Rock Talk

Destination NJ: Visiting Fort Hancock

Last updated on May 16th, 2017 at 02:40 pm

Sandy Hook’s Treasures

When most people hear “Sandy Hook” they think of sun, sand, a lighthouse and maybe even Gunnison Beach. But I’d like to highlight Fort Hancock, what I consider the real gem of Sandy Hook. With spring only days away, I can’t recommend visiting Fort Hancock and all it’s history enough.

A Brief History

Fort Hancock was built on Sandy Hook in 1895 and established by the U.S. Army to man the guns and protect New York Harbor from attack by sea. Beginning in 1907, additional fortifications such as electric lights, motorized ammunition hoists, searchlights and telephone communications were just some of the many upgrades.

The mission of Fort Hancock was to provide support for the soldiers manning the gun batteries. The original fort was designed to house 400 men and consisted of 32 brick structures. Additional buildings quickly followed. Single enlisted men lived in barracks and non-commissioned officers and officers lived with their families in special buildings. By 1911, Fort Hancock included a commissary, bakery, chapel, school, YMCA, laundry and tailor shops and a post exchange for soldiers and their families. In fact, many celebrities such as Judy Garland and Lana Turner visited Fort Hancock during World War II.

In 1974, Fort Hancock was decommissioned and is now part of the National Parks of New York Harbor within the National Park System. But plans are in the works to get this wonderful community up and running once more. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark.

Why You Should Go

It’s an ideal day for everyone in the family. You pay once to enter Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area  and that gives you access to the beach, fishing (salt water fishing does require a permit), biking and hiking trails, prime bird watching, boating, camping and of course access to Fort Hancock and the lighthouse.

My favorite part is that you can still see most of the buildings at Fort Hancock today with a casual stroll around the fort. Some of the trails lead to stunning views of the New York skyline. The lighthouse is just nearby as well as the museum that features maps and other information. View the most recent program guide to see upcoming events.

Have you been to Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area? Plymouth Rock in NJ would love to hear about your experiences and recommendations in the comments below!

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