Cattus Island Park (Cooper Environmental Center)
GOOD FOR: Ages 0-4

Source:Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Address:1170 Cattus Island Boulevard, Toms River, NJ
Hours:Park open dawn to dusk daily; Cooper Environmental Center open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily
Fee: Free
Contact:, 732-270-6960

Bathrooms: At the Cooper Environmental Center and the park office
Water/Snacks: Water fountain at the Cooper Environmental Center

Footpaths lead to scenic open spaces overlooking the Barnegat Bay.

Cattus Island Park (Cooper Environmental Center)
Photo by: Susan Charkes

The 530-acre Cattus Island Park along Barnegat Bay offers a variety of opportunities to enjoy diverse island ecosystems in a serene atmosphere with great views. The Cooper Environmental Center provides special attention and guidance that makes this trip especially enjoyable for young children.

Well-maintained trails are designed to be enjoyed by beginning hikers, and are ideal for young children. They are short, ranging from 0.27 to 2.2 miles, for hikes up to two hours if you walk the full length of the trail and take your time observing the wildlife. All the trails offer opportunities for discovery, like watching ospreys hunt for fish to bring back to their nestlings or searching out crabs on the tidal marsh. A 1,500-foot, wheelchair- and stroller-accessible boardwalk trail leads to a bird blind overlooking the tidal marsh. Bike or walk the 1-mile unpaved White Trail to the beach, where you can picnic or swim.

With the bay surrounding the park, it is a great place to try paddling or fishing. A county boat ramp is available to launch canoes and kayaks. The park conducts paddling tours that explore the island’s coves and shores.

The Cooper Environmental Center is geared toward family discovery of nature; the attentive staff is happy to educate visitors. Young children will enjoy the displays of native reptiles and fish, and the hands-on exhibits.

You can borrow adventure backpacks for kids, containing exploration tools such as nets to catch butterflies and other insects, containers to carry them, electronic bird identifiers, a magnifying glass, and booklets and brochures of the 300 plants and animals on the island. You can also borrow a GPS unit here (or bring your own) to follow the 21-location geocaching trail.

A playground and picnic tables are near the parking lot. In winter, the island is a special, quiet refuge; if it snows, the trails can be enjoyed by ski or snowshoe.

Remember: Dogs must be leashed.

Plan B:

Island Beach State Park is 12 miles away. Fishing, crabbing, or angling enthusiasts may consider visiting Mantoloking Bridge County Park in Mantoloking, New Jersey.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Fast-food restaurants are on NJ 37.


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