By Vladimir Brezina
Sandy Hook, NJ, a long thin finger that reaches out across the Lower Bay toward New York City, is an irresistible destination for a kayak trip from the city. But once Sandy Hook is off the bow, where to land? The perfect landing site can be elusive. Landing is nowhere actually difficult on Sandy Hook—there is a broad sandy beach almost all the way around (although the ocean side can have significant surf). But in most places it’s a featureless beach, offering no shade in the summer nor shelter from the wind in the winter. Parts of the beach may be off-limits for one reason or another. And besides, we want to have lunch in a picturesque spot, rich both in local sights and sounds and views of the landscape.
There is such a spot on Sandy Hook. A mile and a half down the bay side, right on the beach, there is an overgrown hillock—almost a little island, no more than a few hundred feet across, that is cut off from the rest of Sandy Hook by a salt marsh that floods at high tide. That’s where we like to land on Sandy Hook.
The hillock is actually the crumbling, overgrown ruin of a military installation, a series of concrete blockhouses topped by circular structures that may have been gun emplacements, that probably dates back to the 1950s or 1960s, when Sandy Hook was the site of a Nike missile battery guarding New York City, or even further back into Sandy Hook’s long military history.
The two reasonably well-preserved circular emplacements— there may originally have been a third one between them—are marked “1” and “3” in the satellite view above. I like to think how highly secret an image that shows such detail of military structures would have been in the 1950s and 1960s…
The concrete is crumbling more year by year, and the circular emplacements make perfect planters for growths of prickly pear cactus..
But the elevation offers a lunch spot with great views north toward the tip of Sandy Hook and out over Sandy Hook Bay.
On our last trip to Sandy Hook, these three fishermen were fishing with weighted nets off the beach—or rather, were staring at the water waiting for fish. Although Sandy Hook Bay abounded with schools of small fish that day, they evidently stayed just too far out of reach, and eventually the men walked away disappointed.
On the landward side of the little hillock is a miniature forest crisscrossed by sandy paths, a haven for Monarch butterflies.
And beyond that, the salt marsh.
On our last trip, it was low tide and at the dry edge of the marsh (“2” in the satellite view) we encountered an army of fiddler crabs, emerging from their burrows and snapping their huge yellow claws at us…
The rocky point by emplacement “3” is a favorite fishing spot. And the emplacement itself offers great views not only north but also south, toward Atlantic Highlands and the coast of mainland New Jersey…
After lunch at this idyllic spot, we are refreshed, re-energized, and ready to head across the Lower Bay back to the city!
All these and other photos from Sandy Hook are here and here.
Can’t wait to check out this great little spot one day. Thanks for sharing!
You are welcome, Reid! Highly recommended!
It’s amazing – all this wilderness so close to the man-made jungle of NYC. Love going kayaking with you two:)
Well, nothing is really, truly wild anymore in the greater New York City area. What is amazing to see is how nature survives in and adapts to the interstices of the urban environment, so that in places it manages to be almost the way it was before the city ever existed, and in other places it has created a new natural-urban hybrid that never existed before…
Of course you’re right that nothing’s wild the way it was but it’s thrilling how nature infiltrates and adapts, like any living organism … :)
Yes, exactly :-)
Pingback: Travel Theme: Inviting | Wind Against Current