At the southern end of Diamond Beach, all people and vehicle are prohibited from entering the most beautiful section of the island that comprises the Wildwoods. Two Mile Beach which is comprised of one mile of Cape May Wildlife National Refuge and one mile of the U.S. Coast Guard's station is off limits due to nesting birds for the remainder of the summer. On October 1, the beach will re-open and then closed again April 1, 2023 for bird nesting next summer.
What's going on here? In short, for the first mile, birds are nesting on the beach and for the second mile, the Coast Guard doesn't want people to be access their buildings on the northern side of the Cape May Inlet.
This wide beach is a perfect place to return after October 1 to walk the wide, flat beach, observe migrating shore birds and enjoy a quiet fall weekend. Here's how to enjoy that weekend.
NOTE: All photos below were taken in October 2021 when the beach was open.
Trails from the parking lot
There are several trails that begin at the Two Mile beach parking lot about a half mile south of Diamond Beach. The access to the lot is from Ocean Drive on a tiny street called the USCG Entrance Street, a few feet from Madison Avenue in Diamond Beach, separated by a fence. It looks foreboding but drive south toward the Coast Guard Station and look for the parking lot on the left. The parking lots are accessible now but the beach is closed.
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Two Mile Landing Restaurants
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The trails from the parking lot wind toward the beach, reaching the ocean at either a point a half mile south of Diamond Beach or where the Cape May Wildlife National Refuge meets the Coast Guard beach.For bird watchers, there is a good lookout spot on the ridge by the beach just south of Diamond Beach (see above).
The next few weeks are ideals times to visit this area as migratory birds head south for the winter and often stop at the southern tip of the island.
Coast Guard section of the Beach is a "NO" -- sort of
The beach in front of the U.S. Coast Guard station was open to military personnel and veterans for years. But according to the Coast Guard, there are no plans to allow anyone to access the beach at any time during the year.
However, despite the signs that say "No" along the beach and more ominous "off limits" signs along the trails, when Two Mile Beach is open, people regularly walk past the "no" sign to the northern point of the Cape May Inlet. During a boat ride along the Cape May Inlet last fall, I observed people walking on the Coast Guard section to the jetty.
Be warned, even after October 1, the beach is officially off limits. Walk along it at your own risk.
Role of the National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1989, Cape May National Wildlife Refuge provides critical habitat to a wide variety of migratory birds and other wildlife especially important with the ongoing development of the Jersey Shore. Cape May Peninsula's unique configuration and location concentrate songbirds, raptors and woodcock as they head for their fall migration or arrive in the spring on their way north. Faced with 12 miles of water to cross at the Delaware Bay, the bird stop to rest and feed until favorable winds allow them to cross the Bay or head north along the Bay's eastern shore.
The Two Mile Beach Unit has tidal ponds and a maritime forest that's an important habitat for piping plover, the state endangered least tern and the American black duck.
Two Mile beach's name
No one knows exactly who named the beach, but it's been on mariner maps for literally hundreds of years. It predates the naming of most towns on the Jersey Shore.
Wikipedia wrongly lists Two Mile as a unique barrier island, which it was until 1922 when Turtle Gut Inlet was closed by the force of Mother Nature. At this point, Two Mile Beach was connected to what people called Five Mile Beach. Not trusting Mother Nature to re-open the channel, no one ever changed the island's name to Seven Mile Beach, probably because there was already the Seven Mile Beach farther north consisting of Stone Harbor and Avalon.
Two Mile Beach today shares an island that includes The Wildwoods and Diamond Beach.
Ironically, Two Mile Beach is less well know than wildly popular and heavily promoted Two Mile Landing Restaurants across Ocean Avenue on the bay which takes their name from the beach.
Note that the Wildwoods is a marketing short-cut to reference the communities on the island: North Wildwood, Wildwood, West Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, Diamond Beach, Two Mile Beach and the Coast Guard station at the southern tip. Also note that Wildwood Gables is not a separate town but a neighborhood of Wildwood Crest.
Tips for visiting Two Mile Beach
What's New: Nothing new to report.
Access and Parking: The main access to the area is by taking Ocean Drive from Cape May. At the first road on your right toward the ocean, follow the signs for United State Coast Guard Entrance. Before reaching the gates to the Coast Guard station, make a left into the parking lot where you access trials and the beach. You can also reach the area by driving from Diamond Beach/Wildwood Crest along Pacific Avenue or by walking on the beach via Diamond Beach.
Parking is free in the lot off the Coast Guard road.
Follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he recounts his 2021 walk of every beach along the 139 miles of the Jersey Shore coastline from Sandy Hook to Cape May. Read all updated stories at www.JerseyShoreWalk.com.