Biking, Birding and Wildlife:
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BICYCLING IN SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY: For cycling enthusiasts, Southern New Jersey is as good as it gets – picturesque places with easy pedaling along the beachfront or quiet country roads. Many towns have designated bike paths, boardwalks and promenades, great for early morning exercise before the crowds arrive.

Somers Point to Pleasantville Bike Path begins at the municipal building in Somers Point, W. New Jersey Avenue and 1st Street, and heads north through Linwood, Northfield and Pleasantville for 6.5 miles.

Atlantic County Bike Path is a 7.5-mile long paved route between Harbor Square (formerly the Shore Mall) in Egg Harbor Township and the Atlantic County Institute of Technology in Mays Landing. A few benches provide rest spots but bikers should bring their own food and water. www.aclink.org

Ocean City Bikeway stretches from 9th to 34th streets and there's a designated bike lane on West Avenue from 32nd Street south. www.BikeOCNJ.org

Cyclists – and pedestrians – can travel the 7.5 miles from the Cape May County Zoo in Middle Township to Satt Blvd., near Walmart on Route 9 in Rio Grande. From there the path connects with the Delaware River &Bay path, providing a direct route from the zoo to the Cape May Lewes Ferry. Ultimately, Cape May County plans to have a county-wide network of connecting bike paths – a great thing for recreation and a plus for the environment. The Middle Township bike path also connects with Atlantic Cape Community College, the Goshen Sports Complex and the 4-H Fairgrounds. The Cold Spring Bike Path runs 3 miles from Sandman Boulevard to Sally Marshall Crossing. For additional information about bike paths in Cape May County, visit www.capemaycountynj.gov


BIRDING IN ATLANTIC, CAPE MAY and CUMBERLAND COUNTIES: Cape May is THE location for observing birds in North America, favored by such celebrated naturalists as John Audubon and Tory Peterson. More than 400 different species have been seen on the peninsula during the fall migration, and the area is known for spectacular flights of peregrines, merlins, ospreys and sharp-shinned hawks. Cape May Point is one the premier places with marked, easy-to-follow trails to help even the novice birder spot ducks, swans, osprey and other shore birds and wildlife. The World Series of Birding challenges birders to count as many species as possible in a 24-hour period. Visit the Cape May Bird Observatory at 701 East Lake Dr., Cape May Point or 600 Rt.47 N in Cape May Court House. www.birdcapemay.org

Nearby, in Cumberland County, bald eagles, great blue herons, osprey and more can be found in Turkey Point, the Maurice River, and Stow Creek. Along the bay side in Cape May and Cumberland counties, birders can enjoy more than a million migrating birds each spring, the second-largest assembled shorebird population in the Western Hemisphere. www.explorecumberlandnj.com

In Atlantic County, bald eagles soar even in the winter months at Lake Lenape in Mays Landing. Other birding locations – Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Wharton State Forest, Weymouth Furnace, Gaskill Park, Makepeace Lake Wildlife Management Area and Estell Manor Park – are listed in a guide to bird watching in Atlantic County. www.aclink.org

BELLEPLAIN STATE FOREST: On the border of Cape May and Cumberland counties, Belleplain encompasses 21,000 acres of Pinelands. One of Southern New Jersey’s premier camping destinations, it’s a great place for hiking, biking, bird watching, canoeing and exploring nature. Belleplain has 169 tent camping sites, cabins and other facilities for campers plus softball fields, picnic tables and canoe rentals. Swimming, fishing and canoeing are allowed on Lake Nummy; the natural terrain is great for mountain biking and there is also a fitness trail. Off Route 550 from Woodbine; 609-861-2404. www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/belle.html

THE EDWIN B. FORSYTHE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE: The wildlife refuge in Galloway Township protects more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats and is one of the Atlantic Flyway’s most active flight paths for seasonal bird migration. The Wildlife Drive, trails and boardwalk are open to visitors from sunrise to sunset. The winter months of December through February is an exciting time at the refuge. Hundreds and often thousands of black ducks and Atlantic Brant call Forsythe their winter home. Bald eagles, short-eared owls, buffleheads, common goldeneyes, horned grebes, and red-breasted mergansers are also among the cold weather sights. Diving waterfowl are active in the back bays. Wintering songbirds are often sighted along the refuge's many hiking trails. Drive and hike with care as snow and icy patches are often on the roads and trails. The Visitor Information Center provides interactive displays and a film introduction to the refuge. 609-652-1665. GPS Coordinates: N 39° 27.583 W 74° 27.050 www.friendsofforsythe.org

GREAT EGG HARBOR RIVER: Winding 50 miles through the Pinelands of Atlantic County, the Great Egg Harbor River is part of the National Wild and Scenic River system. It provides an abundant habitat for waterfowl in the region and offers boaters and bank fishermen plenty of recreational opportunities with the waters that are home to fresh and saltwater species, including striped bass and alewife herring. www.aclink.org

LAKE LENAPE: Lake Lenape in Mays Landing offers 2,000 acres for boating, canoeing, rafting, camping, hiking, biking or just enjoying a spring, summer or fall outing. Cedar-lined shores are bordered by lush mixed-oak and pine trees, and blueberry and laurel bushes. Since the time when Native Americans inhabited the area, Lake Lenape has provided fishermen with some excellent largemouth bass action, catfish and pickerel catches. www.aclink.org/parks

MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING CENTER: Dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sea mammals and turtles, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine saves the lives of hundreds of sea creatures every year. The center contains an educational center and gift shop, pool house, an intensive care unit, and observation tank. The center’s museum displays 25 life-sized replicas of marine mammals and fish, all found or stranded in New Jersey waters and educational displays explain the plight of marine animals that ingest ocean debris. A “Please Touch” display of marine mammal bones features a sperm whale’s jaw bone and also whale rib bones. Visiting hours change seasonally. 609-266-0538; www.mmsc.org

MOORES BEACH: Moores Beach, is best known as a great horseshoe crab spawning beach and excellent place to see migrating shorebirds like Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Dunlin, and many more. But there is more to this wilderness in New Jersey then shorebirds and horseshoe crabs. Drive slow along the gravel road through the vast salt marsh and you will be sure to see osprey, waders, and the occasional Black Skimmer. If you arrive in early morning in spring, the air will still ring with the sounds of the Clapper Rail. Be aware, the road can be rough and will flood on the high tide, but a little planning will keep you safe and the solitude will be worth the trip. Moores Beach, Maurice River. www.restorenjbayshore.org, www.celebratedebay.org, www.explorecumberlandnj.com

PEASLEE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA: The second largest WMA in the state of New Jersey. Numerous sand and gravel roads traverse the area, and if you get lost from time to time, you will soon find your way back to a paved road. For a shorter visit, stick to the paved roads and pull off to scan the forest or any one of numerous sunny openings. Peaslee is the southern-most example of true pine barrens forest with a predominance of pine-oak woodland. However, there are also pockets of different vegetation such as maple-gum swamp and other forested wetlands, and sedge meadows and cultivated fields that have been planted for wildlife. The variety of habitats attracts an unusually large variety of species. Open daily from dawn to dusk. During hunting season, it is advisable to wear bright colors, or to limit your visits to Sundays. CR 644/Hesstown Road, Cumberland, NJ. 609-984-0547. www.njaudubon.org, www.explorecumberlandnj.com

STONE HARBOR BIRD SANCTUARY: A 21.5 acre preserve, the Bird Sanctuary is a National Natural Landmark dedicated to the protection of coastal birds and their ecosystem. With three public access paths, open all year round, visitors can imagine a time when the Lenni Lenape Indians fished along the shore and the beach was covered with sand dunes and groves of cedar, sassafras and holly trees, including one holly believed to be more than 200 years old. The website features a photo gallery of the species that reside year-round in the Sanctuary or visit seasonally. Informational reports give visitors detailed background information on the unique behaviors, feeding habits and the future outlook of the Black-crowned Night Heron, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, the Glossy Ibis and the Eastern Box Turtle. The Sanctuary is near 112th St. and 2nd Ave., Stone Harbor. 609-368-7447. www.stoneharborbirdsanctuary.com

UNION LAKE IN MILLVILLE: New Jersey’s largest freshwater body of water, Union Lake in Millville, is the best spot for freshwater fishing, swimming, canoeing, hiking, sailing and picnicking. Part of the Union Lake Wildlife Management area and located on the Maurice River Drainage, the lake is about 4 miles long and 1.2 miles across at its widest point. www.explorecumberlandnj.com

UNION LAKE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA: Millville. Union Lake was created by the damming of the Maurice and Mill Rivers. The 5,000-acre Union Lake WMA offers a variety of viewing experiences to naturalists of all levels. A large boat ramp is located at the far end of the parking lot and there is ample parking for vehicles and trailers. A small dock provides a place for fishing or observing. Stand at the edge of the dock and take in the amazing view of this large reservoir. An additional parking area on Sharp St., across from Riverview Park affords a good view of the fish ladder on the opposite side of the dam. It also provides additional fishing access to the Maurice River. Bald Eagle nest on the lake and Osprey are often seen fishing for a meal. There are many miles of unmarked trails that wind through the woods and along the lakeshore. County Rd 552, Millville. www.explorecumberlandnj.com

WETLANDS INSTITUTE: There is always something exciting happening at The Wetlands Institute. Discover the shore in a fun and hands-on way with experiments, exploration, games, field trips and more. Marvel at the view of 6,000 acres of pristine coastal wetlands from the observation tower at the Wetlands Institute. Inside, view an aquarium with more than a dozen exhibits of live marsh animals – horseshoe crabs, sea stars and lots more. In the quiet season, the Institute is open for self-guided tours of the facilities including the Tidepool Museum Shop. The Institute, 1075 Stone Harbor Blvd., off exit 10 of the Garden State Parkway, offers a full schedule. Be sure and check out the special events calendar for all the important details. 609-368-1211. www.wetlandsinstitute.org
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Supported in part by a grant from the New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel & Tourism.