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Last summer, my kids and I discovered tide pools in North Wildwood, NJ. While, they weren’t rocky pools full of undersea life that I imagined from, I don’t know, watching snorkeling videos, once we took a minute to look closer we discovered them full of sea life and opportunities to learn.
As I explored and browsed online for other adventuring blogs, I found a post talking about exploring tidal pools on Go Explore Nature. The post specified a particular beach in California, but I thought, “I wonder if we have those in Jersey too.” So I started researching.
I reached out to a friend who homeschools in Cape May County on Facebook. She posted a status to her own wall. One of her friends responded with a great spot in North Wildwood, and we arranged a meet-up. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Maybe a spot where ocean life lived along the shore. We didn’t find what I was expecting, but it was a perfect introduction to ocean life for my kids anyway.
What to look for:
First, check out this easy to read tide chart from US Harbors New Jersey so you can time your visit 1-2 hours after high tide. Then look for spots where water collects directly after high tide.
Our newest favorite beach spot to explore in the Wildwoods is in North Wildwood near Hereford Inlet. We park at 1st and Surf and sit between the lifeguards. Parking costs $2 per hour. You pay at a kiosk that takes debit, credit, or cash.
If you go an hour or two after high tide, the water pools up and is deep enough for swimming. Remember to always inspect it for freshness before letting little kids play or explore it. As low tide approaches, the pool starts to drain, but you can still find similar ocean life in the deeper spots near the edges of the sandbar in the ocean surf.
At this spot, most people sit up on the hill near the tidal pool, so there’s a large open space between the crowd of beach chairs and the ocean. The water is semi-wet and packed down here so it is perfect for families to set up paddle ball or soccer by drawing the court in the sand. The sand near where we sat was loose but still damp, making it perfect for building without the need to keep going back to the ocean for buckets of water.
The best time to visit the tide pools is an hour or two after high tide. In this particular spot, there’s also a large sandbar. At low tide, it’s possible to find hermit crabs and other creatures in the ocean surf.
Each time we’ve visited the experience has been different. On some days the pool drains faster. The first visit we found hermit crabs, small schools of fish, and shrimp. The next time, large horseshoe crabs were washing up on the beach from the ocean. This time, I found a *hermit crab in the ocean surf and even saw a crab scurrying along the sand in the ocean water. The water was rough and jellyfish were also washing up on the shore, so be careful when swimming.
*Practice Leave No Trace, and put hermit crabs back. These are small and won’t live outside of their environment anyway.
Things to know:
• The location of tide pools are different every year.
• The experience you have at a tide pool will be different every time you visit. Go with a curious mind and be open to what you might find.
• Kids can collect seashells or different types of seaweed to sort by color or pattern. You can talk to your kids about what type of animal or creature might have lived in each shell, and older kids can do their own research at home to find out the answers.
I think tide pools are perfect for little ones to swim around in or float on boogie boards without fear of washing out into the ocean. So they can have the freedom you remember of day on the beach without a massive heart attack or much anxiety for mom. They also make a great spot for my youngest, who’s a little cautious of the ocean, to play in the water safely.
What to Bring When Exploring Tide Pools
Bring what you’d normally bring for a beach trip, but don’t forget your nets, buckets and shovels to make it easier to catch and collect your findings. We also brought two toys from one of my favorite companies, Educational Insights, along on one of our trips. The Geosafari Underwater Explorer Boat￼ and Nancy B’s Science Club Aquascope ￼both help magnify things under the water.