BACKGROUND: See what the New Jersey shore was like before developers arrived. Situated on the southern end of Ocean County's northern, narrow barrier island, Island Beach is one of New Jersey's last remaining examples of the barrier island ecosystem that once existed along much of the coast. It is also one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches on the New Jersey shore. It also plays host to the governor's summer house.

If you visit Island Beach State Park, get there early. Parking lots usually fill up by noon on hot summer weekends and holidays, and the park closes when no more parking is available. To get to Island Beach, you take Route 37 to the bridge to Seaside Heights. You must first drive through the town of Seaside Park - be careful, the speed limit on the roads to the beach are strictly enforced during the summer.

INSIDER INFO: At the park there are refreshment stands, locker rooms, showers and bathrooms at the parking areas. Picnicking is allowed on the unguarded areas of the beach. But the ocean isn't the only reason to visit. There are nature trails to explore - if you get lucky you might spot one of the foxes that call the park home - and a small Nature Center. During the summer, volunteers normally hold short field trips starting from the northern bathing pavilion. Fishing is a popular activity at the park, particularly at the Barnegat Inlet, which makes up the facility's southern border.

WHERE: The park is located in Seaside Park. http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&gl=us&hl=en&g=Island+Beach+State+Park,+Seaside+Park,+New+Jersey+08752,+08752&q=ISLAND+BEACH+STATE+PARK+SEASIDE+PARK+NJ&ie=UTF8&hq=ISLAND+BEACH+STATE+PARK&hnear=Seaside+Park,+NJ&ll=39.929748,-74.087677&spn=0.12795,0.186768&z=12&iwloc=A" target="_blank">CLICK HERE FOR DIRECTIONS.

HOURS AND COST: During the summer, the park is open from 7 a.m. to dusk. Entrance is $10 per car on weekends, $6 on weekdays. Call (732) 793-0506.

A beach pass for vehicles costs $50 for three days and $195 annually.

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