Island Beach State Park
by Bob D'Amico
Park Headquarters - Telephone: 732-793-0506
sland Beach State Park is the gem of New Jersey's beautiful shore, approximately nine miles
long it is located on the southern tip of the central shore area between the town of Seaside Park on the north and Barnegat Inlet in the south. Accessible from the Garden State Parkway (Exit 82) and Toms River (Route 37) it is one of the few stretches of pristine beach open to the general public. Within its 1,900 acres are wild sand dunes, tidal marshes, wetlands
and a superb beach.
The park is divided into three sections, Northern Natural Area, the central recreation zone and the Southern Natural Area. As a preserve, it is also a bird and wildlife sanctuary, including osprey and other bird species. Being a natural area, it is covered with various native fauna, beach plum, cedar, holly trees, cedars and beach grass, in all there are over 200 species of plants. It is THE haven for avid surf fishermen, and one of the few places which continue to allow 4 x 4 sport utility vehicles and
other "beach buggies" access to its shoreline year round and 24 hours per day. See MSFV Permits below.
The Early Years
Island Beach has a long history, dating back to the earliest settlement of the state. It was part of a land grant made in 1635 by King Charles I of England to the First Earl of Stirling but it was not until the 1800's that some settlement occurred, small private holdings, fishing shacks and squatters. Due to its proximity to the infamous shoals of Barnegat and the inlet to the bay, two life saving stations were built, which eventually were taken over by the US Coast Guard. Barnegat lighthouse which stands on the south side of the inlet was constructed in 1835 but was only forty feet high and was primarily a beacon for the
entrance to the bay. In 1859 a new lighthouse, 150 feet high was completed under the direction of General Meade, later of Civil War fame. Mid century, Island Beach was home to the Haring Hotel which specialized in recreational activities, hunting, fishing, dancing, gaming and a little drinking. Gaming and drinking being the most popular.
The Great Depression, World War II and 1959
In 1926 the land was purchased by the millionaire, Charles C. Phipps, a partner of the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Phipps' plan was to build an exclusive sea side resort with private homes for the mega rich. Three of which were built before the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression and Phipp's death ended the project. Phipp's original "beach house", located in the Northern Natural Area is now the Governor's "Mansion" but it is really just an above average size house.
The area "...became the Boro of Island Beach until World War II when the US Army and John Hopkins University used the area for experimental work in anti-aircraft rocketry. A supersonic ram-jet rocket made its first successful flight at Island Beach in June 1945." In 1953 Island Beach was acquired by the State of New Jersey from the Phipps family, the Boro was dissolved in 1954 and the new state park was opened in 1959.
A Legacy for the Future
Recent estimates are that Island Beach has a property value in excess of Ten Billion Dollars,
which could make it a "target" for privatization by the state in its "effort" to reduce the ever increasing debt the political leaders of NJ have ignored for over a decade. Hopefully that will never happen as long as it remains the single largest cash generator ("cash cow") in the state park system.
We are fortunate that so many individuals and groups of people in the state worked to make it into a public park and a natural sanctuary. Their legacy and work continues today, please help keep it a sanctuary, not only for the plant and wildlife, but as a sanctuary for our children and grandchildren.
A map and fishing information for Island Beach State Park can be seen here.
Tourist information State of New Jersey Travel Page
NJ DEP Division of Parks and Foresty - Island Beach State Park
Park Headquarters - Telephone: 732-793-0506
Directions to Island Beach State Park
Mobile Sport Fishing Vehicle
Permits and Regulations
MSFV permits can be purchased at the Gate House entrance. An Annual permit (January through December) costs for NJ residents costs $195.00 while a three (3) day temporary permit is $75.00. Non-resident fees are $225.00 and $90.00 respectively. Carefully read the Fishing Section of the Island Beach State Park page of the NJ Parks and Forestry website. There is no fixed fine for driving on the beach without a permit although it is normally "very, very substantial" since offenders must appear in court where a judge decides their fate. New drivers who have previously not held a permit are required to view an excellent video from the NJBBA on beach driving.
The following eleven (11) items are MANDATORY in order to drive a 4 X 4 on the beach:
Basic MSFV Rules of the Beach are:
- Fishing Equipment (rod & reel), Tackle/Bait for each person over the age of 12!
- Tire Pressure Gauge
- Full size Spare Tire
- Workable Jack plus a support board (3/4" x 12" x 12" minimum)
- Tow Chain or Snatch Line
- Shovel (Not a plastic toy beach shovel)
- Fire Extinguisher
- Auto First Aid Kit
- Litter/Trash Bag (IBSP is Carry In/Carry Out)
- Minimum of 3/4's tank of Fuel.
- Stay off the Dunes and Park Vegetation!
- Speed Limit 10 MPH, Drivers yield to the Right. This means if you are in the vehicle tracks near the dune line heading North and an oncoming vehicle is coming South,
you must give way. You would move to the right, closer to the ocean.
- No Alcoholic Beverages
- No Camping
- Fires are permitted on Open Beach 50 feet East of the dune line in the recreation (off season) and Southern areas ONLY. No fires on the beach at Gillikins or Northern area.
- Pets must be kept on a leash at all times (Don't forget to bring a least a gallon of fresh water for the dog).
- You MUST be actively fishing!
- During the summer months pay close attention to the sunbathers, kids, dogs and other 4 x 4's.
For additional information refer to the NJ Beach Buggy Association
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