New Jersey June 06, 2017
7 Big Reasons To Visit New Jersey’s Smallest State Park
New Jersey has dozens of incredible state parks, the largest of which is Wharton State Forest. The park spans approximately 115,000 acres and offers lake beaches, overnight accommodations, historic ruins and a renovated ghost town. Everyone should visit at least once, but New Jersey’s smallest state park deserves a visit, too. Barnegat Lighthouse State Park may only be made up of 32 acres but it’s truly special; here are a few reasons why it’s worth a visit.
1. The Lighthouse
Perhaps the park's biggest draw, Barnegat Lighthouse (or, Old Barney) is one of New Jersey's most iconic buildings. Built in 1857, it stands 169 feet tall. It is located on the northern tip of Long Beach Island, considered one of the most crucial 'change of course' points for coastal vessels. Deactivated after WWII and dark for decades, it has been lit each night since January 1, 2009.
2. The Price
Big park, little price. Entrance to the park is free and there's just a small fee to climb the lighthouse which will afford you views like this. ($3 for adults, $1 for children 6-11, free for children 5 and under.)
3. The Beach
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park does not have swimming beaches, which makes it a serene spot to stroll along the water. No throngs of New Yorkers here to keep you away from the waves. Without the crowds, it's a popular place to hunt for seashells and sea glass.
4. The Amenities
While the park does not offer swimming, visitors can enjoy fishing, hiking, bird watching and picnicking. Both picnic and fishing areas are ADA accessible. Bird watching is best during spring and fall migrations.
5. The Forest
One of the last remnants of maritime forest on Long Beach Island can be found at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. The forest, which is dominated by Black Cherry, Sassafras, Eastern Red Cedar, and American Holly, is an important resting and feeding area for migratory birds on their long journey to and from their breeding sites. The Maritime Forest Trail is a 1/5-mile long, self-guided loop trail through a unique environment. Perhaps best of all, the length makes it manageable for most to enjoy.
6. The History
In the park, you'll find the Barnegat Lighthouse Interpretive Center. The center shows the history of Barnegat Lighthouse from shipwreck to first-class seacoast light. Exhibits focus on the history of the lighthouse, lighthouse technology, the duties of Barnegat Lighthouse's keepers, and efforts to protect Barnegat Lighthouse. Just a few blocks away, you'll find the Barnegat Light Museum. It is home to the light's original first-order Fresnel lens, as well as exhibits including images of Sinbad, the WWII Coast Guard dog who was enlisted in the service and retired to Barnegat.
7. The Treasure
Captain John Bacon was a notoriously vicious Tory raider (a colonist loyal to Britain) who has largely been forgotten by history. He and his band of Tories would lure ships into the shoals, and then raid the stranded ships. He is also known for the Long Beach Island Massacre, where he and his crew killed 20 militiamen as they slept. The militiamen had just captured a British ship, and Captain Bacon wanted revenge. He may also have taken off with the treasure, which is said to be buried somewhere near Barnegat Light. Bring your metal detectors!
Have you been to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park before? I know many of you are fans as you requested it be added as a stop on our New Jersey Lighthouse Road Trip. For details on that spectacular journey,