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Atlantic Highlands, NJ

Nestled along the New York Bay in Monmouth County lies Atlantic Highlands, a coastal town known for breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and miles of beaches fronting Sandy Hook Bay. Summers bring warm weather ideal for swimming, boating, and sunbathing at Atlantic Highlands' beaches and marinas, while winters remain mild.

Anchored by a historic downtown filled with charming shops, restaurants, and galleries, this classic New England-style maritime village in Monmouth County balances small-town charm with conveniences that continue attracting new residents seeking the laidback waterfront lifestyle Atlantic Highlands has long provided.

Population

Atlantic Highlands' small population of just over 4,400 residents helps give this coastal town its tight-knit, village-like atmosphere. However, recent census data shows the town is experiencing a slight decline.

The 2020 Census counted 4,418 residents - only 3 fewer than in 2010. But more recent annual estimates indicate a slow downward trend, with Atlantic Highlands' population falling by around 1% over the last decade.

Racial Makeup

Atlantic Highlands' population remains predominantly white, though racial diversity has been increasing in recent decades. The following bar graph shows the breakdown of Atlantic Highlands residents by race based on the recent American Community Survey data:

Racial GroupPercentage
White94.27%
Two or more races2.45%
Other race1.99%
Asian0.72%
Native American0.57%

Demographics

  • Age: The median age of Atlantic Highlands residents is 47 years.
  • Income: The median household income is $104,000. Incomes have risen by around 4% over the last decade.
  • Language: English is the predominant language spoken at home. The vast majority of residents are U.S. citizens.
  • Housing: The median home value is approximately $470,000. Over 70% of households own their homes, though housing costs are high relative to incomes.
  • Commute: Most employed residents commute by car to jobs outside of town, with the average commute over 37 minutes. Traffic congestion is common.
  • Car Ownership: The average car ownership is 2 cars per household.
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History

Atlantic Highlands' history is inextricably tied to the sea. The town's name itself hints at its nautical roots, coming from the high cliffs that line the coast. For centuries, the land near the bay served as summer fishing grounds for Native Americans like the Lenape tribe.

European settlement began in the 1600s, with farmers drawn to the fertile landscape. However, it was during the mid-1800s that Atlantic Highlands began to develop into the bustling seaport town it would eventually become. The coming of the railroad in 1866 connected the town to markets, fueling growth. Deepwater channels facilitated shipping and the town soon became a hub for lumber, fish processing, and ferry transport.

The ferry to Staten Island, established in the late 1800s, helped turn Atlantic Highlands into a resort destination by the early 20th century. Wealthy tourists flocked to the town's beaches, boardwalks, and amusement pier during the summer months. The Manhattan skyline, barely visible from the shore just decades prior, now dominated the horizon.

Though Atlantic Highlands lost some of its industrial base in the mid-1900s, tourism, and the suburbia boom sustained the town. Many who once summered along the shore decided to remain permanently, expanding the town's housing stock.

Today, remnants of Atlantic Highlands' maritime past endure in its waterfront location, historic downtown, and reliance on the nearby bay for recreation. But growing as a bedroom community now outpaces tourism dollars and industrial activity of years past. 

Healthcare

Residents of Atlantic Highlands have access to a range of medical facilities to meet their healthcare needs. While the town itself lacks hospitals, nearby options provide quality care:

Additional hospitals just over the bridge in Staten Island further expand local healthcare options. And facilities within Jersey Shore University Medical Center's network also serve Atlantic Highlands residents.

Residents can also visit family practices like Eastpointe Medical which offers comprehensive preventive services and state-of-the-art facilities.

Integrative health options also exist, like Eastpointe Integrated Healthcare, a multi-disciplinary clinic combining conventional and alternative approaches through chiropractic, physical therapy, and other holistic modalities.

Education

The educational opportunities available in Atlantic Highlands cater to the diverse needs of the community. The educational institutions serving Atlantic Highland's youth aim to nurture the intellectual and personal growth of students from a variety of backgrounds through creative, hands-on learning experiences and advanced programs of study.

The diverse array of learning environments encompassed by the public school system, private schools, vocational programs, and higher education institutions reflect a community commitment to providing individuals with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities that best match their unique aptitudes and aspirations.

The Atlantic Highlands School District operates two schools - serving those in preschool through 8th grade - that aim to nurture students' intellectual and social growth through creative, hands-on learning. These are:

Transportation

Transportation options in and around Atlantic Highlands are somewhat limited, making personal vehicles the primary mode of transit for most residents. But several services do offer alternatives to driving:

  • Ferry service from the nearby Highlands Ferry Terminal and Belford Ferry Terminal provides quick access to Manhattan, a major commute option for some.
  • NJ Transit bus service connects Atlantic Highlands to Newark, but bus stops are sparse, and service infrequent. 
  • For senior services and medical needs, there are local ambulance companies that assist with transportation.
  • State routes provide highway access but endure heavy traffic volumes, especially during the summer. Many residents commute by car to jobs outside Atlantic Highlands due to limited local employment.
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Points of Interest

Atlantic Highlands' coastal setting provides the backdrop for many local treasures that offer both scenic escapes and connections to the borough's history.

The Atlantic Highlands Municipal Harbor comes alive in summer as boats fill every available slip. Walking the marina boardwalk offers stunning views of sailboats gliding the bay alongside dockside seafood shacks serving lobster rolls. The harbor truly captures the borough's maritime spirit.

At Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook, a bench worn smooth from years of use provides one of the best free shows - panoramic views stretching from the Statue of Liberty to Sandy Hook. As you take in this stretch of coastline, the history it has witnessed seems palpable.

The Atlantic Highlands Historical Society's Strauss Mansion evokes that history with an eclectic array of artifacts: perfume bottles from another era, vintage farming tools, medals from long-ago wars, and faded family photos. Wandering the home filled with possessions of earlier residents, one can't help but reflect on the lives once lived within these walls.

Hikers traversing the 24-mile Henry Hudson Trailpass centuries-old stone walls, gnarled apple trees, and remnants of Atlantic Highlands' agrarian past. The slower pace offers time to reflect on what initially drew settlers here - and what continues to captivate current residents - about this special place.

These places anchored in both land and water testify to Atlantic Highlands' enduring appeal as a location to pause, gaze outward, and feel connected - to nature, history, and each other. They define the town's character and give residents a sense of belonging that endures, even as the tides continue to change.

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