Barnegat Bay Decoy & Baymen’s Museum
At the entrance porch to the museum is a replica hunting shanty with a lifelike display of “master” carver, Harry V. Shourds, a world-class decoy carver and one of Tuckerton’s famous baymen.
Museum exhibits illustrate the life of a Barnegat Bay bayman—hunting, fishing, clamming, oystering, boat building, decoy carving, charter fishing—and the history of the U.S. Life Saving Service along the Jersey Shore. An admission fee supports the organization’s efforts.
Directions: From exit 58 on the Garden State Parkway, follow county road 539 southeast to Tuckerton. Turn right at the third traffic light (Main Street/US9). The museum is on the right about 500 feet.
Hours: The museum is open daily 10:00am to 5:00pm from the last weekend in June through October, and Wednesday through Sunday the remainder of the year.
Telephone: (609) 296-8868.
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
Towering 172 feet, the Barnegat Lighthouse was erected in 1857-58 to warn mariners of Barnegat Inlet’s dangerous shoals and to guide trans-Atlantic ships toward New York Harbor. Ship captains, who wanted a coastal light, complained frequently in the 1850s about the original 40-foot lighthouse. Under good conditions, it could be seen for ten miles, but if the weather was hazy, no one could tell if the light was from the lighthouse tower or from another ship.
The lighthouse was turned over to the state park system in 1944. Now thousands of visitors climb its tower annually. It is probably one of the most photographed lighthouses in the state.
The park also contains several habitats typical of barrier islands. The sandy beach is the breeding site of several beach nesting birds, such as the endangered piping plover. Barnegat Lighthouse is also a good area for observing fall warbler migrations and wintering waterfowl.
A short self-guided loop trail provides an opportunity to explore one of the last remaining maritime forests on Long Beach Island. The bayside provides a great view of Barnegat Inlet, Barnegat Bay, and Barnegat Estuary. Picnicing, fishing, beach walking, and birding are just a few of the recreational opportunities.
Directions: From the Garden State Parkway, take exit 63. Follow state road 72 east onto Long Beach Island, then north on county road 607 (Long Beach Blvd.) to the very north end of the island.
Hours: The park is open daily. The lighthouse is open daily April through October from 9:00am to 4:30pm and Wednesday to Sunday from November to March from 9:00am to 3:30pm.
Telephone: (609) 494-2016.
Cattus Island County Park
Under the auspices of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Cattus Island County Park is dedicated to conservation and natural science education. Wetlands and transition zones make up seventy percent of this peninsula. The park is the principle open space property in the northern section of the Barnegat Bay Watershed.
The Cooper Environmental Center is on site with restrooms, interpretive exhibits, a stationary telescope, an expansive view of the tidal salt marshes, a butterfly garden, and conducted programs. A fully-accessible 2200-foot-long boardwalk and paved path provides an opportunity to explore the bogs, swamps, tidal marshes, and forests.
Directions: From exit 82 of the Garden State Parkway, take state road 37 east through Toms River then right at the Fischer Blvd. jughandle. Follow county road SPUR549 (Fischer Blvd.) north to the fourth traffic light, and make a right-hand turn onto Cattus Island Blvd. The park entrance is immediately to the left.
Hours: The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The Cooper Environmental Center is open daily from 8:00am to 4:30pm.
Telephone: (732) 270-6960.
Double Trouble State Park
Although set aside for its historic village, Double Trouble is located in the heart of the Pinelands National Reserve. Explore cedar swamps, peat bogs, and cultivated cranberry bogs. Cedar Creek flows through the park and represents a prime example of the high water quality found in Pinelands freshwater streams. The 5,000 acre park provides recreational opportunities and many unusual botanical natural treasures: carnivorous plants, fire-dependent forests, and underground aquifers.
Recreational opportunities include hiking, bird-watching, canoeing, and picnicing. Tours of the cranberry packing house and the sawmill are also available. There is a cranberry harvest early each fall. Please call the park for the exact dates.
Directions: Take exit 77 of the Garden State Parkway and follow the signs to Double Trouble State Park.
Hours: The park is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Telephone: (732) 341-6662.
Eno’s Pond County Park
This beautiful 28-acre park provides a great opportunity for exploring coastal habitats. A series of interwoven trails leads hikers to the discovery of salt marshes, Eno’s Pond, maritime forests, and Bridge Creek. Part of the trails run through Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. One loop trail is ADA accessible. Picnicing, hiking, and bird-watching are common activities here. There is also a playground for the children to enjoy.
Directions: Take exit 74 of the Garden State Parkway and bear right onto Lacey Road east (CR614). Continue on Lacey Road across US9, and past the Captain’s Inn. The entrance to Eno’s is on the left near the end of the road.
Hours: The park is open daily, from 7:30am to a half hour before sunset.
Telephone: (609) 971-3085.
Forked River State Marina
This beautifully maintained marina contains 125 slips in the 20 to 55-foot range and has become a focal point for the community of Forked River. The site on which the administration building now stands formerly housed a full-service gas station. The old building was demolished, and the new facility was constructed in 1990.
Directions: Take exit 74 of the Garden State Parkway to CR614 (Lacey Road), and east to US9 south. The marina is located on US9, approximately nine miles south of the Toms River area.
Hours: The office is open Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:00pm. A transient vessel attendant is on duty from 8:00am until midnight from April 1 to October 31.
Telephone: (609) 693-5045.
Great Bay Boulevard Wildlife Management Area
This 3,965-acre wildlife management area was purchased with federal Aid-to-Wildlife Funds, the Waterfowl Stamp Program, and the Green Acres Program. The salt marsh area is heavily utilized by waterfowl and nesting shorebirds. During the spring migration, sandpipers, red knots, dowitchers, curlews, willets, plovers, turnstones, and yellow-legs feed and rest in the marsh grasses.
Salt water fishing may bring a catch of striped bass, weakfish, fluke, flounder, white perch, sea bass, sharks, and bluefish. There is also excellent clamming, but state licenses are required. Boat launching ramps at several private marinas are accessible from the road.
Directions: From exit 58 on the Garden State Parkway, follow CR539 to Tuckerton. Proceed south on US9, to Great Bay Boulevard just south of Tuckerton.
Hours: This unstaffed area is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Telephone: NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife (609) 259-2132.
Island Beach State Park
One of the best examples of a barrier island ecosystem is at Island Beach. The sandy beach on the ocean side blends into the coastal sand dunes formed by the wind and held in place by American beach grass and beach heather. More plants grow on the dunes farther from the ocean’s salt spray and in the protected depressions between the dunes. Even trees have taken root to form a maritime forest. Look for gulls and terns, red fox, turtles, and other inhabitants of the barrier island habitat. This is also home for New Jersey’s largest nesting osprey colony.
The spectacular wildlife migrations at Island Beach are not limited to birds. Although warblers and waterfowl are the more popular migrants, butterflies, bluefish, striped bass, marine mammals, and sea turtles also migrate through the area.
Island Beach State Park offers naturalist-conducted activities, an interpretive center, a nature center, trails, guided canoe trips, and beach recreation. A fully-accessible “beach to bay” boardwalk trail provides interpretive opportunities and a unique transect of a barrier island. An entrance fee is charged at the gate.
Check out the solar and wind-powered comfort station at Lot #21.
LSS Station #14 at Island Beach: The evolving history of the U.S. Life Saving Service can still be found along New Jersey’s barrier islands. At one time, three life saving stations provided shore rescue services for Island Beach. This site, now the park maintenance facility, was the original station #14 (later identified as #110) when the U.S. Life Saving Service began in 1848. By 1915, approximately 178,000 people, shipwrecked along the Atlantic seaboard, owed their lives to the heroic efforts of the LSS.
An interpretive exhibit explains the role of the U.S. Life Saving Service along the Jersey Shore.
Directions: From the Garden State Parkway take exit 82 to state route 37, east through Toms River and across Barnegat Bay to Island Beach. Turn south after the bridge to Seaside Park via county road 35.
Hours: Open weekdays from 8:00am to 8:00pm (or until dark) and on weekends from 7:00am to 8:00pm (or until dark).
Telephone: (732) 793-0506.
Toms River Seaport Society Museum
The Society’s headquarters and museum was once the carriage house for the famous inventor, Joseph Francis. His corrugated metal “lifecar” is credited with saving thousands of lives—victims of shipwrecks along the Atlantic Coast and around the world. The museum includes a boat workshop and display sheds.
The working museum exhibits and actively refurbishes more than 35 indigenous watercraft, including the Barnegat Bay Sneak Box and the Jersey Skiff. Many specialized craft were developed by mariners and local “baymen” to harvest waterfowl, clams, crabs, fish, and oysters. Other craft were developed by professional designers and builders for recreational and competitive boating and sailing.
Directions: From exit 81 of the Garden State Parkway, follow Water Street east to Hooper Avenue. The museum is located at 78 Water Street, with parking on Hooper Avenue.
Hours: The museum is open Tuesday and Saturday (except holidays) from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Group tours may be scheduled by appointment.
Telephone: (732) 349-9209.
U.S. Coast Guard Station, Barnegat Light
Perhaps one of the most treacherous of New Jersey’s barrier island inlets, this central coast area suffered nearly 200 shipwrecks within a ten-year period during the 1840s. Today, the crew of Coast Guard Station, Barnegat Light, provides assistance to boaters who have trouble navigating the strong waves and shifting sands of the inlet.
An interpretive wayside exhibit explains the role of the U.S. Coast Guard in the history of our nation’s maritime developments.
Directions: From exit 63 or 63A of the Garden State Parkway, follow state road 72 east to Long Beach Island. Turn north on county road 607 to the far north end of the island. The station, is located on the corner of 6th and Bayview.
Hours: Open daily unless the crew is called out on an emergency.
Telephone: (609) 494-2661.