Gunnison Beach is a beach within the Sandy Hook unit of the 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.
Gunnison Beach was named for Battery Gunnison, a fortification built by the U.S. Government in the 1800s to protect New York Harbor. Remnants of the battery, including gun emplacements, overlook the beach. It was once part of Fort Hancock, a test site and proving ground for the U.S. Army for many years and later the site of a Nike missile defense installation. The base was decommissioned in 1972, and a few years later the beach where the soldiers used to skinny dip, opened as a public clothing-optional beach. From Memorial Day to Labor Day a $15 parking fee is charged to enter Sandy Hook.
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. Also, since there is no law against alcohol on federal lands drinking is allowed. 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. Part of the beach is shared on a seasonal basis with a reserved breeding ground for the endangered Piping Plover, a native shore bird.
- Nanos, Janelle (July 31, 2007). "In 39 Years, There's Little a Lifeguard Doesn't See". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-21. "But it was with the creation of Gunnison Beach, the only clothing-optional section of New Jersey's shoreline, that it became safe to say that Tom McLaughlin had seen everything. ... On a recent Saturday, he stopped at Gunnison Beach to survey the scene. At this Eden with umbrellas, some of the naturists were engaged in an intense round of volleyball, while others happily lounged without the fear of tan lines. A new visitor approached and asked Mr. McLaughlin why everyone seemed to be on the right side of the beach."
- Blumenthal, Ralph (2008-06-30). "Ferrying From Manhattan to Bare It All on the Beach". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-30. "Long one of the New York area’s best-kept secrets, Gunnison Beach, on the upper end of this barbed peninsula jutting into the harbor at the northern tip of the Jersey Shore, has been a favorite of naturists, locals say, since Army troops at Sandy Hook’s historic Fort Hancock ... It opened to the public as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area in 1975 ..."
- Most likely named after John Williams Gunnison
- "On the Hook for sun, fun -- History - and nudity - at the Shore". Bergen Record. August 31, 2005. "Nearly three centuries ago, the merchants of lower Manhattan kept losing ships to the sandbars that lined the narrow channel leading to New York City. Upset over the growing losses, the merchants banded together and built a lighthouse on the edge of Sandy Hook in order to guide ships safely to the young city. The lighthouse was so effective that the British ..."
- Margot Adler (July 21, 2008). "Nude Beach Thrives In New Jersey". NPR. Retrieved 2008-07-25. "It officially opened as a clothing-optional beach not long after it was decommissioned as a military base in 1972. When it was a military base, the soldiers — all men — would skinny dip, according to Dale Distasio, president of Friends of Gunnison."
- "Laws of 1999". New Jersey State Library. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
- Trebay, Guy (September 2, 2001). "All Undressed and So Many Places to Go". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-21. "Crowds are also increasing these final summer days at Blacks Beach near San Diego, at Mazo Beach on the lower Wisconsin River and at Gunnison Beach in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, a dress optional sand strip run by the National Park Service that was recently deemed by the Clean Beaches Council, an environmental group, one of the top 10 beaches in the United States."
- Flam, Faye (July 17, 200]). "Clothing optional may not be way of historical human". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2007-08-21. "Sandy Hook boasts the biggest nude beach along the Atlantic. The clothing-optional part is called Gunnison Beach ..."
- Gabrielan, Randall (1999). Sandy Hook. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-1240-X. "Gunnison Beach is now widely recognized as the park's 'nude beach,' or in sanctioned parlance, a 'clothing-optional beach.'..."