If you live on or visit Long Beach Island, now is your opportunity to escape from the world and walk three and half miles of the Jersey Shore that is off limits most of the spring and summer. With the piping plover chicks hatched and grown, the Edwin Forysth Wildlife Refuge has taken down the sign and the barriers to the Holgate Wilderness Beach that were erected March 31.
Beach walkers, surfers and fishermen now have full access to more than 400 acres of barrier beaches, dunes and tidal salt marsh.
The thinest of peninsulas on this barrier island offers spectacular views of Atlantic City to the south and across the dunes and the Little Egg Inlet to the Rutgers University Marine Field Station, a working lab across in the Mullica River-Great Bay estuary.
For the first half of the walk, the peninsula is so thin that you can easily walk from the ocean to the bay including an official clamming trail. When it seems that the beach is about to end, the peninsula widens so the bay is no longer easily accessed.
(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.)
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Holgate is one of the last nesting sites still available for these birds along the Jersey Shore. During the nesting season––April 1 through August 31––Holgate is closed to all public access, to ensure undisturbed nesting conditions for threatened piping plovers and other beachnesters.
The plovers are enjoying the beach, particularly the beaches nearest to the jetty.
Surf break at the end of Long Beach Township
The metal jetty that's close to the Wildlife Refuge creates one of the best surf breaks on the island. Bring your surf gear from Ron Jon's in Ship Bottom and head here for the some of the biggest waves of the season.
The photo below was taken on the day that Hurricane Larry produced incredible waves at the beach and every surfer on the island rushed to Holgate..
The metal jetty that's close to the Wildlife Refuge creates a good surf break. Bring your surf gear from Ron Jon's in Ship Bottom and head here for the some of the biggest waves of the season. The photo above was taken on the day that Hurricane Larry produced incredible waves at the beach and every surfer on the island rushed to Holgate..
Don't let anyone tell you LBI is 18 miles long
The conventional wisdom is that LBI is 18 miles long. But apparently this notion was begun by the road crews who paved the first road from Old Barney to Holgate to the south. As measured by the concrete road from Old Barney parking lot to Holgate, LBI is 18 miles.
No one counts the three miles from Holgate to the southern tip of the island. I venture to say that miles 19-21 on the island are one of the top two or three attractions on the island.
Tips for visiting the Wildlife Refuge
What's New: The barriers are down.
Access and Parking: To reach the Holgate Wilderness Beach, head south on Long Beach Boulevard. There's a free parking lot at the southern tip of Long Beach Boulevard at Cleveland Avenue.
Amenities: At Cleveland Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard, there's a beach pavilion with restrooms and showers.
Beaches: Free. Vehicles are permitted but permits are required from Long Beach Township.
This spring, summer and fall, Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab walked the entire 139 miles of the Jersey Shore coastline from Sandy Hook to Island Beach State Park, the length of Long Beach Island from Old Barney to the Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, from Brigantine to Cape May.
See profiles of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, every beach and town on the northern part of the Jersey Shore, Long Beach Island and South Jersey at www.jerseyshorewalk.com