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Island Beach State Park in New Jersey is a ten-mile long barrier island between Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The State purchased the land from entrepreneur Henry Phipps Jr to preserve the natural environment as a park.
The State also maintains the Phipps mansion as a summer residence for the governor. This became infamous when Governor Christie was photographed vacationing there in the summer of 2017 amidst a state government shutdown (beach-chair Christie memes were very popular that year.)
Island Beach is one of few undeveloped patches of Jersey Shore. In the summer, visitors can enjoy the pristine beaches without all the commercialism of the surrounding boardwalk communities.
In the off-season, its a nice place for short hikes, fishing and dune buggying. The bayside has a network of water trails for kayaking.
Island Beach is also a diverse wildlife habitat. Foxes are often seen playing here and occasionally snowy owls are photographed in the dunes. There had been recent sightings of two owls in the park when we visited, but we weren’t lucky enough to see one that day.
The Interpretive Center is about 7 miles from the entry gate. We parked there first…the restrooms were open, but the nature center was not. We picked up the Johnny Allen’s Cove Trail behind the building.
First we took the fork to the right, through the maritime forest with its holly trees and on out to the dunes and the beach beyond. Even though it was mid-morning, the sky still had the pinkish glow of sunrise.
Then we backtracked and took the trail out to the bay side. We had to cross the park road to do this, but it was pretty quiet in the park. We walked through the salt marsh, past some vacant osprey platforms to the bay.
We drove down to the last parking lot at the southernmost tip of the island. This is where people with dune buggies can off road on the beach. Just over the dunes, we could see Barnegat Light on neighboring Long Beach Island.
Location: Central Ave, Seaside Park, NJ 08752
Designation: State Park
Date designated or established: 1953
Date of my visit: January 6, 2019