Jersey Shore Jaunt.

Our trip to Patterson Great Falls. A climb to the top of High Point State Park. Standing beneath Buttermilk Falls and driving through the depths of the Delaware Water Gap. While my wife and I were simply exploring destinations in our state that looked cool, little did we know that we were visiting several of the fourteen “Natural Wonders of New Jersey,” according to the website Only In Your State. Who knew that the forty-seventh smallest state in the union would be big enough to have fourteen natural wonders!

On a cold, blustery December weekend, my wife and I decided to explore another of these natural wonders: Island Beach State Park, the largest undeveloped coastal barrier island in New Jersey. Whereas many of the long, narrow islands that line the Atlantic coast of my state have been transformed into seaside resort towns, Island Beach remains a wilderness, preserved as it would have appeared hundreds of years ago. Along the way, we drove on one of the first transcontinental highways, took in a windy, if gorgeous seaside view, explored a coastal town known for oyster fishing, and ate great food.

Let’s begin:

Our Jersey Shore Weekend

The Drive to Cape May:

Map of New Jersey Shore, with a red pin in location of Island Beach State Park
We spent the weekend exploring the Jersey Shore, and our final destination on Sunday was Island Beach State Park. Along the way, we would venture to the town of Port Norris along the Delaware Bay and my then on to my second home, Cape May.
View of NJ Turnpike through rain-streaked windshield.
Yes, dear readers, you are accustomed to seeing photos of our drives on gorgeous, sunny days. That was not the case on Saturday, however, as our journey southward was accompanied by gusting winds and driving rain. I was pretty sure I was going to need some oars to continue traversing the New Jersey Turnpike.
View of two-lane county road through farmland.
By the time we reached southern New Jersey, the rain had ended, and only the wind remained. We detoured through the farmland of Salem County so we could drive down a historic road…
…Route 40, which according to this roadside sign is the oldest transcontinental highway in the US. Established in 1926, the highway is built upon several older roads, including the National Road of 1806 (via Wikipedia).
Route 40 begins in Atlantic City, New Jersey and ends in Silver Summit, Utah, although it once ended in San Francisco, California. This sign, beside the now-closed Kountry Kitchen restaurant in the town of Elmer, informed us that California is only 3,015 miles away!
Exterior of Bayshore Center at Bivalve in Port Norris.
On the way to Cape May, we detoured to the Bayshore Center at Bivalve in Port Norris, New Jersey, on the banks of the Maurice River. The museum focuses on the science and history of life along the Delaware Bay, and is situated in what was once a thriving oyster market.
Bags of oysters beside museum entrance.
Did you know that New Jersey is the third leading state for oyster farming in the country? Among the amazing skills of these little guys, they filter water which helps to reduce pollution, they’re a food source for animals and humans, and they help stop erosions. Visitors to the museum can fill a bag with seashells, which will become home to new oyster colonies. Next time we stop back, we’ll definitely try our hand at this!
AJ Meerwald sailing ship.
The centerpiece of the museum is the AJ Meerwald schooner. Built in 1928, it is one of hundreds of ships that were constructed in this part of New Jersey in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1998, the Meerwald was named New Jersey’s Official Tall Ship. When the museum is open next summer, we will definitely come by to explore and learn more about this lesser-known section of my home state.
Path through dunes to Miami Beach.
On the way to Cape May, we stopped by Lower Township in Cape May County, to visit an exotic locale: Miami Beach!
View of beach, with seagulls in air.
Named by the Miami Beach Builders Corporation of Philadelphia, which founded the town, Miami Beach faces the Delaware Bay (via Wikipedia). Who knew you could go to Miami… in New Jersey!
Sunset over rough waters of Delaware Bay. The remains of the concrete ship is in the distance.
Before dinner, we stopped by Sunset Beach in Cape May to check out the rough waves on the Delaware Bay. The region was under a gale warning, and while we stood on the beach, we were blasted by wind-driven sand and ocean spray. It was certainly a memorable stop!
Styrofoam container with roll, baked potato, grouper, scallops, lemon, and sauces.
Although we’re still not going out to eat, there are plenty of takeout options for good seafood the Jersey shore! We visited Fish and Fancy, a local seafood restaurant that only does takeout. While I had the broiled Baltimore crab cakes, my wife had broiled grouper and scallops. It was excellent, as always.
Plate with pancakes, banana slices, and bacon, on a menu placemat.
And of course, breakfast the next day was from Uncle Bill’s Pancake House! My wife enjoyed the gluten-free pecan pancakes, while I devoured an order of the traditional pecan pancakes. Pro tip: Uncle Bill’s pancakes are big enough to provide two meals, so eat half for breakfast, and have the other half the next day. After our delicious breakfast, it was time to hit the road to our ultimate destination.

Island Beach State Park

Map of Island Beach State Park.
Island Beach State Park is located to the south of Seaside Park. A few months ago, we explored the nearby Double Trouble State Park, to the northwest.
Signs over Garden State Parkway for Seaside Heights exit and Lakehurst Road exit.
Although Seaside Heights will forever live in infamy for its connection to the MTV reality TV show “Jersey Shore,” my wife and I were taking Exit 82 on the Garden State Parkway for a far more… peaceful… location.
View of empty access road through Island Beach State Park.
After paying a nominal entrance fee of $5, we had access to the entire park. Island Beach is managed by the State of New Jersey, and fees are collected to help maintain the park. Through most of the ten-mile road that runs through the park, we saw very few other people. I’d imagine it gets a bit busier in the summertime!
We reached the end of the paved road, and the surface changed to a sand path onto the beach. Lacking four wheel drive (as mandated), my rational self stopped me before I attempted to drive out to the beach in the Accord. Next time we’ll bring the Jeep!
2012 Honda Accord parked in parking lot covered in sand.
We left the Accord in the parking lot and headed on foot to venture onto the sands of Island Beach.
Sand path through dunes covered in beach grass.
To access the beaches, you can cross the dunes, but only at specific points of entry. The dunes are far too fragile (and valuable!) for people to be traipsing all over them. Numerous signs remind you to stay on the established trails.
Panorama of beach and dunes.
Not a bad view from atop the dunes! Owing to the cold temperatures, the beach was fairly empty.
Seagull in flight against blue sky.
While there weren’t many humans around, there were certainly a lot of winged creatures! I caught this gull in flight as it swooped past me.
Winter Oldsquaw floating on ocean surf.
In the surf near the beach, my wife and I spotted these oddly-colored, long tailed birds who were floating in the water, diving down periodically to hunt for food, and then popping back up again.
Winter Oldsquaw, in water, facing camera.
An eagle-eyed reader identified this bird as the Long-Tailed Duck, formerly known as the Winter Oldsquaw. They breed in the far reaches of the northern tundra, but make their way to the northern United States during the winter months… I guess New Jersey in December must feel like summertime, compared to their home environment.
Female long-tailed duck in water.
What amazed us was with each wave, the ducks would get absolutely pummeled by the crashing surf, and then pop back up and keep swimming. It was a good metaphor for handling adversity in life, I think.
Nature Center at Island Beach State Park.
About halfway down the island is the Nature Center, once home to the Forked River Coast Guard station. From here, several trails allow you to explore some of the wilderness of the island.
Large jawbones on ground, at beginning of nature trail.
Behind the Nature Center, the nature trails began by walking through the jaw bones of a fifty-five foot long Fin Whale that once washed ashore at Island Beach.
Trail and small boardwalk through marshes.
A half-mile trail took us through marshland toward Barnegat Bay.
Small bird on branch, with its feathers puffed up.
Although winter has begun to set in, there was still plenty of wildlife for us to see.
View across marshland, with Barnegat Lighthouse in distance.
From a clearing, we could gaze across the island to the south. Barnegat Lighthouse, which we visited during the NJ Lighthouse Challenge, towered in the distance.
View of Barnegat Bay and marshland.
Although cold and wind-blown, we enjoyed the view of Barnegat Bay.
C-5A Galaxy transport plane.
“Is that a bird?” my wife asked. “Let me use my super zoom lens!” I responded. Nope. It’s a C-5A Galaxy transport plane for the US military, on approach to McGuire Air Base.
Cardinal eating berries on tree.
Walking back along the trail, we happened by this cardinal enjoying a midday snack.
Cardinal on tree branch.
He stopped eating long enough for me to take some photos… was he modeling for me? Showing me his best side?
Female cardinal on gate.
As we neared the gate to leave the trail, this female cardinal hopped down from a tree and eyed us up. I’d like to think of it as Mother Nature thanking us for our visit! We spent several hours at the park, and made plans to visit again when the temperatures are warmer.
Car odometer reading 165100 TRIP A 320.7
After an hour drive, we arrived back home. Along the way, the Accord crossed the 165,000 mile mark… less than 35,000 miles now until the big 200k. Onward!

Odds and Ends

Before closing I wanted to pass along some reading and viewing material. As my readers can probably guess, I’m fascinated by high mileage car ownership, and I have two cool stories to pass along from the land of subcompact cars. First, I recently came across this story of a 2007 Honda Fit that was traded into a dealership in Colorado with over 730,000 miles on it! Given that the Fit is the smallest car in Honda’s lineup, it’s deeply impressive that someone could put so many miles on such a tiny car.

And while I’m admittedly a Honda/Acura nerd, I do appreciate anytime someone can demonstrate a long-term commitment to their vehicle. A Minnesota couple drove their 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage to 414,000 miles through the husband’s work as a medical courier in the Twin Cities area. They nicknamed their car the Purple Won, inspired by the musical artist Prince, who was known as The Purple One. You can read more about the Huot family and their little-Mitsubishi-that-could in this recent article on Car and Driver.

Finally, while neither high mileage nor Honda/Acura related, I did want to recommend a YouTube channel for your entertainment. A Canadian man, whose screen name is “Foresty Forest,” left his job in the information technology sector to live in his van, exploring the wilds of the Canadian wilderness. Although it appears as a standard Chevrolet minivan from the outside, “Foresty” has completely redesigned the interior to be a personal living space, doing all of the construction and electrical work himself. He also uses the same tires that I have on my Accord and my wife’s Jeep: Nokian WR G4s! I thought I’d share a post that encapsulates his life on the backroads of Canada, his exploration of the mountains, and even cooking a lasagna in his minivan:

Wrapping Up

Our jaunt to the Jersey Shore was a fun weekend, and although the weather made it mildly challenging, we enjoyed our time by the sea. Bayshore Center at Bivalve in Port Norris is typically open on Thursdays and Saturdays during the winter, although do check the website before visiting, as COVID-19 has affected its operating hours. Island Beach State Park is open year round. The park does charge minimal fees, although these go to help offset the maintenance and upkeep of this beautiful location.

Thanks, as always, for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead.

‘Til next time.


7 thoughts on “Jersey Shore Jaunt.

  1. Shoot, another YouTube channel I have to subscribe to! Darn you. Also, now I can’t stop thinking about that road that goes 3,015 miles to San Francisco. I need to drive the whole thing. Props to whoever got that Mitsubishi Mirage to 400k+ miles. Wowza!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed – that’s some serious mileage to put on a Mirage. Glad I gave you another time sink with the Foresty Forest channel, and Route 40 definitely sounds like a challenge for the Legend coupe! Thanks for reading.


  2. I like how the Long-Tailed Duck and Cardinal looked right at you for their pics!

    Congrats on 165k. The “5s and 10s” always feel a little more significant when we cross those thresholds. I enjoyed reading those high mileage stories. I’m currently just above the Fit’s mileage. That Mitsubishi couple…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, when you’re snapping photo after photo, it’s easy to miss that an animal or bird is making eye contact with you! It’s not until you’re looking at the photos at home that you see the bird decided to do a modeling session…

      Thanks for congrats – I’m inching closer and closer to 200k.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s