The New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route was established in 1988 "to provide for public appreciation, education, understanding, and enjoyment" of significant natural and cultural sites associated with the coastal area of the State of New Jersey. The Coastal Heritage Trail is divided into five regions linked by the common heritage of life on the Jersey Shore and Raritan and Delaware bays. Five themes define different aspects of coastal life: Maritime History, Coastal Habitats, Wildlife Migration, Historic Settlements, and Relaxation and Inspiration. The Maritime History, Coastal Habitats, and Wildlife Migration theme Trails are open to the public. The Historic Settlements and Relaxation & Inspiration themes are still under development.
The trail is intended primarily for vehicular tourism. It is a partnership project by the National Park Service in cooperation with the State of New Jersey and many other public and private organizations working to preserve the state's natural and cultural heritage. The Trail extends along coastal New Jersey, from Perth Amboy to Cape May on the Atlantic coast, and west along the Delaware Bay from Cape May to the Delaware Memorial Bridge at Deepwater, New Jersey.
Trail destinations vary from historic sites to natural areas, and activities and special events vary accordingly. Visitors should contact individual destinations for more specific information. Typical historic areas include lighthouses, marinas, Coast Guard stations, indigenous boat collections, defensive forts, and historic towns -some with unique architectures. Natural areas such as coastal beaches, maritime forests, and salt marshes provide opportunities for fishing, boating, hiking, and bird watching. Seasonal wildlife migrations are particularly noteworthy. Numerous water related recreational opportunities exist along the Jersey Shore as well.
Trail welcome centers are located at Fort Mott State Park (off State Route 49 between Salem and Pennsville in Salem County near the Delaware Memorial Bridge) and at the Ocean View Tourist Information Center (Milepost 18.3 on the Garden State Parkway in Cape May County north of Cape May).