The New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail

by Editorial Staff--SouthJersey.com | Apr 23, 2015
The New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail The New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail was established in 1988 “to provide for public appreciation, education, understanding, and enjoyment” of significant natural and cultural sites associated with the coastal area of the State of New Jersey. The Coastal Heritage Trail is divided into five regions linked by the common heritage of life on the Jersey Shore and Raritan and Delaware bays: Absecon, Barnegat Bay, Cape May, Delsea, and Sandy Hook.

Five themes define different aspects of coastal life: Maritime History, Coastal Habitats, Wildlife Migration, Historic Settlements, and Relaxation and Inspiration. The Maritime History, Coastal Habitats, and Wildlife Migration theme Trails are open to the public. The Historic Settlements and Relaxation & Inspiration themes are still under development.

The trail is intended primarily for vehicular tourism. The Trail extends along coastal New Jersey, from Perth Amboy to Cape May on the Atlantic coast, and west along the Delaware Bay from Cape May to the Delaware Memorial Bridge at Deepwater, New Jersey.

Here are just some of the sites along the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail:

Cumberland County
Delaware Bay Schooner Project
The Schooner Project was founded in 1988 to educate the citizens of the Delaware Estuary watershed about the region's natural resources and maritime culture. The Project owns and operates New Jersey's official Tall Ship, the 1928 Delaware Bay oyster schooner A.J. Meerwald. Its home port is the historic oyster shipping sheds on the Maurice River in Bivalve, which offer a scenic and historic window to the Delaware Bay's past and current oyster industry. The schooner travels from port to port providing educational sails and special on-board programs for school children and the public. The project also maintains the Delaware Bay Museum in Port Norris with exhibits highlighting maritime traditions of the Delaware Bay.

Go to ajmeerwald.org or call 856-785-2060 for more information.

Cape May County
Corson's Inlet State Park
Established in the early 1960s, Corson’s Inlet State Park is one of the few undisturbed stretches of Atlantic coastline left between Atlantic City and Cape May. Enjoy the beach and the coastal dune trail. Look for remnants of marine life washed up on the beach, and watch for beach nesting birds in the spring and summer: piping plovers, black skimmers, and least terns. Migrations of dolphins, ducks, geese, and monarch butterflies also pass through this area every year.

Sun bathing, photography, hiking, and biking are seasonal activities available here. Guided beach walks occur twice each week from the late spring to early fall. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk. Call 609-861-2404 (Belleplain State forest) for more information.

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
This "Great Victorian" lighthouse has guided local mariners along the Jersey Shore since its construction in 1874. Its fourth-order lantern and lens, 53 feet above sea level, was originally a fixed white light but was changed to a flashing red and white light in 1897.

Local volunteer efforts restored the old lighthouse, which permitted the community of North Wildwood to open the station to the public. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. Next door is the old Hereford Inlet Coast Guard Station now operated by the NJ Marine Police.

Call 609-522-4520 for information. There is no charge for Members of the Friends of the Hereford Lighthouse; New Jersey Lighthouse Society; Active members of U.S. Coast Guard. You can tour Both Hereford and Cape May Lighthouse together. Buy combination tickets at Hereford Lighthouse.

Cape May Point State Park
The park is a combination of an ever-changing shoreline, sand dunes, coastal freshwater marsh and ponds, wooded islands and varied uplands. It is perhaps best known as a tranquil area where the visitor may find rest and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Cape May Point is a popular bird-watching site. It is not only a home for many species but also a feeding and resting area for birds migrating south along the Atlantic flyway. Although both spring and fall migrations occur, the fall is the best time to observe songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds, sea birds, and birds of prey.

Cape May Lighthouse is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. It has been an important navigational aid to seagoing mariners since its construction in 1859. The lighthouse is located within Cape May Point State Park at the southern tip of New Jersey.

There is an admission charge for the lighthouse tower, which is operated by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts. Picnicking, beach walking, birding, a museum, and museum shop help round out a visit to this site. WWII coastal defense gun emplacements, now battling the elements of erosion and the encroaching sea, can still be seen here.

The park is open daily from dawn to dusk. The lighthouse is open daily from April to mid-October and weekends from mid-February to March and mid-October to January 1st. It is closed January to mid-February. Visitors are encouraged to call for specific hours of operation during these various periods throughout the year. For more information, call 609-884-2159 for the park 609-884-5404 for the lighthouse.

For more information about the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail and the individual sites along the route, visit the trail’s website here.

The New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail had been an affiliated area of the National Park Service since it was established in 1988. However, because of a sunset clause in the Trail's federal legislation, the NPS lost its legislative authority to be involved in the management of the Trail after September 30, 2011. The NPS made a decision to remove the Trail's individual website (www.nps.gov/neje) and to insert a link that automatically redirected people to the Pinelands website at www.nps.gov/pine (as you discovered). The Pinelands National Reserve is also located in Southern New Jersey and has areas within its boundary that overlap with the Coastal Heritage Trail's project area along both the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic coast of New Jersey. Nearly all of the Trail's destinations are owned and operated by other agencies and organizations. Highway signs still direct visitors to Trail destinations; NPS brochures about the Trail are still being distributed by destinations (as long as supplies last); and visitors will find wayside exhibits created for the Trail at Trail destinations.

For Trail brochures and information, contact New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism, PO Box 820, Trenton, NJ 08625-0820, or call 609-292-2470.

You can also find more information at newjerseycoastalheritagetrail.com.

4/16/15

© SouthJersey.com 2015. All rights reserved. This article or parts thereof may not be reprinted or reproduced by any other party without the express written consent of SouthJersey.com. For more information, please call 856-797-9910.

For an extensive list of South Jersey Attractions, with links to websites and other information, check out our Attractions page.

Information provided by the National Park Service.

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Author: Editorial Staff--SouthJersey.com

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