Corson's Inlet: Peaceful in OC, Tensions in Strathmere. Free Beach. Free Parking (Limited).

Ocean City section of Corson's Inlet State Park. All photos by R.C. Staab

Regular joggers and walkers in Ocean City know that the best way to escape the summer Ocean City crowds is to head south to Corson's Inlet State Park for its wide beaches that attract more shore birds than people. South from 59th Street in Ocean City, the parkland is undeveloped with no roads and two natural trials. With a paucity of nearby parking, no more than a dozen or so people will be laying out in the sun once you've walked 100 feet into the park.

Strathmere Natural Area of state park

Unusual for state land at the Shore, the state park extends across Corson Inlet to Strathmere in Upper Township where the noise level and the crowds increase. That's a problem for some people.

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Concerns about crowds and noise in Strathmere section

Unlike the park beach across the inlet, the Strathmere Natural Area of the park allows boaters to moor right off shore. Even on a weekday in the summer, there are boats, jet skis, kayaks and canoes whizzing back and forth among families wading and swimming at the calming bayside/inlet beach.

Earlier this year, Upper Township Committeeman Curtis Corson -- a descendant of the settlers for which the inlet is named -- met with state park officials, asking them to address what he considers a lack of enforcement of excessive alcohol consumption. He said the state promised to fix the signs on the Strathmere side of the park and look into the landing of boats on the beach, which gets crowded on summer weekends.

Bayside beach closed for the season

Throughout most of the year, there is an exceptional opportunity to do a loop walk around the park. Start at the Bay Avenue parking, following the trails to the southern end of Ocean City, and then return south following the peninsula along the ocean and then north along the bayside beach back to the parking lot.

For the rest of the summer, however, the beach is partially blocked to protect the least tern, the piping plover and other species that are nesting.

Popular bayside section for fishing

(From the vantage point of the beachfront or boardwalk, this is a breezy overview of what you see, where to park and beach access, plus a bit or history and the latest happenings. See map below.)

Free except for boat launches

From the boat ramp by the Bay Avenue bridge, people can launch large motor boats, sailboats, sailboards, stand-up paddle boards (SUP), jet skis and canoes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, NJ residents pay a $12 daily launch fee or $60 for the season. Non-residents pay $20 daily or $80 for the season.

For those looking to launch a paddle board or canoe for free, the state park employee overseeing the boat ramp suggested parking in the informal lot on the island across the bridge.