From the boisterous boardwalks of Ocean City, Wildwood, Point Pleasant and Seaside / Seaside Park to the Victorian beauty of Cape May or natural beauty of Island Beach State Park and Long Beach Island, you'lre sure to find a favorite beach down the shore to suit your interests and needs. While all seaside communities offer public beach access, finding parking is often the biggest obstacle. Street parking is limited and public parking lots fill up early on summer weekends and holidays.
For a current list of public beaches and amenities, visit the New Jersey tourism website, order or download the state's annual travel guide online or visit the websites of the shore counties below:
• Monmouth County, 800-523-2587
• Ocean County, 800-ENJOY33
• Cape May County, 800-227-2297
• Atlantic City Region, 888-AC-VISIT
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
GSP exit 63, at the northern tip of Long Beach Island, Barnegat Light, 609-494-2016. In season: Park gate hours: 8am-8pm. Lighthouse open daily 10-4:30, weather permitting. Fees Memorial Day-Labor Day: Ages 12 & up $3, ages 6-11 $1, under 5 free. Reduced hours off season.
Originally lit in 1859, Barnegat Lighthouse, affectionately known as Old Barney, guided vessels along New Jersey's coastline at a crucial "change of course" point. Climb to the top for a panoramic view of Island Beach, Barnegat Bay and Long Beach Island (children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult). An interpretive center showcases the history of the lighthouse and the changing coastal environment and a short 1/5-mile loop trail leads through one of the last remnants of maritime forest in New Jersey. The park is an excellent area to observe migrating birds in spring and fall and wintering waterfowl in winter. Picnic tables; saltwater fishing; sunbathing. Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse sponsors lectures, special events and night climbs. Donations appreciated.
Best times to view migrating waterfowl.
Cape May Point State Park
Seashore Road, Lower Township, Cape May, 609-884-2159. Open daily dawn to dusk. Lighthouse admission: Adults $8, ages 3-12 $5. Located on the southern tip of New Jersey, Cape May Point State Park is a major migratory route, with an environmental center that houses a classroom for interpretive programs and a museum on the area's natural and historic features. Several blazed trails lead visitors to various pond, coastal dune, marsh and forest habitats where wildlife can be viewed from observation platforms. Climb the 199 steps to the top of the 1859 Cape May Lighthouse and enjoy the best view of the Jersey Cape. Summer Family Fun Days and other special events are sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities.
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
800 Great Creek Rd. (off Rt. 9), Galloway, 609-652-1665. Visitor Information Center features changing wildlife displays: Open weekdays 10-3, weekends 9-4. Wildlife Drive and trails are open seven days sunrise to sunset (check website for periodic closings). $4 entrance fee supports refuge operations.
46,000 acres of coastal area in southern New Jersey is actively protected and managed for migratory birds. The refuge's location in one of the Atlantic Flyway's most active flight paths makes it an important link in the vast network of national wildlife refuges administered nationwide by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. An eight-mile auto trail and nature trails lead visitors through tidal salt marsh, field and woodland habitats visited by more than 275 species of migratory land and water birds (trail map and refuge brochure available online). Adult and family bird walks; Nature Discovery Area for children; Junior Refuge Manager, school, home school and scout programs, summer internships.
Junior Refuge Manager, workbooks for ages 4-7 and 8+ are available online or at the Visitor Center. Receive a badge upon completion.
Nature Backpacks can be borrowed from the Visitor Center.
Friday Bird Walks, with refuge staff and volunteer naturalists, 8-10am. Free.
Peak of fall and spring migrations. Bird walks and birding workshops may be scheduled.
Wildlife Drive Closures, for dike and water control improvements. Follow FB page for updates.
Island Beach State Park
Rt. 35, Seaside Park (GSP exit 82), 732-793-0506. Interpretive Programs, 732-793-1698. In season: Park open daily 8-8; Sat., Sun. & holidays 7-8. Entrance fee per vehicle Memorial Day-Labor Day. One of the last remaining undeveloped barrier islands on the east coast, Island Beach State Park offers beautiful wide beaches, dunes, surf fishing, nature center and 16 miles of trails including an 8-mile bike path along the main road, nature trails and canoe/kayak trail in Barnegat Bay. Horseback riding by reservation only Oct. 1-Apr. 30. Kayak rentals available through private concessionaire. On hot, sunny, summer weekends, it's best to arrive before 9am or after 1pm to avoid park closure. Surf chairs available for disabled. The Forked River Interpretive Center, located 7 miles from park entrance, features exhibits about barrier islands and their habitats, Barnegat Bay history, a herbarium and bird identification station. A complete Island Beach State Park Visitor Guide can be found online at The Friends of Island Beach State Park website. Trail guides are available at the Gate House, Pavilion at Ocean Swimming Area #1, Park Office and the Interpretive Center.
Summer Programs include daily seining, beach walks, activities at the nature center, kayak tours, beginner surf fishing clinics, guided walks, fishing, clamming and crabbing activities, photography seminars and more. Visit website for schedule. Some programs require advance registration.
Selected Family Events
Seine Barnegat Bay, daily at 11 & 2. Pre-register at the Fish Tanks in the Pavilion at Bathing Beach No. 1.
Beach Plum Festival, annual family fun day, rain or shine.
Marine Mammal Stranding Center
3625 Brigantine Blvd., Brigantine, 609-266-0538. Open daily 10-4 summer. Hours change seasonally; call before you visit. Donation. Organization rescues, rehabilitates and releases stranded or otherwise distressed marine mammals and sea turtles. Sea Life Education Center features life-size replicas of marine mammals and fish, educational exhibits and gift shop. Outreach programs; group tours; college internships; summer camp.
Run for the Animals, register online.
Seining, beach walks, mock dolphin or sea turtle stranding programs are offered in Brigantine and on Long Beach Island. Check website link, call or email firstname.lastname@example.org for schedule. Registration opens on Memorial Day weekend.
Seven President’s Oceanfront Park
221 Ocean Ave. (GSP exit 105, Hwy. 36E), Long Branch, 732-
229-0924. Monmouth County Park System: 732-842-4000; Activity Line: 732-460-1167. Daily 7am to dusk. Admission and parking fee charged 8-4 Memorial Day weekend-Labor Day weekend. Expansive beach; Tony's Place, an award-winning universally accessible playground; snack pavilion; jetty fishing; designated areas for surfing; volleyball area; skateplex; restrooms and showers. Surf chair for persons with disabilities available at pavilion. Lifeguards are on duty 10-5 daily mid-June through Labor Day.
Seashore Open House, activities and light refreshments. 1-4pm. Free.
Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen's Museum
120 W. Main St. (GSP exit 58), Tuckerton, 609-296-8868. Open daily 10-5. Adults $8; srs. $6; ages 5-12 $5, under 5 free; group rates; student rates.
Recreated seaport village traces the area's maritime history with docents and artisans bringing the village to life. Buildings include Tucker's Island Lighthouse, a cafe, oyster house, sawmill, boat works, decoy shop, surf museum, yacht club and houseboat. The Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve conducts scientific research and hosts interpretive programs and a "Life on the Edge" exhibit exploring the unique ecosystems of the Pinelands, Bay, barrier island and open ocean. Group tours and outreach programs.
Folklife Demonstrations & Craft Classes include surfboard shaping, carving, basketmaking, print making, Lunch 'n Learn series and more; Youth Carving Club; Youth Boatbuilding Club; Pickin' on the Porch, monthly jam sessions.
Selected Special Events
Fire & Ice Food Trucks & Fireworks, 12-6.
TRUCKerton Food Truck & Brew Fest: Pork Roll vs. Taylor Ham, 11-6. $8.
Privateers & Pirates Festival, 11-5. $8.
Baymen's Seafood & Music Festival, 11-5. $8.
1075 Stone Harbor Blvd. (GSP exit 10), Stone Harbor, 609-368-1211. Mid-Oct.-May: Fri.-Sun. 10-4. May-mid-Oct.: Mon.-Sun. 9:30-4:30. Mid-June-Labor Day: additional evening hours Tues.-Thurs. until 8pm. Adults $8, ages 3-12 $6. 6,000 acres of coastal wetlands are a living laboratory for education and research with salt marsh trail, observation tower, exhibits and museum shop. Open in winter for self-guided tours, weekend activities, Lunch and Learn lectures and covered dinners. In summer, daily events may include wetlands and wildlife workshops, back bay boat rides, paddleboarding, kayaking, live animal interactions, family entertainment and guided beach and dune walks. Birthday parties; scout, homeschool, outreach programs; summer internships.
Official New Jersey site for Junior Duck Stamp entries & judging, for K-12 students.
Environmental Education for Homeschool Students, 90-min. interactive program meets monthly for students ages 5-15.
Seasonal Science Activities & Crafts, Creature Feature & Craft, Aquarium Feedings, weekends.
Naturalist-Led Programs, guided beach and salt marsh walks, fishing, crabbing, back-bay boat and kayak tours or other activities are scheduled daily.
Summer Nature Programs, weekly programs for children ages 5-13.
Selected Special Events
Turtle Fest, pancake breakfast, egg hunt, arts & crafts, live animals.
Crabulous Crab Day, crabbing tournaments, teaching and touch tank, games and crafts.
Fall Migration Festival, in the heart of the Atlantic Flyway.