach

To help beachgoers pick up the pace, instead of walking on the loose beach sand where you must take two steps just to move one forward, you can walk on an ADA compliant matt for much of the way. The sand itself is full of small shells and pebbles, and the matt is shear torture to walk on barefoot, so unless you have really tough soles on your feet, I can’t stress enough the need for some type of footwear. Even the walk from the parking lot is along a wood-plank boardwalk (think splinters), and once you get past the matt and onto the sand, during the summer it can get so hot that it will burn the bottoms of your feet.

Blue matt makes walking on Gunnison Beach a little easier

Blue matt makes walking on Gunnison Beach a little easier

A positive aspect of being so difficult to reach is that less people means less trash, which is somewhat of a problem on the beaches at Gateway National Recreation Area. The National Park Service’s “trash free” policy doesn’t help matters. This means that no trash cans are provided, and you must bring your trash home with you. Yeah, right! Besides, it’s a little too late when you arrive at the beach only to discover that there are no trash cans when you didn’t bring any bags with you. I hate to be negative about humanity, but most people are not of the highest caliber. They have no qualms about tossing trash on the sand, behind a dune, in the restrooms, or in the picnic areas, especially when there are no trash cans around.

AMENITIES

Gunnison Beach has a bathhouse with restrooms and changing rooms, outdoor rinse-off showers, soda vending machines, and a concession area. There are no picnic tables. A building that once served as a concession stand is closed.

Bathhouse and showers at Sandy Hook's Gunnison Beach, Gateway National Recreation Area

Bathhouse and showers at Sandy Hook’s Gunnison Beach, Gateway National Recreation Area

In lieu of a concession stand, the National Park Service has turned to food trucks. Vendors at Gunnison Beach operate every day from the Fourth of July weekend through Labor Day weekend. From Memorial Day to the Fourth they only have to be there on weekends—weekdays are optional.

Food vendor at Sandy Hook's Gunnison Beach, Gateway National Recreation Area

Food vendor at Sandy Hook’s Gunnison Beach, Gateway National Recreation Area

Battery Gunnison is located right next to the concession area. It is the only military battery at Fort Hancock that still has its guns installed.

Battery Gunnison is located next to the concession area at Gunnison Beach

Battery Gunnison is located next to the concession area at Gunnison Beach

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Last updated on December 30, 2021
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