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New Jersey is home to tens of state parks, and perhaps thousands of municipal and county parks, some of which we’ve written about right here, like this great one you can picnic on an island in,
and this one with its many beautiful hiking trails and unofficial swimming holes, to mention just a few.
While the biggest and most famous are usually the most crowded, that’s not where you’ll usually find us spending the day – we, like many of you, prefer to beat the crowds and keep the great spots as much to ourselves as possible!
While the above are three great options offering less crowds, today we’ll take you to Southern NJ, where you’ll find New Jersey’s smallest state park: Barnegat Lighthouse State Park.
While comparatively small at only 32 acres, here’s why we suggest it for a great summer Sunday trip, and what makes it a unique day trip to consider.
Perhaps the park’s biggest draw, Barnegat Lighthouse (aka, Old Barney) is one of New Jersey’s most iconic buildings. Built in 1857, it stands 169 feet tall and is located on the northern tip of Long Beach Island.
While decommissioned after WWII and turned off for decades, the lighthouse has seen a resurrection and been lit each night since January 1, 2009.
As a major bonus, you can climb up the inside too very inexpensively! Priced at $3 for adults, $1 for children 6-11, and free for children 5 and under, this is a great place for inexpensive family fun.
Note: There are 217 steps that lead to the light, so consider if the little ones can make it to the top. From there you can see a long ways on a clear day. If you are familiar with this area of the Jersey shore and have never seen the area from up high, the view from the lighthouse will be even more special.
Continuing with your article...
Don’t miss the Barnegat Lighthouse Interpretive Center, which is adjacent to the lighthouse. The center shows the history of Barnegat Lighthouse from shipwreck to first-class seacoast light. Exhibits focus on the history of the lighthouse, lighthouse technology, the duties of Barnegat Lighthouse’s keepers, and efforts to protect Barnegat Lighthouse.
If you or your kids are into the history and want even more details, just down the road you’ll find the Barnegat Light Museum and Gardens. There you will find the lighthouse’’s original first-order Fresnel lens, as well as exhibits including images of Sinbad, the WWII Coast Guard dog who was enlisted in the service and retired to Barnegat.
BACK to the STATE PARK: Entrance to the park itself is free and includes access to a very uncrowded beach as no swimming is allowed there.
It’s good to know that Barnegat Lighthouse State Park has no swimming beaches at all, making it a serene place to stroll along the water, dig in the sand with the kids – try this great 20 pc fun sand toy kit – and collect seashells without the crowds (all the while experiencing much less tznius issues than the typical beach.)
Visitors can also enjoy fishing, hiking, bird watching and picnicking. Both picnic and fishing areas are stroller and ADA accessible, and you can even bring along a bbq grill like this one and enjoy supper in the outdoors too!
Here’s another thing you don’t typically associate with the beach: A real forest! Mostly made up of Black Cherry, Sassafras, Eastern Red Cedar, and American Holly, is an important resting and feeding area for migratory birds on their long journey to and from their breeding sites.
In it you will find the Maritime Forest Trail, a short 1/5-mile long, self-guided loop trail through this shaded, beautiful and unique environment. Perhaps best of all, the short trail length makes it easily manageable for almost everyone, (even the little ones) to enjoy.
Finally, we did say lost treasure, and we’ll not disappoint!
OK, here’s the story.
Captain John Bacon was a notoriously vicious Tory raider (a colonist loyal to Britain) who has largely been forgotten by history. He and his band of Tories would lure ships into the shoals, and then raid the stranded ships.
The bloodthirsty Captain was also famed for the ‘Long Beach Island Massacre’ where he and his crew killed 20 militiamen as they slept, an act of revenge on those who had supposedly just captured a British ship.
While never found, legend tells that the infamous Captain was said to have buried his spoils in the vicinity of the Barnegat Lighthouse.
We say, bring your metal detectors!
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