Beach of the Month: Sandy Hook
(New Jersey Coast)
Sandy Hook is a 7-mile sand spit dangling into the Atlantic Ocean off the northern tip of New Jersey. Ships sailing into New York harbor have always needed to navigate around the shifting sands of Sandy Hook. The first lighthouse was built from lottery funds in 1764. The strategic peninsula has been fortified since the War of 1812 and the Hook was the site of the first United States Army Proving Ground. The last active military base, Fort Hancock, closed in 1974 but the United States Coast Guard still maintains an active presence at Sandy Hook.
The Sandy Hook Lighthouse has been guiding ships through the sandy shoals for 240 years. You can walk your dog around the grassy base of the National Historic Landmark and well-behaved dogs can even sit in on the short video history of the illumination of New York harbor. While looking at the old brick sentinel, you can grasp the dynamics of land-building at Sandy Hook - when first built, the lighthouse was a mere 500 feet from shore and today is more than one and one-half miles from the northern end of the peninsula.
The best canine hiking in the 1,655-acre
Sandy Hook Unit is on the seven miles of ocean beach. The open sands of North Beach curl around to reveal views of the Brooklyn skyline and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1964. Open all year to dogs are short nature trails through a 264-acre maritime forest that holds the greatest concentration of American Holly on the East Coast. But dogs are not allowed in the recreation area from March 15 to Labor Day to protect nesting shorebirds so now is the time to check it out. When hiking around sand trails, steer your dog clear of low-lying prickly pear cacti that grow in abundance on the peninsula.

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