SEE-ABLE SEA TURTLES
Many beachgoers think they can only observe sea turtles in tropical destinations, but there are some species that can be spotted in New Jersey. Keep an eye peeled for diamondback terrapins navigating bayside saltwater marshes. Out in the ocean, loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles ride the tides.
MASSIVE MARINE MAMMALS
If you see a fin breaking the surface of the waves, it’s probably a friendly bottlenose dolphin or harbor porpoise. Curious about even more colossal cetaceans? Humpback whales also swim in the waters off the coast of the Garden State.
Effortlessly slipping through the water, you could spot the roughtail stingray (which can grow up to 8.5 feet in width!) or the cownose ray along with their smaller cousins – the bluntnose stingray as well as the little skate, which typically maxes out at only 18 inches in size and has no stinger in its tail.
You may be able to spy two species of cephalopods (Latin for head-foots) in our stretch of the Atlantic Ocean – the squid and the octopus. Fascinating facts: Squids are backward swimmers powered by jet propulsion and the common octopus can sneakily change color to camouflage itself within the surrounding seascape.
There are some local sea creatures that look a little like land animals or plants – or even inanimate objects! Say hello to the lined sea horse, jellyfish, sea anemone, sea star and sand dollar. Outshining all others: The sea star can regenerate lost limbs and eat food outside its body by turning its stomach inside out.
CURIOUS CRUSTACEANS (AND NOT!)
Skittering along the ocean floor or across the sand, you just may spot the American lobster, blue crab, horseshoe crab and hermit crab. Did you know the horseshoe crab is not a crustacean at all? In fact, it’s more closely related to scorpions and spiders than the crabs on this list!
Craved by shellfish fans everywhere, the New Jersey coast is host to clams, mussels, scallops and oysters galore! In fact, the towns of Port Norris and Bivalve were once known as the “oyster capital of the world.” That legacy lives on at the Bayshore Center at Bivalve, where working oystermen still haul this shelled delicacy from the waters of the Maurice River.
Next time you’re boogie-boarding the waves or strolling the surf along one of one of New Jersey’s beaches, be on the lookout for these aquatic acquaintances! Want help planning your trip down the shore? Our official Travel Guide is a smart place to start – and our e-newsletter delivers monthly inspiration straight to your inbox.