Barnegat Lighthouse State Park: A Family Adventure on the Jersey Shore


Nestled at the northern tip of Long Beach Island, the iconic Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, also known as Old Barney, is a New Jersey landmark and one of my family’s must-visit places for family fun. From climbing to the top for breathtaking views to exploring the surrounding state park and learning about New Jersey maritime history, read on to see how Barnegat Lighthouse is an unforgettable family experience on the Jersey Shore. (featured photo credit: NJMOM)

Barnegat Lighthouse State Park: A Day of Adventure, History and Nature

Barnegat Lighthouse view

The views from the Barnegat Lighthouse are worth climbing the 217 steps. Photo Credit: NJ MOM

Climb to new heights 

On any visit, a must-do is to climb to the top of Barnegat Lighthouse, where you can take in breathtaking panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. At a whopping 172 feet, there are 217 steps to conquer, so the climb is an adventure (one my 4-year-old was comfortable making), but the awe-inspiring views make it all worthwhile. We love peering out of the tower’s windows and playing I-Spy of how many boats and birds we can see while looking out at the stunning scenery of Long Beach Island and beyond.

Dive into rich history

Before or after the climb, you can learn about the rich maritime history of Barnegat Lighthouse at their visitor center. The interactive exhibits and educational displays offer fascinating insights into the lighthouse’s past, from its construction in the 19th century to its first lighting on January 1, 1859, to its role in guiding sailors safely through the treacherous waters of the Barnegat Inlet. Kids can operate a miniature lighthouse or learn about the daily lives of lighthouse keepers and their families. Our family walked along the water in front of the lighthouse to find a giant lighthouse keeper statue and a placard containing all of the lighthouse keepers’ names. It was fascinating to see how many have been making sure Old Barney guided ocean vessels through the change of course point coming to and from New York City.  

Picnic in paradise at the Jersey Shore

After exploring the lighthouse, my family headed to the adjacent Barnegat Lighthouse State Park for a relaxing picnic by the sea. We set up at one of the shaded picnic tables (or you can spread out on the lawn) and enjoyed a delicious lunch I had packed from a local Long Beach Island market with the sound of waves crashing in the background. Don’t forget to pack some beach toys for the kids to enjoy while you soak up the sun and take in the stunning views of the coastline. We also enjoyed walking down the long jetty between the lighthouse and the shoreline and capturing fantastic family photos at sunset.

Barnegat Lighthouse Trail

The Maritime Forest Trail is one of the last remaining maritime forests in New Jersey. Photo Credit: NJ MOM 

Wildlife Watching

After lunch, we made our way to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, which sits within one of New Jersey’s last remaining maritime forests, offering opportunities to observe birds, marine life, and other coastal creatures. We went along the Maritime Forest Trail, a 0.2-mile-long, self-guided loop trail, where we saw ospreys soaring overhead, birds diving for fish, and even the occasional seal basking on the rocks. I highly recommend bringing a pair of binoculars and letting the kids embark on a birdwatching adventure. Be sure to keep an eye out for dolphins playing in the waves offshore, too.

Barnegat Lighthouse statueDon’t miss the Lighthouse Keeper Statue near the Barnegat Lighthouse. Photo Credit: NJ MOM

What to know before you go

Barnegat Lighthouse State Park is open from 8 AM to 6 PM, and the Barnegat Lighthouse is currently open daily from 9 AM to 3 PM (weather permitting), and cars must exit the lot by 6 PM. The lighthouse is open on weekends only from November to March. There is a $3 per person fee to enter the lighthouse from Memorial Day through Labor Day; children ages 6-11 are $1, and children ages 5 and under are free. If you don’t want to climb the 217 stairs to the top, live images of the view are on display at the Interpretive Center, which is open from 10 AM to 2 PM. The Park is also a maritime site on the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail, so there are places to hike and picnic around the lighthouse. While you are in the area, stop at the Barnegat Light Historical Society’s Schoolhouse Museum to see the original Fresnel lens from the lighthouse. 

Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
208 Broadway and Long Beach Blvd.
Barnegat Light, NJ 08006

For more information about the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, check out their websiteFacebook and Instagram

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About Author

Christine is a mommy to two little ones, and the Editor and founder of NJ MOM. She resides at the Jersey Shore with her family, and when she isn’t on her latest #njmom adventure, you can find her experimenting with healthy recipes in the kitchen, gardening in her backyard, practicing yoga and traveling to warm destinations. Some of her favorite things to do around the Garden State are beach days at Manasquan, screaming at the top of her lungs at Six Flags Great Adventure, snow tubing down Mountain Creek and hiking (or biking) any of the gorgeous NJ trails.