The history of Soupy Island is what makes Soupy Island one of those special places to go with kids in South Jersey. It was a place for children to go during the Great Depression. Kids could still have fun while everything else was going on, ride some rides, and get a free bowl of soup. The same stands true today. While the rides may be gone, Children can come to Soupy Island to get some free family fun (swimming, playgrounds & more), free snacks, and a free lunch of a bowl of soup and milk.
Melissa originally wrote about Soupy Island in West Deptford in 2015. It was one of our most popular articles for a long time. Now, with Soupy Island reopened Lorelei has returned to provide an update with NEW details and pictures.
Things to Know Before Visiting Soupy Island
What is Soupy Island?
It is a place where kids can do all of their favorite things in the summer. There are pools, picnic areas, free food, and a carousel.
Is Soupy Island open to everyone?
On Tuesdays, it is open for small families with kids 8 years old and younger. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, it is open for small families with kids 12 years old and under. All kids have to be accompanied by an adult. Kids older than 12 years old are not eligible to visit.
When is Soupy Island open?
Soupy Island is open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for 6 weeks after the 4th of July, so from July 4th to about August 15.
Their hours of operation are from 9:30 am to 3 pm on Tuesdays and from 9:30 am to 4 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Where is Soupy Island located?
Soupy Island is located at 1718 Front Street West Deptford, 08086. Parking is in the grass across the street from the entrance.
How much is admission?
Soupy Island is absolutely free! Kids can come and have access to the pools, playground equipment, and carousel here. There are also free snacks and drinks given out twice a day as well as soup given out at lunchtime. Donations are accepted.
What can you do at Soupy Island?
Soupy Island has pools for swimming, playgrounds and courts for playing, picnic tables, and more.
What kinds of pools are there?
There is a deeper swimming pool that is 3 to 8 feet deep. I spoke to a lifeguard there who said they generally like kids to be 48 inches tall in order to swim in that pool.
We swam in the shallow swimming pool that went from 8 inches to 1.5 feet deep. It had four lifeguards and was a great place to take younger kids. It also appeared to be accessible as well. They put water at the entrance so that people must walk through it to enter the pool which is a great way for everyone to get their feet washed.
After swimming kids can get their feet and shoes washed at the faucet to the right of the red brick building that serves food.
There is also a white building that houses boys’ and girls’ bathrooms if they want to get changed.
A very special carousel
The carousel there is a Joseph Ferrari carousel from the 1930s. It is unique in that it can be manually adjusted so the speed of its turning can be adjusted. As a result, it can move faster than most other carousels. There is also a lot of painted artwork in the carousel that kids enjoy such as depictions of Animal, Oscar the Grouch, and Snoopy.
What playground equipment is there?
Additional things at Soupy Island that kids can go on even when the pools and carousel are closed:
- Tires to climb on
- 4 seesaws
- 4 small metal slides
- 3 slides on newer structure
- Newer playground structure
- 38 Regular Swings
- 4 Baby Swings
Sports Courts include
- Gaga Ball Pit
- Baseball Field
- Volleyball Court
- Basketball Court
Are there places to sit down at Soupy Island?
There are a plethora of picnic benches at Soupy Island, the most I have ever seen in one place. Most of them are under trees or shaded pavilions. Next to the small pool, there is also a small seating area under a covered pavilion that is attached to the pool area. There are three pavilions with picnic benches underneath and trash cans and benches nearby.
Is there food available?
Free snacks are served at 10 am and 2 pm and soup is served at noon.
What should I bring?
- Bug spray
- Water shoes and sneakers
- Cash donation (optional)
What is the history of Soupy Island?
I was able to talk to Bob Perez who told me about some of the history behind Soupy Island. Initially, it was known as Windmill Island in 1877 and it was a tuberculosis hospital that was across from Penns Landing along with a playground designed to help kids recover. Later it was rebuilt in New Jersey in the 1930s. There was a hospital as well as a large outdoor area meant to help kids recovering from tuberculosis. The hospital was later torn down. During the Depression, it was used to feed people and fed 6,000 to 7,000 people per day, many of whom were ferried across the river.
Initially swimming at Soupy Island was done off the pier at the back of the property in the river. A pool was in the basement of the tuberculosis hospital that is now the site of the deeper swimming pool. There is also a shallow pool on the property now for younger kids and other improvements made such as more picnic benches, some playground equipment, and more. The free soup is donated by Campbell’s.
Soupy Island is run off of an endowment from the 1800s. Donations are always appreciated as well.
Is there anything else unique to Soupy Island?
Beyond the unique carousel, there are other features that make this Deptford destination special. The original top of the steam carousel building from prior to this carousel is now part of one of the pavilions.
There is also a giant enclosed slide, that’s built into the welcoming archway, which is currently closed.
Our Trip to Soupy Island
My kids are 5 and 3 years old so I decided to take them on a Tuesday. On Tuesdays, Soupy Island is only open to those with children eight and under so this was perfect for their ages. Although it opens at 9:30 am they told us the pools can open at 10:30 am. This was also listed on their sign out front.
We arrived at 9:50 am and there were only a couple of other families there at this time. Parking was in the grass across the street from the entrance.
At the gate, there was someone checking to see who was entering since they monitor the number of people entering and that they are all people with children of the correct ages. This is to ensure that there is no overcrowding and that younger kids can have a good experience there. I was told we could wait for a paper schedule about the day as well if we would like.
By the time we applied our sunblock they announced that snacks were being served. The kids were excited to receive milk and graham crackers.
After that, my kids explored all of the playground equipment. Some of the things were more run down but the kids still loved everything there. They especially enjoyed the seesaws, metal slides, and the newer playground structure.
Ten minutes prior to 10:30 am there were lots more kids that arrived from a Boys & Girls Club and a camp. Since the day was overcast there were not too many more people from the general public that went to Soupy Island.
At 10:30 am both the big and small pool opened as well as the carousel. This was a great time for us to go into the shallow pool as many of the campers were still busy getting changed or having a snack.
The kids loved that the pool was easy to walk into. This pool went from 8 inches to a foot and a half deep so it was easy to manage both of them. I was also impressed that they had four lifeguards at this pool (most other places where I have seen pools like this only have one or two at most). They were also checking to see if parents were with their kids. It looked like the bigger pool might have even had more lifeguards there.
The pool got more crowded around 11 am so we went to the carousel. We were able to have the ride to ourselves and rode twice in a row. After we were done we went back to the small pool until it closed at 11:45 am. We asked a lifeguard and they said they like kids to be 4 feet tall to swim in the bigger pool and to have a parent with them.
At noon lunch was being served. It was great that the carousel and pools closed for lunch since this made it easier. My daughter was very excited to get chicken noodle soup, milk and a huge bag of crackers. This was a great way to warm up after swimming.
We found a faucet with a water fountain on the side of the food building where we could wash off our feet beforehand. There is also a white restroom building that has boys’ and girls’ bathroom stalls.
It was hard to get the kids to leave after lunch since they said they wanted to stay at Soupy Island forever. I don’t blame them since it was an awesome time. It reminded me of the Lindsay Lohan Parent Trap movie where they are at camp. Before we left my kids played on the playground equipment for a bit and did another carousel ride.
I was very impressed by the kids working as carousel attendants. Before starting the carousel they checked kids around the carousel multiple times before it started. They helped any of them get onto horses or put their belts on that needed help as well. They also closed the doors of the carousel building when the ride was running. My son was one of the youngest on the carousel and one of the attendants even sat on a horse on the other side of him while we were going around.
At 1:45 pm after that, the pools closed which made it a good time for us to leave after promising the kids we would return for another visit.
We ended up returning the next week and had a similarly great experience. Once again it seemed like the carousel was the least crowded at around 11:20 am. If you have not checked out Soupy Island yet do not wait to go! It is only open for 6 weeks (until about August 15) during the summer for ages up to 8 years old on Tuesdays and ages up to 12 years old on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It was a great place to visit with my young children.
Looking for other places to take your kids in and near Deptford?
- Fasola Park Playground in Deptford has lots of new equipment and a splash pad as well or find more Gloucester County Playgrounds.
- Red Bank Battlefield Park is only a few minutes away. It offers walking paths, a playground, a butterfly house, monuments and views of Delaware and Philadelphia.
Friday 30th of October 2020
My father used to help coordinate work picnics for Mobil Oil (Saucony Refinery) annually! My siblings and I were allowed to enter the park very early and help set up. The picnic featured real bananas hanging from trees, tons of games and dance contests in the Gazebo To a band. We waited for this picnics ALL YEAR! The best part was most of my uncles also worked at Mobil so all my cousins would be there! Mr Softer was free all day as was soda, corn on the cob and hot Dogs! It was nothing short of MAGICAL!!! Wonderful Memories I m thrilled it is still open!
Thursday 4th of July 2019
I visited nearly every year as a student of Green Fields Elementary. Fond little memories. Hoping to go back with mine soon.
Saturday 13th of April 2019
I want there as a child i remember boading the ferry at oenat penn treaty park (pier is gone now) i remember the soup and crackers served on the ferry
Wednesday 25th of July 2018
Is there a life guard for the pool?
Thursday 26th of July 2018
There were lifeguards when a reader went a few weeks back. I would recommend calling them directly to verify what the lifeguard schedule is. - Jenn
Monday 31st of July 2017
I was just informed about this place today, from another parent making plans for her daughter's bday which happens to be the same day as my daughters I Read through all the reviews an I'm so honored to have read about all the good memories and great times spent at this place so I'm taking all my babe's Wed just in time before it closes for the summer. Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful post Live, Love & Laugh is what life is about. Thank you to all the dedicated volunteers and philanthropist that keep it running. God Bless you, the awesome works that you all do and bring forth and most important the hearts and lives of every child that you all have helped, fed, up lifted, made smile and left an impact on