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Island Beach State Park

Island Beach

Island Beach, formerly know as Lord Stirling's Beach, is a nine mile stretch of island covering over two thousand acres. It's located between Barnegat Inlet on the south side and South Seaside Park (Berkley Township) on the north side. The island is alive with holly trees, red cedars, beach plum trees and sea grasses that cover most of the sand dunes and coastal forest areas.

From 1600 to the early 1800's the island has been the home to pirates, whalers, privateers and smugglers. After the year 1810, isolated settlements began to spring up. Some were squatters, while others purchased tracts of land. In the 1850's, the Haring Hotel was built near the center of the island. For $1 a night, you could go gunning for duck and Canadian geese, surf fish, clam, crab, pick cranberries, or just play a relaxing game of tennis on the hotel's courts. The hotel even had an 80 foot by 40 foot dance hall that served Jersey Lightning, the popular liquor of choice at the time.

Between the years 1830 and 1837, over 125 vessels wrecked and sank between Point Pleasant and Barnegat Inlet. Storms consistently plagued ships in the treacherous Barnegat Shoals giving the area the nickname of The Graveyard of the Atlantic. This prompted the need for government intervention. Wrecking houses or life saving stations were erected. The first of these was Phillips Station #14. In 1849, it was replaced and the name changed to the Island Beach Life Saving Station #14. In 1915 these stations became the United States Coast Guard stations.

In 1926, Island Beach was sold to Pittsburgh steel magnate Henry C. Phipp. His original idea was to make the island into a resort that would pattern itself after Coral Gables, Florida. Due to the depression of the 1930's and Phipp's death in 1931, the dream died. In 1933 then Governor Harry Moore signed a legislative act that created the Borough of Island Beach. The first mayor was Mr. Francis Parkman Freeman. Mr. Freeman, an amateur botanist, was appointed manager of the island for the Barnegat Bay and Beach Company. He strived to keep Island Beach a wildlife sanctuary. After his death in 1948, the borough was legislatively dissolved in 1954.

By this time there were 82 leaseholders on Island Beach. These shacks were built by sportsmen that paid $600 a year for the privilege to hunt and fish. As original leaseholders passed away, the buildings were systematically torn down. The leases were not renewed and only a few remain today.

In 1953, the State of New Jersey purchased the land from Phipp's heirs and officially opened it to the public as a State Park in 1959. The island now contains the old Coast Guard Stations #110 and #112. They are used today by the Park Services Department and the Superintendents. Other notable buildings are the island's Nature Center and the Phipp's cottage that is now the Governor's mansion.

There is no place in New Jersey like Island Beach State Park. In fact, there are not many places like it on the entire east coast. Therefore, we should learn to enjoy the island for what it has to offer: peace, solitude, beauty, wildlife and the best damn surf fishing in the United States.