Summer is right around the corner and now that Covid restrictions are loosening by the week, it's time for us to be out and about. I don't know about you, but after being stuck inside the house all of 2020, I am so ready to hit up every beach, bar and club there is in New Jersey.
I used to love being at the beach, but every since I was diagnosed with Lupus I can't be in the sun as much. I never was brave enough to be out there baring it all, but I could be out on the beach sunbathing for hours. I've been to a nude beach before and have always wanted to drop all my clothes and let loose, but never had the nerve. If you have the confidence to do so, more power to you.
Did you know that New Jersey only has one nude beach? According to Fox News, New Jersey is one of 11 states that have unofficial nudist beaches, or allow topless sunbathing in specific areas. Even though public nudity is deemed unacceptable in the state, at Gunnison Beach in Monmouth County allows you to be in a designated area.
I've never been but apparently the moto there is "get naked or get lost." What people love about this particular beach is how comfortable everyone is. According to NJ.com, there aren't any supermodels and dudes with rock hard abs flaunting around. Instead you can find the average American body on full display.
According to NJ.com, the nude beach is at the north end of Sandy Hook - Parking Lot G is 4.5 miles from the front entrance.
''You draw more attention here with your clothes on than with your clothes off,'' says Gunnison regular Al Kononowitz of Brick.
But if you're like me, and not quite yet ready to let it all hang out, there is still plenty of regular beach for you to enjoy without having to look at boobs and other body parts.
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This is a guarded beach. Lifeguards are on duty 10 am - 6 pm daily between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day..Gunnison Beach is a clothing optional beach. To access the beach plaza and beach use the trail at the east end of the parking lot. Please swim only at lifeguarded beaches while lifeguards are on duty. During the peak season restrooms and showers are available at this location. Pets are not permitted on ocean side beaches March 15- September 15 to protect the nesting shore birds. Pets on a leash are permitted on bay side beaches any time of year.
Rules and Regualtions
- Alcohol is not allowed at Sandy Hook.
- Swimming Beaches are open Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. 36 CFR 3.17(a)
- Swimming Beaches are lifeguarded 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily. At the Sandy Hook Unit, Areas C, D, E, G (Gunnison) & North Beach. Wherever park lifeguards are on duty, that area is designated as a swimming beach. 36 CFR 3.17(a)
- The following activities or items on swimming beaches are prohibited: glass containers fishing, kite flying, scuba diving and snorkeling. 36 CFR 3.17(c)
- Ball playing and Frisbee on swimming beaches may be restricted to less populated areas with the swimming beach or restricted to areas outside the designated swimming beach. 36 CFR 3.17(c)
- Float suits and personal flotation devices (PFDs) that incorporate 3 points of retention into their design may be used for swimming in park waters. These items typically fit over or around both shoulders and have a retention strap or part of the garment or device that fits between the legs in the groin area. 36 CFR 3.17(c)
- Additional flotation devices are allowed at Sandy Hook Areas C, D, and E. These devices are limited to soft Boogie boards and canvas covered surf mats. 36 CFR 3.17(c)
- Swimming from vessels to ocean side beaches or swimming from ocean side beaches to vessels is prohibited within the view shed of on-duty lifeguards. 36 CFR 3.16
- Swimming from vessels to beaches that are closed for the protection of shorebirds, other park resources, or for public safety is prohibited. 36 CFR 3.16
- No balls, Frisbees, or similar objects are allowed in the water. 36 CFR 3.17(c)
- Vessels are prohibited at all designated swimming beaches. 36 CFR 3.17(c)
- The distance visitors may swim from shore is at the discretion of lifeguards based on existing conditions. 36 CFR 3.17(c)
- The use of temporary shade structures, such as canopies, umbrellas, tarps is permitted during daylight hours and only in the following areas: 1) Park Beaches 2) Designated picnic areas 3) Designated campgrounds (see section on Campgrounds for additional restrictions) 4) Any area designated in accordance with the provisions of a valid permit. These structures cannot be enclosed or modified or combined with any other structure or material to construct an enclosure. The use of driftwood to construct on enclosure is prohibited. Windscreens may be used on ocean beaches. However, on swimming beaches (lifeguarded), no windscreens are permitted within 35 feet of the high tide (wrack) line. No physical structure or combination of such may exceed twenty-five (25) feet in uninterrupted length. An obstructionfree corridor measuring at least fifteen (15) feet must be maintained between the barriers specified above to ensure free access. The construction of windscreens from driftwood is prohibited. 36 CFR 1.5(a)(2)
- A portion of Area "G" (South Gunnison) on Sandy Hook is used by visitors as a clothing optional area. While this area is not designated as clothing optional, there is no prohibition against this activity. The Park acknowledges the popularity and history of the use and advises unfamiliar visitors of this activity through signs. Nudity, outside the traditional use area, may be considered Disorderly Conduct. 36 CFR 2.34(a)(2)
See the Superintendent's Compendium for a complete list of park regulations. A copy is located at the Sandy Hook Visitor Center and online.
One of several signs at Gunnison Beach.
(Peter Genovese/The Star-Ledger)
I'm at the state's only legal nude beach wearing nothing but a smile.
"Newspapers always do a story on the beach at least once a year,'' says Al Kononowitz of Brick.
"Not like this,'' I tell him.
"Reporters gone naked'' sounds like the title of a reality show no one wants to see, but if you're going to spend the afternoon at Gunnison Beach, you need to act like the locals, and go native.
I've been to Gunnison one other time in my life (I swear), and the best line about the nude beach came from a woman I talked to first time out.
"Our motto here,'' she said, "is get naked or get lost.''
If you're expecting Brazilian supermodels & rock hard abs, you're in the wrong place. Sure, there are some bodies beautiful, but mostly it's the average American body on full display, with lots of flab and sag.
A fair amount of Jerseyans apparently want to get naked, because on this weekday afternoon Gunnison is packed.
The nude beach is tucked at the north end of Sandy Hook - Parking Lot G is 4.5 miles from the front entrance. The beach is both a hike and difficult to miss. The water is more than a half mile from the parking lot. At first glance, Gunnison looks like any Jersey beach - blankets, chairs, umbrellas, coolers.
Except for the naked people.
''You draw more attention here with your clothes on than with your clothes off,'' says Gunnison regular Al Kononowitz of Brick.
He's here four, five times a week, part of a group of nudist friends that include Khadafy Khan, a musician from Bergenfield, and Tom, a retired New York City cop everyone calls Turtle.
The first time Turtle visited Gunnison 29 years ago with his then-new wife, a "Bo Derek-lookalike'' strode out of the water and asked Tom if he could help drag her catamaran to the beach.
His response: "Definitely!''
Khan is here every weekday. He's from Trinidad; the Trinidad and Tobago flag flies from his sand chair; a Jets cooler is nearby.
"It's a great community, great friends,'' says Khan, who doesn't even own a bathing suit.
There are several unspoken rules here. If you're shy about removing your clothes the first time, that's ok, but on your next visit it's essentially get naked or get lost; there's plenty of "regular'' beach in either direction.
One big no-no: cameras. "It is considered extremely rude to photograph others enjoying themselves at the beach,'' reads a guide to nude beach etiquette on the web site of Friends of Gunnison, an American Association for Nude Recreation-affiliated club.
Sandy Hook is part of the federal Gateway National Recreation Area, so local ordinances don't apply. Liquor is allowed, but no glass containers. State-owned Higbee Beach, in Lower Township, was a nude beach for many years, but complaints from locals forced then-Gov. Christine Todd Whitman to ban nude sunbathing in 2000.
Gunnison, meanwhile, packs them in; on my visit last Wednesday, a thousand or so nude sunbathers had spread out blankets and beach chairs on a picture-perfect summer afternoon.
It may be the quietest beach in the state: no music blaring, no kids screaming, and little garbage. There is no concession stand; make sure you bring a cooler.
Dave and Lin Tillery of Ocean City, Md. found Gunnison six years ago while searching for a lighthouse - the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, nearby.
"We saw the signs that said 'clothing optional,' '' Dave says.
"So we decided to give it a try,'' his wife adds.
Now they drive up from Ocean City once a year to spend the day at the nude beach. They bought t-shirts down here once that read "Happiness is no tan lines.''
"Don't believe you're never going to see these people again,'' Dave says, laughing, and tells the story of meeting a guy from Long Island at a St. Maarten resort, where there is a nude beach.
Dave and Lin were having dinner at a restaurant on Maryland's Eastern Shore several years later when someone walked up from behind, put his hands over Dave's eyes and said, "You probably won't recognize me with my clothes on.'' It was the guy from Long Island.
"A lot of people from Jersey don't know this is here,'' Dave says of Gunnison.
Signs at the end of the walkway to the beach read "Attention: Beyond This Point You May Encounter Nude Sunbathers.''
There's no "may'' about it; the overwhelming amount of beachgoers beyond that sign are naked; a handful of women keep on their bikini bottoms.
"I'm just here to get some color,'' explains Nicole from Staten Island, here for the fourth time.
Joe and Tammy from Point Pleasant are first time Gunnison visitors.
"Just trying it out; no big deal,'' Joe says.
"It's very comfortable, very relaxed,'' Tammy adds. "I like it that there's no garbage around.''
"Are we going to come back?'' Joe asks his wife.
"Yeah, occasionally,'' she replies.
The beach, and a nearby battery mounted with 6-inch "disappearing guns'' completed in 1904, are named after Capt. John Gunnison.
"I've been coming here 14 years,'' Kononowitz notes. "The first two years I didn't tell my children.''
He calls nude sunbathing "addictive.''
"The only time I put on a bathing suit is when I go to Vegas,'' he adds.
Corey from Westfield describes it as "liberating.''
"I didn't know there was a nude beach in New Jersey,'' she says.
It's her third visit to Gunnison. Several friends asked if they could come along, but she said no. She feels "freer'' going alone.
The nudists, according to Khan, are "all average people. There are artists, funeral directors, teachers, nurses, doctors.''
For the musician, Gunnison provides "mental and physical therapy.'' He says "there's an openness about it, a freedom.''
The lifeguards, in case you're wondering, are clothed. There are several volleyball nets; games usually occur in the late afternoon. The day I was there, a dozen guys and girls tossed around a Frisbee.
On a clear day, you can see the New York City skyline. It's a nude beach with a great view.
''It's not for everybody,'' Kononowitz says. "If people don't want to be here, we don't want them here.''
I feel like I am going to be called into a meeting with senior management sometime this week for searching “nude beaches in NJ” on a company computer. So, just know, I did it for my readers and listeners.
So no, I am not just doing this blog “just cause”, I am doing it because today is National Nude Day! Just when you thought they have a day for everything, on the 14th of July -- it’s National Nude Day!
First off, you have to have some sort of -- erm -- confidence… to go to a nude beach.
I once accidentally walked onto a nude beach and Florida and let's just say it was me, who felt out of place.
Through my vigorous research on this very very important topic, I found out that there is only one nude beach here at the Jersey Shore: Gunnison Beach in Middletown!
As it turns out, Gunnison Beach, which is managed by the National Park Service is the only "clothing optional" beach in the state of New Jersey and can draw up to 5,000 "naturists" during the summer months.
So, well, there you go.
Nj nude beach
Coordinates: 40°27′36″N73°59′44″W / 40.460042°N 73.995484°W / 40.460042; -73.995484
Gunnison Beach is a beach within the Sandy Hook unit of the Fort Hancock and the Sandy Hook Proving Ground Historic District which is the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, on the Atlantic coast of New Jersey. It is located in Middletown Township, Monmouth County, but is on federal land managed by the National Park Service. It is New Jersey's only legal clothing-optional beach. It takes its name from adjacent Battery Gunnison, which visitors must pass next to in order to get to and from the beach.
Gunnison Beach takes its name purely out of convenience: Battery Gunnison, a Coastal Artillery fortification built by the U.S.Army in 1904 to protect New York Harbor at Fort Hancock, New Jersey. The Battery, which has been undergoing an extensive restoration to its c. 1943 configuration since 2003, sits directly next to the Gunnison Beach walkway that leads out to the ocean. Beach goers and visitors must pass directly next to the Battery's Number 2 Gun Emplacement to walk out to the ocean. Known as Battery Gunnison / New Peck following a weapons conversion in 1943, it is part of Fort Hancock, the largest US Army Coast Artillery fort on the eastern seaboard. The Sandy Hook Proving Ground, the first of its kind in the nation, operated at Fort Hancock / Sandy Hook from 1874 to 1919. The U.S. Army manned Fort Hancock as a Coast Artillery post from 1890 to 1948. It was then armed with conventional anti-aircraft guns from 1950 to 1954,when it became the site of a Nike missile defense installation. The Fort closed in 1974, and was ceded to the National Park Service as a unit of Gateway National Recreation Area. Contrary to popular belief and urban legend, there was no nude bathing en masse on the part of the United States Army garrison that led to the formation of the nude beach. It was the discovery of Gunnison Beach's natural seclusion by park visitors in the late 1970s and early 1980s that led to its inception as a nude beach.
In 1999, New Jersey passed a law that allows municipalities and counties to prohibit all types of nudism on state or local beaches in their jurisdiction. Gunnison Beach, however, is on land owned and managed by the federal government and therefore is not subject to state or local regulations. As a result, Gunnison became the only legal nude beach in the state. Gunnison is the largest clothing-optional recreation area on the East Coast. The clothing optional beach, which offers dramatic views of Brooklyn and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, attracts nearly 5,000 naturists per weekend in the summer months. From May through September, daily ferry service is available from Manhattan to the Sandy Hook Ferry Landing, with a free shuttle service that stops at all the beaches of Sandy Hook. Gunnison Beach is among the most popular choices, especially on weekends. Part of the beach is shared on a seasonal basis with a reserved breeding ground for the endangeredpiping plover, a native shore bird.
In the summer of 2020, with no fanfare or request for Public Comment, the National Park Service cut the clothing-optional area of Gunnison Beach in half. The "South Gunnison" section of the beach was made into a clothing-mandatory area.
- ^ abNanos, Janelle (July 31, 2007). "In 39 Years, There's Little a Lifeguard Doesn't See". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
- ^Blumenthal, Ralph (2008-06-30). "Ferrying From Manhattan to Bare It All on the Beach". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- ^Named in honor of Captain John Williams Gunnison
- ^"On the Hook for sun, fun -- History - and nudity - at the Shore". Bergen Record. August 31, 2005.
- ^Discussions with Tom Hoffman, the Fort Hancock Historian for the National Park Service. According to Mr. Hoffman, when the Fort opened as a park in 1975, the northern end of Fort Hancock / Sandy Hook was closed off to normal visitation. The boundary line began at the former MP Station, then used as the USNPS Ranger Station, located in the middle of Hartshorne Drive between present-day parking areas D and E. Visitors could proceed beyond this point after receiving a day pass and instruction from the Rangers. Per Mr. Hoffman, it was the public's gradual discovery of Gunnison Beach's secluded geography, that fostered its use a clothing optional beach, which grew over time. Pressed by the urban legend of an "army nude beach," Mr. Hoffman, who has spent over 40 years of service at Fort Hancock, and has met and interviewed dozens, if not hundreds of veterans of Fort Hancock from the Spanish American War-era through to the Cold War. Upon asking them about the nude beach, not a single veteran, across nearly a century of service, has said that there was sanctioned nude bathing by the Army at Fort Hancock. If further verification is needed in person, Mr. Hoffman still works at Fort Hancock as of February 2019, and can be reached by calling the Fort Hancock & Sandy Hook Proving Ground National Historic Landmark (Sandy Hook) Visitor Center at (732) 872-5970 between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm, EST.
- ^"Laws of 1999". New Jersey State Library. Archived from the original on 2014-02-23. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
- ^Trebay, Guy (September 2, 2001). "All Undressed and So Many Places to Go". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
- ^Flam, Faye (July 17, 2006). "Clothing optional may not be way of historical human". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
- ^Gabrielan, Randall (1999). Sandy Hook. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN .
- ^"SANDY HOOK BEACH, NJ SHUTTLE SERVICE". Seastreak. May 11, 2020. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
WEST CAPE MAY — The nude man walks along the shoreline at the edge of Cape May County on this perfect beach day, the breeze off the water keeping the greenheads away. As he gets closer to another person on the beach, not nude, he unfurls a black Speedo from his hand and slips it on without missing a step.
"If it were polite, everybody would be naked," the 62-year-old Collingswood man explains about why he covers up in mixed beach company. "That's the way I look at it."
At Higbee Beach, a once-nude beach that is no longer officially a nude beach, except that it is basically still a nude beach in spots, the nude sunbathers are nothing if not polite.
"Just as I walked by, everybody rolled over," noted Drew Pearsall, 63, of West Chester, Pa., retired from quality control at Johnson & Johnson, who came down for the day to his favorite beach and was content in a bathing suit and a green Phillies cap, his torso a deeply contented shade of well done. "It's secluded and quiet."
This is Higbee Beach 17 years after a ticket written by Lower Township Capt. Martin Biersbach for public nudity found its way to the state Appellate Division and nudist history, when that court ruled that townships could enforce ordinances against public nudity on state-run land.
That ended Higbee's run as an official nude beach, but really, being an official anything beach was never Higbee's thing.
It's not officially a dog beach. It's not officially even a swimming beach, or an anchor-your-boat beach. Or a horse beach. Or a gay beach. Or a hippie beach. Officially, it's a Wildlife Management Area run by the State of New Jersey, with excellent trails and birding.
But head up through those trails that traverse the amazingly lush, rolling, tree-canopied dunes to this secluded beach most any day of the summer, and it's dogs, boats, swimmers, gays, straights, sometimes people on horses, and, heading south toward Daveys Lake, in the direction of Sunset Beach, still an (unofficial) nude beach. Though the naturists tend to be discreet when warranted.
"It's kind of an anything goes beach," said Adam Keilbaugh, a yoga instructor from Philadelphia who was spending the day idyllically under an umbrella with his 13-year-old dog, Luna, equally content nearby, leaving the nudists to another more remote section farther up the beach. He's been going to Higbee for more than a decade.
Most people seem to know the ropes, and the various constituencies seem to sort themselves out peaceably, but a few are surprised.
"As the beach narrows, there was a congregation. It changes where it narrows down there," said Pearsall in amusement. "It was a surprise to me."
The beach's seclusion, fresh water lakes and springs, pathways up in the dunes and quiet all make Higbee a seriously atypical Jersey Shore beach — no beach tag checkers, no lifeguards, no amenities but the ones you bring in. This is what drew Pearsall back, he said, albeit a bit more enlightened as to where to set down his chair.
"When I came back, I didn't want to encroach on the guys who were rolling over," he said.
Higbee's curving geography gives it the feel of a tropical beach, say St. Thomas without a dive beachside bar, with the Cape May Ferry boats filling in for the cruise ships.
Some people think it's haunted, and its so-called ghost tracks emerge every few years, a relic of a rail line built for the sand mining and munitions testing facilities during World War I.
The hauntings date to the late 19th century, when Thomas Higbee, part of a family that owned a hotel on the land, was buried there at his request. His body was later moved to Cold Spring Cemetery, but local lore recounts sightings of old Tom walking the beach in a long coat, with a dog, as he never wanted to leave.
Highbee also had a reputation as a gay meeting place, but these days, that distinction mostly belongs to Rehoboth Beach, a ferry ride away in Delaware. At least officially.
And for an official nude beach, head to Gunnison Beach on National Park Service land in Sandy Hook in North Jersey. There, clothing is optional and signs are posted.
At Higbee, the dog people, the boat people, the seclusion is my thing people, and the naturalist people appear to have settled into an amiable co-existence.
"It's a sacred kind of place," said one topless woman who's been coming to Higbee for 30 years. "It's been a nude beach since the 1930s."
Keilbaugh says the beach sorts itself out naturally the farther away one gets from the parking lot at the end of New England Road. It makes sense that anyone with kids or a lot of stuff won't bother walking that far from the parking lot.
"It isn't officially a dog beach, but it's a dog beach," said Keilbaugh. "It's not built up. We've seen bald eagles, people riding on horseback. This is wonderful. I do back bends and stretches."
Keilbaugh's been coming to Higbee for about 15 years. He says he sees the same regulars who go low-key nude.
The boaters anchor like they're in the tropics, wading onto the shore like they're on Survivor.
"We live real close to the beach, but we'd rather come here," said Jolene Mizsak. She and her husband, John, bring their boat, the Pinch Me, from Stone Harbor to Higbee for idyllic beach days. "It's not crowded. Nobody bothers anybody. They do their things, we do ours."
Pinch Me indeed. The Mizsaks say Higbee provides a nice beach walk that is a bit more interesting than your typical Stone Harbor, or even North Wildwood, stroll.
"They're happy to show their stuff," jokes John. "The closer you stay to the [Cape May] Canal, the less nudity."
More dogs, more bathing suits, basically. And on some days, hundreds of horseshoe crabs wash up.
The beach was ripped apart during Hurricane Sandy, mostly overwhelming its weird landmarks, like South Voodoo Tree, which Keilbaugh says was basically a collection of driftwood stacked up every year with "South Voodoo" carved into a branch.
Over at Lower Township police headquarters, Biersbach said he can't remember the last time anyone complained about nude sunbathers at Higbee. He says it's been a few years since any summonses have been written. He recalled the years after the law was upheld, when police formed special details to crack down on the practice, with grants from the state.
He said the long walk from the parking lot to where nudists might congregate would tend to keep families from setting up shop nearby.
"We don't actually walk the beach," he said. "It's kind of isolated. Like a deserted island."
Although park rangers ride up and down the beach periodically, the state seems to have let it go as well.
"I thought the nude sunbathing there stopped years ago," said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state's Department of Environmental Protection.
As you get closer to Sunset Beach at Cape May Point, the spot where the famous flag-raising ceremony takes place at sunset, high tide will fill a little tributary from Daveys Lake and make it impossible to cross, forming a moat of sorts. Towels will emerge on some lounge chairs as a nod to discretion, or not. Bathers will emerge from the sea, nude or not.
At Higbee, the sun will set over the Delaware Bay, unceremoniously.
The square wooden remains of what looks like a pier carry still yellow painted warnings that in context seem almost assuredly in jest.
"No traipsing, no shenanigans, no gallivanting."
"No nudes is good nudes."
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I'm a features writer based at the Jersey Shore, covering Atlantic City, beach culture, power grabs, arts, and, maybe for the last time, Miss America.
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