Quick Guide to the NJ Southern Shore | NJ Southern Shore

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Your A through Z Guide to the 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.

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A.J. MEERWALD: Help furl the sails aboard New Jersey’s Tall Ship, the A.J. Meerwald, and enjoy the scenic Delaware Estuary from the deck. Home ported on the Maurice River in Bivalve, the 115-foot, authentically restored, 1928 Delaware Bay Schooner helps teach visitors about the maritime history and fragile ecosystem of the estuary. From April to October, the schooner sails from ports around the state with family sails, sunset sails and other special events. 856-785-2060. www.ajmeerwald.org

ALL SPORTS HALL OF FAME: This South Jersey museum in the Bridgeton Recreation Center on Burt Avenue is dedicated to the players and teams of all sports in the region. Exhibits include photos, scrapbooks and other memorabilia of many well-known male and female athletes plus a large trophy room displays medals, cups and trophies of John Borican, the Olympic all-round black athlete. Other sports stars include All-Pro football star Harvey Johnson, major league baseball stars Goose Goslin and Rube Oldring, boxing heavyweight Jack Gross. Artifacts from Willie Mays, Rocky Graziano and Sparky Lyle are included as well. Admission is free. 856-451-7300.

ATLANTUS: The S.S. Atlantus is probably the most famous concrete ­– that’s right, concrete! – ship that ever sailed and what remains of the ship built in 1918 is the only piece of naval history from that era. After a long and somewhat illustrious career, the Atlantus was being towed to Cape May to be a ferry dock for service between New Jersey and Delaware when it broke free of its moorings during a storm and ran aground just off Sunset Beach in the 1920s. Today only two large pieces of the ship remain visible.

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BARN STUDIO: Housed in a former hay barn and flower shop, The Barn Studio of Art in Millville has been a focal point for the southern New Jersey art community for more than 40 years. Patt Witt, the artist and teacher in residence, is known as a “wetlands painter” and her works are in private and public collections locally and throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. Classes in painting both nature and still life, drawing, pastels and pottery are available. 856-825-5028.

BED AND BREAKFAST INNS IN CAPE MAY: Once a summer “cottage,” Angel of the Sea was built for William Weightman, Sr. in the 1850s near the center of town – until he decided he wanted an ocean view and had the house moved to the beach front. The house, which became two houses as a result of the first move, was moved a second time to Trenton Avenue where it is today, and restored to its original splendor. The inn is one of the top 10 bed and breakfast inns in the country and is open for tours daily. 800-848-3369. www.angelofthesea.com

The Mission Inn with its sweeping verandas is one short block from the Atlantic Ocean. Inspired by Nelson Z. Graves’ journey to the Pacific Coast at the turn of the 20th century, the Mission Inn is a perfect example of California Spanish Mission Architecture. Its stained glass windows gracing the dining room, Flemish gable, and latticed veranda contribute to the warm feeling of this al fresco house. The Mission Inn offers you the grandeur of the Gatsby Era. For many years the Inn had been a mecca for Hollywood film stars and Broadway show people. Enjoy the same ambiance as Tyrone Power, Erroll Flynn, Diana Barrymore, Gloria Swanson, and Robert Preston. If the walls could speak they would murmur a century of her guests' colorful secrets. 800-800-8380. www.MissionInn.net

Many of Cape May’s other bed and breakfast inns are also open for tours, teas, chats with innkeepers and other special events. Check local inns for special events. 609-884-5508, ext. 120. www.discovercapemay.com

BELLEPLAIN FOREST: Straddling the border the Cape May-Cumberland border, Belleplain State Forest encompasses 21,000 acres of Pinelands. One of Southern New Jersey’s premier camping destinations, it’s a great place for hiking, biking, bird watching, canoeing and exploring nature. Belleplain has 169 tent camping sites, cabins and other facilities for campers plus softball fields, picnic tables and canoe rentals. Swimming, fishing and canoeing are allowed on Lake Nummy; the natural terrain is great for mountain biking and fitness gurus can take advantage of the fitness trail. Off Route 550 from Woodbine. 609-861-2404.

BICYCLING: For bicycling enthusiasts, Southern New Jersey is among the most picturesque places. Many towns have designated bike paths, boardwalks and promenades that are great for early morning exercise before the crowds arrive. Most resort communities have bicycle rental concessions near popular bicycling spots. Check local listings for vendors.

BIRDING AT THE JERSEY CAPE: Cape May is THE location for observing birds in North America, favored by such celebrated naturalists as John Audubon, Tory Peterson and others. More than 400 different species have been seen on the peninsula during the fall migration and the area is known for spectacular flights of peregrines, merlins, ospreys and sharp-shinned hawks. Cape May Point is one the premier places with marked, easy-to-follow trails to help even the novice birder spot ducks, swans, osprey and other shore birds and wildlife along the way. The Raptor Banding Project conducts hawk-banding demonstrations at the park on weekends from mid-September through October. Various species of hawks can be viewed at close range before they are released to continue their annual southward migration.

Along the bay side in Cape May and Cumberland counties, birders can enjoy more than a million migrating birds each spring, the second largest assembled shorebird population in the Western Hemisphere. The World Series of Birding in Cape May challenges birders to count as many species as possible in a 24-hour period and nearby, in Cumberland County, bald eagles, great blue herons, osprey and more can be found in Turkey Point, the Maurice River, and Stow Creek. 609-884-2736, 609-861-0700. www.njaudubon.org

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CAMPING IN SOUTHERN NJ: New Jersey’s campgrounds in the southern-most counties are THE best place for a taste of the great outdoors, but with many of the amenities that make for a great vacation. Ponderosa Campground, just minutes from the beautiful beaches of Avalon, is family-owned and operated, as are most local campgrounds. Ponderosa offers new trailer sales, seasonal sites and both wooded and grass tent sites. Campgrounds with Olympic-sized swimming pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, hiking trails, snack bars and miniature golf courses are typical in most facilities. Rent a cabin or a trailer and enjoy most of the comforts of home. New Jersey Campground Owners Association at 800-2-CAMP-NJ. www.NewJerseyCampgrounds.com

CAPE MAY COUNTY MUSEUM: The Cape May County Historical Museum in the John Holmes House, one of the oldest structures in the county, c. 1755, displays furnishings, costumes, tools and decorative and practical objects from the 17th to 20th centuries. Period rooms include an 18th century kitchen and bedroom with its sampler collection, the pre-1820 dining room and the Victorian sitting room along with the Doctor’s Room, the Military Room, the Native American Room and maritime exhibits of swords, guns, uniforms and other memorabilia from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf War. The vintage 1800s barn houses an assortment of authentic carriages, including a stagecoach, a peddler’s wagon and a handsomely restored doctor’s sulky. 609-465-3535. www.cmcmuseum.org

CAPE MAY DIAMONDS: Once used by the local Native Americans as a talisman, the pure quartz crystals found primarily along the bayside beaches ­ and especially Sunset Beach –­ in Cape May County are known locally as Cape May Diamonds. These rocks are washed down from the upper reaches of the Delaware River to the bay over thousands of years where the strong currents against the hulk of the sunken Atlantus help wash them ashore in great abundance. The pieces of quartz, in a variety of sizes and colors, can be polished, faceted and set to resemble diamonds.

CAPE MAY­ – LEWES FERRY: Welcome aboard the Cape May Lewes Ferry! Blue skies, cool breezes and open water await ferry travelers crossing Delaware Bay soaking up some sun or relaxing in one of the comfortable salons for the three-hour round trip. During the summer, naturalists from the Wetlands Institute give informal talks about live animals they bring aboard and the local birds, fish and marine life that are seen on most crossings. Ashore, there’s the Rockpile Bar and Grill open from mid-June through Labor Day or visit the Sunset Lounge in the Cape May terminal for a bite to eat, spectacular sunsets and outside entertainment in the summer. The Cape May Lewes Ferry is the most memorable ­– and most fun – way to travel between Delaware and New Jersey for a day cruise or a convenient way to New Jersey from points south. 800-64-FERRY. www.capemaylewesferry.com

CAPE MAY LIGHTHOUSE: Lights the entrance to Delaware Bay at Cape May Point where the ocean meets the bay. The lighthouse was built in 1859 and is 157 feet tall with 199 steps to reach the top – and a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay. The Oil House, for those not ready to climb all those stairs, contains a visitor’s orientation center and a museum shop. It is open daily for tours and special events. 609-884-5404. 800-275-4278. www.capemaymac.org

CAPE MAY STAGE: Located at the corner of Bank and Lafayette streets in the heart of Cape May’s historic district, Cape May Stage is housed in The Robert Shackleton Playhouse, a classic Renaissance Revival (c. 1853) building, originally a Presbyterian Church and later the city's welcome center. The season runs from May through December with an always-sold-out holiday show. Try the dinner and a show package – enjoy an early evening dinner at one of more than a dozen participating gourmet restaurants and an 8 p.m. show. Performances are Wednesday to Sunday. 609-884-1341. www.capemaystage.com

CAPE MAY WINERY: For more than a decade Cape May Winery has been producing award-winning wines, mainly from grapes grown in their own vineyards. The winery on Townbank Road in Lower Township is open for tours and tastings of Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Savignon from their own cellars -- daily in the summer and weekends the rest of the year. Sample a glass of Cape May wine outside in the picnic area ­ or visit the retail shop for great gifts embossed with the winery name and take a few bottles home to enjoy later. 609-884-1169. www.capemaywinery.com

CHALFONTE HOTEL: Genteel Southern hospitality still abounds, along with home-cooked, Southern food at the Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, one of the most historic hotels in the nation. Amenities from another era include a children¹s dining room, a library and the intimate King Edward Bar. The hotel survived the Great Fire of 1878 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the summer, the hotel hosts cabaret entertainment, concerts, art exhibits and other cultural events on a regular basis. 609-884-8409. www.chalfonte.com

CHRISTMAS IN CAPE MAY: The holidays always come early to Cape May, this seaside town famous for gingerbread, gaslights and Victorian hospitality. Sip wassail, hop aboard the Holly Trolley, take tea with Mrs. Claus or stop by the Physick Estate, lavishly decorated in true Victorian style. Learn more about the holiday traditions of the Victorian era of the 1890s, experience a Dickens Christmas extravaganza, a Lamplighter Christmas tour or the annual Christmas Candlelight House Tours. In between there are concerts, performances at Cape May Stage and the East Lynne Theater Company, food and wine events, craft fairs and even a chocolate fantasy buffet. Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts at 609-884-5404, 800-275-4247. www.capemaymac.org

CLAY COLLEGE: Ever hear of Clay College? It’s a special branch of Cumberland County College on High Street in the Millville Arts District. Get a glimpse of students refining their talents or walk in and explore the gallery. The spacious facility is equipped with 15 pottery wheels and four kilns. The gallery showcases the work of students as well as local and regional artists. Clay College is bustling during classes and Third Fridays, an ongoing celebration in the Millville Arts District. 856-765-0988. www.cccnj.edu/claycollege

COHANZICK ZOO: The Cohanzick Zoo was the first zoo in New Jersey, established over 60 years ago in Bridgeton City Park. The zoo has more than 200 birds and mammals from around the world and emphasizes the fauna of Asia and South America, including monkeys, bears, big cats, crocodiles and snakes. A favorite for visitors is the White Tiger exhibit. Admission is free. 609-455-3230, ext. 242/277.

CRABBING FOR A DAY: Pack a cooler, pick up a few traps and bait, and head out to the bay to catch the night’s dinner blue claw crabs. These crustaceans are delicious and easily trapped given the right mix of tenacity and tide (either coming in, or going out). A day-long activity that is relatively inexpensive, it’s a great way to enjoy the sunshine and salt air. Crabbing can be done at just about any street end of the barrier islands, along the inland waterways or from a boat moored in the bay. Traps cost only a dollar or two, and bait is cheap. Bring along extra string, a net, a bucket to store live crabs in, a hat, sun block, a chair, knife, your lunch and plenty of cold beverages.

CUMBERLAND PLAYERS & OFF BROAD STREET PLAYERS: The Vineland-based Cumberland Players and Bridgeton’s Off Broad Street Players are local treasures, regularly performing Broadway musicals, comedies, children’s productions and dinner theater packages. Cumberland Players: 856-692-5626 or www.cumberlandplayers.com; Off Broad Street Players: 856-451-5437. www.obsponline.org

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DELAWARE BAY DAYS: Celebrate the rich maritime history, vibrant culture and natural resources of the Delaware Bay at a festival in June. Satisfy your hunger with fresh seafood, soul food and homemade fare and enjoy artisans and crafters, river tours, guided wetland walks and a visit to NJ’s Official Tall Ship, the historic schooner A.J. Meerwald. At the end of the day, pull up your lawn chair for a concert under the evening sky complemented with a lighted boat parade and spectacular fireworks to end the fun-filled day. 856-785-2060. www.bayshorediscovery.org

DINE IN CAPE MAY: For those who enjoy eclectic menus, superb service and trendy ambiance, Cape May is definitely the culinary capital of the Garden State…maybe that’s why the town has been called the “restaurant capital of New Jersey” by The New York Times. Great chefs serve up fabulous food in atmospheres ranging from coffee shops to 5-star restaurants. Dine on the harbor overlooking the marinas, al fresco on a beautiful beachfront, in a wine cellar, a romantic hot spot or a family dining room. “Life is uncertain; eat dessert first.” This great advice greets each guest at the Mad Batter on Historic Jackson Street in Cape May. One the town’s first fun and funky restaurants, The Mad Batter started the resort’s culinary revolution. Today, with its colorful interior and porch with the familiar striped yellow awning, it’s still one of the most popular stops in this town of great places to eat. 609-884-5970. www.madbatter.com

DINE IN THE WILDWOODS: The Wildwoods are experiencing a restaurant rebirth with a growing number of gourmet restaurants burgeoning throughout the community and each of them garnering superb reviews. Dogtooth Bar and Grill in the heart of Wildwood offers higher-end food with a more creative flair than just chicken sandwiches and cheesesteaks. There is a cheesesteak on the menu, but it’s a cheesesteak egg roll served with a spicy marinara sauce, and chicken is on the menu too served with focaccia bread, prosciutto, spinach, roasted red peppers and basil pesto, or it’s seasoned with Cajun spices and served in a wrap served with a chipotle mayonnaise. For more delectable choices, you can find the menu on the website. 609-522-8383. www.dogtoothbar.com

DOO WOP WEEKEND: It’s where Chubby Checker first performed “The Twist” and Bill Haley and the Comets helped to introduce rock and roll. The Fabulous 50s Weekend in the Wildwoods in October is nonstop doo wop with Philadelphia-area disc jockey Jerry Blavat, the “Geator with the Heater,” a concert, a 1950s memorabilia show and sale, exhibits of 50s antiques and pop-culture, DooWop trolley tours, classic car show and more. 1-888-729-0033.

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EAST LYNNE THEATER COMPANY: Specializing in the classics of the American Stage, the East Lynne Theater Company has been entertaining local audiences for more than 25 years, producing the works of Washington Irving, Eugene O’Neill, David Belasco and others. The company also produces a premier musical or play each season based on American theater or literature. Headquartered in the century-old First Presbyterian Church of Cape May, East Lynne performs four nights a week in the summer and also has performances in the spring and fall. 609-884-5898. www.eastlynnetheater.org

EAST POINT LIGHT HOUSE: Originally known as the Maurice River Lighthouse when it was built in 1849 to provide oyster bay schooners with a navigational marker to Port Norris, Millville, Mauricetown and Port Elizabeth. Still in operation guiding fishermen, oystermen and recreational boaters, the Cape Cod-style lighthouse is the last remaining lighthouse on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Bay and the second oldest standing lighthouse in New Jersey. East Point is open for special events and tours by appointment; call the Maurice River Historical Society. 856-327-3714.

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THE FLANDERS: Enjoy the grandeur of the 1930s and ‘40s mixed with modern touches most guests want at the Flanders Hotel. Located right on Ocean City’s Boardwalk, visitors are just steps away from the beautiful beach, shops, restaurants and amusements – and just a short ride to the excitement of Atlantic City. And, just in case you’re wondering, the hotel is named after Flanders Field in Belgium, a site made famous by the John McCrae poem that commemorates the poppies that grow over the rows of gravestones of soldiers who died in World War I. The hotel with its Spanish Mission Revival style has graced the city’s skyline since it was built in the 1920s. 866-OCHOTEL. www.theflandershotel.com

FORTESCUE: Fortescue, on the Delaware Bay in Cumberland County, is often referred to as the “Weakfish Capital of the World” with all-day or half-day party or charter fishing excursions on the bay. It’s also a great spot for birding enthusiasts with shorebird migrations and sightings of other rare native birds including the bald eagle. Nearby Port Norris is another busy location for fishing and boating activities with a number of public ramps to get your boat into Delaware Bay for that great striped bass and drum fishing.

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GHOST TOUR OF OCEAN CITY: Spirits in Ocean City? Not the alcoholic variety but perhaps the supernatural kind. Visitors to the grand Flanders Hotel often say they have encountered Emily, a beautiful young woman who just happens to be a ghost and wanders the hallways and ballrooms of the old hotel where her sweet voice can be heard softly singing or humming her enchanting tunes from the unattended piano. Does Emily wait for a long-lost lover to return? Does she spend eternity searching for something lost? Is Emily forever a bride-to-be? To hear the rest of this haunting tale and other ghost stories, join the Ghost Tour of Ocean City and enjoy an evening of eerie entertainment! Costumed storytellers host the candlelight tours on a leisurely stroll through Ocean City¹s historic town center that are family appropriate. 609-814-0199. www.ghosttour.com

GILLIAN’S PIERS: Gillian’s Piers at 6th Street on n the Ocean City Boardwalk provides hours of family fun and entertainment throughout the season with 30 rides for all ages. Wonderland Pier is a pay-as-you-go park that allows visitors to ride as many ­ or few ­ amusements as you want. Wonderland Pier is divided into four sections: Inside rides, Lower Deck rides, Midway Deck rides and Gillian’s Fun Deck. Gillian’s Island water park at Plymouth Place on the Boardwalk is a wet and wild adventure for the whole family with slides galore that range from the slick and thrilling to the tamer variety that empties into the activity pond. The park’s serpentine slides twist and turn in a fast and exhilarating trip from top to bottom that will invigorate even the most jaded of daredevils. 609-399-7082. www.gillians.com

GLASSTOWN ARTS DISTRICT: The Glasstown Arts District on High Street in Millville is the fastest growing arts district in the Delaware Valley with more than a dozen art galleries, several upscale eateries and unique shops. The 19th- and early 20th-century buildings and homes provide a rich architectural backdrop. 800-887-4957. www.glasstownartsdistrict.com

The Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts displays creative work from Southern New Jersey artists and nearby metropolitan centers. A new show debuts on the third Friday of each month with informal receptions for the public to meet featured artists. Third Fridays in downtown Millville are exciting with everyone enjoying the Glasstown Arts District, a nice dinner and an evening in one of the area’s nightspots. www.rrcarts.com

GOLFING: Cape May County’s golf courses are par excellent, including:

Sand Barrens Golf Club in Swainton offers 27 holes of golf and was rated one of the Top 10 Best New Public Courses by several sources and also appeared in the Top 100 Best Modern Courses in Golf Magazine. This tree-lined course is known for a lot of sand, mostly waste areas. There are 25 acres of sand from tee to green during a round of 18 holes. The southern plantation-style clubhouse offers an upscale restaurant, banquet facilities, and a larger pro shop. 609-465-3555. www.sandbarrensgolf.com

Shore Gate Golf Club in Ocean View offers a golf experience like no other in the area. Carved from over 245 acres of pristine forest, only a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the course is a unique combination of parkland and Scottish links-style design with a dramatic sculptured and undulating feeling. Shore Gate offers an enjoyable and formidable challenge to golfers of every level in a strikingly picturesque setting. 609-624-TEES. www.shoregategolfclub.com

GREAT STAGES AT NJ’S SOUTHERN SHORE: If your interests center on music or comedy, then you can have that entertainment, too, in settings that will help amplify the fun and enjoyment. The ballroom at the Wildwoods Convention Center on the Boardwalk in Wildwood easily turns into a 7,000-seat arena complete with state-of-the-art sound and staging. 800-WW-BY-SEA. www.wildwoodsnj.com

The Ocean City Music Pier on the Boardwalk, Chalfonte Hotel’s cabaret stage in historic Cape May and Bridgeton’s outdoor stage in the city’s 1,100 acre park feature top jazz, popular rock, blues and folk entertainers. Ocean City: 800-BEACHNJ. www.njoceancity.com, Chalfonte Hotel: 609-884-8409, www.Chalfonte.com and Cumberland County: 866-866-MORE. www.co.cumberland.nj.us

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HEREFORD INLET LIGHTHOUSE: On the Atlantic side at First and Central avenues in North Wildwood, guiding mariners safely ashore since 1874. Surrounded by gorgeous gardens, the lighthouse, with a functioning light, is a Victorian-style building with five fireplaces and furnished with antiques. 609-522-4520. www.herefordlighthouse.org

HISTORIC BRIDGETON: With more than 2,200 homes, taverns and churches from the Colonial, Federalist and Victorian eras, Bridgeton is New Jersey’s largest historical district. Most of the historic buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and still in use today.

Potter’s Tavern dates to 1767 and was a popular meeting place for Cumberland County’s early colonists. The state’s first newspaper, The Plain Dealer, was published there in 1776. The tavern is restored and open to the public. 856-451-4802.

The Nail House Museum, built in 1815, has a collection of artifacts from the early days of the Industrial Revolution including early glass and iron items from Bridgeton’s industrial past. 856-455-4100. www.cityofbridgeton.com

HISTORIC COLD SPRING VILLAGE: Historic Cold Spring Village is an early American, open air, living history museum on a 22-acre wooded site with costumed interpreters who bring the mid -1800s to life as tradesmen, craftspeople, housewives and farmers going about their daily chores much as they did generations ago. Each of the 25 historically restored buildings has a fascinating story to tell, from the tiny Cape May Point Jail to a small octagonal building from the mid-1800s that is now the museum shop stocked with handcrafted wares made by the Village artisans. Relax on the porch of the Country Store, walk the shaded paths or chat with the weaver or potter about 19th century trades and crafts. The Village is open May through September with special events each weekend. 609-898-2300. www.hcsv.org

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INN TO INN TOURS: The Inn-to-Inn & Historic Tour presented by the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers of Ocean City are every Thursday in July and August from 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. Tickets are $13 per person, which includes transportation by trolley and refreshments. Each tour includes an excursion to four inns, a sightseeing tour of the City’s historic district and concludes with refreshments. For more information, please call 609-399-2629 or visit them on the internet at www.oceancityvacation.com

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JAZZ AT THE POINT: Kick back, grab a cold drink and enjoy some hot jazz every March at Jazz at the Point, a three-day weekend of great artists in intimate settings in and around the Somers Point area. The weather might still be a little chilly but, hey, this jazz festival is the perfect way to chase away those winter blues. Always the first full weekend in March, the Somers Point Jazz Society also sponsors events bay on a summer evening. 609-927-6677. www.spjazz.org

JET SKIING: Jet ski and wave runner concessions are found on the bayside, allowing the novice the opportunity to master more placid waters before heading off into the choppy ocean water, although there are a few places where jet skis can be rented right on the beach. Most rental concessions require the renter to leave a driver¹s license and a credit card as collateral. Jet skis can be rented by the hour or by the day and are a great way to tour the back bays and marshy areas of Southern New Jersey. Check the local listings or chambers of commerce for jet-ski rental information.

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KAYAKING: There is no better ­ or more fun ­ way to see a variety of ecological wonders up close and personal than from the seat of a single or double kayak, paddling around the back bays, channels and inland waterways of the barrier islands. From graceful birds and lazy turtles to grassy islands and gorgeous homes, the view from a kayak is nothing short of breathtaking. Join a guided tour from the Cape May Nature Center or the Wetlands Institute or strike out on your own with old clothes, towel, sunglasses, sun-screen, a life jacket and maybe even a waterproof camera!

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LIMA BEAN FESTIVAL: The lowly lima bean has its 15 minutes of fame every Columbus Day Weekend in Wilbraham Park in West Cape May when lima bean lovers gather to celebrate the proud tradition of lima bean farming in this little town. A queen is crowned – and there’s always homemade lima bean soup, baked limas, lima bean salad and more –­ limas in chili, barbecued, in salsa and even lima bean ice cream. 609-884-8382. www.westcapemaytoday.com

THE LITTLE GINGERBREAD CHURCH: Little has changed at St. Peter’s by the Sea Episcopal Church in Cape May Point since summer Sunday services started in 1880. Situated on a triangular lot neatly outlined with a white picket fence, the picturesque gray gingerbread-style building with white fretwork and a front door that bravely faces the ocean is one of the most photographed and painted buildings in southern New Jersey. Originally, part of the Philadelphia Centennial in Fairmount Park, the building was moved, somehow, to the Point and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the summer the church is open every Friday morning to visitors and Jersey glass is on sale.

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THE MAURICE RIVER – A WILD & SCENIC RIVER: The Maurice River and its tributaries, the Menantico, the Manumuskin, and the Muskee, flow through five Southern New Jersey municipalities. The narrow freshwater tributaries, overhung with trees, meander through Vineland and Buena Vista Township; by the time they reach Millville, Maurice River Township and Commercial Township their size has increased and they are navigable by motorboat. The Maurice widens to become Union Lake at Millville and from there it winds through south Millville and, flanked by low salt marsh, divides Commercial and Maurice River townships on its trip to the Delaware Bay. Historically the Maurice River has an extensive maritime history centering on oystering and other fisheries. The watershed is the last remaining suitable habitat for bald eagles in the state and combined with the area’s unparalleled natural resources, including numerous threatened and endangered plant, animal, and bird species, it’s a unique place to visit.

MINIATURE GOLF: Miniature golf is a popular Southern New Jersey activity for the entire family with courses in practically every resort. One of the newest courses is Duffer’s Restaurant and Miniature Golf, a family place at Pacific and Hildreth Avenues in Wildwood, for 18 holes of fun topped off with ice cream – homemade! Although Duffer’s has been a must-do outing for many each summer, the course was recently redone to make the putt-putt experience more fun and challenging. Visit the gift shop or the arcade and don’t miss the train that runs throughout the restaurant and Herbie the bear riding his unicycle on a tightrope! 609-729-1817. www.dufferswildwood.com Miniature golf is a fun way to spend a late afternoon or evening, treat for the whole family. Prices vary according to the course. Check local listings or telephone book for facilities.

MOREY’S PIERS: Morey’s Piers encompasses three amusement piers in the Wildwoods – 25th Avenue in North Wildwood, Schellenger Avenue and Spicer Avenue in Wildwood – and two water parks – at 25th Avenue in North Wildwood and Schellenger Avenue in Wildwood called Raging Waters with rides appropriate for ages toddler to 100 mixed together in a carnival atmosphere. Visitors can pay as they go for each ride with prepaid cards or purchase a wristband that will allow riders on all height and age-appropriate attractions. Tickets and wristbands may be used at any of the three piers. The massive water parks have special sections for younger swimmers and more sedate activities, plus slippery, twisting slides that plunge the adventurous into the water. 609-522-3900. www.moreyspiers.com

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NATIONAL MARBLES TOURNAMENT: Hundreds of mibsters (players ages 8 to 14) trek to the Wildwoods in June for the official national competition in the sport of marbles. Winners of the local tournaments vie for marbles honors on permanently planted marbles rings on the beach at Wildwood Avenue. 800-WW-BY-SEA. www.nationalmarblestournament.org

Marble Weekend at the WheatonArts and Cultural Center in Millville showcases marbles’ artists and dealers in the event center. Demonstrations in the Glass Studio are also part of the event. 800-998-4552. www.wheatonarts.org

THE NATURE CENTER OF CAPE MAY: The New Jersey Audubon Society’s award-winning Nature Center of Cape May offers a world of natural wonders awaiting discovery. Throughout the year, adults, families and children enjoy a wide range of activities including harbor safaris, guided kayaking trips, biking tours, gardening programs, family hikes, and beach explorations. Children’s nature classes are held in July and August, emphasizing hands-on marine and natural science education. Enjoy the observation tower and deck with stunning views of Cape May Harbor, colorful themed gardens, picnic tables, a nature store, public exhibits including saltwater aquaria teeming with ocean life and plenty of free parking. 1600 Delaware Avenue, in Cape May. 609-898-8848. www.njaudubon.org/centers/nccm

NATALI VINEYARDS: The Cape May peninsula ands its unique climate parallels a famous French wine-growing region, the Bordeaux. The Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay support the grape vines in a number of ways, the mild winters, extended growing season, the cross breeze, and the sandy soil all allow for a productive South Jersey wine region. In March of 2000, Alfred Natali purchased 22 acres of horse pasture in Cape May Court House, where he planted fifteen different grapes varieties of French, Italian and Spanish origin. In total, the vineyard now has 7,000 vines. The great excitement is tasting which varieties and blends represent the best wine that Cape May can bear. 609-465-0075. www.Natalivineyards.com

NAVAL AIR STATION WILDWOOD: Naval Air Station (NAS) Wildwood Aviation Museum is housed in Hangar No.1 at the Cape May County Airport, once a World War II dive-bomber squadron training facility. The 92,000 square foot wooden structure has been restored and houses vintage aircraft from all branches of the military and a Wall of Honor to memorialize the 41 men who perished while training at the air station. Special events include an annual fly-in/walk-in each August and a USO Swing Dance in September. NAS Wildwood is on Breakwater Road, Lower Township and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open year round. 609-886-8787. www.usnasw.org

NIGHTSPOTS: No matter your mood, the clubs, bars and restaurants around Cumberland and Cape May counties offer the music, ambiance and settings to appeal to all tastes. From waterfront restaurants with casual deck dining and reggae music to pubs and sports bars, and of course excitement and headline entertainment, much of the region’s excitement takes place when the sun goes down. Perhaps the most popular night spots are those with outside decks overlooking the water. The casual, island atmosphere of these establishments ends itself to great, relaxing times and refreshing libations.

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OCEAN CITY ARTS CENTER: The Ocean City Arts Center hosts a variety of fine arts classes, including painting, drawing, pottery, sculpture, classic ballet and tap, jazz and private music classes in piano, violin, flute and guitar. The Gallery at the Arts Center offers a variety of exhibitions every month, displaying the work of individual artists and groups. Annual events include the Boardwalk Art Show (August), Fine Craft Show (August), Juried Regional Art Show (November),and a Juried Photography Show (April). Concerts, afternoon musicals, lectures and workshops are planned throughout the year. 609-399-7628. www.oceancityartscenter.org

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PARASAILING: It’s all about the view, and the awesome sensation of floating between 300 to 500 feet above it all. With a little help from the crew, you’re airborne with a huge parachute hovering over you. There is absolutely nothing you need to do except experience the total, complete silence at whatever height you’re cruising, marvel at the panoramic view that literally extends as far as you see and perhaps wish that you stay up there forever. It’s safe, all take offs and landings start and end from the boat’s landing platform, no special training is needed, and age is unimportant. You can even do it in tandem and share the adventure and the memory with some one special!

PERFECT BEACH DAYS: Cape May County is home to 7 of the 10 best beaches in the state. Whether you venture to Wildwood, Ocean City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, or Cape May; you are sure to enjoy a wonderful experience full of fun and sun.

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QUAINT SHOPPING: Stone Harbor and Avalon share the barrier island of Seven Mile Beach with opulent homes, trendy restaurants and a beautiful beachfront where beach tags from each town are honored on either beach. Shopping on the Seven Mile Beach is great fun with a variety of retail shops ­ many of them specialty boutique. Stone Harbor is east off Exit 10 of the Garden State Parkway (the light at Stone Harbor Boulevard) and Avalon is Exit 13 on the Parkway. 609-967-3936. www.avalonbeach.com

Forgot the necessary beach gear? Residents and visitors alike know for beach chairs, towels, toys and just about everything else under the sun, shop at Hoy’s 5 & 10 located at 28th Street and Dune Drive in Avalon (967-7271), 219 96th Street in Stone Harbor (368-HOYS) and 7th and Asbury Avenues (398-HOYS) and 7th and Asbury Avenues and 34th and West Avenues (398-6244) in Ocean City.

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THE RIVERFRONTS OF BRIDGETON/MILLVILLE: The beautiful Cohansey River is the perfect setting for Bridgeton with its lively and historic downtown. The river runs through the Bridgeton City Park and serves as the setting for many of the city’s special events throughout the year. The Maurice River in Millville is a perfect accent to the Glasstown Arts District with a 700-foot river walk for pedestrians to enjoy the water and Captain Buck Riverfront Park, a great spot for picnics. cityofbridgeton.com or www.millville-nj.com

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SEABROOK EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL CENTER: The Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center is a village of cultural diversity and historic importance. After being interned during World War II, Japanese Americans settled in this area of Cumberland County to work for Seabrook Farms and a growing frozen food industry. Exhibits at the Center depict the history of Seabrook and life in the community during the 1940s and 1950s. 856-451-8393.

SOUTH JERSEY CULTURAL ALLIANCE: Arts and culture, music festivals, concerts on the pier, tours of historic sites, train and trolley rides, special events at living history museums, self-guided tours, glassblowing and pottery demonstrations and special exhibitions or dance performances from ballet to modern or live music from symphony to jazz, you’ll find it in southern New Jersey. Southern New Jersey is home to superb arts centers, museums, symphonies, and theaters. Whether it is ticket information or simply ideas for cultural, arts adventures, the SJCA has up to the minute information. Check the SJCA’s Cultural Calendar at 888-704-SJCA. www.sjca.net

SOUTHERN SHORE REGION MUSIC FESTIVAL: The ABA award winning Bridgeton Folk Festival has spun into a new regional event. The second annual Southern Shore Music Festival will be held at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds. This family-oriented festival on 70-acres at Carmel Rd. in Millville, NJ will host nationally known performers, children’s activities, a dance hall, food and craft vendors music and art memorabilia sales and much more. 866-866-MORE. 856-455-0328.

SPAS: Think relaxation. Think spas. Cape May Day Spa has locations for guests - 607 Jefferson St. and in Congress Hall for a range of spa treatments and indulgences. Prepare to be pampered. 609-898-1003. www.capemaydayspa.com

STRATHMERE/CORSON’S INLET: Strathmere and Corson’s Inlet State Park are between Ocean City and Sea Isle City. Strathmere is a quiet hamlet on a very slender slice of the barrier island offering visitors a glimpse of what life was like at the shore before summer visitors arrived by the thousands. Lifeguards keep watch over the ocean and there are no beach fees. Fishing and surfing conditions are often quite good and make Strathmere a popular spot. In 1871 the Pennsylvania Railroad built a line through the town and many of the laborers stayed at the Whelen Inn, now a popular spot known as the Deauville. Corson’s Inlet became part of Upper Township in 1905 and Corson’s Inlet State Park, part of the New Jersey park system, was established in 1969, a popular place for hiking, fishing, crabbing, boating and sunbathing.

SUNSET BEACH: Along with the Atlantus, Sunset Beach –­ at the end of Sunset Boulevard and almost as far south as you can go in the state –­ is famous for some of the most panoramic and colorful sunsets anywhere on the East Coast. During the summer, the American Flag is lowered as the sun dips into the Delaware Bay providing a moving and patriotic note to the end of the day. www.sunsetbeachnj.com

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THIRD FRIDAY: On the third Friday of every month Millville is a happening place! Hundreds of visitors fill the Glasstown Arts District, an area that has rejuvenated this town located halfway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. High Street is alive as those enjoying the arts, fine dining and festive atmosphere, window shopping, listening to live music and seeing the sights. 800-887-4957. www.glasstownartsdistrict.com

TROLLEY TOURS: Explore the nation’s oldest seaside resort on narrated trolley tours to Cape May featuring Cape May’s Washington Street Mall, Cape May Lighthouse, and city tours highlighting the charming bed and breakfast inns and the Victorian Gingerbread architecture.

WILDWOODS DOO WOP TOUR will take you back to the 50s era. Take the guided trolley tour to learn about the city’s crop of plastic palm trees and the jetsonian-styled buildings and use of neon signage that are certain to transport you back more than 50 years.

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UNION LAKE: New Jersey’s largest freshwater body of water, Union Lake in Millville, is the best spot for freshwater fishing, swimming, canoeing, hiking, sailing and picnicking. Part of the Union Lake Wildlife Management area and located on the Maurice River Drainage, the lake has an average depth of 9 feet, it’s about 4 miles long and 1.2 miles across at its widest point.

UNDER THE STARS ENTERTAINMENT: Fireworks, movies, and live music offered in several areas of Cape May County. These fabulous events are offered outside in order to enjoy the wonderful weather of the New Jersey Southern Shore. They are presented in Wildwood, Ocean City, Sea Isle City, and Avalon on a weekly basis.

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VROOM! THUNDERBOLT RACEWAY: Do the words, “Gentlemen and Ladies, start your engines,” get your heart pumping faster? The Green Flag has dropped and construction is now underway for the First Phase of New Jersey Motorsports Park—one of the most unique and dynamic motorsports parks in the country. On over 700 acres in Millville, Cumberland County, more than four miles of road courses and motorsports attractions will be developed to complement the New Jersey landscape. This world-class complex will feature a 2.25 mile signature Thunderbolt Raceway highlighted by a 1.9 mile road circuit known as the Lightning. When completed, the Motorsports Park will include a first class karting track, an ATV course, a ¾ mile tri-oval track, as well as a host of amenities and attractions that include a member’s only clubhouse, VIP suites, trackside villas, hotel and conference center, restaurants, retail and raceplex businesses. 800-344-0255. www.njmotorsportspark.com

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WETLANDS INSTITUTE: Discover why the Wetlands Institute is “The Natural Place to Have Fun!” Begin with Marion’s Gardens, an array of more than a hundred native plants chosen to attract birds and butterflies and resemble a historic English cottage garden. Kayak around the back bays, enjoy a Sunday morning beach walk or marvel at the view of 6,000 acres of pristine coastal wetlands from the observation tower. Inside, an aquarium with more than a dozen exhibits with live marsh animals as well as a special “teacher’s tank” with live horseshoe crabs, sea stars and lots more. Open year-round, the Institute at 1075 Stone Harbor Blvd., off exit 10 of the Garden State Parkway, offers a full schedule of daily summer activities. In the quiet season the Institute is open for self-guided tours of the facilities including the Tidepool Museum Shop. 609-368-1211. www.wetlandsinstitute.org

WHEATONARTS AND CULTURAL CENTER: Watch artists use century-old techniques to create glassware at the Wheaton Cultural Arts Center or tour the Museum of American Glass with the world’s largest bottle, a seven foot, eight inch bottle that holds 188 gallons (by the way, it is in the Guinness Book of World Records). See one of the largest collections of traditional and contemporary paperweights at the Arthur Gorham Paperweight Shop or watch hot, molten glass transformed into amazing works of art right before your eyes. The Glass Studio is fully functioning and modeled after an original 1888 structure. At the Down Jersey Folklife Center and learn about New Jersey’s legendary creature, the “Jersey Devil.” The Country Inn and PaperWaiter Restaurant and Pub are adjacent to the Center, 1501 Glasstown Road in Millville. Tour packages available for groups 856-825-6800, 800-998-4552. www.wheatonarts.org

WILDWOOD INTERNATIONAL KITE FESTIVAL: The largest kites in the world color the sky over this resort’s mammoth beach during the Wildwood International Kite Festival with individual and team competition on the beach at Rio Grande Avenue and inside the Wildwoods Convention Center. America’s largest kite festival features world-renowned kite builders and competitors, kite-making workshops and exhibits, indoor competition children’s activities and an illuminated night kite show. 732-822-4884. 800-WW-BY-SEA. www.wildwoodsnj.com

WINGS AND WATER FESTIVAL: The award-winning Wings and Water Festival, one of the premier wildlife arts festivals in the country, is headquartered each September at the Wetlands Institute and surrounding sites in Stone Harbor area with family fun and nationally acclaimed artists, carvers, model builders, quilters, crafters and photographers. Add great food, a multitude of demonstrations, guided walks and hands-on encounters and it’s no wonder Wings and Water has been named one of the Top 100 Events in North America and Best Event in New Jersey at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism. 609-368-1211. www.wetlandsinstitute.org

WOODLAND VILLAGE SHOPS: They’re quaint, adorable and filled with the unique –­ a collection of garden sheds adapted to retail stores and linked by a beautifully landscaped walkway. Stop by the Cottage of Dreams at Woodland Village on Route 9 in Clermont. A unique and affordable shop for the ladies who lunch, the shop features the latest looks in fashion jewelry, watches, apparel, fragrances and many more wonderful gifts. 609-624-9540.

WORLD WAR II: The impact of World War II on the Cape May area is highlighted on a tour of the coastal fortifications including Battery 223, an artillery bunker at Cape May Point, Fire Control Tower #23 on Sunset Boulevard, built to help artillery spotters direct fire at enemy targets off the coast, and the Cape May Canal constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers during the war to link Cape May Harbor and Delaware Bay to avoid German submarines off Cape May Point. The tour also includes Naval Air Station Wildwood. 609-884-5404. www.capemaymac.org

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X-CUSE ME! WATCH THE TRAM CAR, PLEASE: When you’re strolling the Boardwalk in Wildwood you’ll always hear “watch the tram car, please” and a funny, yellow moving car will pass by. Rolling chairs disappeared from the Wildwoods in 1946, replaced by tram cars to take passengers from one end of the Boardwalk to the other. Today, the price is a bit higher for a round trip, and the style of dress is a bit more casual than the era of rolling chairs but the excitement of riding in these big yellow tram cars is just as much fun.

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YES… IT’S TRUE! NJ’s SOUTHERN SHORE IS NAMED AN “IT” DESTINATION BY FROMMER’S and YAHOO TRAVEL GUIDES: Take the last exit to discover charming boardwalk towns “down the shore” including Cape May, Ocean City, and Wildwood,” Frommer’s writers said. Frommer’s a New Jersey based travel guide publisher, recently named some of the shore towns along the southern stretch of the Garden State Parkway as one of their 13 choices for vacation destinations – worldwide. The article noted Cape May’s laid back Victorian charm, Sunset Beach, bird sanctuary, beautiful B & Bs and Wildwood’s celebration of WWII, go-go ‘50s-style architecture, with proud artificial trees and vintage neon signs. Out of 17,000 destinations with travel pages on the Yahoo Travel Guide site, Ocean City and the Wildwoods rated among the top, capturing number two and number four, respectively. Yahoo travel measures website traffic and has named the popular resorts as “Movers and Shakers” due to the dramatic increase in web traffic.

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ZOO IN CAPE MAY COUNTY: The Cape May County Zoo is tucked into a wooded park area off Exit 11 of the Garden State Parkway on Route 9 and is home to nearly 200 different species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Special exhibits include the World of Birds, Reptile and Amphibian House and an African Savanna. The large park area includes pavilions, a spacious playground area, and biking trails. Open every day except Christmas. No admission fee but donations are accepted. 800-227-2297. www.capemaycountygov.net

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.