|Island Beach State Park|
Wetlands along Barnegat Bay near the southern end of Island Beach State Park
|Location||Berkeley Township, New Jersey|
|Nearest city||Seaside Park, New Jersey|
|Area||3,003 acres (1,215 ha)|
|Administered by||New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry|
Island Beach State Park is a New Jersey state park located just south of Seaside Park on the Barnegat Peninsula in Berkeley Township, Ocean County, New Jersey, United States. The park is operated and maintained by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry. Most of the park encompasses the former borough of Island Beach.
The park is the largest reserve of undeveloped barrier island in New Jersey and one of the largest in the United States. The park is divided into two areas. The Island Beach Northern Natural Area covers 659 acres (2.7 km2), some of which is restricted to the public. The Southern Natural Area is much larger at 1,237 acres (5 km2). The park includes the Sedge Island Marine Conservation Zone, which includes about 1,600 acres (6 km2) of tidal marshes, creeks, ponds, and open water.
Coming in from the sea-front, a visitor ascends over a large primary dune covered in tall grasses and down into a narrow maritime forest, consisting of many tall bushes and short trees including holly, goldenrod and black cherry. Approaching the bay side, one finds reeds and a muddy estuary that is home to blue crabs and herons and other marine birds. The park is an excellent site for bird watching with osprey nests and bird blinds set up. The Barnegat Inlet is located at the southern tip of the park, separating the Barnegat Peninsula from Long Beach Island.
Swimming, kayaking, and fishing are permitted in some areas of the park. Four wheel drive vehicles are permitted onto the beach with a permit.
Among the trees found in the park are Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida), American Holly (Ilex opaca), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) and Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana). These trees appear in different areas of the park, depending on the specifics of salt and wind exposure. They are often stunted, compared to inland examples of their species, and display the "salt spray horizon" effect, with the side facing the ocean sheared tightly by the environment, with their westerly sides tending to grow taller. Thus, the trees and shrubs often take on wedge-like shapes with their low side on the east.
Shrubs in the park include Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica and Myrica cerifera), Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), Beach plum (Prunus maritima), Swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), Red and Black Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia and Aronia melanocarpa), Heather (Hudsonia ericoides) and Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia). Every September the park hosts an exciting Beach Plum Festival, replete with tours, foods, music and great atmosphere.
There are also many grasses, forbs and herbaceous plants.
Many of these plants can be seen at the nature center, 1 mile (1.6 km) into the park, in a display garden, which is located by a freshwater wetland.
Most visitors come for the white sand beach, the ocean waters, and natural backdrop, in contrast to the developed and boardwalk-lined beaches to the north and south. Island Beach State Park encompasses many miles of beach; the northernmost have life guards. People can swim, surf, fish, and kayak in the park. The park also allows dune buggy access in the southern portion of the park. There is also a boardwalk extending from Barnegat Bay to the main road allowing boaters access to the beach. On the bayside of Island Beach State Park is an area called Tices Shoal, where boaters gather together and anchor.
Since New Jersey acquired the 2,694 acres (10.90 km2) estate of Henry Phipps, Jr. in 1953 for $2.75 million to form the park, the state has maintained a official vacation residence ( ) exclusively for the New Jersey Governor (in addition to the governor's mansion at Drumthwacket, in Princeton near the state capital of Trenton). The residence was built by Phipps in the 1920s.
The house is in the Cape Cod style. It is now accessible via a paved road. The home is about 200 feet (61 m) from the beach. It has five bedrooms and three bathrooms with a small room for the security detail. It is the only house close to the ocean. Two other houses in the park are on Barnegat Bay (one for the superintendent of the park and a governor's guest house).
In July 2017 during the long July 4th holiday extended weekend the park along with other parks were closed because the state had not approved its budget. Governor Chris Christie, wife, children and friends were photographed on a deserted beach at the park. Christie took a helicopter back and forth to Trenton during the budget discussions.
New Jersey is one of just four states to maintain a state-owned vacation home for its governor. Other states with vacation residence are Alabama at Fort Morgan, Michigan at Mackinac Island and North Carolina at Asheville.