I’ve driven across the Ocean City bridge so many times I’ve lost count. Each time I think to myself, I really should try to walk across the Ocean City Bridge one day. I came close last summer when I visited Somers Point to write Plan a Day of Fun in Somers Point with Kids. I got out, and looked around from the Ocean City visitor center, promised myself I’d get back there with the kids. Then, you know how it is is… things got busy, everything got in the way, and I didn’t get there.
Now, things are slower BUT we’re still looking for things to do in New Jersey. Last week, I was determined to find something new with my kids… and then it dawned on me, we could walk across the Ocean City Bridge.
The weather was beautiful, 70’s. We headed out in the early afternoon hours, figuring we’d miss the peak sun hours and before there might be too much traffic. I could not have asked for more perfect conditions.
About the Ocean City Bridge
The Ocean City Bridge at 9th street dates back to 1933. Its origin was as a wooden bridge that spanned over the bay. It has been called the World War Memorial Bridge, the Route 52 Causeway, and the Ocean City 9th Street Bridge.
Eventually, the wooden bridge was replaced with cement ones that would have drawbridges and all. Bridges that open 3,250 times per year and as many as 22 times a day in the summer can only take so much.
On particularly hot days the bridge would be stuck and would require being hosed down by the fire department. During storms waves would topple over it, flooding Ocean City’s major evacuation route. Ocean City needed a better bridge.
In 2012, they got it, a massive renovation that gave Ocean City not just a bridge, but a pedestrian pathway, fishing piers, hiking trails, a visitors center, and more. At 55 feet above water, drawbridges are no longer needed. Boats can pass safely underneath and residents and visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the Greater Egg Harbor Bay, the skylines of Ocean City and Somers Point, and more.
The entire $500 million Route 52 – Ocean City 9th Street Bridge renovation project is the most expensive project ever for the New Jersey Department of Transportation. Designers and engineers say it’s more than just a bridge. It’s an attraction on its own. I couldn’t agree more.
How do you walk across the Ocean City Bridge?
The pedestrian walkway on the Ocean City Bridge is only on one side of the bridge. You can’t walk on one side of the bridge and then back around on the other side of the bridge. Most people who walk across the bridge do some kind of loop from their car and back to their car. Depending on where you park that loop can be the full length of the bridge, crossing it twice, or just a portion of it.
If you only wanted to cross the bridge once you could do that by walking across one way and taking an Uber or taxi back. You could also go with another adult/driver and one person could park on each end of the bridge.
Where can you park?
There are 5 options for free parking on the Ocean City Bridge. At the base of the Ocean City Bridge on the Somers Point side there is a Circle Liquors store with a large parking lot. We didn’t park there but I imagine some visitors too. If you want to park there, check with the store staff to make sure it’s allowed.
You could also park at the Ocean City base of the Ocean City bridge. There is a McDonalds a few blocks from the base where parking is allowed.
On a summer 2023 visit, I discovered an additional way to park for free in Ocean City near the bridge. At the base of the bridge, on the Ocean City bridge, is street parking behind the trees and park-like setting. If you make the first allowed right, then make another right. Keep going straight even though the road says a dead end. Before the dead end you can make another right. Follow this around to a few spots of free street parking. It’s just steps from the beginning of the pedestrian path.
We parked at the first fishing pier on the Somers Point side of the bridge. It is one of two designated spots for pedestrians and fishers. It has parking spots on both sides of the pier and is easily accessible from the pedestrian path. It’s also accessible from the bridge in both directions. After you walk and need to leave you can easily get onto the bridge to head towards Ocean City or Somers Point.
The last spot is at the Ocean City Visitors Center. The parking lot is located in front of the building. Like the fishing piers it’s accessible from the Ocean City Bridge pedestrian path. Unfortunately, when you leave the lot you can only head towards Ocean City. If you need to head back to Somers Point you’ll need to go into Ocean City and use a side street to turn around and head back towards Somers Point.
How long is the route?
Depending on who you ask you may get different answers. The bridge is 2.2 miles long, but it’s 2.8 miles in length, from Route 9 in Somers Point to West Avenue in Ocean City.
The most popular answer is that the Ocean City Bridge is about 2.5 miles each way. For us it was close to 6 miles. We walked from the first fishing pier, across the Ocean City Bridge, and into town. We stopped to have ice cream before turning around and heading back.
Since I had a goal of walking the complete Ocean City Bridge, we passed our car and walked to the Somers Point end of the bridge. Then, we turned around again and headed back to our car.
Are bikes allowed? Are strollers allowed?
Yes, bikes are allowed on the Ocean City Bridge pedestrian path if they are going at a leisurely pace. If they prefer to go faster, they are required to use the biking path on the Ocean City Bridge.
The path is wide enough to make it accessible by wheelchair or stroller. Other than a gazebo, we never encountered any stairs that would make it difficult for someone with a stroller or wheelchair.
The Ocean City Visitors Center has stairs at the front entrance, but it also has a ramp to the right of the stairs.
Are there places where you can take a rest from walking across the Ocean City Bridge?
There are plenty of spots where you can step back from the path and get some beautiful views or take a rest.
- 5-6 spots are carved out on the path and overlook the water.
- The fishing piers are large and spacious. There’s plenty of room to be away from others and still get views of the water.
- I definitely would encourage you to stop at the Ocean City Visitors Center and take a view into the trees of all the birds. The visitor center has benches out front and a wrap around porch on both levels.
- On the Somers Point end of the bridge is a cement gazebo that overlooks the water.
Are there restrooms?
There are bathrooms located inside the Ocean City Visitor Center. We did not need them on our recent visit so I can not guarantee they are regularly open. You can call the Ocean City Visitor Center at 800-232-2465.
Are there benches?
The best spot to sit and rest on the Ocean City Bridge is at the Visitors Center.
- In front of the Ocean City Visitors Center are two traditional benches and cement slabs that could be used as a bench.
- There are cement bridges on the back side of the Ocean City Bridge Visitors Center.
- In front of the entrance of the building is a cement wall at the perfect height to rest on.
Is it safe to walk across the Ocean City Bridge?
Every parent has to decide whether or not it’s safe to walk on the Ocean City Bridge. On the ocean side of the bridge, I found the rail to be about 4 feet high. The bars on the railing are about 3-4 inches apart.
As we approached the Ocean City side of the bridge, there were large panels covering the bars on the right side. I felt comfortable that we were not at risk of falling off the bridge. As long as your children are not ones that would attempt to climb the fence, you should be fine.
A little more problematic is the road side of the bridge. That barrier is only about 2-3 feet high. The bars run horizontally but the gap is much larger. The pathway is very wide. Older kids should have no problem safely walking across the Ocean City Bridge. If my kids were wigglers, antsy, or runners I would keep them in a stroller for their safety and peace of mind.
Does the Ocean City Bridge get crowded?
The Ocean City Bridge is popular. You will likely come across multiple people as you cross the bridge, but it’s not usually crowded. Everyone is moving along. The fishing piers are where visitors usually linger as they are fishing.
What else can you do in addition to walking on the Ocean City Bridge?
There are 4 fishing piers, two boat ramps, and grassy areas to provide multiple ways for fishers to fish.
The first time I visited the Ocean City Bridge as a pedestrian I was blown away by all the birds I could see. Right outside the Ocean City Visitors Center are lush trees full of birds, five, six, seven… you’ll lose count trying to count them all from the scenic outlook. I don’t believe this wildlife observation area has an official name, but don’t pass it by without stopping.
Underneath the bridge, at the Visitors Center, are more trails. You can see great views of them from above and it took everything I had to resist exploring them. I wanted to take the pathway, from the Visitors Center to underneath the bridge, to explore some more. I am positive we would have seen even more wildlife. The views would have given us a whole new way to appreciate the Ocean City Bridge. My kids were tired so we didn’t make it to this area, but we will soon.
Unlike the Ocean City Bridge pedestrian walkway the trails underneath the bridge are a combination of paved paths and dirt trails.
Canoe & Kayak
From underneath the bridge, at one of the fishing piers, is the canoe and kayak launching point. There is not a spot to rent canoes and kayak, but if you are interested there are locations for kayak rentals in Ocean City.
Learn about World War I
Ocean City and Somers Point played a significant role during World War I. As we mentioned earlier the Ocean City Bridge is also known as the World War Memorial Bridge across Great Egg Harbor Bay. At the Somers Point side of the bridge and the Visitors Center you can read signage that goes into detail with pictures about that history. You can also read my blog post about visiting Somers Point to learn more about how the Navy got its start in Somers Point and the role women from South Jersey played in it as well.
Visit the Ocean City Visitor Center.
Take a few minutes away from the sun and step inside the Ocean City Visitors Center. Not only can you learn more about things to do in Ocean City, but you can also learn more about the history of Ocean City through pictures, signage, and some interesting artifacts.
Take in the view from a viewfinder.
Who can resist a viewfinder? On the wrap around porch of the Visitor Center is at least one viewfinder. Take in some views you might have missed with your regular vision.
Stop in town for a snack of ice cream.
Ocean City, in the summer, you can find an ice cream shop on almost every corner block. Within a few blocks of the base of the Ocean City Bridge on the Ocean City side you have at least 3 options: ice cream at the mini golf place, ice cream at McDonalds, or ice cream at the Central Creamery (corner of Central Avenue and 9th Street.)
If you don’t like ice cream, there are other cafes and eatery options. Stopping for a yummy snack is a great way to refuel the kids and get them ready for a walk back towards where you parked.
What should I bring?
When planning to walk or bike across the Ocean City Bridge you should bring the following. (We’ve included Amazon affiliate links just in case you need to do some shopping.)
- Bug repellent (if you plan to do the hiking trails underneath the bridge)
- Quarters for the viewfinder
- Filled water bottles (once on the bridge there is no where to buy water or snacks)
Thanks to this Ocean City Bridge pedestrian walkway, it’s safe to walk or bike from Somers Point to Ocean City or the other way around. On the Ocean City end, it connects to a bike route that in turn heads southwest to a connection with the Ocean City Bike Path. The Somers Point end connects to the Pleasantville to Somers Point Bike Path, which ties together four communities for an 8-mile route. That route passes some of the attractions and activities in Somers Point that I’ve blogged about before.
For more things to do in Ocean City visit these articles and resources
- Ocean City Beaches
- When playgrounds are allowed to open again, here are two of our favorite Ocean City playgrounds.