The first day of school is looming in our thoughts these days. If you are you heading to the Shore one more time before bidding farewell to summer, we have 7 interesting, educational, unique, and just plain fun destinations for you to visit. There’s still time to build those summertime memories!
Once a prosperous oystering town, the tiny hamlet of Bivalve is home to the Rutgers shellfish research laboratory, The Bayshore Center and the Delaware Bay Museum is a unique place where you can step back in time to the 1920’s and visit the thriving oyster industry of Maurice River Cove. Exhibits there engage visitors in the living history of the Delaware Bay through hands-on, interactive, and inquiry-based exhibits. Bivalve is also home to New Jersey's official tall ship, the A. J. Meerwald(see photo above) which offers programs and sailing adventures not to be missed. Bivalve's salt marsh provides a vital habitat for plants and animals, including migrating birds and spawning species. Enjoy 5 miles of walkways, birding sites, observation platforms, and the best sunsets ever! Bivalve is well worth exploring.
South Cape May Meadows Preserve – a birder’s dream!
Did you know that one of the prime viewing spots for birding on the east coast is right here in New Jersey? At South Cape May Meadows in West Cape May and Lower Township you’ll find 200 acres of dunes, wetlands, meadows, and a mile of protected beach. Bear in mind that beach use is restricted to nature viewing only from March 15-August 31. The trails are marked if you want to stroll on your own, but you might want to consider a guided walk offered by the New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory. Make sure to bring along your binoculars!
Pack a picnic and head to New Jersey’s first marine conservation zone! Sedge Island is a bit of Eden right in the middle of the Barnegat Bay. Visit the Sedge Island Natural Resource Education Center and learn about the uniqueness of the area, including the fact that the island is a protection site for the diamondback terrapin that breeds there. Kayaking tours, marsh walking, birding, crabbing and clamming, and no crowds, no noise, no traffic. What could be better?
Mantoloking Bridge County Park
This two-and-a-half-acre park has been beautifully reconstructed after being hit by Hurricane Sandy and is a lovely place for the family to spend the day picnicking, fishing, crabbing, and enjoying park activities. You can avoid the summertime crush at the Shore and enjoy the awesome waterfront views, 70- foot long pier, boardwalk and gazebo. This is a beautiful place to quietly spend some family time before summer’s end. The park is located on the Brick side of the bridge over Barnegat Bay leading into Mantoloking.
The Giant Wheel, Wildwood
Visible from the Garden State Parkway, Wildwood’s Giant Wheel stands 15 stories high and is illuminated with 92,400 lights. It was delivered by boat 33 years ago, originating from Holland. There are, of course, many other rides on the pier, but the Giant Wheel can’t be overlooked. The best time to ride is at night, when you’ll rise far above the crowds and enjoy the magnificent vista. Might as well enjoy some sugary funnel cake while you’re there!
Is it a whale? An antique rocket ship?
For a really different destination, head to Sea Girt and visit the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey. That 28-foot-long concrete egg-shaped vehicle is an actual hand-cranked submarine, planned to be the great secret weapon of the Civil War. It’s certainly the oddest vessel to be found there, but in the collection, you’ll also find an amphibious Jeep vehicle, the only automobile to have circumnavigated the globe.
Everyone knows about the Cape May Lighthouse and Old Barney on LBI, but the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey is the Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City. It’s the only lighthouse in the state with its original first-order Fresnel lens. Visitors can climb the 228 steps to get to the top and there they’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking 360-degree panorama. The Absecon Lighthouse is 171 feet tall, 161 years old, and remains the third tallest lighthouse in the US.
So there you have it! Seven great ideas for unique places to visit with your family before you getting back into school-mode. Check out their individual websites for more information, including fun educational programs and creative opportunities. Have fun making memories!