The Beachcomber

Don’t Get Vacation Brain: Feed Your Mind at Island Sites

Entertaining Learning Experiences in Summer
May 26, 2017

Long Beach Island holds more than the typical sun, sea, and shopping vacation. The Island is filled with fun, educational opportunities for families, children and older adults. Libraries, museums and other venues offer alternatives for “bad beach days” or an escape from the sun.

Public libraries are a good place to start. The Ocean County Library system has a branch in Surf City, open Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The county library has a reciprocal borrowing program with the Burlington and Monmouth county library systems. Cards from those counties are recognized at Ocean County libraries. A free library card requires proof of residence. Vacation homeowners can also obtain a library card – all Ocean County taxpayers can get a library card. For visitors, temporary one-month cards are available for $9.50.

The library has an updated database system, audio books and other digital materials. Free library events are open to the public, cardholders or not.

The LBI branch of the Ocean County Library will host its fourth Painted Poetry event on Aug. 7, which pairs a writer’s poem with a local artist’s poem-inspired painting. Likewise, the artist gives the writer a previous painting and the poet writes a poem about it.

The library also hosts SAIL, a volunteer program for teenagers, running from June to August, which tracks volunteer hours and provides a letter and certificate upon completion.

The Ocean County Library participates in a summer reading program for children, teens and adults. There are prizes and events available for those who complete their books over the course of the summer.

The Beach Haven Public Library is a town entity, not a branch of the Ocean County Library. It can be found at Third Street and Beach Avenue in Beach Haven. Annual memberships for non-residents are $20. Summer renters can obtain a temporary membership with a letter from the owners of the property, or the realtor associated with the property.

The library opened in 1924. The original building still stands, along with the two large fireplaces, one in the front room and one in the back room. The architecture and fireplaces make the library cozy and warm, an ideal place to visit on a rainy day.

The second floor of the library is an extensive research library and museum filled with the history of Beach Haven, where visitors can find old hotel registers, deeds, diaries and more.

The Long Beach Island Historical Association Museum is located on Engleside Avenue in Beach Haven. The building was originally a church built in 1882, making it one of the oldest buildings on Long Beach Island. The church congregation moved to a modern building a couple blocks south in Beach Haven in 1975. The museum first opened in the historic church soon thereafter, in time for the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976.

“We concentrate on the history of the Island,” said LBI Historical Association President Ronald Marr. The museum is filled with items dating back to the pre-Civil War era. Every item was found on the Island, or donated from families from the Island.

The museum is entirely staffed with volunteers. Admission is a $3 donation (kids are free). The building is handicap accessible, and is both heated and air-conditioned. The museum also has a new gift shop located at the front. It opens for the weekends starting on Memorial Day from noon to 4 p.m.; on June 27, it opens seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The museum has exhibits from all over the Island. Inside, visitors can find stories and artifacts from major historical events, along with “everyday life” throughout the years. While the museum seems small, the average visitor spends about an hour there.

“We’re busiest on bad beach days,” Marr said.

The museum has a “touch table” where children can handle different objects. Kids can complete a scavenger hunt, checking off various objects they see and even pick out their own replica gold coin upon completion.

Starting in late June, the museum hosts Ghost Tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. for $15 a person, and Walking Tours of Historic Beach Haven on Tuesday and Friday mornings for $10 a person. During July and August, a kids’ program runs Monday mornings at 10 a.m. and historic talks are at 7:30 p.m. Monday evenings. Both are free to the public.

Also on Mondays during the summer, Toni Gamilis will host STEM Makerspace, events focused on how the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math pertain to LBI history, incorporating the artifacts throughout the museum. The various activities will teach buoyancy and how boats float, how lighthouses work and more. Each week will focus on something new.

On Dock Road in Beach Haven is the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History. Rather than covering just the Island, this museum covers all maritime history of New Jersey. Starting in June, the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no charge for admission, but donations are accepted (and tax-deductible). Annual memberships range from $25 to $500, depending on preference, and members receive a 10 percent discount at the gift shop.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the museum broke ground in 2004 and opened in 2007. The museum is filled with items that were donated, auctioned or from members’ personal collections. Board of Trustees President Deborah Whitcraft started it with her own personal collection from her sea diving days. Her concentration was on the history of New Jersey, including shipwrecks and marine disasters. The museum has information on ships as early as the 1600s and artifacts as old as the mid-1700s. When artifacts are not on display in the museum’s many rooms, they are often on loan at different restaurants and other establishments on Long Beach Island and across the bay in Manahawkin.

Every year is different; walking through the museum one year doesn’t guarantee the same displays the next year. It’s very hands-on, and visitors can visit all parts of the building.

In July and August, the Maritime Museum hosts the Marine Science Camp for kids and teens. Taught by the New Logic Marine Biologists and Environmentalists, it is a five-day camp program from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Campers learn about marine life and the environment from professionals. Registration must be completed ahead of time at marinesciencecamp.com.

Starting in late June, the museum also has kids’ programs on Fridays at 10 a.m.; no registration is required.

The Barnegat Light Historical Society maintains the Barnegat Light Museum on Central Avenue in Barnegat Light, open weekends in June and daily in July and August, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On the second Thursday of every month, the museum has a speaker at 7:30 p.m., free and open to the public. During summer, Barnegat Lighthouse offers night climbs on a few select dates, when visitors can sign up and ascend the lighthouse during sunset over the bay or perhaps a full moon rise over the ocean.

Congress approved construction of Barnegat Lighthouse in 1834. In 1854, the lighthouse was lit for the first time at 175 feet above sea level. The beacon could be seen for 19 nautical miles.

The climb up the lighthouse’s 217 steps reveals the history and importance of lighthouses for sea travel. The Interpretive Center at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, at the base of the lighthouse, shows the history of the lighthouse, including information on shipwrecks, photos and other artifacts of importance, along with educational information about the coast and surrounding environment of the Island.

Surrounding the lighthouse is a man-made jetty and plenty of environmental life. The Maritime Forest Trail is a 1/5-mile long trail that exhibits the natural foliage of the Island.

The Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies was founded almost 70 years ago and emphasizes educational and cultural programs on the Island and surrounding communities. The foundation has many different programs, taking place in the main studio/gallery, the marine sciences building, the print room and elsewhere. The organization’s expansive work on educating the community and visitors happens all year. Annual memberships are available for $50 for students, $185 for individuals and $285 for families. Memberships allow a discount on classes, and for day camps for family memberships.

Over the summer, the foundation runs a variety of weekly camps, including a Performing Arts camp, Rhythm and Rhymes Music camp and Adventures in Clay camp. Daily camps are also available, including culinary classes, sports and pottery. Each camp varies in price. Participants can register online at lbifoundation.org/camp. It also offers daily morning programs starting in late June for visitors of all ages and a number of speakers over the summer, both on the arts and different sciences.

— Kimberly Bodine

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