The Barnegat Peninsula, also known as the Island Beach Peninsula or Barnegat Bay Island and colloquially as "the barrier island", is a 20-mile (32 km) long, narrow barrier peninsula located on the Jersey Shore in Ocean County, New Jersey, that divides the Barnegat Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. It is a vacation destination and summer colony area and is heavily dependent on tourism, real estate and fishing. Notable communities on the peninsula include Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head, Mantoloking, Lavallette, Ortley Beach, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park and the South Seaside Park section of Berkeley Township. The southern 10 miles (16 km) of the barrier island is preserved in its natural state as Island Beach State Park, New Jersey's longest stretch of undeveloped coastline.
The peninsula divides the Atlantic Ocean from Barnegat Bay in Ocean County, New Jersey. It stretches approximately 20 miles from Manasquan Inlet in Point Pleasant Beach in the north to Island Beach State Park in the south. It is separated from Long Beach Island to the south by the treacherous Barnegat Inlet.
The area surrounding the peninsula were described by Henry Hudson, in 1609, as "...a great lake of water, as we could judge it to be ... The mouth of the lake hath many shoals, and the sea breaketh on them as it is cast out of the mouth of it." The name of the peninsula is derived from that of the adjacent inlet and bay, which were originally named in 1614 "Barendegat," or "Inlet of the Breakers," by Dutch settlers, referring to the waterway's turbulent channel. An analysis of the composition of sediments and sands on the peninsula shows that it has been little-changed for up to hundreds of years.
Communities on the peninsula include Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head, Mantoloking, Lavallette, Ortley Beach, Normandy Beach, Seaside Heights, and Seaside Park. Additionally, Brick Township Beaches I, II, and III, Dover Beaches North, and Dover Beaches South are located on the peninsula.
Bay Head, is noted for its quiet beaches, the Bay Head Yacht Club and its fine Shingle-style seashore houses. Bay Head was founded in 1886 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mantoloking, the second-wealthiest community in the state, is known for its Shingle-style houses overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay. The Mantoloking Yacht Club has produced Olympic-champions.
Normandy Beach, New Jersey, Lavallette, Dover Beaches North, New Jersey (Ocean Beach and Chadwick Beach); Ortley Beach; and Seaside Park are predominantly summer-only coastal towns with extremely small winter populations. They are popular for their fairly affordable housing stock, their ocean beaches and access to water activities on Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Seaside Heights is the principal community in the southern half of the peninsula, world-famous for its boardwalk and amusement piers lined with food stands, shops, games-of-chance, and amusement park rides. Seaside Heights has a winter population of 5,000 and a summer population of close to 40,000, swelled by vacationers from New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. In the summers of 1998 and 2002, MTV hosted their summer-broadcast in Seaside Heights.
The main thoroughfare connecting these shore towns is Route 35. Connections to the mainland include the Mathis and Tunney Bridges in Toms River connecting Seaside Heights, Route 35 running north from Point Pleasant Beach to Manasquan over the Manasquan River, Bridge Avenue between Point Pleasant and Bay Head, and the Mantoloking Bridge linking Mantoloking with Brick Township.
Since the Point Pleasant Canal was built in 1925 connecting the Manasquan Inlet with the Barnegat Bay, the peninsula is technically an island. It is sometimes referred to as Barnegat Beach Island, or more commonly, "the barrier island."
Effects of Hurricane Sandy
On October 29, 2012, an inlet opened between Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean at the bay's north end, when Hurricane Sandy wiped out a section of the peninsula at the base of the Route 528 bridge in Mantoloking. Much of that borough was destroyed along with the east end of the bridge. The bridge has since reopened as well as the entire stretch of Route 35 up and down the peninsula.
- Zarine, Ali; Singh, Andrew; Khandaker, Nazrul I.; Schleifer, Stanley; And Kaur, Manpreet. "Sedimentology of Island Beach State Park", 2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting, Geological Society of America. Accessed September 23, 2013. "Island Beach State Park, at almost 10 miles in length, is the largest undeveloped stretch of barrier islands on the New Jersey coast, and one of the largest in the United States."
- Lloyd, John Bailey. Eighteen Miles of History on Long Beach Island., p. 42. Down The Shore Publishing and The SandPaper, Inc., 1994. ISBN 9780945582175.
- Cheslow, Jerry. "If You're Thinking of Living In/Point Pleasant, N.J.; A Borough With a Variety of Boating", The New York Times, November 9, 2003. Accessed September 23, 2013. "Completed in 1925, the two-mile-long canal is at the northern terminus of the inland portion of the Intracoastal Waterway, which meanders through bays and rivers all the way to southern Florida. Rusting steel bulkheads line the sides of the canal to prevent the banks from eroding and stopping up the channel, a link between the Manasquan River, which feeds into the Atlantic, and Barnegat Bay on Point Pleasant's southern line."