Long Beach Island History
Long Beach Island is an 18 mile long barrier island that is located along the central coast of New Jersey in Southern Ocean County. It lies about 4 to 6 miles out from the mainland and is an important part of the East Coast's Intercoastal Waterway. Because of its length and white sandy beaches, the Island has been called Long Beach since the earliest days of European exploration.
Captain Cornelius Jacobsen May (some sources spell it "Mey") was a Dutch explorer and tradesman. In 1614, he traveled down the coast of New Jersey from New Amsterdam (New York). As he reached the northern end of the island known as Long Beach, he noted the rough waters and dangerous shoals uniquely marking the inlet to the bay. He named the inlet "Barendegat", which translates as Inlet of the Breakers. Today, the inlet, the bay and the township of Barnegat share the Anglo version of the name.
The Captain is also responsible for naming Cape May, the southern tip of the Jersey coast. Cape May County and Mays Landing were also named after him.
The strong tides were responsible for many a shipwreck along the length of Long Beach Island. So, a lighthouse was built on the Northern end of the Island, and many small Life Saving Stations were set up along the Island's shore. Barnegat Lighthouse is still standing and is open to the public during the Summer.
Long Beach Island was once important as a whaling and fishing center. Its location provided easy access to the ocean and to mainland markets.
It later became the playground for well-to-do city gentlemen and their friends. Several hunting and fishing clubs were formed and took advantage of the abundant wildlife that inhabited the Island and the surrounding waters.
Once upon a time, the only way to reach Long Beach Island was by boat. Many people from Philadelphia and New York would take the train to either Edge Cove or Tom's River and ferry across to LBI.
A railroad bridge was constructed across the bay in 1886 and made the Island more accessible. The trestle was destroyed by a storm, but not before an automobile causeway was built. Today, the Causeway is the way most people reach Long Beach Island and the only way onto the island without a boat.
Long Beach Island is home to over twenty separate communities; some are independent boroughs, while others fall under the jurisdiction of Long Beach Township. A few of these areas grew up around the Life Saving Stations situated on the beach. Beach Haven and Barnegat Light were planned and developed as resort towns, and other communities were founded simply to provide a restful and quiet area to vacation.
From the very beginning of settlement on Long Beach Island, people have enjoyed its cool ocean breezes, white beaches and quiet personality. Because of its distance from the mainland, pollen cannot naturally reach the Island, so those who suffer from hayfever can find relief on LBI. The calm and quiet atmosphere promotes relaxation and a great way to escape the cares of everyday life.
Present day Long Beach is a little more civilized and more populated then in earlier times. Yet, it has not lost its charm or its appeal. It never seems too crowded or too stressful. There are only about 20,000 people who live on the island year round. Some folks spend the Summer season in their own cottage or condo, while most who visit are there for a week or two at a time.
The Island is only a quarter to a half of a mile wide in most areas, so one is never far from the sea. It has only one amusement area and the only boardwalk was destroyed by a storm in 1944. This gives the area a peacefulness uncommon for a modern beach resort. Families and friends spend time together at the beach or enjoying one of the many fine restaurants. Shopping is another favorite pastime, as Long Beach is dotted with hundreds of stores and shops.