Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide

Senior Friendly Ocean County
In the heart of the Jersey Shore

Ocean County is located in the heart of the Jersey Shore and its three major resort areas, Point Pleasant Beach, Seaside Heights and Long Beach Island, are within as easy drive of the Garden State Parkway (from Exits 58 to 98) or from State Highways 35, 37 and 72, respectively.
     
The second largest county in the state, it is bordered by 45 miles of barrier beaches, forming a sheltered water play land, Barnegat Bay.

Among the highlights of the county that seniors might enjoy:

Island Beach State Park, South Seaside Park:  A nine-mile stretch of natural dunes with two bathing beaches, free changing rooms and shower facilities.  The park allows picnic hampers on the bathing beaches. Self-guided trails, some running from the Atlantic Ocean to Barnegat Bay, are only two blocks long on the slender sliver of sand.  Staff is available to conduct nature walks and talks and usually is at the two interpretative centers. Kayaking is available for a fee.  It's a great place to bicycle as there is a wide shoulder and the elevation is very flat.   If you are a New Jersey resident and over 62, you qualify for a Senior Citizen Pass, which allows you free entry.  New Jersey Transit Bus 137 drops off passengers at the first bathing pavilion. 

Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, Barnegat Light, Long Beach Island:  What makes this lighthouse park so unique is that you can see the view from the top at the bottom, no need to climb the 217 steps.  The Friends of the Lighthouse have placed camcorders at the top, and you can see real time panoramic views on a monitor in the Interpretative Center of Island Beach State Park.  During summer Thursdays, you can sit in on the free "Lighthouse Chats" at 10 am.  Then head to the Barnegat Light Museum to view the original lens and perhaps take time out to enjoy the charming Edith Duff Gwinn garden behind it.  For those who can handle a few steps, there is a tiny maritime forest across from the center where the walkway provides shelter from the sun.  For those who are walkers, there is a nature trail that starts around 10th Street and where the 20-foot mast from the beached wreck, the Sea King, can be viewed.  You actually stand on the wreck, which has been buried under the sand.  Also in town is Mustache Bill's Diner that was honored as a James Beard American Classic and has been featured on Food Channel's, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."

Viking Village, Barnegat Light, Long Beach Island:  This area hosts the county's oldest "strip mall," a group of fishermen's shacks built in the 1920's that now house boutique shoppes.  Near-by is the "Off the Hook" restaurant, serving the freshest seafood you can find.  If you are in the area on a Friday morning, be sure to call ahead to the local Chamber of Commerce, 1-800-292-6372, and reserve a spot for the free "Behind the Scenes Dock Tour."  The tour allows you a glimpse of the activities of a commercial fishing fleet.  You'll learn about gill netting, scalloping and long lining and the differences between them.  Whatever the catch is for the day - that's the talk you will hear.  Afterward, walk a block or two to talk to the ReClaim the Bay volunteers and see the baby clam nursery.   This is also the site for craft and antique shows and special events, usually involving tasty and fresh seafood.

Bay Village, Beach Haven, Long Beach Island:  A wide variety of shops are housed adjacent to each other in this seashore village motif. Stop in at Crust & Crumb Bakery for one of their elephant ears, which were named one of the top ten beach foods in the world by Connoisseur.com.  Across the driveway is Schooner's Wharf that features a shop in the belly of a reconstructed tall ship.

Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven, Long Beach Island: A professional theatre where every seat has an unobstructed view and the barrier free entrance is right at the sidewalk.  The entrance and seats are close by, a great convenience for those with walking disabilities.  Throughout the summer, the theatre presents Broadway musicals and, in the off-season, plays and concerts.  Tickets are $30 for the musicals, and parking is free.

Boardwalks: Boardwalks are great for strolling, shopping, sitting, people watching and playing games of chance in the arcades.  You can win kitschy or plush toys for the grandchildren and electronics and collectibles for yourself. 

Point Pleasant's Boardwalk features Jenkinson's Aquarium, a member of the American Zoo Association, adventure miniature golf, oceanfront dining, and a Victorian ice cream parlour.  Most afternoons or evenings, there is free entertainment including concerts, movies, kiddie shows, and fireworks.  Nearby is the River Belle, a Mississippi Paddle Wheeler that does tours and entertainment with and without meals. Downtown is an antique haven with one store having 100 independent dealers—all under one roof.  Movie producers and celebrities come here to shop.

Seaside Heights/Seaside Park's Boardwalks are connected to provide two and a half miles of oceanfront strolling.  An amusement where seniors can recapture some memories of their youth is the antique Floyd L. Moreland Dentzel/Looff Carousel that is more than 100 years old.  There are fine and fun dining spots along the boardwalk that has two amusement piers and public ocean fishing dock for a fee.  Free nightly entertainment ranges from movies, concerts, and fireworks to crafts or other activities.
     
On the Mainland:  While many activities can be found on the oceanfront beaches, remember to explore the offerings of the mainland. 

Lakewood BlueClaws, Lakewood:  The award-winning Lakewood BlueClaws are the A-Affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.  They are league champions and have won multiple awards for both the team and their $20 million dollar stadium.  At Tuesday home games seniors eat free (hot dog, chips and a soda) with their admission.  Seniors also get a discount on their tickets, which are $7.

Tuckerton Seaport, Tuckerton: A 40-acre maritime heritage museum paying tribute to life of the bay.  New this year is a surfing museum.  The seaport hosts many festivals throughout the year and regularly changes exhibits. 

Laurita Winery, New Egypt: Found in western Ocean County, there are wine tastings, winery tours for a fee, and free vineyard tours.  Throughout the year there are admission events including jazz and country western nights, movies, wine tasting and other festivities.

Jackson Premium Outlets, Jackson: Close to Six Flags and I-195, this outlet center offers more than 70 stores with a variety of wares at discount prices.

Museums:  Small to mid-sized museums, which are easily walked and not over-whelming, are sprinkled around the county.  In addition to the Tuckerton Seaport, there are three other nautical museums - The Toms River Seaport Society, which displays boats and tells the history of boats indigenous the area, the New Jersey Museum of Boating, which focuses on the building of boats, and the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History, Beach Haven, which focuses on shipwrecks off the Jersey Coast, including the Morro Castle tragedy.  The Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst has a robust information center, which tells the history of lighter-than-air craft and features the Hindenburg tragedy that occurred at Navy Lakehurst. Any citizen can register for a free tour.  Also, there are more than a dozen community museums housed in one-room schoolhouses, Victorian homes, and old railroad stations that history buffs will enjoy.

River Lady: Cruise along the Toms River in this beautiful, authentic reproduction of Mississippi Paddle Wheeler that offers tours and meals with China service.

     
Grandchildren: If this is a day with the grandchildren, mixing free things to do with those that charge admission can make it an affordable one.

Free:  In the Toms River area, there are two wonderful county parks with nature centers.  Jake's Branch County Park in Beachwood is the Gateway to the Pinelands.  You can catch a panoramic view from the elevator-accessible five-story tower in the nature center, which features live reptiles and interactive games along with the story of the pines. There's a picnic area, tot playground, and sports fields. Cattus Island County Park and its nature center tell the story of the coastal wetlands and also have an array of fish and small reptiles in action, a butterfly garden, and a barrier free boardwalk trail. Both have nice walking trails and feature nature walks and talks.

Admission: Pirates have invaded Ocean County and youngsters can experience playing dress-up, learning about pirates, taking a sail on a "pirate ship" and fending off a rowboat "attack."  Try the Jersey Shore Pirates in Brick or the Black Pearl in Beach Haven.  For landlubbers, there's Insectropolis in Toms River - this is the world of bugs up close and personal with a wonderful butterfly collection as well.

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