Island Beach is one of the last few places on the north Atlantic coast with such an undeveloped shoreline. Legend has it that the land has remained pretty much untouched since Henry Hudson first waved to it in 1609. Freshwater wetlands, maritime forests, and tidal marshes all offer habitat to more than 400 species of plants, as well as wildlife like foxes, owls, piping plovers, and New Jersey’s largest osprey colony. Chances are, you’ll see at least one of these animals roaming around during your visit.
While most Jersey beaches are notorious for imposing crazy restrictions, like no picnics, you can pretty much do it all here. Pay the $10 per-car fee ($20 for non-NJ-residents on weekends) and you’re free to surf, run your dog, ride bikes, fish, grill, and even ride horses. The unique structure of the island calls for a variety of activity: “You have the bayside, so you can go and take kayaks out there,” Perry says, “Or you can bird watch from nearby Sedge Island.”