Updated: Jun 17, 2021
Ortley Beach is barely one square mile so it's easy to breeze through it coming off the Route 37 bridge over the Barnegat Bay or driving through Lavallette. But for Toms River residents, it's the township's only public beach.
Ortley is separated from the main area of Toms River by the water and from North Dover Beaches/Toms River Township by Lavallette. Unfortunately, instead of just calling the area Ortley Beach, Toms River still sometimes refers to the area as Dover Beaches South. The challenges of being a mapmaker are clear along Barnegat Island.
Along the beach, there's a boardwalk that is interrupted by undeveloped beachfront property. However, there's parking right along most of the Oceanfront road.
(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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Like Bay Head to the north, Ortley Beach was battered by the January storms this year. Almost a half a million dollars was spent in beach and dune restoration in the late spring
Barnegat Bay is so long and wide that fishermen and boaters were always looking for a quick way in from and out to the ocean along the thin Barnegat Island. Inlets came and went with major storms. One such inlet was the Cranberry Inlet which is roughly where Ortley Beach meets Seaside Heights.
An entertaining passage from Old Times in Old Monmouth details that the Cranberry Inlet probably "broke through about 1750." It served as an important place during the American Revolution as rebels hid there after attacking British vessels headed to New York. The inlet "closed about the year 1812," and efforts were made by local landowner Michael Ortley to re-open it. The writer explains:
"He worked at it off and on for several years and spent considerable money in the undertaking. At length one day a large company of men volunteered to aid him in completing the enterprise. In the evening after finishing it, Mr. Ortley and his friends had quite a merry time in celebrating the completion of the work. But great was their disappointment the following morning to find that the running of the tide, which they had supposed would work the inlet deeper, had, on the contrary, raised a bulkhead of sand sufficiently large to close it up, and the result was the inlet was closed much more expeditiously than it was opened."
Ortley nevertheless triumphed in a different way
While Michael Ortley never did reopen the Cranberry Inlet, his family name carries on. Michael W. Ortley was a developer in the area. A tract purchased from him eventually became the Borough of Lavallette immediately to the north. (Ironically, Ortley Avenue sits in Lavallette, not Ortley Beach.)
For many years, there was an Ortley Inn, opened by Arthur Lord where the present Lord House Lifeguard Station stands. The Inn burned down in 1922. Lord built a single family home at the beach where it remained until after a major storm in 1962. The family's long association with the area is noted in the naming of the Lifeguard Station.
Tips for Visiting Ortley Beach
What's New: New sand and rebuilt dunes at the beach.
Access and Parking: The only way to access Ortley Beach is along busy Route 35 from Lavallette to the north or from Seaside Heights to the south. Route 35 is divided into a north and south section, separated by an "island" of homes and businesses in the middle. Street parking is free including the municipal lot at 3rd Avenue and the beach.
Amenities: There are restrooms and outdoor showers.
Beaches: There are two walkways that are interrupted by several large buildings along the beachfront so a person has to walk up and down several times. Beach badges are required for access to all beaches. Full season badges are $60; weekly badges are $35. For people 62 years old or over, a lifetime beach badge is only $15. Daily badges are $10 Monday through Friday and $11 on weekends and holidays. No cost for people under the age of 12.
Beach buggies are permitted October 1 through May 14 with a $25 permit issued through the township.
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 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: Seaside Heights at Jersey Shore Walk Mile post 39. See profiles of Lavalette, North Dover Beaches (the other one), Brick Beaches, Mantoloking, Bay Head, Pt. Pleasant Beach and other Jersey Shore Walk beach towns at www.jerseyshorewalk.com