The Ultimate Guide to Island Beach State Park

island beach state park at sunrise

Who knew some of the most pristine and undeveloped beaches in the northeast are right here in New Jersey?

Island Beach State Park offers 10 miles of gorgeous white sand beaches, and yes, the sand really is white! Sometimes I can’t even tell if my photos were taken in the winter or summer.

The park is one of the most popular in the state and attracts approximately one million visitors a year.

There are a wide variety of fun activities at the park! You can engage in photography, fishing, biking, surfing, birding, kayaking and hiking to name a few.

 For those of you in the know, you’re well aware of this park, but for the rest of you, here is some of my personal feedback and insight into the park for planning a visit. 

Getting to the Park and Entrance

You’ll have a hard time getting lost even without a GPS. Do you know how to get to Seaside or anywhere on the barrier island? Okay, drive south on 35 and it’s at the end of the road.

ISBP collects entrance fees year-round, but if you plan on going more than a few times a year it’s worth purchasing a yearly pass for your vehicle, it’s only $50 per car for NJ residents. The pass can be used at any NJ State Park that collects entrance fees, have more than one vehicle there is also a discount for that. 

Fees for entrance to IBSP.

If you’re interested in driving your 4×4 on the beach, you can do that at IBSP with the mobile fishing permit. Make sure you review the requirements prior to attempting to purchase your permit and let it be known that you must be actively fishing and not just parked relaxing on the beach. I saw the Rangers/State Park Police enforcing this quite a bit this past summer.

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

Since Island Beach State Park is such a popular summer destination it fills to capacity on a regular basis during the summer months.

Want to make sure you get in even on the busiest days? Make sure you arrive before 10AM to guarantee admittance. The park does a good 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!

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