As my husband and I pedaled over the Cape Island Creek on the Lafayette Street Bridge, I took in the picturesque scene from the back of our tandem bike: the boats along the marina, the impressive homes, and a trio of teenage girls floating toward the bay on stand-up paddleboards.
Since we bought our tandem bike during the pandemic, we’ve traversed Absecon Island — Longport, Margate, Ventnor, and Atlantic City — from end to end on our bicycle built for two. Once in a while, if we’re feeling energetic, we pedal the 14 miles from our home base of Margate to Ocean City’s expansive boardwalk, doubling over and pumping hard to cross the steep Ocean City-Longport Bridge, motivated by a stop for gelato at the 1898-founded Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy & Fudge on the boardwalk.
Biking is a great way to experience the Shore. “You can see a lot more on a bike,” said Terry Shields, owner of the family-run Shields Bike Rental in Cape May, who grew up biking the area and often has clients who forgo their cars and rent for the week.
“[Biking] puts you out there in nature,” said Diane Wieland, director of the Cape May County Department of Tourism. “It’s great for exercise. It’s fun.”
Most bike renters, especially those with young children in tow, explore Cape May’s historical homes (Hughes Street has some of the prettiest, Shields vouched), or make the jaunt to the Cape May Lighthouse, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Delaware Bay, Shields said.
Many bike routes at the Shore involve a combination of bike lanes, side-of-the-road travel, and narrow bridges that require focus, but you’re rewarded by trails that wind past wetlands, lighthouses, coastal towns, and along boardwalks.
To get you started, here are some of the best routes to explore along the Shore. Enjoy the ride, and don’t forget your sunscreen and helmet.
Cape May Shoreline Ride
Distance: 46.4 miles for the full loop.
Difficulty: The ride is flat and moderately easy, but take care on the narrow bridges and busy roads.
This route is a long one — 46.4 miles for the full loop — but delivers vistas and vibes of both bay and ocean in New Jersey’s southernmost Cape May County. The loop begins and ends at the Cape May Lighthouse and takes you past Victorian architecture, bird sanctuaries, canals, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, barrier island Shore communities, wetlands, the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, beaches, and boardwalks. For an enjoyable add-on, take your bike on the 80-minute crossing to historic Lewes, Del.
Insider Tip: Take a detour westward along Sunset Boulevard in Cape May to Sunset Beach to check out the remains of the sunken concrete SS Atlantus and hunt for the famous “Cape May Diamonds,” translucent quartz pebbles that wash ashore. “People for generations have found these,” Wieland said. “You’re not going to find them anywhere else.”
Cold Spring Bike Trail
Distance: 17 miles.
Difficulty: The path is mostly flat and paved.
This 17-mile ride starts in Cape May, travels along Route 9 — an old stagecoach line — and ends at the Cape May County Park & Zoo in Cape May Court House. The route takes you past historical stops such as the Village of Cold Spring and its Presbyterian Church, which dates to 1714, and graveyard, where “it is said there are more descendants of the Mayflower buried there than anywhere other than Plymouth,” Wieland said. The zoo also offers a perfect spot to take a break and explore on foot. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in season. Free admission.
Insider tip: Next door to the zoo is Cape May County Park Central, with wooded walking and biking trails. You might even spy some wildlife.
Cape May County Lighthouse Trail
Distance: 4 miles.
It’s an easy ride along Cape May streets to 215 Lighthouse Ave. in Cape May Point State Park. Climb the 199 steps for a stunner of a view of the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean, nature trails, and Cape May Point Borough. The 244-acre park is also a favorite of bird-watchers. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: $12 adults, $8 children (ages 3-12). For more information, call 609-884-5404.
Insider tip: This is a great route for two-wheeling families, Shields said, because of the short distance and pretty payoff.
The Wildwoods Trail
Distance: 5 miles.
Difficulty: Easy, but watch for pedestrians.
A scenic, beachside route runs along much of the length of the 5-mile island, beginning at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge in Wildwood Crest to the Dunes Bike Path and continuing on the 2.5-mile boardwalk at Cresse Avenue. At 16th Street in North Wildwood, pick up the Mulberry Bike Path to the sea wall. You can keep going on a path parallel to the beach along JFK Boulevard and then around the entire island. Nearby is the 1874 Hereford Inlet Lighthouse and English Gardens (111 N. Central Ave.) in North Wildwood, which is still in use and has a small, free museum and gardens. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.Biking is allowed on the boardwalk from sunup to noon daily. There is also a designated bike lane that runs the length of North Wildwood on Surf Avenue, between First and 26th Avenues.
Insider tip: Visit the fishing docks along the waterways of Cape May County that make up the Port of Cape May/Wildwood. It’s the largest commercial fishing port in New Jersey and one of the largest on the East Coast.
Stone Harbor and Avalon
Stone Harbor and Avalon Circuit
Distance: 13 miles.
Difficulty: Flat with bike lanes.
A 13-mile bike circuit on Second Avenue and then Dune Road runs from Stone Harbor through neighboring Avalon, and a good portion of the trip is marked by bike lanes. The path passes near the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary and the Wetlands Institute, which offers hands-on educational activities and guided beach and dune walks. No biking is allowed in Stone Harbor’s business district from 6 p.m. to midnight through Labor Day.
Insider tip: This route takes you near shops in both towns (Avalon directs bikers around its main business district). Seven-Mile Island is replete with more than 100 stores. Make sure you have a lock to keep your bike safe while you shop and a basket to carry your goodies.
Ocean City Boardwalk Path
Distance: 2.5 miles.
“America’s Greatest Family Resort,” as O.C. likes to call itself, has a broad, 2.5-mile path that, appropriately, is perfect for families, with a designated bike lane between lanes for runners and surreys. “You get to see the ocean,” Wieland said. “There’s not a better view than that for so many of us.” You also have plenty of culinary Shore delights — water ice, frozen custard, fudge, water taffy, and gelato. Biking hours are from 5 a.m. to noon during the summer season and all day during the off-season.
Trail to Corson’s Inlet State Park
Distance: 8 miles.
Difficulty: Moderately easy.
For a dazzling payoff and some exercise, bike the 8-mile length of Ocean City, from Longport Bridge at the north end of the island all the way to the 341-acre Corson’s Inlet State Park on Route 619. The oceanfront tract, a seashell-seeker’s paradise, is pristine and the ideal spot to observe shorebirds and waterfowl. There is a short, narrow gravel bike path off the parking lot that goes across the upper dunes above the beach.
» READ MORE: Best ice cream at the shore
Atlantic City Boardwalk Trail
Distance: 4 miles.
Difficulty: Moderately easy.
This famed promenade is a 4-mile stretch that takes bikers past oceanfront mansions, Stockton University’s residential campus, the town’s gambling meccas, Steel Pier amusement park (try the Ferris wheel, which gives a bird’s-eye view of A.C. and the island’s other coastal communities) and bustling trinket shops and eateries. After the Ocean Casino Resort, the crowds thin out and the ocean views come into focus. The Boardwalk ends at an overlook that showcases the beach, and across Absecon Inlet, Brigantine’s long coastline — a view worth the ride. Biking is allowed 6 a.m. to noon through Sept. 15. From Jackson to Albany Avenues, biking is permitted 24 hours except on Saturday and Sundays, when it’s restricted to 6 a.m. to noon through Labor Day. From Connecticut Avenue to Gardner’s Basin, biking is allowed 24 hours year round.
Atlantic City to Longport’s The Point Trail
Distance: 9 miles.
Difficulty: Moderately easy.
For a longer ride, pedal from A.C. to Longport, a 9-mile trail with a mix of Boardwalk (including the Ventnor stretch with its impressive, I-wish-I-lived-there beach mansions) and asphalt with designated bike lanes on Atlantic Avenue through Margate (don’t miss the much-loved Lucy the Elephant) and Longport. At The Point, rest on ocean-facing benches that offer a grand view of the Ocean City-Longport Bridge and boats plying the waters. You might even spot one of the many fishermen on the rocky outcrop landing a big one.
Insider tip: Extend your trip off island (or try it another day) by walking bikes across the narrow JFK Memorial Bridge — only experienced bikers should ride across — and then pedaling the wide but steep bridge on Route 152. Then head to the Linwood Bike Path. The pleasant trail, which pedestrians share, replaced a long-defunct railroad line and goes past wooded residential areas, playing fields, and schools. For some of the best ice cream around or a buttery croissant sandwich, stop at Jessie’s of Linwood right on the pathway at Poplar Avenue. The trail is part of an 8.2-mile biking corridor that starts in Somers Point and then continues beyond Linwood into Northfield and Pleasantville, if you really want a workout.
Long Beach Island (LBI)
Beach Haven Loop
Distance: 4.2 miles.
Difficulty: Easy and flat.
This family-friendly circuit takes you on bike lanes on Beach Avenue through town. Highlights include the Surflight Theatre; Veterans Memorial Park, where you might happen upon a concert; Fantasy Island Amusement Park; and ice cream parlors. Historic homes on the crossroads of Engleside, Coral, and Pearl Streets have ample porches and bloom-heavy hydrangeas. “It’s a really nice experience,” said Lori Pepenella, CEO of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce in Ship Bottom. Loop back on North Delaware and South West Avenues.
Holgate Nature Conservatory to Barnegat Lighthouse Trail
Distance: 18 miles.
Difficulty: Flat and moderately easy.
For the more ambitious, this journey along flat Long Beach Boulevard is a straight shot from the Holgate Nature Conservatory at LBI’s southern end to the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park at its northern tip. The route takes you through small towns until you dead end at Old Barney, as the landmark is locally known. While the lighthouse is closed because of a $1.3 million restoration project, you can bike around the base, enjoy views of Barnegat Bay and its waterfowl, and check out the nature trails.
Insider tip: Off island, the Barnegat Branch Trail has several miles of walking and biking paths that follow an old railroad line. The 7.6-mile section from Barnegat to Forked River takes in some of the Pinelands. “You’re really not in any traffic,” Pepenella said. “You can have a pretty peaceful bike ride.”