Family-Friendly Camping Adventures in Sandy Hook, NJ

family-friendly camping adventures

Today’s Culture with Travel post is by Leigh Marcos

One of most exciting things about parenthood is sharing the great outdoors with your kids. Children today spend less time in nature than any other generation, so watching them help out with a campfire instead of play with an iPad is a treat. If you live in New York City and don’t have a car, Sandy Hook is a great place to get them excited about outdoor adventures for the first time.

You can get there on a ferry from Manhattan, and the visitor center will provide information on the local flora and fauna, which you can teach your children about. The nearby campsite is perfect for families, and the beaches nearby will make them forget that they’re roughing it.

Getting there

Catch the ferry from Wall Street at the Pier 11 landing (free on weekdays for kids between 5-12 years old) and walk half a mile to the visitor center, which is located in the old lighthouse keeper’s quarters, something that any kid will get a kick out of. Then, walk a little more than a mile along the beach to Camp Gateway, also known as the Sandy Hook Campsite. Reserve your campsite beforehand to make sure you get a good spot. Each campsite has a picnic table and grill. You can even use a working restroom nearby instead of having to go behind a tree, and firewood is available for $10. This campsite is great for kids because it isn’t backwoods camping, but it does provide a comfortable first place to practice setting up a tent and staying overnight under the stars.

Bring some awesome recipes along

For some kids, especially ones that are used to a cityscape, being without a fridge can be daunting. But having a delicious campfire dessert to look forward to can make all the difference. Try making an innovative wilderness cake in an orange rind. Hollow out an orange, keeping all but the very top of the rind intact, and fill it with premade dough (cinnamon roll or chocolate chip cookie dough are best). Wrap your orange infused dough ball in foil and put in on the hot coals of your campfire for about half an hour. You can also make personal pizzas. Just add a mixture of sugar, yeast, hot water, spices, and olive oil to flour and let it rise. Cover the dough in sauce, cheese and toppings, and cook it in a covered skillet.

Take them to the beach

No matter how delicious campfire food is, it’s always nice to eat empanadas or pulled pork grilled cheese sandwiches from a food truck by the beach. After breakfast, hike 2 miles to Lot D for some fun in the ocean. For lunch, go to the Hog Heaven or Empanada Guy food trucks. Your kids will appreciate the change of scenery in the middle of their first camping trip. Plus, who doesn’t like going to the beach?

Remember to have fun

If you’re planning a camping trip with the whole family, it’s easy to get lost in logistics and packing lists, but it is equally important to relax and have fun. Be an example to your kids of how to enjoy the outdoors. Getting away from it all and reconnecting to nature should be an exciting escape, not just a learning experience. Take advantage of every second.

Leigh Marcos is a freelance writer and traveler. 

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