Sitting high atop the blue waters of the Atlantic, the town of Atlantic Highlands overlooks Sandy Hook, the Manhattan skyline and hundreds of boats (and cars) that pass through everyday. Just below is the seaside town of Highlands. As this Jersey Shore Local Guide to Atlantic Highlands and Highlands will show you, these two small towns boast everything from some of the best hiking trails on the Jersey Shore coastline to a number of historic sites and a neighborhood that prides itself on resiliency, camaraderie, and well, it’s tendency to attract unique eats, drinks, and treats.
Jersey Shore Local Guide to Atlantic Highlands and Highlands
Originally known as Portland Pointe, Atlantic Highlands is home to the highest point (266 feet above sea level) on the eastern seaboard south of Maine. These rolling hills offer some of the best hiking in the town’s ten parks including Hartshorne Woods. Attracting hundreds of visitors daily, Hartshorne Woods is a 736-acre park that boasts over 16 miles of trails, a small beach, and a fishing pier. For a bit of a history lesson, make your way up to historic Twin Lights, the first built of its kind. You can even start your hike on the Henry Hudson Trail that runs 9 miles from Atlantic Highlands to the Aberdeen/Keyport border.
Despite its rolling hills, many areas of Highlands were devastated during Superstorm Sandy when the 10-foot surge swept in from the bay and damaged or completely destroyed most homes and businesses. Slowly but surely, residents have rebuilt and with the support of locals and visitors, they’ve been able to shine once more.
Breathtaking views of the Sandy Hook Bay and Sandy Hook can be enjoyed in some of the areas most popular restaurants including Windansea. Enjoy a tropical cocktail drink as you watch the sun set over the same waters where some of the nation’s foremost and fastest rum-running boats, including the Jersey Skiff, managed to outsmart the authorities during Prohibition almost 100 years ago.
For those leaving Sandy Hook, a meal or drink at Off the Hook is almost a requirement on nice days, as the view of the hook and the ocean are remarkable. Some of our other favorite spots include et al Fine Food where they have wide selection of sandwiches, smoothies and salads. Another favorite option of ours is the Bay Ave Bakery, where their selection of breakfast, lunch and baked goods is a favorite of many locals.
Exploring the Neighborhoods
Downtown Atlantic Highlands is one of the foremost places to enjoy the best that the Jersey Shore has to offer. A trip to 1st Avenue is a must on this Jersey Shore Local Guide to Atlantic Highlands. Check out an array of restaurants from Harborside Grill and The Wine Bar, remarkable sunsets from On the Deck Restaurant, sweet treats at The Flaky Tart, unique shops including Bungalow Road for shore inspired gifts and décor, theaters, and even a place to fill up your growler with some great tasting beer at Carton Brewery. Just down the street is the municipal harbor, the largest marina on the east coast with 715 pleasure, fishing and commuter crafts including SeaStreak for high speed ferry service right to New York City.
Of course this Jersey Shore Local Guide to Atlantic Highlands and Highlands wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Sandy Hook. Drive or bike down the 6-mile peninsula towards Fort Hancock, a former U.S. Army post. Along the way you’ll find a number of wide white sand beaches including the famous Gunnison Beach (a nude beach) as well as popular bay facing beaches that are perfect for fishing, bird watching, and letting your dog run loose in the calm waters. Owned and operated by the National Park Service, Sandy Hook is one of the most popular destinations along the Jersey Shore.
So the next time you’re bored and can’t figure out something to do. Consider checking out this Jersey Shore Local Guide to Atlantic Highlands and Highlands. From hiking and sweating through Hartshorne Woods, to grabbing a cold one while enjoying tasty seafood, or maybe spending a day at the beach taking in a little history (and possibly a whale siting), these two Jersey Shore towns have it all. Oh and did we mention the gorgeous sunsets? Yea, those are included too!
Each week, Jersey Shore in Motion will spotlight towns along the Jersey Shore sharing their history, local favorites, and unique attractions. Last week we visited Point Pleasant. Stay tuned for next week’s Local Guide to Belmar & Lake Como.