Sandy Hook, New Jersey

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July 24, 2022: Nude in New Jersey

It was going to be a record hot July day in NYC and I needed to cool down. I discovered that there is a ferry operated that goes from the E 34th street pier near my apartment to Sandy Hook, a small spit of land extending off the far northern end of the Jersey Shore (not to be confused with the infamous Sandy Hook, Connecticut). The ferry only takes 45 minutes making it the closest beach to my apartment. I invited friends to go with me, but nobody could go.

To save $20, I took the 8AM ferry. It left relatively on-time and soon enough we were zipping down the east river and across New York harbor. Very soon we were in New Jersey. 

Hello New Jersey

Sandy Hook is run by the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Rangers helped us unload and moved people into free buses that take people to the beaches. Most people got onto a bus headed for Gunnison Beach. Since the weather was still tolerable, I opted to walk around. 

The ferry landing is in the middle of the former Fort Hancock, a coastal artillery base built to defend New York City from an aquatic assault. While most of the base was decommissioned in 1974, the US Coast Guard still controls a small part of the spit. 

The decommissioned village contains abandoned officer´s homes and barracks. The buildings are not in good shape – many buildings are only standing due to permanent supports. 

One of the crumbling officer´s houses in Fort Hancock

The village also contains the Sandy Hook Light. Built in 1764, it is the oldest working lighthouse in the US. The lighthouse is not so tall, but it did the trick. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed due to excessive heat. 

The oldest lighthouse in the USA

I then walked south from town along the harbor side of the spit and through the woods. My walk was approximately 3 miles before I reached the entrance to Gunnison Beach. 

Gunnison Beach is by far the most popular attraction on Sandy Hook. It is the only nude beach in the region (based on research the next closest such beach is on Martha´s Vineyard in Massachusetts). New Jersey has an anti-nudity law on its beaches, but this beach is exempt because it is on federal land. 

At this moment, I was so happy that my friends cancelled on me because I did not do my research and was unaware of the nude beach´s existence.

The entrance pavilion contains bathrooms, two food trucks and vendors selling a variety of useful beach items such as sunscreen and umbrellas. The path to the beach is along a quarter-mile strand of plastic and is guarded by a white sign proclaiming “You may encounter nude sunbathers”. 

The clothing-optional zone begins once you reach the sand 200 meters into the walk. 

Soon after, I saw a crowd of people and… oh my gosh they are all naked! 

There must have been at least 700 people on the beach…all naked. Most of the people were middle-aged couples but there were also groups of gay men, older people and even families with children.  I walked passed a naked game of volleyball.  

People really come in all shapes and sizes. I mean that in every sense of the word. 

After wandering through a sea of towels and umbrellas, I eventually found a spot of sand to lay my towel down. 

Then, I dropped trou and strolled around. When in Rome! 

I then walked to the water and went for a swim in the ocean. Naked swimming is amazing! 

In the water, a couple swam up to me and the guy told me he can see me naked. I responded by saying I can see his wife naked. This sparked a funny conversation. He drove 3 hours from Connecticut to come to this beach. In his wife´s words, “Once you swim naked, you can´t go back.”

The beach funnily enough has a view of Brooklyn and beyond that the skyline of Lower Manhattan. I suppose if someone were at the observation deck of the One World Trade and had binoculars, they would get a sight. 

I alternated between the sand which was too hot and the water which was juuuust too cold for my preference (but I´m a wuss). 

After 2 hours, I was burnt to a crisp in all areas. All areas. 

For fun, I then wandered over to the clothed beach, which was completely deserted. The people know! 

I then walked back to the ferry. I chuckled knowing that I have seen everybody in the line naked. 

The ferry back was just as easy and by 16:00, I was back home!

Final Thoughts:

Sandy Hook is a great day trip. The beaches are the obvious attraction, but there is also enough hiking and history to keep you occupied for a couple hours. 

With regards to the nude beach, it surpassed all my expectations.

Pros to the nude beach:

  1. Oh-so-comfortable both in and out of the water. 
  2. No tan lines
  3. Body positivity. People come in all shapes and sizes

Can be a pro or con:

  1. You see EXACTLY how you stack up against the competition

Cons to the nude beach:

  1. Awkward sunburns
  2. Not a great place to bring friends 

The nude beach also taught me that our society puts an insane amount of effort into judging each other. We spend so much time judging people´s looks, people´s clothes and lifestyles. But once you strip away all the clothing, everyone more or less looks the same and has the same parts. We are all a lot more similar than you think or would like to think. Food for thought.  

I would definitely go back to a nude beach, but next time I would apply the sunscreen once I got there. 


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