Your Journey Begins Here at NJ'S Southern Shore
Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay, New Jersey's Southern Shore region is a paradise for those who regard the sea as majestic and have an appreciation for the maritime way of life. The Southern Shore Region, encompassing Cape May and Cumberland counties, provides visitors with an amazing array of activities and events from which to choose, all year round. But while you're deciding just what to take in during your visit to Cape May and Cumberland counties, time is slipping by. With that in mind, here are several suggestions that might help.
Journey by car to "America's Greatest Family Resort," Ocean City, located at exit 25 on the Garden State Parkway. Once there, try some other popular modes of transportation: ride the waves on a bellyboard or waverunner, or pedal a surrey cart down one of the finest boardwalks in the country. Ocean City lives up to its billing as a wonderful place for families. Capital of wacky festivals and contests, the town stages such events as the Miss Crustacean Hermit Crab Contest, the Doo-Dah Parade, and the ever-popular Night in Venice Boat Parade. Visit the historic Music Pier on the Ocean City Boardwalk, home to a variety of concerts and special events all year long. Ocean City's B & B Guild can provide many great reasons to stay in Ocean City. Sixteen bed and breakfast inns, each with its quaint charm and sophistication, help share the personality of the city with its guests.
After OC, the next stop must be Sea Isle City, known as "The Sea and Sand Family Vacationland." It is small enough to be friendly and convenient, big enough to provide all of the services, amenities, and activities any family could want on a vacation. Sea Isle City has five miles of beaches; a mile and a half long beachfront promenade (paved walkway), ideal for biking, jogging, and in-line skating, with shops, and arcades; free varied recreational opportunities; "Summer Concerts Under the Stars," a Municipal Marina, and its legendary fame as a "fisherman's paradise."
If a lazy, hazy shopping excursion is appealing, travel through Sea Isle to the Borough of Avalon. From the world-renown artists who visit Ocean Galleries locations to shops of antiques, clothing, jewelry and novelty items, the shopping is world-class. Beautiful bathing beaches and fine restaurants are also part of the city's charm, making Avalon a beautifully calm respite in a sometimes hectic Jersey shore pace.
Just a few blocks away in Stone Harbor, visit the Wetlands Institute where the conservation and preservation of coastal ecosystems provides a fun and educational experience for families, school groups and vacationers of all ages. As you browse, see the many attractions as well as the extensive array of educational programs available throughout the year. The annual Wings 'n Water Festival in September celebrates the wonderous things that makes the Institute, "The Natural Place to Have Fun!"
If natural surroundings are your interest, then sleeping under the stars would be the next best thing to Heaven. With over twenty five member campground and RV parks in its inventory, the Southern Shore Region, according to the The New Jersey Campground Association, is the place to pop-a-tent, rent-a-cabin or pull-up in the RV for a vacation made partly under the stars.
Or, if indoors is more your speed, choose to stay just down the parkway to the end in the Historic Landmark City of Cape May where several former presidents summered. The new Congress Hall Hotel combines the grandeur and elegance of one of Cape May's most revered landmark hotel buildings with the style, convenience and unique character of modern hotelry. For almost two centuries, the hotel has offered hospitality to locals and visitors alike. It began life in 1816 as a simple boarding house for summer visitors and proved so popular that they gained renown as a summer retreat for the nation's presidents. Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan all chose to vacation here. President Benjamin Harrison made Congress Hall his "summer White House" and conducted the affairs of state from the hotel. If a more simple summer stop is in line, The Chalfonte Hotel, located centrally in Cape May, within walking distance of shops, restaurants attractions, and the beach, is picture perfect. The hotel was built in 1876 by Colonel Henry Sawyer, a local Civil War Hero, as a boarding house. Today, the Chalfonte boasts wrap-around verandas, Italianate cupola and size which give it a distinctive profile. The hotel now occupies nearly an entire city block. Visitors cannot resist snapping pictures from every imaginable angle, earning the hotel the moniker of "most photographed building in Cape May."
Journey over the Ocean Drive Bridge and spend some time on the wide, free beaches of The Wildwoods, then while away the afternoon on a back-bay sightseeing cruise or visit the historic lighthouse at Hereford Inlet Or step back in time on a Doo Wop Architectural Tour. The United State's largest concentration of mid-century commercial architecture is found in the Wildwoods. You can enjoy the afternoon celebrating the fabulous fifties era on a trolley tour, provided by the Great American Trolley Company. Mid-century themed motels sprung up in the Wildwoods during the '50s when the "American Vacation" was born. The tour highlights the era's influence on the city featuring Rock and Roll, automobiles with fins and futuristic, space age features reflected in the architectural style of the city's hotels. As you will see, plastic palm trees are a normal part of the vegetation in the Wildwoods. The Main Street in Wildwood is also taking on a "Jetsonian" look. It's worth a visit to the heart of Wildwood on Pacific Avenue as the old brick thoroughfare gives way to multicolored geometrically designed walkways and lighting fixtures reminiscent of the classic bygone era.
For a fun-filled evening, walk along Wildwood's famous Boardwalk dubbed "two miles of smiles" for a good reason. Spectacular amusement piers, world-class roller coasters, interactive water parks, carnival-style games of chance, shops and tantalizing edibles make the Boardwalk a summer "must" for nearly 9 million visitors each season. Morey's Piers, located on the famous walkway, offers seven world-class roller coasters, two huge beachfront waterparks and family rides galore. Morey's Piers has been bringing thrills and laughter to families for over 30 years.
Before settling in for a good night's sleep at one of the many Doo Wop style motels, check out the events schedule at the New Wildwoods Convention Center. The state-of-the-art center located on the famous walkway offers family events, concerts and shows all year round. With more than 100 events taking place in the resort, the convention center is a key facility. Car shows, kite shows, festivals and concerts will be featured in the center that boasts 260,000 square feet overlooking the beach and boardwalk and offering the most magnificent views of the city.
Leave the Wildwoods and journey back over the Ocean Drive Bridge to start your tour at the southern tip of the state in Cape May Point. Get back to nature as you enjoy a breathtaking view of New Jersey wetlands from the Cape May Point Lighthouse. Take a walk along Sunset Beach and check out the remains of the Atlantis, a World War I vessel made of concrete that sank – not surprisingly, it would seem – just a stone's throw from the beach. Be sure and visit the Sunset Beach Gift Shop, the only place where Cape May Diamonds are fashioned into jewelry or sold as single stones to take home as mementos.
Marvel at the hundreds of varieties of birds on view at the Cape May Bird Observatory, a prime stop on the great southern migration route every fall. The Northwood Center located at the north end of Lily Lake in Cape May Point, lies at the epicenter for birding activity, serving the needs of visitors by offering travel, nature, and birding information, as well as a store focused on nature books, gifts and equipment.
In the afternoon, spend time in Cape May, a National Historic Landmark City filled with outstanding examples of Victorian architecture, and be sure to shop for a few things like antiques, clothing, candy and more at the city's quaint shopping district, Washington Street Mall. While in town, stop at the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, and arrange to take a tour of the Emlen Physick Estate. Or, hop aboard a trolley for a tour of the town. There's also a bed-and-breakfast inn tour, and nonstop special events planned throughout the year, including wonderful Victorian and Christmas celebrations.
Both land and sea offer other afternoon options. History buffs will want to wander through Historic Cold Spring Village, a beautiful South Jersey farm village. Stroll the shaded lanes of the Village's twenty-two acres as you step back in time to visit a 19th century living history museum. Here you may experience the sights, sounds and aromas of yesteryear--the blacksmith working over his fiery forge, the potter turning pots on his foot-powered kickwheel, the horse-drawn carriage as it rumbles over the clamshell roads or the baker as he removes freshly baked bread from the beehive oven. The Village is dedicated to preserving the crafts, trades, lifestyles and architecture of a small South Jersey rural community of one hundred fifty years ago.
If military history is your interest, make your way to the Naval Air Station Wildwood. The unique museum honors the military personnel who lost their lives while training at the air station which, despite its name, is located between Breakwater Road and Fulling Mill Roads in Lower and Middle Townships. The huge hangar was built during World War II when the base housed 200 officers and 2200 enlisted personnel.
Meanwhile, the adventurers in your group may want to take to the high seas for a fishing cruise. As the evening sunset draws near, it's back to Sunset Beach, a strand named for –what else—the stunning views it offers at sunset. While many Jersey Shore beachcombers getup early to marvel at a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, there are very few places on the East Coast where one can enjoy a sunset over a large body of water. Yet, on Sunset Beach, located on the western tip of the Cape, magnificent sunsets over the Delaware Bay are a daily occurrence.
For a bite to eat there is no better choice on Day Three than Cape May. Called "the restaurant capital of New Jersey" by The New York Times, Cape May has a host of award-winning gourmet restaurants such as the eclectic Mad Batter Restaurant on Jackson Street. Many of the restaurants are housed in restored historic buildings that provide atmosphere, ambiance and most importantly, superb food and unparalleled service. End your evening amidst Victoriana with another stay in Cape May at one of the many homes that once were summer cottages for the wealthy and have been authentically restored to capture the romance and ambiance of the era. Sleigh beds, fringed lamps, lace curtains and spacious verandas beckon guests to savor the charm of this seaside resort with the perfect weekend that promises to rekindle the honeymoon spark no matter how many anniversaries have passed. Famous for scrumptious breakfasts and relaxing afternoon tea and treats, many of the innkeepers have compiled favorite recipes into cookbooks so guests can recreate the great food and wonderful memories at home.
Journey westward from Cape May County to Cumberland County to visit the old fishing towns of Mauricetown and Bivalve, settled on the Maurice River. Once the home to a thriving oyster industry, the Cumberland communities of Port Norris, Bivalve and Shellpile now are home of the Delaware Bay Schooner Project and the recently restored schooner, AJ Meerwald, New Jersey's Official Tall Ship. The 115-foot schooner, built in 1928 and one of hundreds of boats along the bay to harvest oysters, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Day sails aboard the AJ Meerwald leave from several ports in the Southern Shore area. The Schooner Project also includes the Delaware Bay Museum in Port Norris.
Then head on up to Fortescue, where you can watch fishing fleets upload their catch. Farther up the winding river, arrange for a walking tour of Greenwich with the Cumberland County Historical Society. The colonial river port was the site of New Jersey's own tea party, a prelude to the Revolutionary War. Since then, not much has changed in this quiet little town, Main Street is still called Ye Greate Street, and many of the homes that line it were built in the 1700s.
Ten minutes east of Greenwich is Bridgeton, which boasts the state's largest historic district and an 1,100-acre zoo. Learn the cultural and historical legacy of the City with a stop at the Nail House Museum. It is the former office of the Cumberland Nail & Iron Works (1815-1899) and houses displays featuring the cultural and historical legacy of Bridgeton and the surrounding area. Also featured are exhibits of early Bridgeton glass, Nail Works relics, toys, lanterns, and South Jersey's oldest public clock.
Just south of the City of Bridgeton is Dutch Neck Village. Explore a village of unique shops and a charming restaurant offering many items not commonly found elsewhere. Wander down beautifully-landscaped brick paths and roam around the Old Hickory Aboretum and Display Garden.
Head farther inland to Millville in the afternoon. Once there, visit Wheaton Village, a working settlement dedicated to the history of American glassmaking, traditional and contemporary crafts, and folk art. The village is home to the Museum of American Glass, the largest museum devoted specifically to American glass. Watch modern-day glassblowers as they finish the transformation of sand into glass—and while you're there, fashion a glass paperweight for yourself.
While still in Millville, seek out the excitement of The Glasstown Center Arts District. The new district works to attract artisans and craftspeople and encourages them to settle in the area to practice and perform their art, and make it available to residents and visitors. Located between the downtown thoroughfare and the nearby Maurice River, the district comprises a rich variety of art studios and galleries, artists' residences and related businesses. Other attractions in the district include retail outlet stores, restaurants, antique shops, and an arts and pottery school. The cornerstone of the District is the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts. The center, which now has more than 100 member artists, serves as the arts district's anchor, and is the district's hub for displays, exhibits and juried art shows.
From Victorian and holiday tours in the fall and winter to the array of special events in the summer, there's something new and different to see at NJ's Southern Shore, all year long.