became popular in the 1920’s as a way to document
vacations at the shore.
Park Service New Jersey Division of Parks & Forestry
THIS EXIT – A ROAD LESS TRAVELED
New Jersey and people think of different things: the
New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State parkway, refineries
and factories, casinos and entertainment, boardwalks
and beaches. All are part of what makes up New Jersey – but
there is more to this state than stereotypes and fleeting
Instead, picture a time about 8,000 years ago when Lenape Indians lived here,
walking trails that later became highways. Envision the young state that
fought for American independence (and the first to sign the Bill of Rights).
Hear the stories of tall ships, lighthouses, shipwrecks, oystering, and coastal
defense. Consider settling in a new town to start a business, express your
faith, or relax for a while. Imagine nature- the crash of waves or splash
of a stream the feel of a southerly breeze, the songs of birds and frogs,
the scents of forests and wildflowers.
Think of these things the next time someone mentions New Jersey. Better yet,
go see for yourself. In 1988 Congress established the New Jersey Coastal
Heritage Trail Route to provide for your appreciation, understanding, and
enjoyment of the cultural and natural sites found along the coastal areas
of New Jersey. Take the time and explore this trail of discovery.
Trade, Navigation, Defense Bounty from the ocean, bays and rivers supported
a brisk maritime industry for centuries. Oystering and fishing trades thrived.
In the 1800s shipwrights used local timber, including the decay-resistant
white cedar, to build a variety of working and sailing vessels. Lighthouses
had operated along the coast since the late 1700s (the 1764 Sandy Hook Lighthouse
is the nations oldest operating light), but more maritime traffic meant more
shipwrecks. Mariners needed better navigational aides. The number of lighthouses
increased, and by the 1890s lifesaving stations were located every 3 ½ miles
along the coast.
Defending the coast and harbors from military attack over the years resulted
in an innovative array of defense systems, including disappearing guns. Their
stories live on at Fort Mott and at Sandy Hook.
Fledgling New Jersey had a lot to offer new settlers and entrepreneurs: bountiful
supplies of fish and marine resources, timber, ample water from a vast aquifer,
agricultural land, and lots of sand - the key ingredient in making glass.
Small villages grew into prosperous communities that provided products to
the growing United States.
Rail transportation introduced in the 1850s bolstered inland industries,
allowing faster delivery of fruits and vegetables and iron, wood, and glass
commodities to eastern cities. You can still visit some of the communities
that gave so much to the rest of the nation. Buy seafood in a 200-year old
fishing village; select fruit from a fourth-generation farm; or watch glassblowers
The New Jersey coast provides vital habitat for many species during their
spring and fall migrations. Some birds fly short distances; but for the millions
that travel thousands of miles, the chance to stop here – eat and regain
strength – is critical to their survival.
A spectacular sight is the spring shorebird migration. During the full moon
in late May and early June hundreds of thousands of helmet-shaped horseshoe
crabs climb ashore along the Delaware Bay where females together lay up to
a billion eggs in shallow pits. Sanderlings, red knots, and other hungry
migrating shorebirds gorge themselves on this delectable food. Fish that
live primarily n the ocean spawn in New Jersey’s bays and salt marshes.
Whales, seals, and dolphins migrate north and south as seasons and water
Butterflies and dragonflies pass through here on their long journeys. Watch
for them in wildlife management areas.
RELAXATION AND INSPIRATION
New Jersey enjoys a proud heritage as a place for those seeking a get-away-
for fun in the sun, spiritual inspiration, or annual hunting and fishing
trips with friends and family. With the introduction of train service in
the 1850s, seaside resorts became popular destinations for city dwellers
eager to get to the beaches and boardwalks. Today, Atlantic city is renowned
for its entertainment and casinos, and seaside towns offer relaxing vacations.
Beginning in the 1600s people seeking an avenue for religious expression
began settling here. Methodists, Quakers, and other religious groups built
year round communities. Summer religious resorts and camp meetings sprang
up, a practice still flourishing. Hunting and sport fishing (a time-honored
tradition since the 1800s) abounds in coastal forests, streams, and marshes.
DESIGNING A LANDSCAPE
Ancient episodes of uplift, volcanic activity, faulting, glaciation, and
erosion created the varied landscape you see along the New Jersey coast today.
The resulting barrier islands, dunes, bays, estuaries, freshwater and salt
marshes, ponds, swamps, bogs, and rivers provide vital breeding areas, nurseries,
habitats, and refuges for plants and animals.
Traveling inland on the Trail you will see several types of forests including:
red maple, ash, birch, and hardwoods that grow in wet, swampy conditions;
white cedars also found in swamps; and pines and oaks in the Pinelands (also
called barrens because other vegetation struggles to survive in the dry,
sandy soil). Forest undergrowth varies, from blueberries, ferns, and insect-eating
pitcher plants around the swamps and bogs to huckleberry thickets in the
Pinelands. All attract birds, so watch and listen for warblers, grouse, nut-hatches,
chickadees, woodpeckers, and owls.
New Jersey’s 245,000 acres of salt marshes are a critical link in the
coastal food chain. Their nutrient-rich muck and greases provide habitat
and food for crabs and other shellfish, baby fish, and shore and wading birds.
Watch for turtles, muskrats, and egrets.
Planning Your Visit to New Jersey Coastal Heritage
The Trail stretches nearly 300 miles along the Atlantic seaboard, Delaware
Bay, and Delaware River. It is divided into five regions: Sandy Hook, Barnegat
Bay, Absecon, Cape May, and Delsea. The Trail is a route of discovery-a journey
along roads less traveled and scenic byways that take you to a New Jersey
Each region has a color-coded regional brochure that
focuses on Trail themes with descriptions of sites, a map of the region,
directions, hours, and phone numbers. Get regional brochures at welcome centers,
staffed sites, and at some local information centers, or write for them.
Find Trail information at 222.nps.gov/neje. Watch for the Trail logo on road
signs and on exhibits at Trail destinations.
SANDY HOOK REGION
You can escape the big city bustle in the Sandy Hook Region. Relaxing on
a quiet beach is one way, but why not try something new? You can visit the
highest point on the Eastern Seaboard-Mount Mitchill at 266 feet above sea
level. At Ocean Grove, the first religious resort established on the shore,
you will get a glimpse of camp meeting life. Families live in tiny structures:
canvas tents with porch and sleeping and living area on a platform; a wooden
shed with kitchen and bath in back. Nearby is the 6,000-seat Great Auditorium.
BARNEGAT BAY REGION
Along the Atlantic coast of Barnegat Bay a ribbon of barrier islands absorbs
the force of pounding waves and helps protect developed areas from the perils
of storms and flood waters. Communities here reflect their seafaring history
and love of the ocean. Long Beach Island offers 18 miles of sand and sea.
It is worth the trip up the 217 steps of the Barnegat Lighthouse for a bird’s-eye
view of Island Beach State Park and the inlet. At Double Trouble State Park
you can see the Pinelands, cedar swaps, and an 1800s village with a sawmill
and cranberry-packing plant.
ABSECON AND CAPE MAY REGIONS
Each fall the Cape May peninsula acts as a funnel, concentrating millions
of migratory birds, including about 60,000 raptors (birds of prey), as they
cross Delaware Bay. Spring migration is not a spectacular, but you may see
some birds already donning their colorful breeding plumage as they stop to
reenergize before flying to summer breeding grounds. Absecon and Cape May
regions have more than birdwatching. Here New Jersey offered many firsts
to the nation: boardwalks, saltwater taffy, Miss America, and Lucy, a 65-foot-tall
It is quiet in the Delsea Region. Small towns dot the landscape, and vast
fields of vegetables and flowers give credence to New Jersey as the Garden
State. This bayshore area is perfect for a picnic or a hike along a stream.
Stop in Salem to see the 400-year-old white oak. The Religious Society of
Friends (Quakers) has owned the tree and Friends Burial Ground since 1681.
At Fort Mott State Park you can see an 1896 fort; its 750-foot-long parapets
protected cannon from enemy ships on the Delaware River.
Safety and Regulations
is a vehicular trail, and that means roads. Motor vehicle
laws are strictly enforced. Regulations differ among
areas managed by federal, state, local, and private agencies.
It is your responsibility to know the regulations.
Park Partners and AdministrationNew Jersey
Coastal Heritage Trail Route is developed cooperatively by
the National Park Service New Jersey Division of Parks & Forestry.
The Pinelands Commission, New Jersey Office of Travel and Tourism,
and other federal, state, local, and private organizations
working together to preserve New Jersey’s natural and
cultural heritage. The Trail continues to develop themes and
sites for each region. Eventually each region will have a welcome
center with information, films, and exhibits.
For Regional Brochures and Information:
Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route
Newport, NJ 08345
Jersey Office of Travel and Tourism
PO Box 820
Trenton, NJ 08625-0820