I struggled with how to categorize this article. I mean I have been to many countries with the sole reason for my trip revolving around diving. You can read all about those places in my profile, that’s not my reason for this article. Part of me hesitates in writing this as part of me wants to keep this local "gem" to myself; but that’s not what this site is about. Had it not been for one of the members on here, I would have never been introduced to this special place myself. Maclearie Park, Belmar, NJ. I have spent more time combing through the muck and marine vegetation here than any other site in my young diving history (about 100 dives or so at this point). What this place lacks in colors, good visibility, and depth it makes up for in long bottom times and variety of marine life. This is the kind of place you can spend minutes watching a single patch of bottom and find everything from small shrimp, crabs (both large and small), pipefish, eels, and my personal favorite season visitor, the seahorse. I have even discovered skeleton shrimp here as well, these little things are only about a quarter inch long, but I was excited to find them here in NJ. If you are an underwater photographer, especially if you’re into macro work, this is a great place close to home your can hone your craft...that way when you book that tropical dive trip, you’re able to nail your shots.
Summer time is prime time for this dive site. With summer times comes crowds at the NJ shore, but there is ample free parking right at the dive site (which is a huge bonus). My favorite time to dive this site is a night. Probably a combination of not focusing on the rough visibility, which ranges from 3-5 feet to around 10 feet on a great day, diving at night allows you to hyper focus on the patches your dive lights illuminate, not all those areas outside it’s visible range. With summer, also comes warmer ocean temperatures. I have dove this site often in a 3mm suit and hood during the summer months. This site has a easy entry point built specifically for divers, it’s outfit with scuba flags and has lights located high on either side of the stair railing to help divers locate the exit during a night dive. Another great feature to this site is the bay is huge. So even if many divers enter the water, each tandem can swim out and easily explore their own area of bay without fear of bumping into other divers and silting up the bottom (which is a concern for us photographers). Diving must be done during the slack tide, but because this is a back bay area, the current is not too bad and you can enter the water early before the true high tide to extend you bottom time. So if you like macro photography, like critter finding, like the notion of a local muck diving destination, live in the NY, NJ, PA, and CT area, do yourself a favor and trek down to Belmar, NJ and dive Maclearie Park. I’d be happy to show you around.