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Is It Safe to Visit Gateway National Recreation Area, New York?

If you’re planning a trip to New Jersey or New York, you may want to see the Statue of Liberty, take an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building, visit the 9/11 Memorial, and relax along the beaches.

However, the Gateway National Recreation Area is in your backyard. It’s a place worth adding to your trip itinerary.

Let’s learn more about this area and why you should visit!

What Is Gateway National Recreation Area Along? 

From Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to Breezy Point, New York City, Gateway National Recreation Area encompasses 27,000 acres and welcomes millions of visitors annually.  It also includes the New York City boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

According to the National Park Service, “Gateway was established in 1972 to offer a national park service experience to an urban audience.” It’s a unique area of conservation and history that captures how the New York Harbor shaped this region.

What Is Gateway National Recreation Area Famous for?

Whether you’re looking for green spaces, historic buildings, or beach access, Gateway National Recreation Area has it all. The Sandy Hook unit is home to Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook Proving Ground National Historic Landmark. Additional locations include several batteries and historic Army buildings, the oldest surviving lighthouse in the United States, and a former United States Life-Saving Service station.

The Staten Island unit is home to Fort Wadsworth and Battery Weed. Great Kills Park, a 532-acre park, is also within Gateway National Recreation Area. There’s also Miller Field, a former airfield for the Army that provides sports fields and basketball courts for guests to enjoy.

Jamaica Bay includes a wildlife refuge, playgrounds, and beaches. Visitors can fish along the Canarsie Pier or visit the swimming beach at Jacob Riis Park. Go windsurfing at Plumb Beach or take a walk to the observatory deck at Fort Tilden.

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Is It Safe to Visit Gateway National Recreation Area, New York?

It is as safe to visit Gateway National Recreation Area as any other park or recreation area. The National Park Service gives some tips to make visits enjoyable and safe. Beach safety is essential. Lifeguards protect some of the beaches from 10 am-6 pm, but not all beaches have lifeguards. Always pay attention to rip currents and observe any weather alerts.

Many poison ivy and poison oak plants grow throughout Gateway National Recreation Area. Poison ivy thrives on sandy shores. If you think you’ve come in contact with one of these plants, wash thoroughly with soap and water.

Although the weather is typically moderate most of the year, temperatures can climb into the 90s in the summer and dip below freezing in the winter. Always pay attention to the weather and dress appropriately to avoid heat stroke and hyperthermia. Bring enough water and wear sunscreen in the summertime.

Finally, due to the area’s military history, people have found UXOs throughout Gateway National Recreation Area. If you think you’ve seen unexploded ordnances, don’t touch them. Notify law enforcement immediately. However, finding such a military munition is quite rare. You shouldn’t avoid visiting just because of this danger.

What Is There to Do at Gateway National Recreation Area?

When you visit Gateway National Recreation Area, there are many things to do. Whether you explore the New Jersey side or the New York side will determine what activities are available.

Outdoor Activities

If you love being outdoors, you’ll love exploring Gateway National Recreation Area. From archery and bicycling to fishing and bird watching, there’s something for everyone. There are miles of trails within its boundaries and numerous guided programs led by park rangers. Great Kills Beach, Jacob Riis Park, and Sandy Hook have lifeguards on duty at their swimming beaches.

Sandy Hook Lighthouse

Open for daily tours between 1 pm-4:30 pm; the Sandy Hook Lighthouse is a popular destination. Tours are first-come, first-serve. Children must be 48″ to climb the lighthouse. This is a carry-in, carry-out park so take any trash with you when you leave. This is a must-see during your visit to Gateway National Recreation Area, as the Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in the United States.

Bird Watching

According to the National Park Service, more than 325 species of birds reside in Gateway National Recreation Area seasonally or year-round. The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Floyd Bennett Field’s North Forty, Great Kills Park, and Sandy Hook are all ideal areas for sightings of American Oystercatchers, tree swallows, or Killdeer. The threatened Piping Plover uses the beaches of Sandy Hook and Fort Tilden to nest, and Ospreys return to the nest every summer.

Guided Tours

There are kayaking and canoe cruises that visitors can book. Tour the north end of Fort Hancock’s Nine Gun Battery with a park ranger for 90 minutes, and learn about the longest gun battery the Army built for harbor defense. Join a ranger at Jamaica Bay and know how the bay and its marshes have affected cultures through the years. There are numerous other opportunities for guided tours, but check whether you need reservations first.

How Do You Get to Gateway National Recreation Area?

Because there are three units within Gateway National Recreation Area, there are several locations where you can begin your journey. All sites are open year-round from 6 am-9 pm except Canarsie Pier and Jacob Riis Park, which are open from 6 am-10 pm. There are no entrance fees, but there is a charge for beach parking during the summer months at Jacob Riis Park and Sandy Hook.

You can visit Jamaica Bay by car, bus, ferry, or subway. There are ten areas to explore, so where you want to start will determine your driving directions. You can take the Garden State Parkway to Route 36 to visit Sandy Hook. If you want to go to Staten Island, there are three areas to explore: Fort Wadsworth, Great Kills Park, and Miller Field. There are maps on the National Park Service website to help guide you to your destinations.

Is Gateway National Recreation Area Worth Visiting?

Gateway National Recreation Area is an excellent place to learn more about the history of the New York Harbor. Fort Tilden and Floyd Bennett Field tell stories of defense. Dating to June 11, 1764, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse tells stories of maritime history. Plus, you’ll see unique wildlife and plant life that call this part of America home.

You’ll want to plan, keep up with the weather, and be flexible. But you don’t have to worry about your safety. Take normal precautions to protect yourself and your family, but don’t skip out on visiting this national treasure.

When will you visit Gateway National Recreation Area?

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