Apr 02, 2021

My Visit To Island Beach State Park

By: Julia Mortimer

In the winter months, it is a continuous battle trying to stay active and finding outdoor activities that don’t involve frostbite. I’ve found that staying at home the majority of days, with a repetitive routine, has been quite mundane. I woke up to a surprisingly warm day as winter turned to spring, so I decided to take advantage of it and drive to Island Beach State Park! I had never been to the spot before, but the beautiful scenic photos I had seen have certainly sparked my interest. 

The state park is described as a narrow barrier island spanning 10 miles between the Atlantic Ocean and the historical Barnegat Bay. 

“Island Beach is one of New Jersey’s last significant remnants of a barrier island ecosystem that once existed along much of the coast and is also one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches on the north Atlantic coast,” according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

I hit the road around 9 am, stopping at Coffee Corral in Red Bank for a New Orleans hot coffee before hopping onto the Garden State Parkway. I headed southbound toward the strip of shore towns. Once I got off the parkway exit, onto Route 37 East, the beachy ambiance began to express itself. Docks and fish supply stores line the sides of the highway, along with seafood restaurants and local pizza joints. 

When I entered Seaside Heights, I instantly felt as though I was on a beach vacation. I admired the beautiful homes painted in light shades of blue, decorated with coastal trinkets while I sailed down Central Avenue with the windows down. I love to glance down each side street because you can just see Barnegat Bay at the end peaking over the end of the pavement. 

I finally reached Island Beach State Park, paying the $5 fee to enter. It is such a breathtaking park, just driving straight down with the smell of the ocean flooding my car. It was a 65-degree day, one that had to be taken advantage of amid the endless 30-degree days we had this winter. 

I parked in one of the many beach access lots, strolling along the wooden walkway toward the ocean. I was pleasantly surprised at how vast the beach area was. It was immaculately clean and looked completely untouched. The water was a crisp blue, as the waves rolled onto the shore. It felt as though I had just wondered upon this beach before civilization discovered it. I laid a blanket down, sat down and opened up my current read, “Where the Crawdads Sing.”

After reading while getting continuously distracted by the beauty of the beach, I decided to head home. As I drove down the parkway, pretending it was a summer day, I naturally began craving a burrito – as one does. Wracking my brain for some great local restaurants, I remembered a new Mexican street food spot had just opened in Fair Haven called Dos Banditos.

I pulled over and placed my order online, a quick and easy process. Daydreaming about my burrito as I drove down the parkway toward Fair Haven, I finally arrived at the quaint restaurant. I eagerly picked up my chicken burrito with guacamole. Since the sun was still shining, I decided to pull my car up to a boat ramp near the Navesink River and eat my takeout while admiring the scenery. 

I found it so important to take advantage of the sporadic warm day that graced us as winter weather still lingered. Something seemingly trivial, such as visiting a new beach and trying a new restaurant, was just what I needed to spruce up my mundane winter routine.