Island Beach State Park: Ideal Visiting Time, Cost, and Best Activities
Island Beach State Park features miles of dunes along with beaches that are sandy white. Offering habitats for diverse wildlife and maritime plants, as well as for birds such as waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, and migrating songbirds.
Visitors to New Jersey’s Island Beach can choose from many activities, regardless of the time of year. While some seasons are busier than others, taking note of the tips and advice included here will help you navigate the park like a local.
There are so many activities available at Island Beach that you probably won’t be able to fit them all in one day. Whether on the ground or the water, viewing through binoculars or goggles, taking it easy, or staying active, this state park offers something for everyone. Here’s the full list of activities to choose from.
Swimming and Surfing
There is close to one mile of beach available for swimming during the summer months. Located in the recreation area, there are lifeguards on duty during the open season. There are parking areas nearby, as well as bathhouse pavilions with enclosed changing areas. Dogs are allowed on the beach, as long as they remain on a leash.
Swimming in the designated areas is only permitted while lifeguards are on duty. The season to be in the water runs from mid-June to Labor Day.
Fishing and Hunting
Island Beach State Park is a popular destination for crabbing and saltwater fishing. Stock up on needed supplies at the local tackle store before entering the park and gain some insider information. Access to fishing is available 24 hours a day. Consider casting a line or two from the Fisherman’s Walkway or along the north jetty of Barnaget Inlet.
Trails and Recreation at Island Beach
Trails can be done in three ways: biking, hiking, or horseback riding. The main road offers a shoulder area for bikers, and the path stretches over eight miles. For the hikers, there are eight trails, each one is under a mile long. All the trails lead to different sections of the island’s beach or the bay. Additionally, there are ten miles of white sand beaches guests can meander through.
The horseback riding opportunity is only available from October 1st through April 30th. Prior reservations are required. There is a dedicated parking area for the horse trailers and six miles of beach in the central and southern portions of the park that are equestrian-friendly.
Boating, Canoeing, and Kayaking
There are two areas where canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks can be launched: Area 15 and Area 21. During the summer, guests can take a guided kayak tour through the Sedge Islands. This is a great place for wildlife viewing opportunities. Falcons, wading birds, and nesting osprey can be observed, along with other wildlife.
Bird and Wildlife Viewing at Island Beach
For additional bird and wildlife sightings, Barnegat Bay, on the west side of the island, is a good location to visit. There are also bird observation blinds that allow guests to view wildlife safely. The trails are also going to offer opportunities to catch a glimpse of wildlife in their natural habitat.
Emily DeCamp Herbarium
Located at the Forked River Interpretive Center, the Emily DeCamp Herbarium has close to 400 plants that make up the nine plant communities at the state park. The plants have been preserved and placed in a protective mount, allowing visitors to examine the plants. Additionally, there are facts and historical insights on the mounts that provide a bit of learning.
Cost of Admission & Park Hours
While there is usually an entrance fee, there is free entry for the remainder of 2023.
The Park gate is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to dusk, while the park office is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
When to Visit
While the park is open year-round, the summer season is the best time to visit for all the water activities. However, it is also the busiest time of year. If you plan to visit on a summer day, it is recommended to begin arriving before 10 a.m.
Know Before You Go
Reservations are required if you plan to bring your horses. Dogs are allowed on the beach, as long as they are on a leash at all times. Visit their website for additional information or reach out to them directly at 732.793.0506. The state park’s address is 2401 Central Avenue in Seaside Park, NJ 08752.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Carolyn Cochrane/Shutterstock.com