While waiting for a group of tour participants aboard his kayak on Cape Island Creek, Bob Lubberman made a new acquaintance when a 4-foot great blue heron landed on the nose of his boat. It's not an entirely new experience for the owner of Miss Chris Kayak Rentals and Tours, as opportunities to commune with nature came often as he crabbed and fished as a child from his grandmother's dock. Now he's able to connect visitors to this ecosystem as they independently paddle rented sit-on-top kayaks or as they participate in guided kayak or boat tours.
Paddlers on kayak tours often catch close-ups of ospreys, terns, and other birds, and see diamondback terrapin turtles sunning themselves on the shore or trying to hold their own ice-cream cones. Day and sunset tours let guests explore the wildlife-rich salt marshes, and night tours led during high tide let them paddle over grassy terrain to otherwise inaccessible areas. Guests explore similar territory on tours aboard the Osprey as they watch migrating shore birds or look out on the harbor's historic buildings. Kayak tour guides include an associate naturalist and a Cape May Bird Observatory field associate, and land-based staffers maintain a touch tank on the Miss Chris mooring dock, which they temporarily fill with conches, eels, and other sea life pulled up using open-sided conservation traps.
The United States Marine Corps' AV-8B Harrier defies all logic. Is it a jet? Is it a helicopter? In truth, it's a bit of both. The aircraft and all 22,000 of its pounds can take off vertically and hover in one place—but once it moves, the harrier blasts forward at near-supersonic speeds, making it almost fast enough to outrun the chorus of "Danger Zone."
That impressive display of aeronautical engineering is just one of the attractions at the OC Air Show, including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, which soar through the sky in complex formations while the U.S. Navy Seals Leap Frogs leave the aircraft entirely and parachute down through the sky. Pilot Greg Connell turns flight into dance within the cockpit of his Pitts Model 12—an aerobatic biplane perfect for executing loops.
While there's no charge for looking towards the clouds, the OC Air Show does offer some premium viewing areas. The Drop Zone adds food and drink, professional narration of the show, and sight-lines right into the center of the action. Sixty-four lucky people also get to watch from a raised VIP Skybox, while even more can go right out onto the water to see fish peek out from the surface, longing for the day they'll learn to fly.
The ships that comprise Starlight Fleet's squadron of vessels each transport passengers across the waves on a variety of sea adventures. The Starlight ferries fisherman on four-hour excursions to hook sea bass, flounder, croakers and triggerfish, the captain using sonar, GPS, and a knowledge of the currents to identify prime fishing real estate. The Atlantic Star typically serves as a whale-watching vessel and is kitted out with a snack-filled galley and a touch tank filled with horseshoe crabs and other local sea life.
The company even boasts its very own pirate ship, The Dark Star, a custom-designed vessel built by Naval Architect Michael LeMole. It takes passengers on swashbuckling adventures during which they learn what a swash is and how to buckle it, as well as participate in treasure hunts and face painting.
Nestled within the South Jersey Marina, the boats and charters of Cape May Lady traverse local waters under the steady hands of an experienced crew. From April to December, seafaring personnel whisk clientele away on four- to eight-hour daytime and, depending on the season and mood of the moon, nighttime voyages. During excursions, guests may see aquatic critters such as striped bass, weakfish, and drum fish. Each trek supplies guests with necessary gear, such as fishing licenses, rods, reels, bait, and tackle. In addition to fish-hunting excursions, Cape May Lady’s charters can accommodate burials at sea or private dolphin-watching trips.
Tony Hoffman, a United States Coast Guard licensed captain, brings more than 35 years of fishing experience to his charter boat company. During guided fishing trips, he escorts groups out on the back bays and instructs them in the basics of fishing using on-board rods. The action takes place on the Family Fisherman, a 40-foot pontoon boat equipped with an open-air deck, a state-of-the-art stereo system, and the busts of famous bluefish. Passengers can cast a line at flounder, sea bass, and small sand sharks, enjoying views of the glistening New Jersey bays along the way.
Equipped with GPS, radar, and electronic fish-finding technology, you wouldn't think the Capt. Robbins is more than 60 years old. Rainbow Deep Sea Fishing's captain Victor Hartley purchased the storied vessel in 2011 and refurbished it the next year. The acquisition was a homecoming of sorts, as Hartley once worked on the ship as a child. Today, the Capt. Robbins ferries up to 125 passengers on fishing trips off the shores of New Jersey.