The New Jersey Shore. One hundred and thirty miles of beaches, resort towns, restaurants, boardwalks, amusement parks, lighthouses, and wildlife. Did you know that Cape May is the oldest seaside resort town in the United States? That the first picture postcards were printed in Atlantic City in 1893? That New Jersey has a legal nude beach at Sandy Hook? That owing to sand washing down from more northern beaches, the coastline of Wildwood is actually growing every year? That the New York Yankees once held their spring training in Asbury Park? That Atlantic City has the longest boardwalk in the world (via
When searching for a summer vacation destination, you can’t go wrong with the Jersey Shore! As I explained in my previous post, my wife and I spent two weeks with family in the seaside resort town of Sea Isle City, along the southern New Jersey coastline. Although much of the time was spent enjoying views of the ocean and feeling the sand between our toes, we also made time to enjoy a sunset cruise, visit a familiar nature preserve, stroll through a classic car show, delight in delicious meals, and catch some amazing sunrises and sunsets.
Come along, then, on a trip to the Real Jersey Shore:
Sea Isle City
Early on a Saturday morning, we set off for our destination: two weeks in Sea Isle City!
I’ll admit, we’re not exactly light packers… both our Jeep Grand Cherokee and our relatives’ Honda CR-V were filled to the brim. Packing both vehicles was certainly a good test of visual-spatial skills!
Since check-in at our rental home was not until 2:30 pm, we decided to stop for a late lunch at the Deauville Inn in Strathmere. Originally constructed as a hotel in 1881 by an Irish immigrant, the restaurant and bar is a Jersey Shore institution (via Deauville Inn).
For the first time since March of 2020, my wife and I went out to eat! Now fully vaccinated, we felt comfortable to sit at a table on the Deauville’s patio and enjoy a great meal. The food was delicious, the drinks were terrific, and the view was fantastic.
Not a bad way to start our vacation!
All checked into our rental house, and the Jeep emptied of luggage, our adventure begins! A Sunset Cruise
One of our first major activities was a cruise through the wetlands of Sea Isle City and Avalon aboard Starfish Boats. Primarily a deep sea fishing operation, Starfish Boats also offers cruises around Sea Isle City and the waterways of neighboring towns (via Starfish Boats).
Our three hour cruise would take us through the wetlands to the west side of Sea Isle City, returning after sunset.
We saw numerous osprey during the cruise. This one was hanging out atop a channel marker as we went by.
Ospreys can be found throughout the coastal waters of the United States. An osprey’s diet consists almost entirely of fresh fish. The birds will fly 30-100 feet above the water and quickly dive once they spot a fish near the surface. As with all raptors, their eyesight is one of their greatest strengths (via allaboutbirds).
A male and a female osprey will bond for life. When there are newly hatched chicks in the nest, one adult of the pair will forage for food while the other remains in the nest to protect against predators. If you look closely, you can see two chicks’ heads poking up out of the nest.
This egret made for a cool subject.
As did these three egrets who passed overhead. Although usually solitary when hunting for food in coastal waters, egrets will fly together in small flocks when migrating (via All About Birds).
The sunset at the end of the cruise was a great way to end our night! The Wetlands Institute
Waking up early one morning, we returned yet again to the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor. We have visited this unique conservation site several times over the past few months. Our previous visits were all in the afternoon, and this time we wanted to see what types of wildlife we would spot in the early morning hours.
As we began walking through the wetlands, we came across this tri-colored heron having breakfast…
I had my camera focused on the heron when it decided to put on a show.
This short-billed dowitcher was squawking at me as we walked past.
This osprey, in mid-flight, was happy to swoop by for its photo op. Ospreys are a barometer for the health of an ecosystem. Highly susceptible to environmental pollution, a large osprey population can only be supported by a safe natural environment. Since ospreys are often eating from the same waters where humans get their seafood, they’re an excellent measure of our food safety (via Chesapeake Bay).
This diamondback terrapin is having the kind of summer vacation we all dream about!
After an hour touring the wetlands, it was time to take Grace’s mandatory glamour shot, and set off for other destinations. Skimmer Antique Auto Show
Running about a mile and a half, the Promenade is a paved pedestrian and bicycle trail that runs along the beaches through the heart of Sea Isle City. On Father’s Day this year, I set off to walk through an event on the Promenade near and dear to my heart…
…the Skimmer Antique and Classic Auto Show! There were classic cars as far as the eye could see, including gems like this 1950s Packard Clipper.
Check out this 1950s drive-in movie theater speaker on this Chevrolet Bel-Air.
I appreciate classic cars that don’t take themselves too seriously – such as the Magic 8 Ball on the gear shift, as well as the one on the steering wheel acting as a Brodie Knob.
This 1963 Chevrolet Corvette took my breath away. This one is extra-rare… only approximately 2,500 Corvettes came from the factory in 1963 with fuel-injected engines. This surviving example is about as rare as a unicorn.
As I’m a child of the 1980s, my idea of a “classic car” is different than that of my parents’ generation. “Classic” can be a subjective term, and as Generation X ages, it is the cars of our youth that we prize. We’ll always appreciate a 1970 Challenger, a 1963 Corvette, or a 1969 Roadrunner, but we also appreciate cars like the Toyota Corolla AE86, the Honda CR-X, and the Mitsubishi Starion. The Mazda Miata (pictured) is a certain future classic.
Car shows like RADwood cater to those of us for whom the 80s and 90s are extra special, and this Chrysler TC by Maserati would certainly be right at home there! One of those ideas that must have sounded better in the boardroom than it did in reality, this car – a Maserati body built on top of a Chrysler frame – never captured the interest of buyers, and ended up costing Chrysler over a half billion dollars in losses (via Wikipedia).
The highlight for me, though, was this 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser. I ambled over to strike up a conversation with its owner, Blair, as there was one specific detail that caught my eye.
Look at that odometer – this is a classic that’s right up my alley!
Blair told me that the car is all original, including the original engine and transmission. The interior was in fantastic shape, but also showed a patina of good use. Cars aren’t meant to be tucked away in a garage somewhere – they are designed to be on the road!
The heart of the Land Cruiser is the F-series inline-6 cylinder engine. In production from the 1940s through the 1990s, these engines are legends when it comes to reliability and ruggedness.
It doesn’t get more authentic than this… parts in the engine bay stamped “Toyoda,” instead of “Toyota.” The company was founded by Sakichi Toyoda in the 1930s. “Toyota” was later chosen due to the word being written with 8 character strokes in Japanese, which is considered lucky (via BBC). Check out the Japanese text on the cap as well – both “Toyoda” and the Japanese lettering are a sign that this part is original to the car when it was built in Japan. I really enjoyed my chat with Blair and the personal tour he gave me of his vehicle – a Japanese vehicle with high mileage and original parts? This is my idea of a true classic!
I had a blast wandering through the classic car show, and it will definitely be on my “must see” list for next year! Ill-Fated Whale Watching
My wife and I had plans to participate in one of our favorite activities – whale watching! We purchased tickets on a cruise operated by the Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center, one of the original whale watching operations at the New Jersey shore.
As the ship began to cross the Cape May harbor toward the Atlantic Ocean, we heard news that a humpback whale had been spotted earlier in the day – it was very exciting!
We made our way past the Cape May US Coast Guard Base. This is the only training center for enlisted personnel in the Coast Guard. Anyone who signs up for the Coast Guard comes to Cape May for training.
Another osprey! They’re officially becoming my mascot for summer at the Jersey shore!
As we exited the Cape May Canal, I learned a fascinating bit of information about this waterway. It was built in World War II to provide a safe way for ships to enter the Delaware Bay from Cape May and avoid German U-Boats that were lurking off the coast.
We had hardly entered the Atlantic Ocean when we were surrounded by pods of bottle-nose dolphins. It was really cool!
This was but one small group of the many dolphins we spotted near the harbor.
And then… disaster. I’ve been on countless boat rides in the Atlantic over the years. Never once have I gotten seasick… until this trip. I mean, it was bad. I don’t know what caused it – the swells were active, but nothing I hadn’t encountered during previous trips. Regardless, this is where I spent the majority of the trip – at the aft end of the boat, staring at the horizon, and uttering silent prayers that I didn’t feel worse. It was… memorable.
I finally felt better with about a half hour left in the boat ride, and was able to pull my camera back out. We didn’t spot any whales, but I’m pretty sure this osprey decided to fly past me, a fish in its talons, as a consolation prize. Thank you, Mr. Osprey!
I have never been so happy to come back from the ocean! I should state that the crew of the Cape May Whale Watch were very attentive (I imagine periodic conversations among them that went something like this: “Hey, can someone go check on the dude turning green back at the stern?”). While we didn’t see any whales, the wildlife we did spot were terrific. But I was glad to put an end to one of the least pleasant boat rides I’ve ever taken. Here’s hoping my next ocean adventure goes better than this one! The Food
Quincy’s Original Lobster Rolls
What vacation is complete without some great food? We returned to one of our favorite eateries from last year: Quincy’s Original Lobster Rolls.
A New England delicacy, lobster rolls are a family favorite. Quincy’s is a chain of restaurants specializing in lobster rolls – it was founded by a group of friends from the Philadelphia area who vacationed in Maine and wanted to bring back a taste of New England to the Jersey Shore! Mike’s Seafood
Another Sea Isle City institution: Mike’s Seafood. At Mike’s, you can buy fresh seafood to take home to cook, you can buy prepared platters, or you can eat at the outdoor restaurant. Founded in the early 20th century by two Italian immigrants, Mike’s has been serving the Sea Isle community for almost one hundred years!
One night we indulged in my favorite platter from Mike’s: a Patio Paul. An order of this gets you a 1.25-pound Maine lobster, snow crab legs, 12 steamed shrimp, and an ear of corn. Carmen’s Seafood Restaurant
Another restaurant synonymous with Sea Isle City: Carmen’s Seafood Restaurant. Established in the 1940s by a family of Italian immigrants, Carmen’s has been serving hungry patrons for over seventy years.
Located along the harbor, Carmen’s offers great food and plenty of outdoor seating. As our second outdoor dining experience of the trip, Carmen’s was a great choice!
For starters, you can’t go wrong with Carmen’s Steamers… 18 clams in a white sauce.
While I enjoyed my salmon entree, my wife’s meal of filet of flounder and broiled scallops was outstanding!
Not gluten free. Not healthy. But this slice of Oreo Cookie Creme Cake was simply amazing! We had a great meal at Carmen’s, and I would give it an enthusiastic two thumbs up! El Captain’s Taco Shack
For lunch one day, we left the island of Sea Isle City and traveled a few miles inland to El Captain’s Taco Shack on Route 50 in Woodbine. There is only outdoor seating, and the menu is tiny: tacos, tacos, and more tacos. I grew up eating the Mexican food that my grandmother would cook, and so I am very, very hard to please when it comes to tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and empanadas.
For a first visit, I kept it basic: two beef tacos with greens, on fresh corn tortillas. The verdict? These were some of the best tacos I have ever eaten. Corn tortillas can often be a hit-or-miss affair (either they are too thin and crack in your hands, or they have the consistency of rubber), but these were simply perfect. My wife had steak tacos, and the meat was cooked so well that it simply melted in your mouth. We also ordered a side of guacamole and chips, which was absolutely amazing. The verdict? I wish I had more thumbs, so I could give El Captain’s more than two thumbs up! Red, White, and Brew
There are no Starbucks in Sea Isle City, so what are a couple of coffee aficionados to do? Fortunately, my wife and I discovered Red, White, and Brew, a cool independent coffee shop near the heart of downtown Sea Isle City.
That will be an iced caramel macchiato for me (left) and an iced almond milk latte for my wife (right). Perfect for a summer day! Maryanne Pastry Shoppe
Donuts, anyone? Established in 1944 by immigrants from Germany, Maryanne Pastry Shoppe has been serving baked goods to the Sea Isle City community for many years.
How were they? Absolutely scrumptious! The Views
From the deck of our house, we were greeted with sunsets like this every morning.
As I was sipping my coffee on the deck, this robin stopped by to say hello.
An eastern towhee also visited and sang a song.
We had a clear view of the moon on several nights.
We took a few walks to the bay side of the island for sunset.
New Jersey’s sunsets are sublime.
Mother Nature saved her best show for our last night of vacation. Wrapping Up
After two fun-filled weeks, it was time to pack up the Jeep and head back home.
Grace, our 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, was a fantastic beach vacation companion – capable of swallowing a prodigious amount of luggage and supplies, while being maneuverable enough to navigate the somewhat cramped streets of Sea Isle City. She’s closing in on 70,000 miles. Onward!
With the Jeep safely unpacked and tucked away in the garage, it was time to dust off the Accord and get it back on the road. Stay tuned – we have a fun journey planned this week for when it crosses 175,000 miles!
Two weeks in Sea Isle City with some dear relatives was just what the doctor ordered. We had plenty of time for rest and relaxation, but also managed to squeeze in several road trip (and boat trip) adventures! When you’re searching for a vacation destination, please make sure you give full consideration to the Real Jersey Shore.
Thanks for coming along on this special vacation journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.