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Fascinating Facts: Highlands

Highlands is a borough in Monmouth County; its eastern half is built on the bluff that gives it its name. At the top of the bluff are the Navesink Highlands new jerseyTwin Lights, once essential guides for mariners navigating the entrance to New York Habor – now, a non-operating lighthouse and museum. The borough’s evolution as a tourist spot which attracted the stars of the early 20th century New York theater community has memorialized it beyond its deep historical importance.

  • Highlands and Sandy Hook became recognized as having strategic importance to the defense of our country; the people of Highlands could warn New York of any approaching seafaring enemies. It played an important role from colonial times through World War II.
  • Lighthouse Hill, home to the Twin Lights, is considered one of the most historic sites in the nation – the first twin lighthouse, the first electrically-powered lighthouse, and first in the country to use the Fresnel Lens and wireless telegraphy. 
  • In 1899, inventor Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated his new wireless telegraphy at the lighthouse. A few decades later, the first experiments with radar took place in the northern tower.
  • James Fennimore Cooper, author of Last of the Mohicans, also wrote a book inspired by the Highlands entitled Water Witch.
  • Walt Whitman journalled about time spent on the Highlands, and captured his memories in a collection of poems entitled “Fancies at Navesink.”
  • In the late 1800’s, Highlands became a vacation spot and popular tourist destination, with droves of visitors arriving by train and steamship.
  • In the 1920’s, with the advent of Prohibition, Highlands became the main port for the infamous rum-running trade that bloomed along the Jersey coast.
  • Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, practiced by swimming between Sandy Hook and the Highlands Bridge, a feat she accomplished in 2 hours and 40 minutes.
  • The Kevin Smith film, Jersey Girl, was set in Highlands – although it was actually filmed in Plainsboro.

Highlands has moved on from its days of tourism and rum-running, and has evolved into a community that is proud of its heritage and focused on its reputation as an affordable, safe, homey place to live and be a part of New Jersey’s shore community.


Published September 24, 2018 in Living in New Jersey