Sunning, surfing, skinfests and a cooler full of beer await.
Mon May 10 2010
Sandy Hook Beach
By ferry: Highlands and Sandy Hook, New Jersey (1 hour from NYC)
Take the Sea Streak ferry (Pier 11 at South and Wall Sts * E 35th St at FDR Dr * seastreak.com) directly to Conners Highlands, then a cab (available at the ferry station; call Middletown Cab at 732-671-4600 if you don't see one) to picturesque bed and breakfast Sandy Hook Cottage. There, you can rent a bicycle ($30 per day, guests $25) as your main mode of transportation throughout the weekend—whether you're meandering down a trail (there's a seven-mile path along the water, and a more rigorous route in Highlands) or traveling over the bridge to the Sandy Hook shoreline. Gunnison Beach is New Jersey's only nudist spot for sunbathing (accessible by a free shuttle bus from the ferry, a rigorous walk or a bike ride). "Volleyball is usually going on all day," says Dale Distasio, president of Friends of Gunnison Beach. "Just ask if you can join the game." (Though you may want to be careful when you dive for the ball.)
If you'd rather keep your suit on, lie out on Beach B (but be warned: there are no lifeguards on duty here) or BYO board to Beach C to try out surfing—it's the only place in Sandy Hook where the sport is allowed. As the day winds down, visit Beach D, the home of Sandy Hook's sole restaurant, the family-run Sea Gull's Nest (100 Hartshorne Dr, Highlands; 732-872-0025, seagullsnest.info) to witness a truly kitschy tradition. Every night at dusk, a patriotic song sounds through the speakers, and "everyone stands and wildly applauds as the sun dips below the horizon," says co-owner Scott Segall. When you're tired of picking sand out of every crevice of your body, escape the beach and visit the area's two historic lighthouses: Twin Lights (just a few steps from the Sandy Hook Cottage) and the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the nation's oldest. For more recent Jersey history, catch a 20-minute cab or the 45-minute public bus (at Bay Ave and Watch Witch Ave in Highlands) to Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash (35 Broad St, Red Bank; 732-758-0508, jayandsilentbob.com), director Kevin Smith's shop, where you can snag an autographed Kevin Smith action figure ($18). Smith drops by "once in a blue moon," according to manager Walt Flanagan. Reenact Dante Hick's "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" breakdown and chomp on some beef jerky at the Quick Stop from Smith's cult career-launcher, Clerks, located in Leonardo, just five minutes from the B&B.
It's impossible to stress at picturesque Sandy Hook Cottage (36 Rte 36, Highlands; 732-708-1923, sandyhookcottage.com, $199--$299). The cozy inn offers unbeatable views of the NYC skyline and the Long Island beaches, comfortable rooms decorated in a soothing, nautical theme, a filling breakfast (with fruit, yogurt, juice, cereal and a hot entree) and, best of all, a no-children policy.