The Beachcomber

Southern Ocean County Offers Plenty of Swimming Options

Lakes and Bays Provide Smoother, Safer Experiences for Toddlers
Jul 13, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Let’s face it, people may visit Long Beach Island for its fishing, boating, restaurants, clubs and bars, and any number of other attractions, but if it weren’t for its beaches, the Island wouldn’t be the major tourist attraction it is. Beach is indeed the center of Long Beach Island!

But its splendid ocean beaches aren’t everybody’s cup of tea. The surf can be too rough at times for some people, especially families with toddlers. All of the Long Beach Island municipalities also have bay beaches, highly recommended for small children. Barnegat Light’s is located at 25th Street and Bayview Avenue. Beach Haven’s is at the end of Taylor Avenue. If you’re in Harvey Cedars you can find bay bathing at 77th Street. Long Beach Township has two bay beaches – one at Bayview Park, located on 68th Street in Brant Beach, the second in Beach Haven Terrace on New Jersey Avenue and 131st Street. Ship Bottom’s bay beach can be found at 15th Street while Surf City’s is at 15th Street and Barnegat Avenue.

Beach badges may be required at some of the Island’s bay beaches.

Because LBI’s beaches are so popular, they may be too crowded for some. Luckily, they aren’t the only swimming option in Southern Ocean County. There are a couple of freshwater beaches within driving distance from the Island.

Why would folks pick fresh water over salt water? Well, fans of the former would say the cedar water of area lakes has as many, if not more, health-giving benefits as the latter. And they’ll quickly point out that the lakes warm up much earlier in the summer season than the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll never run into heavy surf or jellyfish in a freshwater lake. Finally, some swimmers think a dip in fresh water leaves them feeling cleaner than the salty residue picked up from a splash in the surf.

Ocean County’s A. Paul King Park in Manahawkin has a guarded, sandy swimming beach on Lake Manahawkin, open through Labor Day. It’s a great place to bring the kids, sort of one-stop shopping for fun with its basketball courts, horse shoe pit, playground, canoe, kayak and paddleboard launch and picnic area. Another thing A. Paul King Park has going for it – swimming is free, with no beach badges required.

The 48-acre county park is also convenient. Simply take Route 72 West from the Island and exit right onto Route 9 North. Turn left at the first traffic light and the park entrance will be almost immediately on the right.

Another freshwater option is Lake Absegami, located within the Bass River State Forest (sort of a misnomer considering it is actually a 23,563-acre state park, New Jersey’s oldest, acquired in 1905). The 67-acre man-made lake, created by damming two Pinelands streams in the 1930s as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps effort, offers swimming on a sandy, guarded beach as well as fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking. You might choose to camp in the park, which also has hiking trails, picnic areas and interpretive programs. Day-use areas of the park are open from 8 a.m. to dusk. You do have to pay for daily access to the park and the swimming area, but the price is a bargain – $5 for a carload of New Jersey residents and $10 for out-of-staters. The swimming area offers a changing area, restrooms, showers, a first-aid station and a concession stand offering refreshments, novelties and beach supplies.

Visit Google for directions to the state park from LBI. They may seem complicated, but the less than 20-mile trip takes just over half an hour – traffic, of course, permitting.

The mainland may be separated from the Atlantic, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer saltwater swimming. Both Stafford Township and Barnegat Township have guarded bayside beaches. Stafford’s is located on Jennifer Lane (directions from LBI can, once again, be found on Google). Barnegat’s can be found at 373 Bayshore Drive – yep, Google directions.

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