Barnegat Township is a township in Ocean County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census the township's population was 20,936, reflecting an increase of 5,666 (+37.1%) from the 15,270 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 3,035 (+24.8%) from the 12,235 counted in the 1990 Census. The 2010 population was the highest recorded for the township in any decennial census.
What is now Barnegat Township was originally incorporated as Union Township on March 10, 1846, from portions of both Dover Township (now Toms River Township) and Stafford Township, while the area was still part of Monmouth County. It became part of the newly formed Ocean County on February 15, 1850. Portions of the township were taken to form Lacey Township (March 23, 1871), Ocean Township (April 13, 1876), Harvey Cedars (December 13, 1894) and Long Beach Township (March 23, 1899). Union Township changed its name to Barnegat Township as of January 1, 1977.
Barnegat gets its name from nearby Barnegat Bay and Barnegat Inlet. The inlet was originally "Barendegat" or "Barnde Gat", which means "inlet of the breakers" or "surf cove," and was named by Dutch explorers of the coastline in 1614 for the waterway's turbulent channel.
The Lenape Native Americans would spend summers at the shore collecting and roasting clams for food over the winter. European settlers arrived in 1720 and the first permanent homes were constructed around 1750.
One of the last battles of the American Revolutionary War took place in 1782 near the site of the Cedar Bridge Tavern.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 40.41 square miles (104.65 km2), including 34,00 square miles (88.07 km2) of land and 6.40 square miles (16.58 km2) of water (15.85%).
Barnegat CDP (2010 Census population of 2,817) is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) located within Barnegat Township, while Ocean Acres (16,142, of which 925 are in Barnegat and 15,217 are in Stafford) is a census-designated place and unincorporated area split between Barnegat Township and Stafford Township.
The township borders the Ocean County municipalities of Harvey Cedars, Lacey Township, Little Egg Harbor Township, Long Beach Township, Ocean Township and Stafford Township; and both Bass River Township and Woodland Township in Burlington County.
Other unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the township include Cedar Bridge, Howardsville, Lower Dock and Upper Dock.
The 2010 United States Census counted 20,936 people, 8,128 households, and 6,039 families in the township. The population density was 609.0 inhabitants per square mile (235.1/km2).