The Delaware Bay Bayshore is home to many quaint, authentic communities, each of which retains much of its historic character. Browse each area and discover these vibrant waterfront communities for yourself.
Maurice River Cove Up the Maurice River Downe by the Bay Back Creek to Cohansey Lower Cohansey / Bayside
Maurice River Cove
Maurice River Cove is home to some of the Bayshore’s most historically important industries, structures and culture. Maurice River Cove also represents one of the most important areas for the ongoing shoreline protection initiatives being pursued by regional stakeholders.
The Maurice River Cove is the mouth of the Maurice River, where the river meets the Delaware Bay. It is home to commercial fishing interests, the state’s largest seafood processing plant, and cultural installations and institutions that serve as pillars of the region’s economy and identity. And it is eroding fast.
Even a cursory glance at historical maps and photos of the river’s mouth and the surrounding meadows shows the astonishing extent of erosion that has occurred there over the decades. This erosion threatens the continued existence of the businesses and other installations located in Maurice River Cove, and unless action to address this continued degradation is taken soon, the cultural, economic and historic landscape of the area may be forever altered.
Originally constructed by the United States Lighthouse Establishment for the princely sum of $5,000, the light remained operational until the onset of World War II in 1941. In the early 1970s a group of concerned citizens formed the Maurice River Historical Society and began the task of restoring the historic structure. A fire set by vandals in July of that year significantly damaged the lighthouse. Despite the setback, the Maurice River Historical Society raised the necessary funds for repairs to the structure, and in 1980 the U.S. Coast Guard reactivated the light and managed its operation until the early 1990s.
The lighthouse is surrounded by a public-access beach, and is a short drive from Route 47 south. From Route 47 turn onto Glade Road, make a left at the fork onto East Point Road and turn right on Lighthouse Road.
Matt’s Landing is home to several marinas and fresh seafood distributors, as well as a public access fishing and crabbing area and scenic bike and foot paths. During the summer seasons a small island covered with dead trees is home to literally hundreds of cormorants and other birds, and makes for great viewing from the comfort of your vehicle.
Matt’s Landing is easily reached from Route 47, and is an easy stop for birders, bikers, fishermen, crabbers and shore-bound commuters. From Route 47, simply turn onto Mackeys Lane, bear left onto Route 616/Main Street and take a right at Matt’s Landing Road.
Aptly named for the massive piles of shells that accumulated outside of the shucking houses during the golden age of the South Jersey oyster industry, Shell Pile still retains much of its historic character and appeal.
Hard against the terminus of the Maurice River into the Delaware Bay, modern Shellpile is home to working waterfront businesses and the remnants of the mountainous piles of shell upon which much of Port Norris was built.
A trip to Shell Pile is a a great drive for any season and is home to the New Jersey State Police’s Marine barracks, Port Norris Marina, and King’s Crab Ranch seafood wholesalers.
Bivalve is a historic fishing village that still maintains South Jersey’s working maritime traditions. Despite its small size, Bivalve is home to a working marina, the Rutgers Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, New Jersey’s only surf clam processing plant, and the Bayshore Center at Bivalve, operators of the state’s official tall ship the A.J. Meerwald. The Bayshore Center also operates a robust museum and folk life center; a cafe that specializes in serving delicious, often locally procured food; and hosts a variety of popular events including Bay Day and Second Fridays by the Bay.
There is also a public access area overlooking a lush tidal marsh, with plenty of places to bike, hike, birdwatch and generally enjoy the natural scenery. At various times of year a host of birds, including waterfowl, and majestic bald eagles can be seen roaming the skies above Bivalve.
Once the ‘Oyster Capital of the World’ and home to more millionaires per-capita than any other place in New Jersey, Port Norris is now a quaint historic village with lots of character (and characters!), a vibrant library, historical society and a 100 year old fire company with an impressive schedule of events.
Port Norris is also home to the site of Cumberland County’s only battle of the American Revolution, the Battle of Dallas Landing, in which a group of patriots bested a boatload of Tories bound for Philadelphia. Currently, work is underway to identify the exact location of the battle, which is believed to have occurred somewhere in the vicinity of Peak of the Moon.
Port Norris makes for a great destination for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys scenic views, good food and small town charm.
Up the Maurice River
Upriver on the Maurice between the bay and Millville can be found examples of the Bayshore’s rich and colorful history. From the idyllic riversides of Port Elizabeth, to the stately Front Street of Mauricetown, traveling upriver gives the Bayshore tourist a unique glimpse into the lives and industries of the region’s earliest settlers.
Though many have driven past what used to be the ‘Leesburg Prison Farm’, the heart of the town of Leesburg is actually on the banks of the Maurice River abutting Dorchester and hosting the town center for them both. Leesburg is a historic shipbuilding town and continues the tradition with a dry-dock and boatworks.
The railroad once ran through the town of Dorchester carrying supplies to the shipyards on the riverfront. Shipbuilding ruled the economy and ship repair still defines it. Much of the historic housing stock evokes the time it was primarily a ‘company’ town. Catch an occasional view of the scenic Maurice River as it winds along the town’s edge; enjoy the woodsy feel that wraps the other side of town.
“In the middle of the 19th century, Mauricetown was a prosperous shipping village. Hard against the west bank of the Maurice River, it was home to ships’ captains and their families, and the businesses that they operated.
They were well-traveled men, cultured, and often blessed with prosperity, and the homes they constructed reflected their success.”
Centuries later, the tiny hamlet still retains an amazing range of historic architecture including a Swedish log cabin built in the late 1600s, an abundance of Victorian Era homes, salt boxes, shotgun houses and everything in between. Well worth a drive through. Mauricetown has as a lovely waterfront park, excellent birding and a hidden lake with great bass.
For more information on the historic aspects of the town, a group of graduate students from the University of Delaware spent a week in Mauricetown documenting the historic architecture that the town is known for.
Interested visitors should contact the Mauricetown Historical Society for more information about events and attractions.
One of the few Bayshore communities dissected by a state highway, Port Elizabeth is a mixture of quaint historic homes, scenic river views, quiet backstreets rich with history and natural resources and a heavily trafficked business corridor boasting seafood, produce and outdoor supplies.
Downe by the Bay
Discover the villages of Downe Township: Dividing Creek, Fortescue, Gandys Beach, Money Island and Newport, NJ.
These days it’s a great place to go crabbing from one of several boat rental facilities or head down Maple Avenue towards Turkey Point and pull up a chair at one of the finest spots to crab. The bridge on the way into town from Halleyville is also a favored spot to drop a line or a pot.
Enjoy the historic and the periodic events at Union Hall – don’t miss the mackeral breakfast!
One of the most breathtaking natural attractions anywhere on the east coast can be found right here in Dividing Creek – by the adventurous visitor at least.
Nestled in an obscure, low-lying pocket of Dividing Creek, between Ackley Road and Route 553, among abandoned sand-mining pits and a short distance from the estuarine meadows of Dividing Creek, are about two hundred non-contiguous acres of trees that took root centuries before the founding of America.
Known colloquially for years as the Bear Swamp, the land was purchased and marked for permanent preservation some 15 years ago by the Natural Lands Trust, a non-profit organization that now manages the tract as part of its larger holding, the Glades Wildlife Refuge.
Click here for a newspaper article that details all of the various flora and fauna that inhabit the swamp.
Access to the Bear Swamp can be difficult, but for those in the mood (and the physical condition) for an adventure, a short hike can transport a visitor back centuries to a time before the founding of America.
Despite being permanently preserved, the forest does face an uncertain future. Rising sea levels have already begun to threaten the ancient wood, and it may be that soon one of the last remaining vestiges of old growth forest on the eastern seaboard fades into memory.
Fortescue makes a great trip for anyone who enjoys fishing, crabbing, hiking, biking, birding, or just sitting on the beach relaxing! The tiny island community is home to a host of charter fishing vessels, as well as a long stretch of public beach that is perfect for fishing, bathing or kicking back with a good book, and all without the noise of Atlantic Ocean beach crowds!
For the more adventurous there is also ample space for hiking, biking and boating, and the pristine natural habitat that surrounds the island is teeming with all manner of birds, fishes, and animals.
And, don’t forget to stop and grab a bite to eat at Higbees Luncheonette, the Charlesworth Hotel, or the Fortescue Grill!
A resort town with a marina and a great sense of community!
They’ve got a beach almost from one end of the town to the other and a hundred or so homes, mostly seasonal, all with spectacular Bay views. Watch for golf carts as you navigate the one road through town!
Money Island was once a robust salt hay farming outpost at the juncture of the Delaware Bay and Nantuxent Creek. Now, all that remains are a few houses, a marina and the docks where the days oyster catch for most of the bay is landed. In fact, most of NJ’s Delaware Bay oyster catch is landed here, making Money Island an important if obscure cog in the local commercial fishing economy.
The village also has much to offer the casual visitor or day-tripper. Recreational fishing is hot across all seasons; the views panoramic and striking to the horizon’s bound; and the diversity of wildlife is startling!
The roughly 40 houses wind from the Bayfront along the mouth of the fast moving Nantuxent Creek and then follow its eastern bank as it winds back through acre after acre of marsh and farm fields dotted with islands of cedars and flanked by pine forests.
Eagles nest up the creek and can be seen daily moving from bank to bank. Great Horned Owls are known to call from the clumps of trees in the creek side back to the cedar islands on the outskirts of town.
Newport, in Downe Township, was originally known as Autixit or Antuxit, for the creek on which it is situated. It was the site of a skirmish between the Whigs and Tories during the American Revolution. It also was the home of early saw and grist mills.
Back Creek to Cohansey
Explore Cedarville, Bay Point, Fairton, and Sea Breeze in the Back Creek area
Cedarville received its name in 1806, but it had been settled long before that when saw and grist mills were built along the Cedar Creek. Some of Lawrence Township’s leading citizens lived there after the Revolution, and the town’s inhabitants were largely engaged in agriculture and oystering.
Bay Point is the latest in a long line of Bayshore towns to be returned to the bay. Ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, its residents and business owners reached an agreement with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Blue Acres program in the summer of 2014, and the entire village is in the process of being bought out and returned to nature as publicly-preserved wetlands.
Though now almost entirely depopulated, Bay Point still makes for a scenic drive, and will continue to offer public access to the Delaware Bay and surrounding meadowlands.
Fairton was once known as Bumbridge, a name said to derive from a constable falling through a wooden bridge over Rattlesnake Run while trying to make an arrest. It is the site of an early settlement known as New England Town. In 1695, a Presbyterian Church was located there and its worshippers were primarily people who had migrated from New England.
Like Bay Point, many of the residents of Sea Breeze have sold their land to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection through the Blue Acres program. The remnants of many homes can still be seen as the bay slowly begins to take these shores. Sea Breeze is a great spot for fishing and enjoying the remoteness of the area.
Discover Greenwich and Bayside in the Lower Cohansey River area
Located on the banks of the Cohansey River in the westernmost reaches of Cumberland County, Greenwich is a small community that is rich in historical architecture.
Bayside (Caviar), a former resort and fishing area located east of Greenwich on the Delaware Bay, was once a source of caviar (the roe or eggs of a fish called the Atlantic sturgeon, weighing as much as 400 pounds). The Central Railroad of New Jersey transported the processed seafood from Bayside to Jersey City for market. The area is now a natural preserve, owned by Public Service Electric & Gas, and overseen by the Nature Conservancy.