There’s lots more to do at Jersey’s beaches
than bake in the sun. Here are four fun suggestions.
the u.s. coast guard cutter Rollin A. Fritch is designed in part
for intercepting smugglers. Sitting at her home berth at the Coast
Guard Training Center in Cape May Harbor, she needn’t worry about
me. As my kayak passes within 20 feet of her stern, all I’m carrying is
a sealed float bag with two bottles of water, a turkey sandwich and
a granola bar.
By this point in my tour, I’ve become acclimated to my kayak,
thanks to my guide, Jeff Martin, owner/operator of Aqua Trails. It’s a
summer weekday, so the broad harbor is relatively quiet. Still, Martin
(in a separate kayak) takes care as he leads me along the margins
of the harbor, then across the choppy channel. Families of osprey
watch our movements from their nests atop the channel markers.
The morning breeze picks up, sending ripples across the water as
we paddle around a sandbar. “You can almost set your watch by the
breeze,” Martin tells me.
A local high school marine-biology and oceanography teacher,
Martin has an encyclopedic knowledge of these waters. We take a
break on a small beach, and he explains the natural and man-made
forces behind the creation and maintenance of the harbor. On the
mudflats behind us, three kinds of seagulls and a pair of American
oyster catchers with distinctive orange bills browse for insects and
small crustaceans to lunch on.
Back in the kayaks, we paddle past a clam factory and enter the
calm waters of Upper Thorofare. The paddling is effortless here. We
proceed under two low bridges into Mill Creek, an unadulterated
salt marsh that serves as a nursery for numerous species of fish and
a sanctuary for the local avian population.
For several thrilling minutes, a parade of 3-inch-long menhaden
(known locally as bunkerfish) skitters across the water’s surface like
a shimmering wave. Any closer and they’d jump right into my kayak.
In the distance, a common tern dives for food. A snowy egret wades
patiently in the shallow water. Martin points out a semipalmated
plover and several sandpipers. Stacks of mussels cling to the seaweed along the banks.
Finally, the salt marsh empties back into the harbor. We cross the
channel again and return to our starting point, having covered about
five miles in two invigorating hours.
My tour, packaged by Congress Hall, cost $60 and included
lunch and a ride to and from the hotel. Or you can sign up directly with Aqua Tours for $45. Aqua Tours also offers kayak
and stand-up paddleboard rentals, sunset and full-moon
tours, and camp for kids.—Ken Schlager
1600 Delaware Avenue; 609-884-5600; aquatrails.com
interest in oysters is on the rise. They have complex fla-
vors, a local connection, pair well with cocktails—and they’re
supposed to make you kinda randy.
The bivalve, once plentiful in New Jersey’s tidal waters, is
making a comeback thanks to a new generation of resourceful
oyster farmers. You can get a new perspective on modern oyster farming—literally waist deep—thanks to Barnegat Oyster
Collective’s oyster farm tours.
Founders Matt Gregg and Scott Lennox—both pioneering
oyster farmers—take turns leading the tours that start at Van’s
Boat Rental in Barnegat Light. The tours start with a five-minute
scenic cruise on a 25-foot flat-bottom skiff with seating for eight
(on shellfish crates). Your destination: a 12-acre oyster farm on
Barnegat Bay. Here, oysters are raised in 400 steel-netting cages.
Amid the salty summer air and sunshine, the farmers show
the different stages of oyster growth, from juvenile oysters to
market size. Oysters are then popped open for tasting—the
freshest seafood you’re going to get, all while standing in the
crystal-clear bay water.
“It’s just a unique experience,” says Gregg. “You’re not just
learning where oysters come from, you’re getting your hands
and feet wet. Everyone we take out there says it was the best
experience of their summer.”
Oysters are filter feeders, which means they eat the microor-
ganisms that can choke our bays of oxygen. The renewed interest
in oysters has created careers for these young baymen. In short,
oysters are good for both the local ecology and the economy.
The 90-minute tour is $65 and requires advance booking.
Tours run twice daily every Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day weekend, or weekdays by appointment. Check the
website for exact times. You’ll need everything you would
for a day at the beach—bathing suit, shades, towel, snacks,
drink and sunscreen—as well as a pair of old sneakers or water
shoes for walking in the bay. A fresh lemon and a jar of cocktail
sauce also come in handy. —Jon Coen
801 Bayview Avenue; 609-450-9005;