Before the beaches of New Jersey become built up and marketed as resort towns, the bay served as an important attraction that drew people to the coast. It was a source of sustenance for Native Americans and many early white settlers. The heydays of the Bayman are behind us but there was a time when gathering marsh hay, duck hunting and catching the bay's other bountiful wildlife was a tough but workable living. Most of these folks simply got by from season to season, doing what they could to make money and catch the food they needed for their dinner table. They formed an indelible mark on local culture.
Sportsmen were also drawn to Barnegat Bay. So called sportsmens' Hotels - the Chadwick House, Reeds Hotel and others - were a place to go for city folks that were interested in taking a hunting or fishing trip. There were never a great number of them but they were the earliest Jersey shore tourist destinations. Yet this hotels offered a bit of a rough and tumble vacation. There were few amenities to be found in or out of whatever establishment one visited.
Another type of sportsmen, boating and sailing folks, came into their own as the sportsmen's hotels were beginning to disappear. The shore was now becoming a place to have a summer home and relax doing the things people found enjoyable. Numerous yacht clubs were started in the late 1800's and early 1900's, many of which are still in existence today. The boaters also continued what had been a tradition of building watercraft along the mainland shores of Barnegat Bay.
The Bay is full of tales and stories.
Before there were bridges it did take a boat to get across the bay, but this was not such a big deal when you consider that the fastest overland transportation prior to the railroad was horse driven. The first bridge connecting the mainland to Barnegat Peninsula went into Seaside Park. From there the railroad headed north towards Point Pleasant. This historical quirk is one of the reasons Island Beach was preserved. With no railroad access to the south of the island and plenty of land to develop between Seaside Park and Point Pleasant, the property that was to become Island Beach State Park remained largely undeveloped.
The first Toms River Bridge was opened in 1915.