This incredible national park spans two states, and it’s not just hiking for those visiting Gateway National Park.
the 27,000 acres-Gateway National Recreation Area located in New York and New Jersey was established in 1972 by the US Congress. It was created to provide urban populations of both states with an experience mirroring that of a national park. Gateway stretches from Breezy Point in New York to Sandy Hook in New Jersey and is dotted with beaches, historic sites and cultural landscapes. Annually, the Gateway National Recreation Area attracts over 9 million visitors and is the third most visited national park in America.
What to do at Gateway National Recreation Area?
There is plenty to explore, enjoy and experience at Gateway National Recreation Area for all types of visitors. There is no entrance fee to Gateway, but beach parking fees range from $20 per day to $200 per season depending on vehicle size.
Bird and butterfly watching
At the Gateway National Recreation Area, there are more than 330 species of birds which nest there permanently or stop there during their migration seasons. This makes it a haven for birdwatchers or wildlife photographers. Some bird species found there include the osprey, tree swallow, American woodcock, American oystercatcher, and the threatened piping plover. The best birding spots in the Gateway National Recreation Area are Sandy Hook, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Great Kills Park, and the North Forty Nature Area at Floyd Bennett Field. At Sandy Hook and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, new birders receive programs to help them get started and learn. Photographers and birdwatchers will also be able to spot the 71 species of butterflies found at Gateway.
Aquatic leisure activities
The Gateway National Recreation Area touches the North Atlantic Ocean and many water recreation activities are offered there by service providers. Visitors can row, kayak, paddle and canoe at designated boating spots around this recreation area. Sailing spots correspond to the skill level of each participant. Gateway also has three designated swimming spots which are Great Kills Park, Sandy Hook and Jacob Riis Park beaches. Swimming is only permitted when lifeguards are present. Saltwater fishing is the only fishing permitted at Gateway. This is done at Sandy Hook, Staten Island and Jamaica Bay spots and there are regulations who govern it.
the three campsites at Gateway National Recreation Area are Fort Wadsworth, Sandy Hook and Floyd Bennett Field. Visitors can only camp overnight and the maximum number of camping nights is 14 nights. Each site can accommodate four people and larger groups should book multiple campsites. The campsites accommodate one large tent or two smaller ones, but their capacity may be reduced for security reasons. Campers bring their own tents and sleeping bags and are advised to bring padding to place under mattresses, sunscreen and insect repellent. Only at Floyd Bennett Field campground recreational vehicles (RV) are allowed. Tents are not allowed on the 12 sites where motorhomes are parked. Camping fees range from $15 to $30 per night and $105 to $210 per week depending on the camping package chosen.
Archery enthusiasts can test their aim at Floyd Bennett Archery Range, open daily from February 1 through November 30. Visitors must have an annual archery license and be over the age of 18 to shoot archery there. License holders can also sponsor two children who want to take up archery. Archers are required to follow the rules of the archery range to avoid accidents. Only compound and traditional archery bows are permitted at the Floyd Bennett Archery Range.
Run, cycle or walk
At the Gateway National Recreation Area, there are trails and spaces for running, walking, and biking. Great Kills and Sandy Hook have several paths to walk or run to stay in shape. There are also running spaces at Gateway touching Staten Island, Jersey Shore and New York where visitors can run where competitive marathons are held. Fort Wadsworth has steeper sections where visitors can burn extra calories for fitness. Cycling is another option for exploring Gateway and there are Class 1 and Class 2 e-bike only routes.
Sports fields abound in the Gateway National Recreation Area, where visitors can play a variety of team sports. Football, softball and cricket pitches as well as baseball, tennis, handball and basketball courts are available. However, permits are required to use the fields which can be obtained by contacting the responsible for management. COVID-19 measures and protocols such as social distancing must also be respected.
During the winter seasons, the North Forty Natural Area at Floyd Bennett Field and Sandy Hook hosts cross-country skiing and sledding on the trails. Park rangers create trails in the snow where visitors and families with children go skiing and sledding.
Visit historic sites
At Gateway National Recreation Area, there are historic sites worth visiting to get a glimpse of New York’s rich history.
- Floyd Bennett Field: This was New York City’s first municipal airport that later became a World War II naval air station. Today the field has a harbor and over 13,000 acres of grassland, tidal flats and salt marshes. Fort Bennett Field opens from 6:00 p.m. and closes at 9:00 p.m.
- Sandy Hook Lighthouse: This largely white lighthouse is America’s oldest surviving lighthouse. Its construction was completed on June 11, 1764, and it survived the American Revolution in June 1776. It opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. daily.
- Fort Wadsworth: This is one of the oldest US military installations and sits on 226 acres of land on the northeast coast of Staten Island. Visitors here learn about the American Revolution and enjoy great views of beautiful New York Harbor. In Fort Wadsworth, there is also the 19th century House Mont Sec with furnishings that depict the life of an officer and his family in the 1890s. It opens daily at 6 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m.
NEXT: This New Jersey Hiking Trail Takes Hikers Past the Ruins of an Abandoned Castle
Why Leeds Castle is called the most beautiful castle in the world