Best Bird Watching Destinations In New Jersey

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Do you live in the garden state, love bird watching, and looking for the best birding in New Jersey? Are you looking for new and exciting destinations to visit to see your favorite birds in nature? You’ve just discovered the ultimate bird watching resource my friend.

In the sections to follow, you’ll learn in-depth info regarding the best free and paid destinations for bird watching in New Jersey. You’ll learn about the top birding hotspots along with their physical addresses and social media pages, YouTube videos, hiking trails, hours of operation, and much more. Check out our birding guides for the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and New York.

Stick around to discover the best kept birding secrets in the NJ below.

Bird Watching Destinations In New Jersey: Free Destinations

Bird watching opportunities in New Jersey are surprisingly plentiful. So, if you’re looking for a new place to see a wide array of birds in their natural habitat, we highly recommend visiting the Garden State in the near future.

They have so many bird watching opportunities including the ones mentioned below.

Cape May Bird Observatory – Free Bird Watching, Paid Membership

Visiting Cape May and the Cape May Bird Observatory is an exciting opportunity for birders on the prowl for new bird watching experiences. Within the Bird Observatory, you’ll find a wide array of 171 bird species, numerous programs, and they even offer field trips around the Cape.

Location:

701 East Lake Dr.
Cape May Point, NJ 08212
Phone: 609-400-3868

GPS: 38.9404° N, 74.9623° W

Hours Of Operation:

The Northwood Center for visitors is open seven days a week between 9:30 AM and 4:30 PM. The Bird Observatory hiking trails are open every day from dusk till dawn.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Black-Bellied Plover
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Dowitchers
  • Clapper Rails
  • Black Ducks
  • Gadwalls
  • Tree Swallows
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Northern Goshawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Broad-Winged Hawk
  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Membership Fees (Not Required For Bird Watching)

  • Individual Membership – $39
  • Family Membership – $49
  • Hundred Membership – $100
  • Benefactor Membership – $250
  • Advocate Membership – $1000
  • Individual Lifetime Membership – $2500
  • Couple Lifetime Membership – $3000

Hiking Trails:

There are numerous opportunities to hike or walk along the beach, the Cape, and one very special hiking trail. You’ll have no trouble discovering more than 170 species of amazing birds that migrate in and out of the Cape every year.

The main hiking trail in the area is called:

  • South Cape May Meadows – this easy to travel boardwalk hiking trail is not very long since it’s only 1.7 miles in total. Since it’s on a boardwalk, it’s wheelchair accessible and it should take an average walker about 45 minutes to complete the trail.

Island Beach State Park – Free Bird Watching, Paid Parking

Stretching 10 miles long, this barrier island is narrow and you’ll find it nestled between Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. There are lots of wetlands, forest, and tidal marshes in the area, which make it one of the best places to find migrating songbirds, shorebirds, wading birds, Osprey, and Peregrine Falcons. 

Local bird watchers truly consider this location a birding paradise and you will too.

Location:

Physical Address
2401 Central Ave.
Seaside Park, NJ 08752

Mailing Address
PO Box 37
Seaside Park, NJ 08752

Phone: 732-793-0506

GPS: 39.7975° N, 74.0976° W

Hours Of Operation:

You’re allowed to spend time in Island Beach State Park every day from sunrise to sunset. The park office is open every day from 8 AM to 8 PM, if you need to speak with one of the officials managing the park.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Brown Pelican
  • Piping Plover
  • Saltmarsh Sparrow
  • Black Skimmer
  • American Oystercatcher
  • Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron
  • Tricolored Heron
  • Great Cormorant
  • Least Tern
  • Clapper Rail
  • Osprey

Parking Fees:

  • New Jersey Residents – $6 on weekdays
  • Nonresidents – $12 on weekdays
  • New Jersey Residents – $10 on weekends and holidays
  • Nonresidents – $20 on weekends and holidays
  • New Jersey Residents Motorcycle – $5
  • Nonresidents Motorcycle – $7

Trails & Recreation:

Biking is very popular at Island Beach State Park. There is a main road that runs through the park that’s 8 miles long, with space on the shoulder that’s perfect for those who intend to bicycle along the path while bird watching.

Hiking is even more popular in the area. Although the trails are short and less than 1 mile long, there are eight of them located throughout the island.

Or if you prefer, there are 10 miles of white sandy beaches to explore with lots of bird watching opportunities there as well.

Horseback riding is another regular activity on Island Beach State Park, although it’s only permitted from October 1 to April 30 each year. Trot along the 6 miles of permitted riding areas along the beach and enjoy watching beautiful birds in their natural habitat.

Sandy Hook Unit (Gateway National Recreation Area) – Free Park Entrance And Bird Watching, Paid Parking

Sandy Hook, NJ is an endpoint of 27,000 acres of land that is protected by the National Park Services in New York and New Jersey. This beautiful landscape is filled with many green spaces, beaches, and historical structures known as Gateway National Recreation Area.

While spending time in Sandy Hook, you’ll have an opportunity to go birding and see some wonderful winged creatures in their natural territory. It’s truly a sight to behold and certainly an experience you’ll never forget.

Location:

128 South Hartshorne Dr.
Highlands, NJ 07732
Phone: 718-354-4606

GPS: 40.4458° N, 73.9909° W

Hours Of Operation:

The Sandy Hook Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area is open every day of the year between 5 AM and 9 PM. Right now, the ranger stations and visitor center remain closed due to the Covid 19 virus.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Northern Goshawk
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Northern Harrier
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Northern Gannet
  • Razorbill
  • Great Cormorant
  • Swallow-Tailed Kite
  • Broad-Winged Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Red-Tailed Hawk

Parking Fees:

It doesn’t cost anything to enter Gateway National Recreation Area. But between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, regular parking fees cost $15 per day and beach parking costs $20 per day. Oversized vehicles must pay $50 per day. And for season beach parking passes, it’s $100 per season for a regular vehicle and $200 per season for an oversized vehicle.

Hiking Trails:

Now, I’d like to share the top Sandy Hook, NJ Unit hiking trails in the area. There are truly some amazing places to hike along the beach and other recreational spots that you’ll soon learn about.

The most popular hiking trails in the area include:

  • 9 Gun Battery and Engle Battery Overlooked Tower – this is an easy and relatively short hiking trail that lasts for 0.9 miles in length. You should have no trouble finishing the entire trail in about 25 minutes.
  • Fisherman’s Trail – depending on how quick you are, you should have very little trouble walking the entirety of the one-mile-long Fisherman’s Trail. You’re going to walk in deep sand though, which will slow you down a bit. It should take anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour to complete the entire trail.
  • South Beach and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk – this self-explanatory Boardwalk trail is very simple to complete since you can follow the boardwalk from one end to another, which is about 2 ½ miles long. We think it’ll take about an hour to complete from start to finish.
  • Gateway National Recreation Area Loop – this is where things get really interesting because this moderately difficult trail is 10.7 miles long and the longest and most difficult trail in the area. It should take you about 4 ½ hours to complete the entire trail.
  • Sandy Hook Multi-Use Trail – also a relatively long trail but easier to navigate, this trail in Sandy Hook is 9.4 miles long. It’ll take about three hours and 45 minutes to finish the whole thing from beginning to end.
  • Sandy Hook Beach C and D – this hiking trail is much shorter than the last two coming in at 1.3 miles in length. This quick trail should take about a half an hour to finish if you walk from one end to the other.

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admission

This gorgeous wildlife refuge is free to enter and it fully encompasses more than 47,000 acres of land in southern New Jersey. It’s a wide array of coastal habitats that have become the home to many migratory birds traveling back and forth from north to south.

In fact, it’s one of the most active flight paths on the Atlantic Flyway. Seasonal bird migration has never been safer now that this habitat is fully protected and home to more than 555 refugees in the animal kingdom.

It truly is a beautiful place to visit if you love the outdoors and love watching birds and wild animals in nature.

Location:

800 Great Creek Road
Galloway, NJ 08205
Phone: 609-652-1665

GPS: 39.6963° N, 74.1827° W

Hours Of Operation:

The wildlife refuge is open every day of the week from sunrise to sunset.

The visitor center is usually open from Wednesday-Sunday between 10 AM to 3 PM and closed on Monday, Tuesday, and holidays. Due to the Covid 19 virus, the visitor center is currently closed indefinitely.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Black Skimmer
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Spotted Redshank
  • Curlew Sandpiper
  • Bald Eagle
  • Chuck-Will’s-Widow
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Osprey
  • Least Bittern
  • Seaside Sparrow
  • Saltmarsh Sparrow

Hiking Trails:

This large and encompassing piece of protected wildlife land has 2 amazing hiking trails for you to peruse at your leisure. These trails will lead you through the preserve, and provide access to many gorgeous birds in their natural habitat, just like nature intended.

The main hiking trails in the area include:

  • deCamp Wildlife Trail – this easy to navigate trail is 2 ½ miles long and it’s pretty simple to walk along because the path is flat and clear. In total, it should take between an hour and an hour and a half to finish the whole thing.
  • Songbird Trail Loop – this trail is moderately difficult because you have to walk through sand and up some inclines along the path. All in all, it’s around 4.7 miles long and it could take anywhere from two hours to 2 ½ hours to complete.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge – Free Bird Watching

This particular wildlife refuge is located in Morris County, NJ and it was established on November 3, 1960. It encompasses more than 7768 acres of habitat land and it’s become an important refuge for nearly 250 bird species, turtles, frogs, muskrats, fish, deer, and more. If you love the outdoors and birding, you’ll love this beautiful natural land located in the heart of New Jersey.

Location:

Helen C Fenske Visitor Center
32 Pleasant Plains Rd.
Harding, NJ 07920
Phone: 973-425-1222

GPS: 40.7076° N, 74.4661° W

Hours Of Operation:

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is open every day, seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset. Occasionally the park might close because of a special event or when weather conditions are extremely hazardous. It’s always best to call ahead to make sure the wildlife refuge is open before visiting.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Blue-Winged Warbler
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Marsh Wren
  • American Woodcock
  • King Rail
  • Wild Turkey
  • Barred Owl
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Ovenbird

Hiking Trails:

Hiking the beautiful trails of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is definitely a fun and exciting experience for bird watchers and wildlife lovers alike. You’ll come across so many of your favorite bird species that you’ll have a difficult time containing your mirth.

Enjoy walking along 5 amazing hiking trails that are called:

  • Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Orange and Red Loop Trails – this may sound like a long and difficult trail, but it’s actually relatively easy and it isn’t that long either. It’s only 1.3 miles in total and it should take around 30 minutes for you to complete to get from one end to the other.
  • Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Blue, Yellow, and Ivory Trails – this trail is moderately difficult and twice as long as the previous trail, coming in at 2.6 miles in length. And just like the last trail, we’ll double the time and estimate all that it will take you about an hour to complete, or maybe a little longer since it’s a bit more difficult.
  • Bird-Blinds Loop – this trail is relatively easy to walk along, but it’s 2 miles long, so there’s definitely some walking involved. We believe that it will take you around 40-45 minutes to complete the entire trail.
  • Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Blue Trail – believe it or not, the Blue Trail is the longest trail of the bunch that we are sharing with you today. It’s 4 ½ miles in length, it’s fairly easy to travel long, and it will take you around an hour and 45 minutes to finish from beginning to end.
  • Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Orange Trail – this trail is also longer than you might originally think and it’s just 1/10th of a mile shorter than the longest trail, coming in at 4.4 miles in total. And like the other trail, it should take about an hour and 40 minutes to an hour and 45 minutes to finish.

High Point State Park – Free Bird Watching

High Point State Park is actually at the summit of Kittatinny Ridge, which is 1803 feet high and located above sea level. Believe it or not, this is the highest elevation located throughout the entire state of New Jersey. It’s also a beautiful place to sightsee, look at the birds, view the beautiful wild animals in their natural habitat, and come for a relaxing and enjoyable day in nature.

While visiting, you might want to spend time walking along the beach, maybe stay at the campgrounds for a couple of nights, visit the concession area, walk along the hiking trails, or stop for a picnic with your friends and loved ones. There’s so much to see and do at High Point State Park in Sussex, NJ.

Location:

1480 Route 23
Sussex, NJ 07461
Phone: 973-875-4800

GPS: 41.2934° N, 74.6990° W

Hours Of Operation:

High Point State Park is open every day of the week including many holidays from dusk till dawn.

High Point Monument, on the other hand, is open every day from 8:30 AM to 4 PM between Memorial Day and Columbus Day, as long as the weather and enough available staff permits. It’s always best to call ahead to find out if they’re going to be open on the day you intend to visit.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Common Raven
  • Blue-Headed Vireo
  • Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
  • Black-Throated Green Warbler
  • Black-Throated Blue Warbler
  • Northern Water Thrush
  • Worm-Eating Warbler
  • Brown Creeper
  • Winter Wren
  • Chestnut-Sided Warbler
  • Hermit Thrush

Hiking Trails:

You may not know this yet, but High Point State Park is a hiker’s paradise. As a matter of fact, this beautiful location boasts 18 amazing trails. Some of these trails are easy, many of them are moderately difficult, and even a few are very hard trails to travel along. 

So, strap on your hiking boots because you’re about to experience a lot of walking if you choose to participate and travel along the amazing hiking trails in this beautiful state park.

Our top 5 trails to travel along include:

  • Duttonville Ridge Trail – although this trail is only 1.8 miles long, do not let it fool you because it’s moderately difficult to walk along due to inclines and rough ground. Even so, it should only take you about 45-50 minutes to complete the trail from beginning to end.
  • Lusscroft Farm Loop – believe it or not, this is one of the most difficult trails that we’re recommending right now because it lies alongside the Kittatinny Mountains and there is definitely rough terrain ahead. The trail is long as well and it encompasses an entire 7-mile stretch from start to finish. Overall, after experiencing all of the ups and downs of this trail, we believe it’ll take between three hours and 45 minutes and four hours to complete.
  • Steeny Kill and Sawmill Lakes Trail – although relatively easy terrain to travel along, this is also a really long trail coming in at 8.7 miles in total distance. If you decide to walk the trail from start to finish, we believe that it will take about four hours to complete the whole trail in its entirety.
  • Sawmill Lake Trail – this is definitely a much easier trail to travel along since the terrain is easy-going and it’s only 1.1 miles long. You should have no trouble completing the entire trail in 30 minutes as long as you walk at a moderate pace.
  • High Point via Appalachian Trail – this trail is definitely on the harder side because it’s moderately difficult and it’s a lot longer than the last trail since it’s 6.3 miles long. If you’re a fast enough walker and have the stamina to complete the entire trail at an even pace, you should finish it in three hours and 15 minutes.

Bird Watching Destinations In New Jersey: Paid Destinations & Birding Tours

Wings Birding Tours Worldwide

Although this company is international and has bird tours in many parts of the world, they also have an exciting birding tour in Cape May New Jersey for those looking for that kind of experience.

The company first began as Northeast Birding, when it was started by Will Russell and Davis Finch in 1973. They have existed in one form or another for nearly 50 years, and they go on exploratory vacation adventures through South and Central America, Alaska, Mexico, Asia, Europe, and the United States and the United Kingdom.

But today we’re here to focus on one particular tour.

The name is: New Jersey: Cape May

This upcoming birding tour and vacation is led by Skye Haas and it takes place between Saturday, September 25 and Friday, October 1, 2021.

The total expense for the trip will cost you $2250. And if you’re willing to pay for a single occupancy supplement, it will cost you an extra $540 on top of the initial price.

Location:

Wings
1643 N. Alvernon Way, Suite 109
Tucson, AZ 85712
Local Phone: 520-320-9868
Toll-Free Phone: 866-547-9868

Scott Barnes and Linda Mack – Island Beach State Park Tour

This birding tour will take you along the Maritime forest, so avid birders can view warblers, tanagers, and vireos as they migrate into the region.

The upcoming event costs $25, which you can sign up for by visiting their Eventbrite page.

Final Thoughts About Bird Watching In New Jersey

As you can undoubtedly tell, there was much to learn and uncover about bird watching in New Jersey.

These wonderful places are always waiting for you, but you have to take the initiative and make it a point to visit them the next time you’re going on a family or business trip.

Believe it or not, you will absolutely adore seeing wild birds in their natural habitat no matter who you happen to be with including friends, loved ones, and coworkers too. If you love birding, then you’re definitely going to love these gorgeous locations scattered throughout the garden state.