Vacation Time: Four Hidden Gems of the Jersey Shore

Vacation Time: Four Hidden Gems of the Jersey Shore

ACCORDING TO A REPORT commissioned by the New Jersey State Department of Tourism,2017 tourism dollars increased in each of the four Shore counties: Atlantic generated $6.977 million, Cape May$6.363 million, Ocean $4.763 million and Monmouth $2.506 million. Here, just in time for summer, are four of New Jersey’s hidden and not-so-hidden gems along the Atlantic—Cape May, Atlantic City, Asbury Park and Ocean Grove.

Cape May. Tours of breweries, wineries and distilleries take place at various times throughout the year at local businesses and farms, such as Beach Plum Farm in West Cape May and Willow Creek Winery. The area’s farm-to-table dining philosophy provides locally grown produce to area restaurants.

At the Carriage House & Tearoom, on the grounds of Cape May’s only Victorian House Museum, the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate, the menu also includes such wines as Cape May Merlot, Lighthouse White and Isaac Smith Apple, all from local wineries.

Speaking of wineries, the southern New Jersey region in counties west of Cape May is becoming a power house of wine production, according to Mike Snyder, head of Visit South Jersey.

In fact, the Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association (OCPVA) includes more than 40 members; its signature red blend is Coeur d’ Est, and there are three wine trails in the region referred to as Vintage South Jersey.

The Cape May flavor includes oysters from the Delaware Bay, prized for their taste; hand-harvested, solar-evaporated Cape May salt from the Cape May Sea Salt Company, sought for its unique qualities; and Victorian architecture and art galleries and many local shops.

You can take in a view of the entire area from the Cape May Lighthouse or connect with nature on a whale-watch­ing excursion or by birding and butterfly watching. There are famed bird migra­tions, such as flocks of red knot travel­ling from the southern tip of South America to the Arctic, making their own annual stop at Cape May.

Atlantic City. You don’t need luck to enjoy Atlantic City’s 40-block board­walk, casinos and entertainment—with the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Ocean Resort Casino leading the way in a renaissance of venues and options.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, located on the site of the former Taj Mahal, checks all the right boxes of casino amenities. But its uniqueness lies in its corporate message—“THE destination in a destination town” where guests can enjoy “music, fun and partying like a rock star.” The hotel naturally pays homage to the musical greats, especially those with New Jersey connections. The Sound of Your Stay music amenity offers complimentary in-room Fender guitar checkouts.

The 1,399-room Ocean Resort Casino opened its doors at the far north end of the boardwalk, the site of the former Revel. The opulent, Hyatt-affiliated pro-perty has just about any luxury a visitor could want, including the world’s largest Topgolf swing suite with 11 bays inside the casino.

Another new attraction, a 227-footObservation Wheel with climate-con­trolled gondolas, is now up and running on the Steel Pier after a soft opening earlier this year.

There is an abundance of restaurants along the Boardwalk, including the trendy Bungalow Beach with its latest addition, an open-air beer garden; Historic Gardner’s Basin on the water­front at New Hampshire Avenue; Crafter’s Village for gifts and boutiques; dolphin-watching cruises and fishing excursions; and the Atlantic City Aquarium.

Asbury Park Asbury Park in Monmouth County is where a vibrant music and dining scene meets the waves. The Asbury Park Boardwalk, Ocean Avenue and the town’s main east-west thoroughfare, Cookman Avenue, are bursting with life. If you want a beach lunch with a twist, you can hop off the sand and grab a to-go order of Korean barbecue or crepes, among other options.

There’s even one spot where you can bring an alcoholic drink on to the beach at Anchor’s Bend, on the north side of Convention Hall. They rope off an area right on the beach and serve drinks. You can also enjoy an alcohol-free, relaxed evening with weekly “Bonfires on the Beach.”

In town, there are more fine restaurants and bars, specializing in sushi, French and Mexican cuisine and seafood. There are musical venues, such as the Stone Pony on Ocean Avenue, where you can listen in on outdoor concerts. This year, the city will host its first “Sea. Hear. Now” music festival at the end of September, in keeping with an end-less summer feel.

And for those rainy days? Duck into the Silver ball Museum Arcade on the boardwalk to play vintage pinball and arcade games. Go to The Show Room on Cookman Avenue and take in an indie film. And right across the street from the movies is the Catsbury Park Café & Tea House, where you can treat some adoptable cats to a little TLC.

Ocean Grove. While you’re in Asbury Park, don’t forget to make Ocean Grove, Asbury Park’s neighbor to the south, part of your visit. To get to Ocean Grove, just keep walking south on the boardwalk, or take the two pedestrian bridges over Wesley Lake into the community.

This one-square-mile town is national­ly recognized for its concentration of authentic, preserved Victorian homes—and now striking new homes built in the style. It’s easy to walk or rent a bicycle and see the sights.

Ocean Grove was founded in 1869 as a Methodist Camp Meeting Association, so a summer stay here not only offers a delightful beach experience, but an array of evening entertainment and spir­itual renewal, the core of the Ocean Grove experience.

At the heart of Ocean Grove is the Great Auditorium, with its renowned Robert Hope-Jones pipe organ, dedicat­ed in 1908. There are organ recitals, as well as reserved seating in the 5,000-seat venue for national contemporary acts and classical performances.

There is both casual and more formal dining (only BYOB), boxed lunches and shopping along Main Avenue. Old-fash­ioned ice cream parlors, such as Day’s on Auditorium Square, add to the Victorian feel.

Along the boardwalk, you won’t find amusement rides or flip-flop shops. Butyou will find a wide, breezy beach bor­dered by dune grass and a Victorian skyline outlined in the sunset

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