The Ultimate Guide to Island Beach State Park

island beach state park at sunrise

Island Beach State Park is one of New Jersey’s greatest treasures.

The pristine barrier island is located on the Jersey Shore in Ocean County, with over 10 miles of white-sand beaches where visitors have plenty of space to enjoy outdoor activities. The park also has tons of diverse habitats, from saltwater marshes and woodlands to freshwater ponds, that are home to hundreds of unique wildlife species.

The history of Island Beach State Park is an interesting one. The story started in the early 20th century when it was used as a hunting and fishing resort. It was acquired by New Jersey and turned into a state park in the 1930s. Since then, it has been open as a public recreational area.

Today, the well-maintained park features boardwalks, nature trails, lighthouses, and more for visitors to enjoy. The park is one of the most popular in the state and attracts approximately one million visitors annually. 

IBSP is a peaceful and secluded retreat with plenty of opportunities to connect with nature or soak up the sun.

Planning a trip to IBSP? Continue reading for an in-depth guide on the best attractions, activities, and insider tips for parking and beach access.

Credit: Angry Fish Gallery

Getting Island Beach State Park Entrance

Navigating Island Beach State Park is relatively easy, even without a GPS. Most visitors find getting lost on their way to the park’s entrance difficult.

The directions are similar to Seaside or anywhere on the barrier island. The parking lot is located at the end of the road after driving South on 35.

ISBP collects entrance fees year-round, but in 2022, the fees were waived for visitors. We recommend checking out their fees page for the most recently updated information regarding the entrance price.

Are you allowed to drive on Island Beach State Park?

Driving a 4×4 on the beach is also allowed, with some exceptions. Island Beach State Park can be explored by car with a mobile fishing permit. It’s essential to review the requirements before attempting to purchase a permit, and important to note that active fishing is required. The State Park Police strictly enforce this rule (even more so in recent years).

Here’s the list of requirements. It’s quite long, but it will be worth it!

Since Island Beach State Park is a popular summer destination, it regularly fills during summer. The beach occasionally closes on popular days, so getting there early is essential.

To secure a spot even on the busiest days, travelers should get there before 10 AM to guarantee admittance. The park does an excellent job of making everyone aware of their status via signage soon after crossing the Mathis Bridge, mobile alerts and on their Facebook page.

Visit Governor’s Mansion

Oh wait… you can’t. If you want to have access to your own mansion at IBSP, that’ll only happen if you become governor of the state.

This mansion was the scene of the infamous “Beachgate” scandal during Chris Christie’s tenure as governor.

Everything You Need to Know About the Beaches

The first two beaches (Beach 1 and Beach 2) you’ll come to are guarded during the swimming months. Each also has a pavilion with the necessary services and facilities.

After Beaches 1 and 2,  you’ll find 21 more entrances — each has a small roadside parking lot and a scenic walk to reach the oceanfront.

The main advantage to them other than avoiding the large crowds is you can bring your dog! My dog and many others absolutely love going to the beach.

Please note: Beaches 3-21 are not guarded and you technically need a flotation device, such as a boogie board or surfboard to be in the water.

Beach path 12 or 13 is home to the Judge’s Shack — one of the most photographed parts of the park.

Check out the park map for more areas to explore. The possibilities are endless!

Don’t Forget the Bayside

Although most visitors to the park stick to the oceanside, there is a rich ecosystem of its own on the bayside.

From the southern tip of the park and several bayside trails, you can see Barnegat Lighthouse (the most photographed lighthouse in New Jersey!).

Wander down some of the bayside trails and perhaps you’ll catch sight of some wildlife, including, but not limited to Great Egrets, Blue Heron, Ospreys, Falcons and more! Come at the right time of day/year and perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of a Snowy Owl or Fox at the park.

Visit the Nature Center

Did you know Island Beach was the test site of a former secret military weapon, named Project Bumblee?

Learn more about it and other great historic and environmental facts about the park by visiting the Nature Center at the southern end of the park.

The Nature Center runs summer programs for all ages, including; kayaking, fishing, and hikes, just to name a few. More on their programs here.

Volunteering at the Park

For those looking to become more involved in the park, be sure to check out Friends of Island Beach State Park, a non-profit volunteer organization formed to enhance interpretive, educational, recreational & research programs, and events at the park.

What an amazing way to give back to New Jersey!

I hope this article helps you to enjoy Island Beach State Park as much as I do, please be sure to have a memorable visit!

If you’re staying on Long Beach Island, explore our guide to get the most out of your visit!

NJspots is a growing community. By sharing you can help.

Share on facebook
Share It!
Share on twitter
Tweet It!
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on pinterest
Pin It!

One Response

  1. Great guide! Awesome photos too. Haven’t been there in a while, but I think I’ll make my way very soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shared Every Week

Discover The Best Spots of New Jersey