Island Beach State Park
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:Central Avenue, Berkeley, NJ
Hours:8 A.M. to dusk daily; 7 A.M. to dusk during summer
Fee: From Memorial Day through Labor Day, $6 per vehicle on weekdays and $10 per vehicle on weekends. Free all other times.
Bathrooms: Park entrance; swimming areas 1 and 2; Fisherman’s Walkway; Forked River Interpretive Center; near mobile sportfishing vehicle access
Water/Snacks: Water fountains at the restrooms

USGS Barnegat Light and Seaside Park

Explore short, easy trails through well-preserved coastal habitats that attract a wide array of birds year round.

Combine nature walks in a barrier island ecosystem with a day at the beach at Island Beach State Park.
Photo by: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert

The Jersey Shore has much to offer, and a lot of it is tranquil, family friendly, and, in parts, untouched since Henry Hudson came ashore from his ship the Half Moon in 1609. Located just south of Seaside Heights, Island Beach State Park is one of the last barrier island ecosystems remaining in New Jersey. This thin strip of white sand buffers Barnegat Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. Osprey, falcons, long-legged wading birds, migrating songbirds, and the ubiquitous seagull all thrive in well-preserved primary dunes, freshwater wetlands, tidal marshes, and maritime forests.

In summer, visiting the beach is a must. There is guarded swimming only on the ocean side. Year round, eight short trails take you through the various habitats, and many have interpretative signs. You can bike along the paved roadway, or park in any of the seven designated lots that are evenly spaced along the island.

Johnny Allen’s cove, located 7.1 miles from the main entrance, has both ocean and bay trails. The oceanside trail takes you through a break in the primary dunes and onto a nonswimming beach. Across the road, the bayside trail goes through freshwater wetlands that lead to the bay. The nearby Forked River Interpretive Center, marked by giant whale bones at its parking lot, is packed with information on local flora, fauna, birds, and marine life.

A walk along A13 Trail, 6.3 miles from the main entrance on the ocean side, will lead you on a boardwalk through a small freshwater wetland cranberry bog, and onto a stunning landscape of dunes. Remember: Be on the lookout for poison ivy in vine and shrub form. Also, always check for ticks after walking the trails.

Plan B:

Head to Point Pleasant Beach, 21 miles north on NJ 35, to enjoy a milelong family-friendly boardwalk that is lovely to walk year round.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Shops and restaurants are along NJ 35.


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