Discover the Natural Beauty of the Jersey Cape
Cape May County is known the world over as a birding mecca. August through October is by far the best time to see the greatest diversity of birds, while raptors, songbirds and shorebirds are found here in the spring. Winter also offers excellent opportunities to see raptors, seabirds and waterfowl.
Cape May County is literally a world of water, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Delaware Bay to the west, and the Tuckahoe River to the north. Half of the county is covered with wetlands. All of these waters are laden with fish. Saltwater anglers can try their luck for bluefish, stripers, weakfish and flounder from the beach, in the back bays, or on the ocean. Freshwater ponds and lakes harbor largemouth bass, pickerel, crappie and sunfish.
Whelks, moon snails, scallops and clams are just a few of the mollusks whose empty shells wash up with the tides. The diligent beachcomber can find the shells of over 40 species of mollusks on Atlantic and Delaware Bay beaches. While shells can be found at any time of year, the first few days after storms can be the most productive times to go beachcombing.
Reptiles & Amphibians
Most reptiles and amphibians are secretive creatures. However, careful observers in the proper habitat will spot many of them in Cape May County. Turtles and frogs can often he found along the edges of ponds, streams and wetlands. Dune areas are home lo toads, skunks and fence lizards. In June and early July, diamondback terrapin females can be seen crossing the roads and causeways adjacent to the salt marsh. Give them a "brake" and drive carefully.
Butterflies & Dragonflies
In Cape May County these days, binoculars are just as likely to be pointed at butterflies and dragonflies as they are at birds. More than 100 species of butterflies and over 75 species of dragonflies and damselflies have been seen in the County. For butterflies, look in gardens, old fields and forest edges. The migration of the Monarch butterflies during early October is a sure signal of summer's end. The greatest variety of dragonflies are found near ponds, streams and wetlands.
Except for squirrels and people, most mammals are active at night. At dawn and dusk, the careful observer in the proper habitat should see common mammals like raccoon, deer, rabbit, muskrat, bats, opossums and skunk. Lucky observers may spot rarer species like fox, river otter. beaver or weasel. Dolphin are commonly seen close to shore in the summer. Some years. in late summer and early fall, humpback whales may be seen close lo shore.
FloraOther activities for the nature enthusiast include:
The native flora of Cape May County is as varied as the habitats found on this tiny
peninsula. Situated in what is referred to as the Zone 7 growing area, the County is the northernmost habitat for many plant species such as the tropical bamboo, Acuba, water fern and Vinca Major. Coastal and freshwater wetlands, forests. fields and dunes are waiting to be explored by amateur botanists. Scattered bald cypress trees
and rare orchids are just a few of the interesting plant species found. In addition, several formal gardens of all types are found throughout the County.
Whale & Dolphin Watching | Star Gazing from the beaches
Viewing the sunrises and sunsets | Hunting for Cape May Diamonds
Sightseeing tours by boat | A mini Ocean cruise via the Cape May-Lewis Ferry
Whatever you choose. please remember to
"take only pictures, leave only footprints."
Map of Natural Sites on The Jersey Cape
Please refer to the background map for locations.
If your Browser does not support backgrounds, a black and white map (17K) is available.
- 1 Ocean City Guided Beach Walk
- Beach Walks are scheduled during July and August on Tuesday and Thrusday, 9:30 a.m. & Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. beginning at 59th St. & Central Ave. Guides identify marine life and vegatation found along the beachfront and discuss the importance of the ocean. Visit Corson's Inlet State Park, adjacent to the Beach Walk area.
- 2. Dune Project
- Tour the Dune Growing Project on Ocean City beachfront for free if you're interested in beach replenishment. Call the Public Relations Office at 525-9300
- 3. Lester G. MacNamara Wildlife Management Area
- The diversity of habitats found here attracts birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. An eagle observation tower is on site to aid visitors. Most common spottings occur summer through fall.
- 4 Cameron Wildlife Sanctuary
- Part of the County Park system, this 25 - acre parcel of land combines pinelands woods, salt marsh and freshwater ponds, all of which is hard to find in one location. Look for lily pads, wild cranberries, chicken grapes, blueberries, huckleberries and beach plums in addition to painted turtles, otters, opossums, rabbits, raccoons and fox.
- 5. Whale Beach
- This natural area north of Sea Isle City is sensitive to erosion due to tidal flooding. Beach area open for fishing, bird watching, walking and beachcombing.
- 6 Beach Walks
- Nature walks along the Sea Isle City coastline are held during the summer months. Guides discuss the environment, marine life and the impact of the ocean. Call (609)-263-Tour.
- 7. Sara the Turtle
- Look for Sara the Turtle signs along the roadways in Sea Isle City. Sara, the town mascot, is a reminder to drivers to be careful of diamondback terrapins which cross the road to lay eggs.
- 8. Cedar Island
- This saltmarsh island in Avalon has a ridge of tree nesting osprey and serves as a stopover for migratory birds.
- 9. Avalon Dunes
- The high dunes in Avalon are "time machines" which take us back to the New Jersey shore of the past. Beach access paths allow easy exploration of this unique habitat. The dune grass and other vegatation helps to hold the sand which serves as a natural barrier against tidal flooding.
- 10. Leaming's Run Gardens
- Leaming's Run Gardens is a world class garden divided into 26 theme gardens. This 30 - acre site with its masses of flowers, ponds and lawns will appeal to a great variety of interests. ?ound here is the largest area of cinnamon fern, the only uncut forest in Cape May County, a solid holly forest and an underground lake. Readily visible fresh water frogs, turtles and fish. An excellant bird population especially in August when hummingbirds are abundant.
- 11. Belleplain State Forest
- Several thousand acres of natural wooded forest with deer, rabbit, fox, other mammals and reptiles. Open for camping, hiking and hunting (check for restrictions). Freshwater lake for swimming and recreational use. (609)-861-2404
- 12. Dennis Creek Wildlife Management Area
- Wintering hawks, eagles and owls are usually spotted in this area. The freshwater lake is open for fishing for perch and sunnies, boat ramp also available. Freshwater fishing license required.
- 13 Great Cedar Swamp
- Natural attraction for migratory birds and water fowl. Swamp named for it's abundance of cedar trees. Known for its "Cedar Shingle Mining". Cedar shingles are cut from petrified cedar trees and used for roof coverings. Most recent use of cedar shingles mined from this lake was in 1986 for the roof of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
- 14. Cape May County Park & Zoo
- Nearly 200 acres of wonders of nature, the Cape May County Park system offers nature trails, a freshwater lake, picnic areas, playground and a zoo accredited by the American Association of Zoological Parks. In addition to it being a resting place for migratory birds, the Park is also a nesting place for Red-headed Wood peckers and Eastern Bluebirds.
- 15. Reeds Beach
- Thousands of migrating shorebirds gather here from late May to early June when the horseshoe crabs come on shore to lay their eggs. Great photo opportunities of wildlife and sunsets. Observation platform, signs and tally provided by N.J. Div. of Fish, Game and Wildlife.
- 16. Wetlands Institute
- The Wetlands Institute allows visitors lo explore New Jersey's wonderful coastal wetlands. It features a trail, observation tower. lecture hall, bookstore, children's discovery room and exhibit building with aquariums.
- 17. Stone Harbor Bird Scanctuary
- A 21 - acre remnant of a barrier island forest, the bird sanctuary is one of the largest heronies on the coast. A Registered National landmark, Viewing area at 114th St. & 3rd Ave. Stone Harbor.
- 18. Nummy Island
- Nummy Island, is an undeveloped salt marsh island between Stone Harbor and North Wildwood, and is a birder's dream in the spring and fall. Easy access is provided by Ocean Drive.
- 19. Beach Tram Service
- A unique way to enjoy the sand and view the surf, the tram travels along a 20 block route on the beach. Daily service from 10 am to 4 pm during the summer. Evening hours: 6 pm - 1 am.
- 20 Wyland Wall
- Full - color mural painted by world renowned environmemtal artist, Wyland. This mural measures 220 ft. long and 30 ft. high. It depicts marine life with two life-sized whales, a baby whale, dolphins, turtles and other sea life. Located on the boardwalk at Garfield Ave, it is the only Wyland mural in New Jersey.
- 21 Captain Oceans Environmental Program
- Instructors provide a unique opportunity for children and adults to inspect sea life caught that day. Learn about the ocean environment through a hands-on demonstration from objects that wash up to creatures that crawl on the sand. Free mini-seminars run from the first week in July to the last week in August. Mon. 8 - 9 am at Rambler Rd.; Thurs, 8 - 9 am between Spicer and Spencer Aves.
- 22 Sunset Lake
- Situated along the bay between Rambler and Miami Aves. in Wildwood Crest, this saltwater lake is a stopover for many migratory birds and water fowl. Picturesque sunsets for the photo buff.
- 23 Fisherman's Wharf
- Discover how your seafood gets from dock to dish on this 45 - minute guided tour of the Lobster House dock and fish packing plant. Relish the history of this great fishing port which was ranked eighth in the United States in 1993 for the value of seafood products landed.
- 24 The Nature Center of Cape May
- Assisted by the N.J. Audubon Society, Clean Ocean Action and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service, the Nature Center is an environmental education facility for all ages. Located in Cape May Harbor, the Nature Center provides access to beach and marsh habitat and offers workshops, classes, walking tours and exhibits. (609) 884-9590
- 25. Ocean Walk
- Greet the ocean early in the morning on this unique Ocean Walk, an eye - opening stroll along Cape May's beautiful strand. Guides discuss marine life and the beache's history as tourgoers enjoy shell hunting and beachcombing.
- 26. Cape May Point State Park & William D. & Jane C. Blair, Jr.
Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge
- Cape May Point State Park and the South Cape May Meadows is a 180 - acre wildlife preserve complete with grazing cattle, sand dunes, ocean waters, a nature museum, historic lighthouse and bunker, nature trails, programs and restrooms. Its diverse habitat attracts migrant shorebirds in the spring and fall; hawks in the fall; loons, grebes and ducks offshore in the fall and winter: and, nesting piping plover
and least tern. (609) 884-2159.
- 27. Cape May Bird Observatory
- The Cape May Bird Observatory is located in Cape May Point and offers the best year - round bird watching programs, workshops and tours. The bookstore boasts a unique array of bird books, art and apparel. 707 E. Lake Dr. The birding hotline number is (609) 884-2626. Hawks, owls, sandpipers, loons & warblers.
- 28. Cape May Diamonds
- These quartz crystals are found along Sunset Bcach in Lower Township. A milky - looking stone in its natural form, the Cape May Diamond can be polished and faceted
to resemble a real diamond. Cape May Diamond jewelry can be purchased in many area shops. "Diamond" hunting along the edge of the Delaware Bay here has become as popular as shell collecting.
- 29 Concrete Ship "Atlantusi"
- Half submerged just off Sunset Beach lies the 3000 ton, 250 ft. concrete ship 'Atlantus,' Because of the critical steel shortage during World War I, the Atlantus was one of 12 ships constructed of 5" thick concrete. The Atlantus broke loose while in tow during a 1926 storm and can now be seen off Sunset Blvd. In addition to being an historic site, she serves as a reef for many species of sea life.
- 30. Lily Lake
- Located across the street from the New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory, this freshwater lake is home to various fish, reptiles, ducks and geese. In spring and fall, look for song birds and migrant waterfowl along the shore.
- 31. Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area
- A unique beach area with dunes, woodlands, fields. meadows and ponds. View migrating hawks in the fall and song - birds in the spring and fall. Many endangered / threatened birds and amphibians use area, "Cape May Diamonds" can be found on the beach. N.J. Div. of Fish, Game and Wildlife seasonal restrictions - check before visit.
- 32. Bennett Bogs
- This 27-acre site of unusual fresh - water inland bogs is flooded winter through spring. View crayfish, butterflies and plants during the summer and fall. Many species of orchids grow wild in the bog area, which is administered by the N.J. Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy.
- 33. Fishing Creek Wildlife Refuge
- Part of the County Park system with over 1700 acres of marsh and wetlands that attracts migratory birds during the spring and fall. Tree - resting egrets, waterfowl, song birds and Canada geese can be seen throughout the year.
- 34. The Nature Trail at Bradner's Run
- Bradner's Run Nature Trail at Historic Cold Spring Village follows a freshwater stream which flows through the swamp forest at the Village boundary. Various specimens of plants, animals, insect life and migratory birds may be seen along the trail. Tours conducted by the Nature Center. (609) 898-2300
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Prepared & published by the Cape May County Chamber of Chamber, Eco - Tourism
Committee and the Cape May County Dept. of Tourism/Economic Development
Created June 14, 1996 | Updated July 5, 1999
© 1996 - 1999, Cape May County Dept. of Tourism, beachcomber.com.