Cape May Beach Walks: Higbee Beach in Winter
Higbee Beach is unlike any other place in the Cape May area. It's both beach and dune forest - the only state wildlife management area south of the Cape May Canal.
It's a perfect spot for an early winter walk.
Start in the parking lot at the end of New England Road, just a stone's throw from the Delaware Bay.
Meander along a wooded trail that opens up into a vast expanse of wild meadow filled with ghostly white goldenrod seed heads and a million chirping sparrows, hiding in the brush.
In the spring and early fall, you'd be sharing this path with dozens of birders gawking at thousands of migrating birds. Now, dozens of Cedar Waxwings perch on a nearby cedar tree and gawk at you.
Before you think this is just a walk in the woods, think again. As you keep walking, you'll notice the path slowly changes from hard earth to soft sand.
That's right - you're now walking through sand dunes. (The photo on the left looks like snow but it's all sand.)
It's not the kind of sand dune you see when you go to the beach. These dunes are small hills covered with wind beaten cedars and hollies and pitch pines - some bayberries as well.
You can walk for almost a mile through a valley of sand. It feels like a pristine wilderness and it is.
These are the remnants of what used to be a gigantic dune forest that covered all of the South Jersey coast. (Why do you think they call it Wildwood?)
But, wait, you say, a beach walk is supposed to be along a beach. Yes, we're getting to that.
Once you pass Davy's Lake, a beautiful hidden pond, you'll be almost at the edge of the Delaware Bay.
Turn a corner and there it is - peaking out from behind the dunes.
Once you round the bend and hit the beach, you'll be facing north, with the wide expanse of the Delaware Bay on your left and a straight shot of empty beach ahead of you.
Walking on sand is hard work - good for your leg muscles- and you have some more walking ahead of you.
This last part is easy - it's the payoff for all that trekking through the sand dune paths.
Pick up some pebbles and skip them along the surface of the water.
Then enjoy an easy half mile or so down the beach. You might see some coyote or deer tracks in the sand and an occasional hawk overhead. Bonaparte's Gulls and loons hang out near shore during the winter.
Eventually, there will be a path on the right that takes you back to the parking lot.
You could have come that way to start with - but then look at all you would have missed.
Higbee Beach, you see, is so much more than just a beach.
Note: There are several miles of trails through the Higbee Beach Widllife Management Area. A walk like the one from the parking area through the dunes and back along the beach is about 2 miles long and requires up to about 90 minutes. Stay on the marked trails to avoid harming the sparsely vegetated dunes. Higbee Beach is a treasure to be protected and enjoyed wisely.