Corson's Inlet: Peaceful in OC, Tensions in Strathmere. Free Beach. Free Parking (Limited).
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.
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.
(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.
How Corson's Inlet got its name
Corsons Inlet was named for the settlers John and Peter Corson, who were whalers in Cape May and along the Jersey Shore in the late 1600s. Corson's Inlet State Park was established in 1969 to help protect and preserve one of the last undeveloped tracts of land along the state's oceanfront.
Note that the waterway is called Corson Inlet, but the name of the state park is Corson's Inlet.
Tips for visiting Corson's Inlet State Park
What's New: Nothing
Access and Parking: Corson's Inlet State Park spans both sides of Corson Inlet including the southern end of the barrier island that includes Ocean City and the northern end of the barrier island that includes Strathmere and Sea Isle City.
In Ocean City, follow Central Avenue south until it ends. There is metered parking near the beach. To access the free parking lot, take Bay Avenue toward Strathmere. Just before the Bay Avenue bridge to Strathmere/Upper Township, there is a parking lot on the east side of the road. Parking is very limited but free only in this lot.
In Strathmere, there is beach access at the northern end of Commonwealth Avenue. Parking is limited but free through the Strathmere section of Upper Township.
Amenities: There are portable toilets at the parking lot off of Bay Avenue.
This spring and summer, follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he walks the entire 139 miles of the Jersey Shore coastline from Sandy Hook to Island Beach State Park, Long Beach Island from Old Barney to the Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Refuge and from Brigantine to Cape May.
Next stop: Strathmere/Upper Township at Jersey Shore Walk Mile post 98. See profiles of Ocean City, Longport, Margate, Ventnor and Atlantic City and every beach and town along the Jersey Shore at www.jerseyshorewalk.com