On the final weekend of September, the universe graced us with an extra day of summer so I took an adventure down the shore and visited Island Beach State Park in Seaside Park, NJ. For the first time in my life, I let a summer pass me by without a single trip to the shore so I was really looking forward to checking out the beach – especially since summer is technically over so I wouldn’t have to deal with the seasonal crowds.
Just south of Seaside Heights, the entire area is still undergoing serious reconstruction after Hurricane Sandy. Almost all of the streets are ripped open for repairs and many of the homes are still uninhabitable. Nonetheless, the area is attracting visitors and I was glad to see an abundance of people walking to and from the boardwalk and enjoying a beautiful day at the beach.
You arrive at Island Beach State Park by following Central Ave (Rt. 35) all the way south through the stretch of Seaside. The park has a single road, Shore Rd., which extends to the far end of the park. Along the road you’ll find several parking spots with trails to the beach along with a few other distractions.
I chose to stay on Shore Rd. for as long as I could and ended up at a beautiful and slightly deserted beach at the tip of Island Beach Park. There were just a few beach-goers present, all of whom drove their awesome trucks, Jeeps, and campers right onto the sand to set up their sites. You need a special permit to bring your vehicles onto the sand, but it definitely looked like the best way to enjoy a day at the beach.
The nearly desolate shore commanded a few minutes of silent reflection and existential contemplation whilst sitting on the white blankets of sand and staring off at the infinite horizon beyond the waves. Getting a chance to just sit there alone without a single worry was everything I could have asked for after a hectic week at the office.
Once I’d realized the meaning of life, I got a sudden craving for a fried seafood platter so I began to make my way out of the park. While driving back up Shore Rd., I noticed a small path diverging into the lush vegetation lining the street. The path turned out to be the an easy hiking trail leading to the Spizzle Creek Bird Blind, where visitors can… look at birds.
I won’t lie – the trail was quite uneventful but it did offer a pretty cool view of the marshlands of Barnegat Bay. I even caught a few people kayaking out on the bay and realized that they have kayak rentals at the park – a missed opportunity, I guess. Either way, it was a nice walk through the dense greenery of the park and I did eventually make it to the bird blind. I was about to enter when I noticed that it was inhabited by the largest, most menacing mosquito ever captured by the eyes of man and so I did the manliest thing I could think of – I hauled ass out of that park and went looking for some food.
If you’re thinking of planning a trip to Island Beach State Park, here’s a helpful guide for events and info.