Trip Report: Seal Watching at Jones Beach
Awesome! Amazing 6.5 miles of ocean beach & 2 miles of boardwalk. The seals were cooperative & inquisitive in Saturdays’ 1/7/12 amazing weather. I saw 18 or so seals, some close enough to make out their whiskers. I suspect paddlers with 2 good eyes and better vision saw more. Jones Beach is comparable, better in my opinion, than the beaches I’ve been to in Florida, the Gulf and Hawaii.
Although I hadn’t signed up with the Empire Kayak Tour, they let me join them. A woman in the group said last week she paddled out and didn’t see any seals. One man however said he was surrounded by a group of 8 seals close enough to see all their whiskers a couple of days ago. He thought being that close was dangerous. There seems to be 2 disparate theories of seal watching & safety: one is it works better to approach with stealth kayaks, others paddlers seem to think the noise of paddling attracts the seals. I’m not experienced enough to know which approach works best, or whether it is safe to let them get close. Our trip leader, Mike, told me that a better seal watching trip for experienced kayakers would be to paddle to Fire Island where seals sun bath on the rocks and where there is a picnic & kayak area...so i expect to go back. The majority of the paddlers on this trip rented Eddyline kayaks, and seemed to be quite inexperienced (arm rather than core paddlers). But the water on the Bay side was quiet and easily paddled by all. Only came across one slow fishing boat, so no boat wake either. The ocean side had nice gentle surf & waves.…if I didn’t want to get back before dark; I would have liked to have stayed the day and paddled the ocean side as well.
The marked kayak launch we used on the bay side was a nice sandy beach right next to the parking area in parking lot (field 10) on the side opposite the entrance to the lot with the Jones Beach boat sign. While on the water, it was easy to keep track of the launch area since it was adjacent to the tall Jones Beach Water Tower. Upon return the launch was between the Tower and the back of the Nikon Theatre.
The drive was easier than anticipated…with a GPS, I drove on parkways all the way down to Jones Beach after the Tappan Zee…I wouldn’t have know that I passed through NYC except for names on signs and increased traffic on my return in the afternoon. It took just over ½ tank of gas in a Nissan Versa. The toll across the Hudson was $1, and $6:50 cash both coming and going to Manhattan. No beach tolls in off season