A Field Guide to the Only Nude Beach Near NYC

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There aren’t too many things I can tell you about a nude beach. It’s... pretty self explanatory. What I CAN tell you is that there is definitely 100% a nude beach less than an hour from New York City and it’s definitely 100% something you should visit before summer is over, especially now that you have this: our field guide to Gunnison Beach, the only nude beach near NYC.

(Disclaimer: to be completely honest, this beach is technically in New Jersey, but let’s not hold that against it. Frank Sinatra was ALSO technically from New Jersey and New Yorkers seem to like him just fine.)

Flickr/Maggie Hoffman

You need a ferry to get there

You could drive or take New Jersey Transit, but you probably don’t have a car and according to Google Maps, it takes about 4 million hours on NJT. The ferry is a much better idea, and who doesn’t like boats? I arrived at the pier at E 35th St on a Thursday morning to take the ferry out to Sandy Hook Beach in New Jersey, which leaves NYC on weekdays at 8:45am and 11:15am. You can find all the details on its website. A roundtrip ticket will run you $45 aboard the Seastreak. The Seastreak. To the nude beach. You can’t make this shit up. And if we did, we probably would have called it the Booby Boat or something.

The 45-minute ferry ride over is more than pleasant as the trusty Seastreak cruises down the East River, giving passengers a good look at some sexy skyline eye candy. The ferry itself is air-conditioned, clean, and even has a fully stocked bar in case you’re feeling a little nervous about slipping out of that cumbersome swimsuit. 

When the boat docks in Sandy Hook, a complimentary shuttle bus is waiting to drop passengers off at the various beaches along the point. (Yes, there are non-nude beaches at Sandy Hook, but why would you spend a $45 ticket to keep your clothes ON?) I boarded the shuttle bus and waited for the awkward moment when it would stop at Gunnison and I would have to get off, thus revealing to the other riders that today I was going to get naked. I specifically sat at the front of the bus to forego the long walk of shame past prospective judgers. But to my relief, when we stopped at Gunnison just a few minutes later, the bus cleared out in its entirety with me. I guess Thursday is a good day to get naked in New Jersey.

It’s just a typical day at the beach...

The bus leaves you in a parking lot and from there it’s a brief walk through some nature to get to the beach. Before you hit the sand, there’s a small plaza with bathrooms, outdoor showers, and a couple of food trucks selling cold drinks, umbrellas, towels, and tamales. I was starting to feel nervous, like maybe I had gotten off at the wrong stop. The lack of signage and abundance of tamales and elderly couples was signaling to me that perhaps this was just another day at the beach. Did I mess up?

Flickr/Juanedc (Edited)

... until it isn’t just a typical day at the beach

I followed the sandy path towards the colorful blob of umbrellas and towels that were clustered closer to the water until I reached them: a veritable sea of pale, exposed... parts. Man ass, penis, and a few breasts for good measure, which did not necessarily belong to women.

Resigned to the fact that this was going to happen, I found a comfortable spot in the sand and laid out my towel. The return ferry didn’t leave until 4pm. There was nothing left to do but get naked, or sit uncomfortably at the snack truck.

What I expected to be a ceremonial disrobing was actually pulled off without much pomp or circumstance. No one watched me as I untied my top and slid off the bottoms. Why would they? Their shit was all out, too. Face up, eyes closed, EVERYTHING out. Around me, fellow nudists stood in packs discussing everything from baseball to how the city has gone to hell in the last 35 years. Old timers with bellies that literally drooped over their waists drank beer from coolers as they talked about the heyday of Brooklyn. It was as if they were sitting on a stoop back in the neighborhood and not, in fact, standing on a beach with their junk exposed for all to see.

Soon curiosity got the better of me so I sat up in order to enjoy my lunch and a view. The mixed crowd contained a few women in their late 20s, but was mostly made up of gay couples, single men, and this pack of old, leathery free spirits.

Courtesy of Meagan Drillinger

You don’t HAVE to get naked at Gunnison

No one is going to make you. But if you come to a nude beach and don’t take your clothes off, you will be That Guy. As a now-seasoned nudist, let me tell you we hate That Guy. Don’t be That Guy.

Flickr/Ricymar Photography (Edited)

If you’re going to a nude beach... make sure you go to the beach part, too

While originally I had planned to just lie on my towel and mind my business, the sun was doing its June-in-New-York thing and the pull of cold water was too much to fight, despite the solid 70ft between my towel and the edge of the water. That’s a long-ass walk (pun?) when you’re naked.

Throwing caution to the non-existent wind, I began the walk (nay, strut!) down. Save for a few awkward hops and choice facial expressions to avoid pointy shells and rocks, I reached the water and plunged right in... only to realize that it was still early June in the northern Atlantic Ocean and therefore fucking freezing. “Holy shit! It’s fucking freezing!” I yelled to no one. To which one dude replied, “I know. It’s so bad! Just promise you won’t look!”

Naked beaches? Not that bad. In fact, the most awkward moment of the day was pulling out my turkey sandwich and realizing I didn’t have a napkin. Mustard on the boob? Now THAT would have been embarrassing.

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Meagan Drillinger is a freelance writer for Thrillist and wonders if she’s exhausted all the naked things to do in New York. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.