Cape May County's Nature Spots:
Cape May Point State Park

By Paul Kerlinger
Outdoors Columnist

The beach, dunes, freshwater wetlands and ponds, and forested trails, located at the tip of the peninsula, make the Cape May Point State Park (CMPSP) a wonderfully diverse natural area.

The Park offers great opportunities to see dolphins and other ocean life, bird migration and monarch butterfly migration.

There are beautiful ponds and dunes, a beach and wonderful views of the ocean.

What to See

Of course, there's the famous Cape May Point Lighthouse. For a small admission fee, you can climb to the top for a bird's eye view of Cape May Point.

Take a walk along the boardwalk and other trails to see freshwater and brackish wetlands, as well as the plants and animals that live in them. Otters used to live in the park and are still seen on rare occasions and muskrats frequently swim across the ponds. Frog choruses grace the park in any warm month and turtles can often be seen.

The tall marsh reeds (Phragmites) and trees make the trails seem like green tunnels, before opening onto ponds. The vegetation is representative of South Jersey wetlands (including some black gum trees) and dune forests (eastern red cedar, bayberry, holly).

In summer, look for Purple Martins at their nest boxes next to the parking lot.

Read more About the park's Purple Martins.

Also in summer, look for terns around the ponds and feeding off the beach. Dolphins are a daily phenomenon from May through September.

From September through mid-November, the elevated hawk-watch platform provides the best place to see migrating hawks in the eastern United States. An official hawk watcher from the Cape May Bird Observatory is present most days and will help spot and identify raptors as they fly by.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings in late September through October, come see a hawk banding demonstration. Freshly banded hawks are brought to the hawk watch platform where a 30 minute presentation is given as hawks are released back into the wild to continue their migrations southward.

From mid-September through October, Monarch butterflies by the tens of thousands migrate through southern New Jersey and many stop off at the Park before jumping the 13 miles of water to Delaware. Monarch banding demonstrations are held daily during peak migration.

Trails

Clearly marked trails provide more than 1 mile of wonderful nature viewing. The trails wind through marsh and swamp, dune forest, ponds, grassy dune, and beach. You can’t get lost. Elevated boardwalks through the wet areas keep your feet dry. Some of the trails are handicapped accessible, which makes this one of the very few natural areas in South Jersey that is wheel chair friendly.

Cape May Point State Park conducts free nature walks throughout much of the year. Check the Nature events page for details.

Facilities

The interpretive center provides lots of information on the wildlife and natural beauty of the Park. There's a small museum and a "Please Touch" tank for kids.

The Park has large, clean bathrooms in the headquarters buildings.

There are no food concessions but there's a wonderful pavilion with tables overlooking the ocean that's a perfect spot for a picnic lunch. A second picnic pavilion is set near the trails and hawk watch platform. Remember to to carry out all trash.

Alert. Poison ivy along the boardwalk is generally avoidable, but be alert. Mosquitoes and ticks are around, but are generally not a nuisance.

Access, Parking, and Hours

Cape May Point State Park parking lots are open from sunrise to sunset and can accommodate several hundred cars. From Cape May drive down Sunset Blvd. toward Cape May Point. Turn left at Lighthouse Drive and then turn left when you see the park entrance sign. Before sunrise, park in the outer parking area just outside the gate.

The Park's beach is free and open to the public.

For more information call Cape May Point State Park at (609) 884-2159.

 

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

 


Copyright©2000-2007. Cape May Times. All rights reserved.