Updated: Jul 8, 2021
There may be taller lighthouses (Absecon Lighthouse) on the Jersey Shore. There may be older lighthouses (Sandy Hook Lighthouse) on the Jersey Shore. But Old Barney is arguably the most picturesque.
It stands as a proud sentry to Barnegat Inlet that separates Long Beach Island from Island Beach State Park and the northern part of Jersey Shore. From the water or from the beach, there is no mistaking the red and white beacon in the distance. While it isn't used by the Coast Guard for navigation purposes, since 2009 with the help of the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, a Coast Guard-approved lens on the lighthouse was installed. It creates a single beam that is visible for up to 22 nautical miles.
The lighthouse is the focal point of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park at the northern edge of Long Beach Island. It's where all island-long walks of LBI should begin. It faces a much larger, lengthier state park, Island Beach State Park, across the inlet. Read more about the island that isn't an island here.
In the fall and the spring, migrating birds find safe havens with two state parks on either side of the inlet.
(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.)
Ask anyone who vacations or lives on Long Beach Island and they will tell you that that island doesn't have a Boardwalk. The state park counters that notion with LBI's only waterfront promenade that's about 1/3 of a mile long from Old Barney east along the inlet. Beyond the promenade, the jetty continues for another half mile. Fishermen are well aware that this is the prime spot of fishing on LBI.
Although the state park is relatively small as state parks go, it still features the widest and least populated beach on LBI. And it's free! Visitors who stop at the lighthouse ought to schedule time to walk all the way out to the beach and enjoy the sea air and wildlife.
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Forget what they tell you - LBI is more than 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 concrete, LBI is 18 miles of road. But adding this northern section with its wide beach to the three miles of the Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Refuge on the southern tip, the sum is 21 miles long.
Check out the online pedometer and measure it for yourself!
History of the Barnegat Inlet and the Lighthouse
Long before there was lighthouse, Barnegat Inlet was an important point of reference for ships traveling along the East Coast.
In 1609, English explorer Henry Hudson described the Barnegat Bay and Barnegat Inlet: "The mouth of the lake hath many shoals, and the sea breaketh on them as it is cast out of the mouth of it." Then the Dutch came along and gave the inlet a name -- "Barendegat" or "Inlet of the Breakers" referring to turbulent water. Eventually, the name morphed to Barnegat.
As indicated by the marker at the lighthouse (see photo above), the inlet was the site of a massacre after the Revolutionary War was largely considered concluded. A group of men still loyal to the English Crown ambushed milita lead by Captain Andrew Steelman.
The original inlet lighthouse was built in 1834. At 40-feet tall and built too close to the water, the lighthouse was replaced in 1856 with a design provided by Army engineer George Meade, who later played an important role as general in the Union Army during the Civil War. The lighthouse is really two towers in one: the exterior tower covers a cylindrical tower on the inside.
Tips for Visiting Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
What's New: Unfortunately the lighthouse is still closed due to Covid restrictions. No official word on re-opening.
Access and Parking: The only route to the State Park is via Broadway and Central Avenue in Barnegat Light. Central Avenue is known as Long Beach Boulevard on most of the island.
There is a free parking lot.
Amenities: There are restrooms near the lighthouse.
This spring, summer and fall, 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, the length of Long Beach Island from Old Barney to the Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, from Brigantine to Cape May.
Next stop: Barnegat Light on Long Beach Island at Jersey Shore Walk Mile post 51. See profiles of Island Beach State Park, South Seaside Park Seaside Park and other towns and beaches on the northern part of the Jersey Shore at www.jerseyshorewalk.com