The town overlooks where the Atlantic Ocean and Raritan Bay meet at Sandy Hook, and its hills mark the highest point on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. south of Maine.
For thousands of years, the original inhabitants were the Lenape, who lived in and along the cliffs and creeks of Atlantic Highlands. The Lenape traded with the Europeans and sold a group of English settlers an area that covered the entire peninsula that was named Portland Poynt. The area was laid out with 10 lots in 1667, making them the first European residents of present-day Atlantic Highlands.
Colonists convened the first Assembly of New Jersey in 1667 in what is now Atlantic Highlands. During Revolutionary War years, loyalists to the English crown and patriots of the new America clashed in repeated raids and counterattacks across these lands. And here passed retreating English troops after their 1778 defeat by Washington at the Battle of Monmouth.
During the late 1800s, the many farms were subdivided by resort developers, church groups and builders who created the Victorian core of the borough, attracting thousands of visitors and year-round residents.
In 1879, a surveyor was engaged to lay roads and lots for a permanent community. The Atlantic Highlands Association was formed by prominent members of the Methodist Church. This organization developed the community of Atlantic Highlands.
Individuals and groups came from New York City and the surrounding vicinity to camp along the water in tent colonies. An outdoor amphitheater was created with a large seating capacity and outstanding acoustics. An indoor auditorium was built, which was utilized for entertaining visitors at the camp meetings. In 1887, Atlantic Highlands was incorporated as a borough, containing 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2) of land bordering on the Raritan Bay.
Major construction occurred from the 1880s through 1900. It included hotels, cottages, rooming houses, and private homes. A pier was built extending well into the bay to accommodate steamboats from New York City. The next twenty years saw rapid development within the community. A water and sewer system was constructed, cottages were erected, and the road system was completed. During this period of development a fire department was organized.
A number of churches saw their beginning in the 1880s: the Central Baptist, First Presbyterian, Saint Agnes Roman Catholic, First Methodist, and Saint Paul Baptist Church.
Atlantic Highlands became a haven for bootleggers during Prohibition.
Steamer service was the most important transport during the formation of the borough, and continued through the 1940s. In the 1890s, rail service came to Atlantic Highlands. This opened up Highlands and points south to vacationers. The 1920s saw 26 passenger trains daily passing through the Borough. The Central Railroad of New Jersey built a major pier at the end of First Avenue. Several trains at a time could continue to the end of the pier to offload steamboat passengers. From the 1910s through the 1940s, the steamers Sandy Hook and the Monmouth navigated the waters bringing businessmen and vacationers to Atlantic Highlands.
The Manhattan skyline can be seen from the borough's ridges and its shoreline. Pleasure, fishing and commuter boats sail from its harbor. The municipal harbor was built from 1938 through 1940 with municipal, state, and federal funds. It is the largest on the East Coast, home to 715 craft, including high-speed ferry service to New York City, which was introduced in 1986. In 1966, the Central Railroad of New Jersey pier was destroyed by fire. Its rail route is now used by the Henry Hudson Trail.
The bungalows on the East Side of the borough, which in the 1920s were summer bungalows, are now occupied year-round. Portland Pointe, a five-story senior citizens building, provides housing for the elderly.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 4.562 square miles (11.815 km2), including 1.289 square miles (3.339 km2) of land and 3.273 square miles (8.476 km2) of water (71.74%).
The township borders the Monmouth County communities of Highlands and Middletown Township.
Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the borough include Brevent Park, Hillside, Hilton, Hilton Park, Navesink and Stone Church.
The 2010 United States Census counted 4,385 people, 1,870 households, and 1,186 families residing in the borough. The population density was 3,401.2 per square mile (1,313.2/km2). The borough contained 2,002 housing units at an average density of 1,552.9 per square mile (599.6/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 93.18% (4,086) White, 1.44% (63) Black or African American, 0.25% (11) Native American, 2.17% (95) Asian, 0.00% (0) Pacific Islander, 1.25% (55) from other races, and 1.71% (75) from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 5.13% (225) of the population.
Out of a total of 1,870 households, 25.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.9% were married couples living together, 8.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.6% were non-families. 30.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the borough, 19.6% of the population were under the age of 18, 5.5% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 34.4% from 45 to 64, and 15.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45.0 years. For every 100 females the census counted 95.2 males, but for 100 females at least 18 years old, it was 94.2 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $82,127 (with a margin of error of +/- $10,511) and the median family income was $100,117 (+/- $16,562). Males had a median income of $73,021 (+/- $18,808) versus $51,207 (+/- $6,155) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $41,785 (+/- $4,864). About 2.5% of families and 5.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.9% of those under age 18 and 2.0% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 United States Census there were 4,705 people, 1,969 households, and 1,258 families residing in the borough. The population density was 3,805.4 people per square mile (1,465.0/km2). There were 2,056 housing units at an average density of 1,662.9 per square mile (640.2/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 94.37% White, 2.30% African American, 0.06% Native American, 1.23% Asian, 1.02% from other races, and 1.02% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.51% of the population.
There were 1,969 households out of which 26.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.7% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.1% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the borough the age distribution of the population shows 21.4% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 31.8% from 25 to 44, 26.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.3 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $64,955, and the median income for a family was $79,044. Males had a median income of $60,857 versus $36,060 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $34,798. About 4.4% of families and 4.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.0% of those under age 18 and 12.9% of those age 65 or over.
Atlantic Highlands Recreation Committee runs many events in town throughout the year including a Summer Concert Series in the harbor, youth programs such as basketball in the winter and soccer in the fall.
Atlantic Highlands has a large park system with eight borough-owned parks and two county operated parks. One of larger parks is Lenape Woods. It is nestled among tall trees and steep slopes, Lenape Woods offers approximately 51 acres (210,000 m2) of natural woodlands and freshwater wetlands that are the headwaters to Many Mind Creek. Many groups and local residents volunteer their time to maintain the woods. Monmouth County operates two parks in the town, Henry Hudson Trail and Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook. Henry Hudson Trail runs 9 miles (14 km) from the Aberdeen/Keyport border at the intersection of Lloyd Road and Clark Street to the Atlantic Highlands border at Avenue D, and has been expanded to connect to Highlands. Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook is located about 266 feet (81 m) above sea level, at the highest natural elevation from Maine to the Yucatán, providing views of Sandy Hook, Sandy Hook Bay, Raritan Bay and the New York skyline. This 12-acre (49,000 m2) site is also home to Monmouth County's 9/11 Memorial.
The town's history can be learned at both the Queen Anne-style Strauss Mansion Museum, and the local maritime museum. Lodgings can be found at a number of cottages and inns, such as the Blue Bay Inn. Entertainment venues include the First Avenue Playhouse, which offers dessert-and-dinner theater and puppet shows. Maritime attractions include a yacht club, marina and charter boats for fishing and touring. Other places of interest include a number of gift shops, galleries, and dining establishments.
Atlantic Highlands is governed under the Borough form of New Jersey municipal government. The governing body consists of a Mayor and a Borough Council comprising six council members, with all positions elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election. A Mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office. The Borough Council consists of six members elected to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election each year in a three-year cycle. The Borough form of government used by Atlantic Highlands, the most common system used in the state, is a "weak mayor / strong council" government in which council members act as the legislative body with the mayor presiding at meetings and voting only in the event of a tie. The mayor can veto ordinances subject to an override by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.
As of 2016, the Mayor of Atlantic Highlands is Democrat Rhonda C. LeGrice, whose term of office ends December 31, 2019. Members of the Borough Council are Council President Lou Fligor (R, 2016), John C. Archibald Jr. (R, 2017), Roy Dellosso (D, 2018), Peter T. Doyle (R, 2017), Jacob Hoffmann (R, 2016) and Charles R. Lero (D, 2018).
Atlantic Highlands is located in the 6th Congressional district and is part of New Jersey's 13th state legislative district. Prior to the 2011 reapportionment following the 2010 Census, Atlantic Highlands had been in the 11th state legislative district.
New Jersey's Sixth Congressional District is represented by Frank Pallone (D, Long Branch). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Cory Booker (D, Newark, term ends 2021) and Bob Menendez (D, Paramus, 2019).
For the 2016–2017 session (Senate, General Assembly), the 13th Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Joseph M. Kyrillos (R, Middletown Township) and in the General Assembly by Amy Handlin (R, Middletown Township) and Declan O'Scanlon (R, Little Silver). The Governor of New Jersey is Chris Christie (R, Mendham Township). The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Kim Guadagno (R, Monmouth Beach).
Monmouth County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders consisting of five members who are elected at-large to serve three year terms of office on a staggered basis, with either one or two seats up for election each year as part of the November general election. At an annual reorganization meeting held in the beginning of January, the board selects one of its members to serve as Director and another as Deputy Director. As of 2014, Monmouth County's Freeholders are Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry (R, Colts Neck Township; term ends December 31, 2014), Freeholder Deputy Director Gary J. Rich, Sr. (R, Spring Lake; 2014), Thomas A. Arnone (R, Neptune City; 2016), John P. Curley (R, Middletown Township; 2015) and Serena DiMaso (R, Holmdel Township; 2016). Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are County Clerk M. Claire French (Wall Township), Sheriff Shaun Golden (Farmingdale) and Surrogate Rosemarie D. Peters (Middletown Township).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 3,238 registered voters in Atlantic Highlands, of which 842 (26.0%) were registered as Democrats, 800 (24.7%) were registered as Republicans and 1,589 (49.1%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were seven voters registered to other parties.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 50.2% of the vote (1,167 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 48.3% (1,124 votes), and other candidates with 1.5% (35 votes), among the 2,342 ballots cast by the borough's 3,329 registered voters (16 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 70.4%. In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 49.3% of the vote (1,287 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 47.5% (1,242 votes) and other candidates with 1.8% (48 votes), among the 2,612 ballots cast by the borough's 3,454 registered voters, for a turnout of 75.6%. In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 50.7% of the vote (1,350 ballots cast), outpolling Democrat John Kerry with 46.3% (1,232 votes) and other candidates with 0.9% (30 votes), among the 2,663 ballots cast by the borough's 3,464 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 76.9.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 64.5% of the vote (989 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 33.2% (509 votes), and other candidates with 2.3% (36 votes), among the 1,547 ballots cast by the borough's 3,357 registered voters (13 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 46.1%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 56.9% of the vote (1,020 ballots cast), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 33.7% (604 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 6.9% (124 votes) and other candidates with 1.8% (32 votes), among the 1,794 ballots cast by the borough's 3,309 registered voters, yielding a 54.2% turnout.
As of May 2010, the borough had a total of 24.59 miles (39.57 km) of roadways, of which 21.06 miles (33.89 km) were maintained by the municipality, 2.63 miles (4.23 km) by Monmouth County and 0.90 miles (1.45 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Atlantic Highlands is a stop for the SeaStreak Ferry, which travels from the East 34th Street Ferry Landing and Pier 11/Wall Street (with shuttle bus service to the World Financial Center) in Manhattan daily.
NJ Transit provides local bus transportation on the 834 route.
The Atlantic Highlands School District serves students in public school for pre-Kindergarten through sixth grade at Atlantic Highlands Elementary School. As of the 2011-12 school year, the district's one school had an enrollment of 325 students and 28.8 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 11.28:1.
For seventh through twelfth grades, public school students attend Henry Hudson Regional High School, a comprehensive six-year high school and regional public school district that serves students from both Atlantic Highlands and Highlands. As of the 2013-14 school year, the high school had an enrollment of 326 students and 40.8 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 8.0:1.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Atlantic Highlands include:Jeff Anderson (born 1970), actor, best known as Randal Graves in Kevin Smith's Clerks.
Engelbert Brenner (c. 1904-1986), soloist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra who was active locally as a conductor with the municipal band, as a tree warden, and was active within the yacht club.
Donald Brown (born 1987), All-American running back for the University of Connecticut, who led the NCAA in rushing with 2,083 yards in 2008, currently playing for the Indianapolis Colts.
Leonard S. Coleman, Jr. (born 1949), last president of the National League, serving from 1994 until 1999 when the position was eliminated by Major League Baseball.
Steve Corodemus (born 1952), represented the 11th legislative district in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1992 to 2008, and was a member of the Atlantic Highlands Borough Council from 1986–1988, serving as its President in 1988.
Jeffrey Gluckstein (born 1993), individual and synchronized trampolinist who has represented the U.S. at international competitions.
Steven Gluckstein (born 1990), trampoline athlete.
Emerson Hart (born 1969), songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and producer who is the lead singer and songwriter of the alternative rock band Tonic.
Knowshon Moreno (born 1987), running back who has played in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins.
Dutch Stryker (1895-1926), Major League Baseball pitcher.
Max Weinberg (born 1951), drummer and television personality.
Bill Wenzel (1918-1987), cartoonist best known for his good girl art.