Once devastated by the winds of Hurricane Sandy, Long Beach Island is now a serene 18-mile-long barrier island off the coast of New Jersey that boasts sea glass, shells, fossils, and sand dollars just waiting to be found on its wide beaches. And, there’s no better time to celebrate this revived community and beautiful beaches than at the Long Beach Island Sea Glass & Art Festival, celebrating its 11th year this October.
Long Beach Island was originally settled by the Lenape people, who canoed to its shores to fish, harvest clams, and gather shells from its beaches. European settlers followed, establishing whaling camps and seasonal fishing and hunting villages. As shipping traffic increased, lighthouses were built, including the Barnegat Light, built in 1859. From the late 1800s through the 1920s, the island became the site of summer homes for the wealthy. While “Old Barney” still watches over the northern tip of Long Beach Island, many of the original 19th and 20th-century homes have been replaced with modern structures. You can still get a feel for life in the early days in the historical district in Beach Haven, at the southern end of Long Beach Island.
Long Beach Island is accessible by a bridge that leads to the town of Ship Bottom. The other principal towns are Barnegat Light, Beach Haven, Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Township, and Surf City. Each town has its own personality, but all of them feature beautiful beaches, great for a day trip or an extended vacation. There are plenty of hotel and restaurant options along the length of the island for any style of getaway.
Visit the first weekend in October, and you may catch the Long Beach Island Sea Glass & Art Festival. This annual festival is a great place for beach lovers to come together and celebrate their amazing finds. Every piece of art displayed is individually handmade by the exhibiting artisans, which means no resale and mass-produced works of any kind will be on sale.
Cheryl Kirby, founder of the festival and fifth-generation Islander, is thrilled to educate beachcombers about genuine sea glass and to encourage beach conservation. Cheryl and her group of dedicated organizers and volunteers have hosted the sea glass festival—the first on the East Coast—since its inception.
Admission to the festival is free and includes talks by beachcombing experts Sara Caruso, Mary McCarthy, and Derek Yoost, who will lecture about sea glass, fossil collecting, and other beachcombing topics. The festival will also host experts from local museums that will be available to identify beach finds both biological and archeological.
Attendees are welcome to enter the Sea Glass contest, which is held on both days of the festival and awards prize ribbons in the following categories: Best Piece Found on Long Beach Island, Best Found in New Jersey, Best Found Across the World, Best Overall, and the newest category: Best Stopper. Other exciting activities include the Wrack Line Sculpture Contest, the Fossil and Artifact Contest, and “Guess the Gallon,” with the winner who guesses the correct number of sea glass pieces taking home the entire gallon-sized jar. Whether you are an avid beachcomber or just tagging along, there is something for everyone.
In addition to the events listed above, the premiere event at this festival is the annual tradition of attempting to set a Guinness or Sea Glass World Record. Past records include the largest pile of genuine sea glass (at 947.5 lbs) and largest group of conch horn blowers (at 258 people), so be sure to stop by to participate in the newest record attempt and receive an official World Record certificate. Your trip will literally go down in history!
To learn more, visit facebook.com/lbiseaglassfest.
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This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine September/October 2019 issue.
Went last October 2019 enjoyed the festival immensely!