Beach Walks: Cape May National Wildlife Refuge

By Paul Kerlinger
Outdoors Columnist

Get there after March 31st and you'll have to wait until October.

The Cape May National Wildlife Refuge beach in Wildwood Crest is one of the last remaining undeveloped beaches in New Jersey.

But the beautiful beaches are closed to people from April to the end of September..

That's because the Two Mile Beach Unit of the Refuge shelters beach birds like piping plover and least tern during the spring and summer months.

Get there between October 1 through March 31 and you can enjoy the solitude and beauty of one of the least visited beaches in the state.

The 507 acres national preserve is in Wildwood Crest at the U.S. Coast Guard electronics base.

Two trails lead through the dunes and along the beach from the parking area. Take the sandy trail to the right during the winter.

Back in Time

This trail meanders along through sweeping vists of dune grass and native vegetaion. Look around and see what the Jersey shore looked like years ago - covered with stands of bayberry, beach plum and beach grass. Stay on the trail to avoid the poison ivy.

Follow the trail's twists and turns until you get to the payoff - the tantalizing view of the Atlantic Ocean just over the last hill.

Head right on the beach and walk all the way to the jetty. You'll end up eventually at the Atlantic Ocean inlet for the Cape May Canal.

Shells and Birds

Along the way, you can admire the many conch, clam, and oyster shells that are scattered along the beach. Shell collecting is not allowed. Neither is swimming or picnicking. This beach is for walkers only.

If you are a birder, keep an eye out for loons, eider ducks, scoters, Northern Harriers, Peregrine Falcons, Purple Sandpipers, Bonaparte’s Gulls, and others.

On the way back, pass the original trail head and walk all the way to the boundary of the refuge. You'll see Wildwood in the distance. A boardwalk trail leads you from the beach back to the parking lot.

The Wildwood Crest and Refuge beaches are some of the flattest beaches in New Jersey. The sand near the tide line is fairly hard, making the two mile walk quite easy.

On a winter or fall day, you may have the whole beach to yourself. Of course, you can count on a few, if not hundreds of sandpipers to keep you company.

Access, Parking, and Hours

To get to the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge's Two Mile Unit, turn onto Two Mile Drive just north of the Cape May Canal (near the end of the Garden State Parkway). This is the road to Wildwood Crest.

After crossing the Two-Mile Bridge, continue about a mile and you will see a sign to the Refuge on your right. Drive in and follow Loran Drive until you see parking signs. Park at the second lot, which is on the left and just before the gate to the Coast Guard station.

There currently are no facilities at the Refuge.

Note: This area is a National Wildlife Refuge so there are rules to follow. First, stay on the trail and obey all signs. Visitors are not allowed to picnic, fly kites, collect shells, surf, swim, or sunbathe. Fishing is allowed. A short portion of the trail is handicap accessible in the form of a boardwalk that ends at a platform where the ocean can be viewed.


Cape May County Nature Spots

The Meadows

Cape May Point State Park

Shell Bay Landing

Hereford Inlet Gardens

Cape May County Beach Walks

The Cove

Stone Harbor Point

Higbee in Winter

Sunset Beach

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge





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