Do the Hike: Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area

Photos and story by Collin Hall

Trailhead near parking lot at the end of New England Road in Lower Township on Cape Island. 

Wear bright colors if you visit during hunting season. 

The Higbee Beach Wildlife Management area, other than being a mouthful, is one of the best places to take a nature walk on Cape Island. Probably the best. 

The public land, protected by the NJ DEP, brings hikers through a swathe of different natural landscapes. To start your walk, there’s free parking lot with easily accessible parking nearly any time of year. That’s a huge boon on an island marked by intense tourism. The entrance, on the south side of Higbees Beach Road just past the parking lot, is innocuous and nearly grown over by brush. The unmistakable NJ Fish and Wildlife logo, with its hacky-but-cool eagle graphic, marks the spot. Look for a metal sign with a big green “NJ” printed on it.  

The pictured meadow blooms in the summer but is still beautiful in fall.

Just a few hundred feet past the trail entrance is a flower-dense meadow and wooden viewing stands in the distance. You can walk around the meadow from either side, and there are multiple cut-throughs to reach the other side if you change your mind.  

If you take a left shortly after you enter the meadow, there stands a forest with plenty of old growth. White diamond markers follow along the main trail. If you follow them, you’ll find yourself in another clearing with white farm houses in the distance. The trails themselves are well-maintained and are popular among locals, but you aren’t likely to run into too many others during your time here. 

There are so many offshoots, meadows, and short vistas that the trail system feels labyrinthian. My girlfriend and I were both captured by the ghostly sunset that hung over farm houses.  

On our trip, we saw small mushrooms bubbling up from the wet ground, fresh black-box mosquito traps courtesy of the Cape May County Mosquito Control scattered about like landmines, and a mighty chestnut oak that sagged southward. There’s a whole lot more than that to find for those with a curious spirit.  

This is the kind of trail system that speaks for itself. It isn’t too long – none of the trails in the county are – but the varied topography should make even the nature-averse mutter a “wow” under their breath. Check this one out on a breezy fall evening.  

Small mushrooms on one of the trails.  
One offshoot brings you to a field with pretty houses in view.  
The trailhead, located a few hundred feet from a free parking lot near the end of Higbees Beach Road / New England Road in Lower Township on Cape Island.  

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