The 27,000 acre-Gateway National Recreation Area located in New York and New Jersey was established in 1972 by the U.S Congress. It was established to offer urban populations in both states 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, historical sites, and cultural landscapes. Yearly the Gateway National Recreation Area attracts over 9 million visitors and is the third most visited national park in America.


What to do at the Gateway National Recreation Area?

There is plenty to explore, enjoy and experience at Gateway National Recreation Area for all kinds of visitors. There are no entry fees to Gateway but beach parking fees range from $20 per day to $200 per season depending on the vehicle size.

Birding and Butterflies

At Gateway National Recreation Area, there are over 330 bird species that nest there permanently or stop over during their migration seasons. That makes it a birders' or wildlife photographers' paradise. Some bird species found there include osprey, tree swallow, American Woodcock, American Oyster Catcher, and the threatened piping plover. The best birding spots at the Gateway National Recreation Area are Sandy Hook, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Great Kills Park, and the North Forty Natural Area in Floyd Bennett Field. At Sandy Hook and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, new birders are given programs to help them get started and learn. Photographers and birders are will also catch a glimpse of the 71 butterfly species found at Gateway.

Aquatic Recreation Activities

Gateway National Recreation Area touches the North Atlantic Ocean and there are many aquatic recreation activities offered by service providers there. Visitors can row, kayak, paddle, and canoe at designated boating spots around this recreation area. The boating spots there match 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. Still swimming is permitted only when lifeguards are around. Saltwater fishing is the only fishing permitted at Gateway. It is done at Sandy Hook, Staten Island, and Jamaica Bay spots and there are regulations that govern it.


The three camping sites 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 accommodates four people and larger groups have to book multiple campsites. The campsites host one large tent or two smaller ones but their capacity can be lowered for safety reasons. Campers bring their own tents and sleeping bags and it's advisable for them to bring a cushioning pad to place under mattresses, sunscreen, and insect repellant. Only at the Floyd Bennett Field campsite are recreational vehicles (RVs) allowed. Tents are not permitted at the 12 sites where the RVs get parked. The camping costs range from $15 to $30 a night and $105 to $210 a week depending on the camping package selected.


Archery enthusiasts can test their aim at the Floyd Bennett Field Archery Range open daily from February 1 to November 30. Visitors need to have an annual archery permit and be over 18 years of age to archer there. Permit holders can also sponsor two children desiring to do archery. Archers are required to adhere to the archery range regulations to prevent accidents. Only compound and traditional archery bows are allowed at the Floyd Bennett Field Archery Range.

Run, Cycle or Walk

At Gateway National Recreation Area there are paths and spaces for running, walking, and bicycling. Great Kills and Sandy Hook have multiple paths to walk or run on to keep fit. There also are running spaces at Gateway touching Staten Island, Jersey Shore, and New York where visitors can run where competitive marathons are hosted. Fort Wadsworth has steeper sections where visitors can burn extra calories for the sake of their fitness. Biking is another option to explore Gateway and there are routes set apart for Class 1 and Class 2 electric bikes.

Play Sports

Sports fields are aplenty at Gateway National Recreation Area where visitors can play various team sports. Soccer, softball, and cricket fields and baseball, tennis, handball, and basketball courts are available.  Still, permits are required to use the fields that can be obtained by contacting the management responsible. COVID-19 measures and protocols like social distancing have to be adhered to as well.

Winter Sports

During winter seasons the North Forty Natural Area in Floyd Bennett Field and Sandy Hook host cross country skiing and sledding sports in the paths there. Park rangers make trails through the snow where visitors and families with children ski and sled.

Visit Historic Sites

At Gateway National Recreation Area there are historic sites worth visiting to get a glimpse of the rich history of New York.

  • Floyd Bennett Field: This was New York's first municipal airport that later became a World War II naval air station. Today the field has a harbor and over 13000 acres of grassland, tidal flats, and saltmarshes. Fort Bennett Field opens from 6 PM and closes at 9 PM.
  • Sandy Hook Lighthouse: This largely white lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in America still operational. Its construction ended on 11th June 1764 and it survived the American Revolution on June 1776. It opens at 6 AM and closes at 8 PM daily.
  • Fort Wadsworth: This is one of America's oldest military installations and sits on 226 acres of land on Staten Island's northeastern shore. Visitors here learn about the American Revolution and enjoy great views of the wonderful New York Harbor. At Fort Wadsworth, there is also the 19th century Mont Sec House with furniture that portrays the life of an officer and his family back in the 1890s. It opens daily at 6 AM and closes at 9 PM.

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