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Ocean County Parks

If you like a walking in the brisk outdoors and visiting nature centers, then you will enjoy exploring the diverse parks of Ocean County.

You’ll find most trails are flat and ideal for leisurely strolls. Many have picnic facilities, and, if you want to bring grandchildren, a number offer playgrounds. Most of the parks are relatively close to the Garden State Parkway or Route 9 which both run north to south through the county and are relatively close to the seashore for those who would like a change of pace.

The parks offering the most activity options are:

OCEAN COUNTY PARK
This park was originally part of financier John D. Rockefeller’s vacation estate. The entrance is lined with specimen trees imported from around the country. It hosts a lake, and you can drive or walk through it. In this park, as well as all the others, dogs are permitted on leash.

CATTUS ISLAND COUNTY PARK
Across the bay from the shore resort, Seaside Heights, this premiere park has the Cooper nature center which is home to live reptiles and fish of the area. Miles of trails crisscross its 500 acres, some along the scenic Silver Bay. Every weekend naturalists escort walks and talks around the property, enhancing any visit. Frequently the coastal wetlands ecology is featured.

JAKES BRANCH COUNTY PARK
Two miles from Exit 80 of the Garden State Parkway, this new county park features a nature center that tells the story of the Pinelands. In fact, the trail meanders through part of a burned out forest that is coming back to life with increasing greenery each spring. A nature center features hands-on exhibits that make the history of the Pinelands even more interesting and a tot playground and picnic area make it a fine place to bring the grandchildren for a day’s outing.

WELLS MILL COUNTY PARK
The humming bird capitol of Ocean County, this park offers trails throughout its 900 acres, including a VIP trail for Visually Impaired Persons. Canoes are available for rent on the 34-acre Wells Mills Lake, a great opportunity to try this pastime. You can test your affinity for paddling around without finding yourself tired and miles to go on a stream.

BERKELEY ISLAND COUNTY PARK
For those who like to a take a short stroll along a water view and then sit and crab or fish, this is the park for you. It has a pavilions and grills for hot picnic meals which are made more enjoyable by a great panoramic view of Barnegat Bay.

BARNEGAT BRANCH RAIL TRAIL
Barnegat Township north. Start at Burr Street in Barnegat Township and head north along this north-south pedestrian and bicycle trail to Ocean Township. In the future it will connect through towns and end 15 miles north in Toms River. It is paved with stone dust, easy on the feet and nice for bicycling. About three miles are completed in the southern end which make a nice round trip stroll under shading trees which protect walkers from wind.

You might want to visit the two state parks in the county.

ISLAND BEACH STATE PARK, South Seaside Park
Nine miles of park on a sliver of land nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay with a series of self-guided trails, some extending from the ocean to the bay. There also are two interpretative centers.

BARNEGAT LIGHTHOUSE STATE PARK, Barnegat Light
Home of New Jersey’s red and white icon, Barnegat Lighthouse, this tiny park has a nature center, maritime forest, walking and swimming beach, and cement toped walkway. Fishermen and waterfowl are common to the area. You need not climb to the top for the view can be seen at the bottom in the interpretative center, thanks to camcorders.

If you are up for a “soft” outdoors adventure, these parks will fill the bill.


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