What better place to start an outdoor adventure than in the ocean, back bays or salt marshes that surround Atlantic City?
Whether the official beach season is in full stride or cooler temperatures take over, outdoor enthusiasts will find eco-opportunities are always doable in the Atlantic City region. Set your own pace, from high-energy biking, canoeing and kayaking, to a leisurely bird-watching outing.
Marine life? We've got it, and you can experience it on a whale and dolphin watching excursion aboard Cruisin' 1, which sails out of Atlantic City's Historic Gardner's Basin. In addition to the Marine Mammal Cruise, Atlantic City Cruises also offers a Morning Skyline Cruise and a Cocktail Cruise.
If it's the back bays and salt marshes you prefer, educational tours are offered through the Marine Education Program at Gardner's Basin. While there, check out the 14,500 square-foot Atlantic City Aquarium. This aquarium and ocean life education center features eight tanks totaling 29,800 gallons of aquariums, exhibiting more than 100 varieties of fish and marine animals, plus interactive exhibits featuring themes on the maritime environment. It's a great place to see live jellyfish and poisonous and venomous species -- behind the safety of a glass wall, of course. There are also fish from local waters and from tropical climates, plus touch tanks where you can "pet" the fish. For more information, call 609-348-2880.ight
The AC Waterfront Sculpture Walk is a winding trail that begins just across from Farley State Marina at Golden Nugget and continues to Harrah’s. The trail is enhanced with sculptures along with waterfront views.
Canoeing and Kayaking
For those who prefer to propel themselves through the water by muscle power, canoeing and kayaking are popular on the area's waterways.
Winding River Campgrounds offers a long list of camping amenities including canoe, kayak and tube rentals. For more information, call 609-625-3191 or visit windingrivercamping.com.
For other locations that rent equipment or offer trips, call the Atlantic County Parks service at 609-645-5960 or visit the County Web site at www.aclink.org.
Biking and Hiking
For those who prefer to stay on dry land, there's no lack of environmentally friendly activities in the Atlantic City region.
For starters, you can join hundreds of bicyclists in a decades-old tradition: an early morning bike ride on the famed Atlantic City Boardwalk. Riding is restricted to the morning hours, which are clearly posted along the wooden way, and bike rentals are available.
The area's parks also offer bike and hiking trails. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced "trekker," there are trails for all physical levels.
The Lake Lenape hiking and biking trail in Mays Landing offers two miles of lakefront beauty and wildlife observation points. Atlantic County Park, in Estell Manor, features more than 15 miles of hiking trails. Naturalists offer guided hikes, which provide an overview of the park and explanation about local plant and animal life. Bikers can exercise to their hearts’ content on a two-mile loop that passes playgrounds, a glassworks factory and a floating dock.
For information about biking in Greater Atlantic City, contact the Shore Cycle Club at www.shorecycleclub.org. For additional information about hiking, call the Atlantic County Parks system at 609-625-1897.
That's right, southern New Jersey has more than beaches, too. The surrounding Pinelands and parks provide an array of environmental activities.
Atlantic County Park System operates 13 parks and facilities, encompassing nearly two thousand acres of land with camping, hiking, nature study, photography, biking, boating and hunting opportunities. Information is available at 609-625-1897 or 609-645-5960, and at www.aclink.org/parks.
Wharton State Forest, located in the heart of the New Jersey Pinelands, is a natural paradise of pine and oak woodlands interlaced with rivers, cedar swamps, bogs and some of New Jersey's most unusual and rare plant and animal species. For more information, call 609-561-0024 or visit their Web site at www.state.nj.us/dep/forestry/parks/wharton.htm.
Belleplain State Forest in Woodbine offers over 42 miles of flat hiking trails in addition to campgrounds, horseback riding, mountain bike trails and canoe rentals. This 16,300-acre park is known for having the greatest variety of habitats in New Jersey, including salt water marshes, white cedar and mixed hardwood swamp, and oak hickory forest. For more information call 609-861-2404.
Located in Cape May Court House, a visit to Leaming's Run is a delightful and relaxing walk along winding paths, where at every turn is yet another celebration of nature's beauty. Bridges, ponds and nooks are just a part of the 25 individually designed and expertly crafted gardens. For more information, call 609-465-5871.
If you really want to surround yourself in the great outdoors, camping is popular, too, and the area has a variety of campgrounds for those who prefer tents or RVs to luxury hotels.
A quaint park where you can ride your bike, relax by the pool, or sit by the pond and watch the ducks swim by, Holly Acres RV Park in Egg Harbor City offers a peaceful camping experience. For more information, call 609-965-2287 or visit www.hollyacresrvpark.com.
Holly Shores Campground & RV Resort, located halfway between Wildwood and Cape May, is easily accessible to beaches, islands and main highways. For more information, call 609-886-1234 or visit www.hollyshores.com.
Located in Mays Landing, Lake Lenape's camping area has 18 sites available for various lengths of stay. For more information call 609-625-1897.
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Photo Credit: Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.