Jersey Shore

Long Branch Unveils Charming New Carousel

Courtesy of Extell

There was a time when almost every town on the Jersey Shore had a carousel. Until recently, only two of the grand old carousels remained: Gillian’s Wonderland Pier Carousel in Ocean City, and the Dr. Floyd Moreland Carousel in Seaside Heights.

But at the end of July, Long Branch unveiled a new, hand-carved carousel with a seaside theme at Pier Village. Guests can ride a dolphin, a seahorse, a pelican and various fish. Even the traditional horses wear wreaths of seashells and seaweed befitting the carousel’s boardwalk location, just a few yards from the beach (and alongside the new Wave Hotel).

The new carousel is a reminder of the golden age of the American carousel, from 1870–1930. The Depression put an end to carousel production, but the Shore’s carousels continued to spin. As time passed, some were lost to fire or flood, while others that did survive were often sidelined in favor of more exciting rides. In the 1970s, collectors rediscovered historic carousel animals as folk art, and it soon became more profitable to break up the rides and sell the individual animals than to keep them running.

Courtesy of Extell

Carousels have a long history in Long Branch. At least as early as 1909, there was a carousel on the Long Branch Pier. The hurricane of 1944 demolished the pier—and the carousel. The pier eventually was rebuilt with a mix of fast-food restaurants and carnival attractions, including an old-fashioned carousel. In 1979, the Pier was sold to developers and the carousel broken up. In June 1987, a fire destroyed the latest pier, paving the way for today’s Pier Village.

The new Pier Village Carousel is the work of an Ohio company, Carousel Works, which has hand-built more than 60 carousels since the 1990s.

The carousel is open noon–9 pm daily through Labor Day, and then weekends only through October 31. A 2-1/2-minute ride costs $4, or three rides for $10. Long Branch schoolchildren with valid IDs pay half price. Children under 42 inches must be accompanied by an adult.The carousel is handicapped accessible.

Rides won’t necessarily end with the warm weather, though. Housed in a glass pavilion that can be heated, the carousel could be a year-round attraction if the City of Long Branch, which owns it, sees the demand.

Perdita Buchan’s new novel, The Carousel Carver (Plexus Publishing), tells the story of a “golden age” immigrant carver.

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Cape May Is Top Shore Dining Destination

Photo courtesy of Blue Pig Tavern

Cape May is this year’s top dining destination down the Jersey Shore, according to the results of New Jersey Monthly’s 36th Annual Jersey Choice Restaurant Poll.

Restaurants in the idyllic seaside city received the most votes among South Jersey restaurants in 12 categories. Shore-area towns that closely followed: last year’s winner, Asbury Park (10 categories); Red Bank (nine) and Point Pleasant Beach (seven). 

Additionally, the editors of New Jersey Monthly named four Shore-area restaurants to the annual NJM Top 30Modine in Asbury Park, Nicholas in Red Bank, Poached Pear Bistro in Point Pleasant Beach and Red Store in Cape May Point. 

Among Cape May restaurants, 410 Bank Street emerged as a diverse favorite, triumphing in three categories: French, Latin American/Caribbean and the coveted “Best of the Best.” Washington Inn rose to the top, too (desserts; romantic; wine list). Other Cape May winners included Blue Pig Tavern (American/New American; lunch), Brown Room (bar scene), Mad Batter (brunch), George’s Place (Greek) and Lobster House (seafood). Six of these seven winners also appeared earlier this year on our roundup of the 22 Best Restaurants in Cape May.

Balloting for the Jersey Choice Restaurant Poll took place at throughout the month of February. The winning restaurant in each region (North, Central and South) received the most votes in its category.

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Mainland Adventure Park Opens Near LBI

Courtesy of Mainland Adventure Park

Driving on Route 72 in Manahawkin this summer, you might be surprised to see people gliding on zip lines in front of the Holiday Inn. No, those aren’t utility workers gone wild. Rather, they are patrons of the Mainland Adventure Park, a new family-oriented attraction about 10 minutes inland of Long Beach Island.

The Adventure Park, which opened in early July, features a go-kart track, dozens of aerial activities, a 50-foot climbing wall and a 297-foot-long zip-line course. “There’s nothing like it around here,” assures assistant general manager Sam Stewart as he shows off the facility.

The park centers around a 50-foot-tall wooden tower erected in what used to be a grassy field between the Holiday Inn and Route 72. From the tower, adventurers can step off onto a ropes course with more than 40 elements, including a climbing net, log bridge and a particularly challenging swinging-ropes section. All participants are strapped into a safety harness to prevent falls.

Courtesy of Mainland Adventure Park

The zip-line course also starts at the climbing tower; ithas three short sections out and one long section back. As zip-liners soar overhead, go-karts zip around their own winding course below. The electric-powered go-karts pack a 9-horsepower wallop and can travel up to 16 miles per hour around the curvy, well-banked 1,016-foot track.(This cautious driver did 10 laps in seven minutes.)

Related: The 5 Newest Luxury Hotels & Spas at the Shore

The park also has arcade games and picnic benches where guests can bring food and drinks from the neighboring Mainland Bar & Grill, just outside the newly renovated Holiday Inn.

Adult admission to the park (not including go-karts) is $45 for two hours. Participants must have a 60-inch reach to use the zip-line course. Children up to 10 with at least a 46-inch reach are admitted for $29 (with a chaperone) and can use the easier, lower tier of the ropes course.

Individual go-kart races go for $10. Single-kart drivers must be at least 4-foot-8; double-kart drivers must be 17 or older and at least 4-foot-8. Double-kart passengers can be up to 4-foot-7.

Courtesy of Mainland Adventure Park

The park, located at 151 Route 72 East, is open seven days a week. Aerial activities are available from 10 am–8 pm (with the last aerial adventure entry at 6 pm). Go-karts are open 10 am–10 pm. For further information, call 609-481-6100 or visit

Local entrepreneur Chris Vernon owns the Adventure Park and the Holiday Inn; he also owns the nearby Mallard Island Yacht Club, Bonnet Island Estate, the Boat Yard beer garden at the Causeway Marina, and the newly opened Hotel LBI—all of which are arrayed along Route 72.

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In Ocean City, an Uncommon Pastime Lives On

Shuffleboard Club members, front row, from left: Tom Palmer, Pat Petrik, Carol Herrington and Harry Hoff. Back row: Ron Petrik, Howard Fisher, John Herrington and Bill and Pat Henry. Photo by Jessica Orlowicz

Sun, surf and sand are selling points for the Jersey Shore. For nearly 80 years, Ocean City has offered a fourth S: shuffleboard.

Formed in 1941, the Ocean City Shuffleboard Club keeps the sport alive with a series of summer tournaments. The club offers visitors a chance to play the game at six covered and 10 open courts on Fifth Street, just off the boardwalk.

“Thousands of people come to play each summer,” says Ron Petrik of Ocean City, one of about 50 club members. “People ask, ‘How much does it cost?’ We tell them it’s free. It’s a bargain.”

Tom Palmer, the club historian, was a latecomer to the shuffleboard scene. Now 77, he joined the club with his grandson Alec Helm in 2008. “I enjoy being outside, the exercise, but mostly the friendships which have been formed,” says Palmer, who offers lessons and clinics to new players from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

In shuffleboard, players use cue sticks to propel discs along a 39-foot-long court to a scoring area. Players score points by landing in a specific box and prevent their opponents from scoring by knocking away their discs. “It’s exactly the same strategy as curling,” says Palmer, referring to the Winter Olympics game played on ice.

At its peak in 1980, the club had 650 members. It’s tough finding new members, says club president and local resident John Herrington. “Shuffleboard is perceived as an old person’s game, but it’s mentally challenging,” says Herrington. “It’s a skills game.”

Age shouldn’t be a barrier in shuffleboard, adds Petrik. “You can play it your whole life.”

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The Jersey Shore’s Newest Hotels, Spas

Brand-new, high-end hotels are a rarity on the Jersey Shore, but this summer yields a bumper crop. Each of the three hotels that debuted in recent weeks—the Asbury Ocean Club Hotel in Asbury Park, the Wave Resort in Long Branch, and Hotel LBI in Ship Bottom—offers its own spin on modern luxury.

Adding to the Shore’s allure this summer: an expansion of the Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor (including a new spa); and a thorough renovation of the venerable Seaview golf resort in Galloway.

Here’s our first-hand look at the new—and the upgraded—properties:

1101 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park

Leave it to Asbury Park to come up with a unique take on the modern luxury hotel. The hotel occupies the fourth floor of a sleek, new, 17-story, glass-walled condo sandwiched between two decidedly downscale Asbury Park rock ‘n’ roll landmarks: the Stone Pony and the Wonder Bar. Incongruous? Certainly, but Asbury Ocean Club’s glitz is emblematic of the aspirations of an Asbury Park that now attracts big-time investments and affluent visitors.

At Asbury Ocean Club, those affluent visitors will find no stone unturned in the pursuit of their comfort. After registering in the small first-floor lobby, guests ride an elevator to the fourth floor, where they are greeted with complimentary champagne and a chilled face towel in the Gallery, the hotel’s multi-purpose hub. (The Gallery transforms into a bar at night; in the morning it hosts a complimentary breakfast buffet.)

Beyond the Gallery, the expansive pool terrace awaits, with its spectacular wide-angle view of the boardwalk and beach, just across Ocean Avenue. Each chaise lounge is equipped with a button to call for food, bar or pampering. “People will come by to clean your sunglasses,” declares my tour guide, Kevin O’Shea, chief creative officer of Salt Hotels, which operates the property. (Salt Hotels, under CEO David Bowd, also operates the nearby, rock ‘n’ roll-inspired Asbury Hotel, and its neighboring bowling alley/music venue, Asbury Lanes.)

Across a moat from the Asbury Ocean Club pool deck seemingly floats the Drawing Room, an airy space for indoor relaxation, cocktails (accompanied by a string quartet) and informal meals. Asbury Ocean Club has no restaurants, per se, but food can be ordered virtually anywhere from the full menu. (Guests share the common areas with residents of the condos, which are listed starting at $900,000.)

The hotel has 54 guest rooms, including 10 suites and two ocean-view penthouses. All exterior rooms have private balconies; most have ocean views. Rooms are sparsely adorned and ceilings are unusually high, contributing to a light and airy feel. Bathrooms are enclosed in glass—meaning you can gaze across the room to the beach while showering. (Curtains provide privacy for the meek.)

High season rates: $395-$1,500.—KS

Related—The 18 Best Restaurants in Asbury Park

Courtesy of Liz Clayman

110 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch

Look south this summer from Pier Village, Long Branch’s modern seaside community and shopping/dining enclave, and you’ll catch an eyeful of what’s likely the Shore’s busiest construction zone. The most striking of the new buildings is the Wave, a six-story, 67-room hotel whose undulating shape indeed shimmers wavelike along an extension of the Pier Village boardwalk.

Opened in late May, the Wave blends coastal ambience with modern industrial design touches, like polished concrete floors and exposed ductwork throughout the lobby and restaurant area. Locally produced art adorns the lobby and first-floor hallways, adding warmth and personality.

Guest accommodations range from deluxe rooms to interconnecting family suites—all with balconies and ocean views. The design aesthetic is clean and simple, right down to the wood-like porcelain floors.

The second-floor pool deck offers an unbroken ocean view to the east. (Don’t look west; that’s all under construction.) The infinity pool presses right up to the adjacent swim-up bar area. Lounges from Restoration Hardware and pod-like day beds surround the pool. The second floor also features a children’s playroom; fitness center; and the Wave Resort Spa, with four treatment rooms, including a couple’s room.

Downstairs, facing the boardwalk, the Wave has rolled out three restaurants: BuzzBait, a grab-and-go coffee shop; Ebb’s Coastal Kitchen, a casual seafood spot; and 100 Ocean, a Mediterranean-style brasserie. Each has outdoor seating at the edge of the boardwalk.

Riding at the top of the Wave, the High Crest event space has an extraordinary, 2,125-square-foot ocean-view terrace and a 5,000-square-foot indoor space with equally fabulous views. It’s a wow.

“We’ve tried to build the resort for everyone,” says Tiffaney Warman, director of sales and marketing. The hotel is part of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Lifestyle Collection rewards program.

High season rates start at $300.—KS

Related—Exploring Long Branch: History, Hot Dogs and Oceanfront Indulgences

Courtesy of Hotel LBI

Courtesy of Ann Coen

Courtesy of Hotel LBI

Hotel LBI lobby. Courtesy of Ann Coen

350 West 8th Street, Ship Bottom

You can’t miss Hotel LBI. The imposing new four-story resort looms large on Route 72 as you descend the causeway onto Long Beach Island. With its abundant gables,  columns, porches and blue-and-white striped awnings, Hotel LBI is reminiscent of the sprawling Victorian-era resorts that long ago graced much of the Jersey Shore. But Hotel LBI is a thoroughly modern rendition of a luxury hotel, with plenty of amenities and a clean, coastal-inspired décor.

Start with the lobby. A large space with plenty of comfortable seating, it combines contemporary sheen with retro touches like blown-up reproductions of decades-old photos from the New Jersey Maritime Museum in Beach Haven. The focal point: A well-worn wooden fishing boat dramatically suspended from the ceiling. There’s a lobby bar (serving grab-and-go breakfast and, later in the day, drinks and small plates), and a shop for snacks and merchandise.

Proceed to the indoor-outdoor pool. With a glass ceiling that retracts to let in direct sunlight, it’s suitable for all kinds of weather. The pool area is on the small side and it picks up a fair amount of noise from cars passing close to the hotel, but it’s a relaxing space nonetheless—and features yet another bar serving drinks and small plates. Adjacent to the pool, there’s a small, glass-walled fitness center, and the Lighthouse Salon and Spa, featuring three treatment rooms, a couples’ suite and six hair stations.

The hotel offers 102 notably large suites in 17 configurations, many geared for families. Each suite has a kitchenette, balcony and sleeper sofa; six have built-in bunk beds and can accommodate up to seven or eight guests. “The idea is to have something for everyone,” says hotel sales coordinator Alexis North, my tour guide.

For an ocean view—and fabulous sunsets—guests ascend to the rooftop bar, where adults can gather around three fire pits while the kiddies play on life-size game boards. For breakfast and dinner, they head to the Salt Kitchen & Bar, another huge, attractive space, with ample veranda seating.

The hotel is located at the site of the old Quarterdeck Inn, about four blocks from the beach. Luxury vans shuttle guests to and from the beach; valets provide towels, beach chairs and beach tags (two per guestroom). The hotel also provides complimentary beach bike rentals.

All of this family-friendly luxury is the vision of owner Chris Vernon, who also owns the nearby Mallard Island Yacht Club and Bonnet Island Estate, a pair of popular Manahawkin wedding venues. Hotel LBI itself has a large Conservatory room, which can accommodate up to 200 guests for sit-down events.

High season rates: $359-$1,389 (for the penthouse suite)—KS

Related—The Laid-Back Luxuries of LBI

Courtesy of Seaview

401 South New York Road, Galloway

New Jersey is golf crazy, so it seems crazy that the Garden State has but a handful of stay-and-play golf resorts. Seaview, with 36 holes of golf on two challenging courses, can justifiably claim to be the state’s most storied golf getaway. Its fairways have hosted names like Snead and Hogan—and presidents from Harding to Eisenhower. To this day, it hosts the ShopRite LPGA Classic each spring.

Seaview’s Bay Course and Pines Course have maintained their standing among New Jersey’s best daily-fee courses, but the hotel itself has long been in need of an update. This summer, the 298-room resort, now owned by KDG Capital and managed by Dolce Hotels and Resorts by Wyndham, unveils an $18 million renovation intended to restore it to the ranks of New Jersey’s top destinations.

There’s no question Seaview has good bones—and a great location, 15-20 minutes inland of Atlantic City on Reed’s Bay. Built in 1914 as a luxury retreat for the wealthy of Philadelphia, Seaview maintains an air of casual sophistication. It’s fitting for the site where Grace Kelly—later Princess Grace of Monaco—celebrated her 16th birthday (in 1946).

The grounds here are gorgeous and amenities ample. Seaview has a large outdoor and an indoor pool; three restaurants; a 24-hour fitness center; two tennis courts; a walking trail; and an Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. It also has ample meeting and event spaces.

High season rates start at $129 midweek and $229 weekends. —KS

 Related—How Stockton University Landed on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk

The Turkish bath at the Salt Spa. Courtesy of the Reeds at Shelter Haven.

9601 Third Avenue, Stone Harbor

Small-town charm and proximity to the beach make Stone Harbor a quintessential Shore spot. The vibe is laidback and upscale, making the Reeds at Shelter Haven a perfect fit. After six years as a go-to place in Stone Harbor with its popular bar scene, indoor and outdoor eateries and special event spaces, the property has added 21 more rooms this summer, plus new a top-shelf spa.

The Reeds’ new beachy-chic accommodations seamlessly mirror the original 35 guestrooms, and are housed directly across the street along with the spacious, bi-level spa. Rooms feature warm wood floors, neutral colors and handy amenities, including mini Keurigs and refrigerators. Some rooms offer a peek at the ocean a few blocks away.

The addition of the Salt Spa significantly raises the bar for the already sought-after hotel (Conde Nast Traveler has given it the nod twice already!) Prepare to be pampered when you show up for your treatment at this wellness haven. Choose from a diverse menu of indulgences, such as the Hydrafacial, the latest in skin smoothing technology, to the classic massage. Each is executed in one of the five serene, dimly lit, private sanctuaries appointed in silvery gray hues with subtle glimmers to reinforce the salt theme.

The steam room is open to all spa guests; receive two or more treatments and you can take advantage of the Brine Light Inhalation Lounge—a place to totally decompress. Climb into a plush lounger and take a breath. Mounted on the brine wall is a trickling waterfall that emits a salty mist, while calming colored lights bath the room in a soothing, slow-moving light display. The chromotherapy is designed to encourage greater relaxation, while the salt-enhanced air is said to improve skin and lung conditions and even prevent colds and allergies.

Equally impressive is the Turkish bath, modeled after a traditional hammam, where things get therapeutically steamy. This tiled oasis features a heated marble massage table and heated benches. Treatments include the Himalayan salt scrub, Rasul mud ritual and balancing body scrub and mask. The hot, steamy air opens your pores, and prepares your skin to receive the full benefit of the cleansing treatments.

The piece de resistance of the spa’s avant-garde treatments is the novel Soft-Pack Float, a more sophisticated cousin of zero-gravity offerings like upside down loungers and float therapies. A major selling point: it doesn’t require getting wet. The session consists of crawling onto a bed-like pad that is suspended within the bed-like frame. The pad fills with warm water and creates the sensation of weightlessness. Your body is cradled in the air and on water—and you remain dry! Hello, uber relaxation. Aside from the ultimate unwind, the Soft-Pack Float is intended to relieve joint, muscle and back pain.

High season rates start at $550.—DC

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4 Great Shore Adventures You Shouldn’t Miss

All illustrations by Ali Macdonald

Barnegat Light

Interest in oysters is on the rise. They have complex flavors, a local connection, pair well with cocktails—and they’re supposed to make you kinda randy. The bivalve, once plentiful in New Jersey’s tidal waters, is making a comeback thanks to a new generation of resourceful oyster farmers. You can get a new perspective on modern oyster farming—literally waist deep—thanks to Barnegat Oyster Collective’s oyster farm tours. Founders Matt Gregg and Scott Lennox—both pioneering oyster farmers—take turns leading the tours that start at Van’s Boat Rental in Barnegat Light. The tours start with a five-minute scenic cruise on a 25-foot flat-bottom skiff with seating for eight (on shellfish crates). Your destination: a 12-acre oyster farm on Barnegat Bay. Here, oysters are raised in 400 steel-netting cages. Amid the salty summer air and sunshine, the farmers show the different stages of oyster growth, from juvenile oysters to market size. Oysters are then popped open for tasting—the freshest seafood you’re going to get, all while standing in the crystal-clear bay water. “It’s just a unique experience,” says Gregg. “You’re not just learning where oysters come from, you’re getting your hands and feet wet. Everyone we take out there says it was the best experience of their summer.” Oysters are filter feeders, which means they eat the microorganisms that can choke our bays of oxygen. The renewed interest in oysters has created careers for these young baymen. In short, oysters are good for both the local ecology and the economy. The 90-minute tour is $65 and requires advance booking. Tours run twice daily every Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day weekend, or weekdays by appointment. Check the website for exact times. You’ll need everything you would for a day at the beach—bathing suit, shades, towel, snacks, drink and sunscreen—as well as a pair of old sneakers or water shoes for walking in the bay. A fresh lemon and a jar of cocktail sauce also come in handy. —Jon Coen

801 Bayview Avenue; 609-450-9005

Cape May

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Rollin A. Fritch is designed in part for intercepting smugglers. Sitting at her home berth at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May Harbor, she needn’t worry about me. As my kayak passes within 20 feet of her stern, all I’m carrying is a sealed float bag with two bottles of water, a turkey sandwich and a granola bar. By this point in my tour, I’ve become acclimated to my kayak, thanks to my guide, Jeff Martin, owner/operator of Aqua Trails. It’s a summer weekday, so the broad harbor is relatively quiet. Still, Martin (in a separate kayak) takes care as he leads me along the margins of the harbor, then across the choppy channel. Families of osprey watch our movements from their nests atop the channel markers. The morning breeze picks up, sending ripples across the water as we paddle around a sandbar. “You can almost set your watch by the breeze,” Martin tells me. A local high school marine-biology and oceanography teacher, Martin has an encyclopedic knowledge of these waters. We take a break on a small beach, and he explains the natural and man-made forces behind the creation and maintenance of the harbor. On the mudflats behind us, three kinds of seagulls and a pair of American oyster catchers with distinctive orange bills browse for insects and small crustaceans to lunch on. Back in the kayaks, we paddle past a clam factory and enter the calm waters of Upper Thorofare. The paddling is effortless here. We proceed under two low bridges into Mill Creek, an unadulterated salt marsh that serves as a nursery for numerous species of fish and a sanctuary for the local avian population. For several thrilling minutes, a parade of 3-inch-long menhaden (known locally as bunkerfish) skitters across the water’s surface like a shimmering wave. Any closer and they’d jump right into my kayak. In the distance, a common tern dives for food. A snowy egret wades patiently in the shallow water. Martin points out a semipalmated plover and several sandpipers. Stacks of mussels cling to the seaweed along the banks. Finally, the salt marsh empties back into the harbor. We cross the channel again and return to our starting point, having covered about five miles in two invigorating hours. My tour, packaged by Congress Hall, cost $60 and included lunch and a ride to and from the hotel. Or you can sign up directly with Aqua Tours for $45. Aqua Tours also offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, sunset and full-moon tours, and camp for kids. —Ken Schlager

1600 Delaware Avenue; 609-884-5600

Gateway National Recreation Area

This easy, self-guided, 12-mile ride up the spine of Sandy Hook is ideal for a family outing. The paved, multiuse path (also fit for runners or walkers) winds past oceanfront beaches and the rocky edge of Sandy Hook Bay on its way to Fort Hancock, the ghostly army base at Sandy Hook’s northern tip. The ride starts at parking area B, just beyond the entrance to the national recreation area (parking fee, $15). Cedar, juniper, cherry and holly trees shade much of the path. About two miles in, we pass two vintage Nike missiles on their launchers, vestiges of Sandy Hook’s incarnation as a military outpost. Tours of the Nike Missile Radar Site are available on a handful of select dates this summer (check the website). Eventually, the trail opens onto the grassy expanse of Fort Hancock, a former U.S. Army installation. At its peak during World War II, the fort—it’s more like a small town—was home to more than 7,000 soldiers. Its main military role was to protect New York Harbor from invasion by sea. In the Cold War era, the Nike missiles were installed to defend the entire East Coast. The fort was decommissioned in December 1974. The stately, yellow-brick living quarters of the fort’s Officers’ Row face the bay in various states of disrepair, their porches collapsing beneath the ravages of time. At the end of the row, the former Lieutenants’ Quarters serves as the History House (open 1-5 pm daily, through August). Behind Officers’ Row, the 103-foot-tall Sandy Hook Lighthouse watches over its surroundings, as it has for 250 years (tours available from 1-4:30 pm daily). The visitors’ center is located in the Lighthouse Keepers’ Quarters (open from 9 am-5 pm daily). The ride continues past the U.S. Coast Guard station, following the path to the right, then left toward the concrete-and-steel remains of the Nine-Gun Battery. The paved trail ends just beyond the battery. Here, we dismount and continue on foot up a sandy path to the North Beach observation deck for a view of lower Manhattan, about 15 miles across the open water. Turning back, we retrace the trail past the Nine-Gun Battery and head toward Gunnison Beach, Sandy Hook’s clothing-optional area. (No worries, you can’t see the beach from the trail.) We continue on Atlantic Drive, which brings us back to the main path south of Fort Hancock. From here, it’s a quick four miles back to our starting point. —KS

The A.J. Meerwald was built to carry loads of oysters dredged from the floor of the Delaware Bay. Its dredging days long behind it, the graceful, two-masted gaff schooner, originally launched in 1928, now serves as an educational and tour boat. Throughout the warm-weather months, tours are available on the Meerwald from several New Jersey ports. Built in New Jersey, the Meerwald has had a bumpy and complex history. When it began its seagoing career, New Jersey’s oyster industry was booming, and the ship’s owners, the Meerwald family, thrived. Then came the Great Depression and World War II. During the war, the ship was turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard and converted into a fireboat. The Meerwald changed hands several times in the ensuing decades. Eventually, the ship was donated to its current owner, the Bayshore Center at Bivalve, a nonprofit that raised the funds to restore the Meerwald and now operates it out of Port Norris, still on the Delaware Bay. In 1998, the Meerwald was declared the state’s official tall ship. The Bayshore Center utilizes the A.J. Meerwald for onboard educational programs, summer camps and charter trips, which help to fund its overhead expenses. Morning, afternoon, evening and themed (birding, oystering) sails—with Captain Johann Steinke at the helm—are available through early October from such New Jersey ports as Beach Haven, Cape May and Bivalve. Tickets for two-hour cruises range from $17.50 to $37.50. —Dominique McIndoe


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7 Jersey Shore Rooftop Bars to Visit This Summer

Drinking on rooftops is one of those universally beloved activities. And during summer months in the Garden State, there’s no better perch than a rooftop bar down the Shore.

Some specialize in cocktails and raw shellfish, others offer a beer garden experience, but all feature beautiful, beachy views. Wherever they are, these Jersey Shore rooftop bars, listed north to south, are sure to elevate your summer outings.

The rooftop pool at Avenue Le Club. Photo courtesy of Bread & Butter PR.

Long Branch

This rooftop bar and lounge is located right on the beach in Long Branch—and it has a pool, too. Sip on an Endless Summer (rum, coconut purée, passion fruit and turmeric) or a Pineapple Cilantro Jalapeño Margarita by the pool, which overlooks the ocean. During the day, from 10am to 5pm, the rooftop is only open to beach club members. Starting on June 15, the Nuit nightclub is open from 10pm to 2am. And starting June 24, it will be open for Monday Pool Parties from noon to 5pm.
23 Ocean Avenue, 732-759-2900

Asbury Park

Mingle over giant mugs of beer and Bavarian pretzels at communal tables on this 9,000 square-foot rooftop bar. The Austro-Hungarian beer garden is a popular attraction year-round, but especially on those warm, breezy summer nights. Enjoy dozens of draft beers, wursts, schnitzels, potato pancakes, smoked trout, sauerbraten and strudel.
527 Lake Avenue, 732-997-8767

The view from Salvation in Asbury Park. Photo courtesy of the Asbury Hotel

Asbury Park

This seasonal rooftop bar set atop the Asbury Hotel opens each May, and is one of the hottest spots in town during the summer. It features guest DJs all summer long, cocktails and some of the best views in Asbury Park, especially during sunsets. Heads up: Per the website, a dress code (no athletic wear, baseball caps, tattered clothing, etc.) is enforced for entry after 9pm, when it becomes a popular nightlife destination.
210 5th Avenue, 732-774-7100

Asbury Park

The rooftop deck at the Watermark, a modern bar and lounge, overlooks Asbury Park’s boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean. You also get a western view, making it an ideal spot for sunset drinks. The menu includes craft cocktails, wine, beer and light, seasonal bites to snack on.
800 Ocean Avenue, Floor 2, 732-455-3447

O-Bar, the rooftop bar at LBI’s Daddy-O. Photo courtesy of Daddy-O.

Brant Beach

The Daddy O Hotel boasts LBI’s only rooftop bar, O-Bar, that is decked out in a simple yet elegant beachy theme: lounge chairs, colorful umbrellas, stringed lights. While the restaurant downstairs might require fancier dress or footwear, beach attire and flip-flops are perfectly fine up on the roof. Enjoy cocktails, sushi and other small plates with a refreshing rooftop breeze. The O-Bar opens daily at 4 pm on weekdays, at at noon on weekends, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
4401 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-1300

Atlantic City

Take in the panoramic view of the Atlantic City skyline and ocean at the aptly-named Vüe Bar and Lounge, located on the 23rd floor of the Claridge Hotel. Enjoy small bites like cheesesteak spring rolls, flatbreads and sliders. You can go all out and order bottle service, or come for Happy Hour, which is offered from 4-7pm, Sunday through Thursday.
The Claridge Hotel, 23rd floor, 114 South Indiana Avenue, 844-224-7386

The view from Harry’s rooftop bar. Photo courtesy of Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grille

Cape May

Find this popular rooftop bar at the family-owned and operated Montreal Beach Resort. Harry’s offers local oysters and clams, salads and sandwiches, and their signature clam chowder, plus cocktails, local beer and wine. From the rooftop bar, enjoy a panoramic view of the beach, just across the road.
1025 Beach Avenue, 609-884-2779

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Lucky Leo’s, Seaside Heights Icon, Remains on a Roll

Lucky Leo’s has been a Seaside boardwalk mainstay for 66 years. Courtesy of Lucky Leo’s

Boing! Zoink! Beep! Playful sounds fill Lucky Leo’s Amusement Arcade on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. Kids playing Skee-Ball aim for the Bull’s-eye ring. Teenagers race against the clock at a ring toss game with neon-colored bottles. Tongues poke out of mouths, signaling intense concentration. Smiles stretch across faces as purple tickets stream out of the machines. They read: “Lucky Leo’s Est. 1953.” 

Luck began following Leo Whalen, now 92, even before he opened his iconic house of fun on the corner of Hamilton Avenue. 

At 18, Leo was drafted into the army in June 1945. World War II officially ended that September. Leo lucked out; he didn’t have to go to war. Instead, he went back to Toms River High School, worked at boardwalk stands in Seaside Heights, and married his high school sweetheart, Barbara. One day, while Leo was calling numbers for a skilo game (similar to bingo), he spotted Seaside mayor J. Stanley Tunney. He ran over and asked him about renting a site on the boardwalk. Tunney agreed, and Leo built his first stand. Eventually, Leo took over the lease for several other stands the mayor had owned. 

In those days, Leo was also teaching middle school math and science in Seaside Park and Berkeley Township. But Leo, a master at chit-chat, was destined to work with customers full-time. In 1975, he helped build a block-long arcade with his sons. “I put about 220 games in there, air-conditioned, new carpeting, big signs,” he says. 

Courtesy of Lucky Leo’s

At the time, there were four other Seaside arcades to compete with. But Leo was lucky and business was brisk. 

“It was always a friendly business, and it was always happy times when you met people on vacation,” he says. “I made it a success. My two sons, Stevie and Tommy, made it what it is today.”

The siblings have been running the business since 1986. Steve’s daughter Kelly started managing the arcade about 10 years ago. Some of Kelly’s cousins work behind the counter as well. 

“We all have a bit of crazy,” she says about her family, “but it’s very much, I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine.”

In 1985, Leo retired to West Palm Beach, Florida, with Barbara, now 87. They spend much of their time golfing.

Luck continues to follow the couple. Barbara has made two holes-in-one in her lifetime; Leo has three. His reward for one of his aces was a Jeep Cherokee. “Who in the hell can beat that?” he says. “If I won two boxes of chocolate from the boardwalk I’d say, ‘My god how nice.’”

Leo still sees familiar faces when he visits Seaside. People say, “Leo, I remember you as a young kid when you worked the stand back in the ’60s. And I remember you when you put this building up,” he says.

Indeed, Kelly says nostalgia draws families back to Lucky Leo’s. “And the fact that we’re a family, too,” she says. 

This summer, families can enjoy five new games in the arcade. Players with 200,000 points or more are considered VIPs. These gamers can attend weekly parties with drawings for prizes such as Broadway tickets and cruises. 

The affinity for entrepreneurship runs in the family. 

In 2005, Kelly’s sister Patty Sabey opened a boutique next to Lucky Leo’s. Hurricane Sandy destroyed the shop, but Sabey reopened in Lavallette. “Guess she couldn’t get the boardwalk out of her blood, either,” says Kelly.

In 2017, the Whalen family opened a candy store one block down from the arcade. Courtesy of Lucky Leo’s

Sabey is not the only one. Leo’s son Tommy now manages Lucky Leo’s Sweet Shop, the latest Whalen family boardwalk business. Opened in 2017, the candy store makes everything from fudge to CBD-infused chocolates. When Tommy, who has his father’s charm, offers customers a chocolate sample, he provides the following directive: “It’s not a piece of meat. No chewing. Let it melt in your mouth.”

Will future generations of the Whalen family continue in the arcade business?

“I guess they will until they get tired,” says Leo. The reality seems more promising. When Kelly’s 3-year-old son visits the arcade, “he doesn’t want to play the games,” she says. “He always wants to be behind the counter.”

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For Tide Table Group, Nearly 40 Years of Food and Fun

The Tide Table Group partners gather at Beach Haven’s Black Whale. From left: Bob Nugent, Linda Burris, Melanie and Eric Magaziner, Bill Burris and Ginna Nugent. All photos by James J. Connolly

First jobs don’t often portend where a person will wind up professionally, something for which anyone who has bagged groceries as a teenager is probably grateful. Not so Eric Magaziner, who began his career cleaning clams at age 14 on Long Beach Island. It wasn’t so much the bivalves that made Magaziner want to spend the next 30-plus years shucking shellfish. It was more the people who showed him how.

Magaziner, who lives in Manahawkin, is one of the founders of Tide Table Group, a company that owns and operates five restaurants in and around Long Beach Island, all of them nearly impossible to get into in July and August. He doesn’t look the part of the corporate exec. On this sunny March afternoon at Beach Haven’s Black Whale Bar & Fish House, Tide Table’s third restaurant and, with 150 seats, one of its biggest, Magaziner, in T-shirt and baseball cap, slouches in a booth picking at oyster crackers with his wife, Melanie, and two of their Tide Table partners, Ginna and Bob Nugent.

Though they’ve just closed on their seventh property, a 5-acre tract on the mainland side of Barnegat Bay in Eagleswood that won’t become a restaurant until 2020, and are less than two months away from opening their most ambitious place yet, Beach Haven’s Bird & Betty, no one is in a hurry. Stress levels are happy-hour low, and everyone is up for tracing the trajectory that has won them local fame and the kind of fortune that can’t be counted in dollars.

“It started with Ginna and Bob,” says Melanie, a Manahawkin native. “Ginna’s family has been in the seafood business going back more than 50 years.” Ginna’s father, Marti Cassidy, fished out of Barnegat Light in the 1960s and ’70s when she was growing up in Beach Haven Terrace. Cassidy sold what he caught at his own place, Cassidy’s Fish Market. Ginna didn’t intend to surround herself with fish forever, but then she started dating Bob.

“Bob was getting the business going,” she says, meaning Ship Bottom Shellfish, the 50-seat seafood market and restaurant they opened in Ship Bottom in 1981, four years before they were married. Ginna, then a college student in California, came back to LBI to help Bob launch the tiny shop at the former site of an ice cream store. The work was hard, but business was good: “People loved the freshness of the local seafood,” she says. Four years in, they hired Eric, whose father, Bill Magaziner, was a regular and a friend.

Eric, who grew up in Philadelphia and spent summers in Beach Haven Park as a kid, liked the work at Ship Bottom Shellfish, partly because it was seasonal—six months of intense fish, clam and oyster slinging, followed by six months of doing whatever he wanted, including surfing with Bob—and partly because of the laid-back atmosphere fostered by Ginna and Bob. By the time he was in his mid-20s and a Stockton College graduate, Eric had his eye on a place of his own.

“A piece of land opened up at Mud City, and we got it cheap,” says Bob of the site that would become the Nugents’ and Magaziners’ second seafood restaurant, Mud City Crab House, in Manahawkin. “By then, we knew that Eric wasn’t going to pick mussels and clean clams the rest of his life.” Eric was 26 when he signed on as a partner in Mud City. Then it was Melanie’s turn to blow off grad school and join her boyfriend in becoming an entrepreneur.

“I had always worked in restaurants, so I knew the front of the house,” says Melanie. “I was just about to go away to school. That got thwarted.”

Mud City opened in 1999 and, like Ship Bottom Shellfish, was an instant success, says Bob. And that’s despite the fact that, when it was under construction, “people would drive by and tell us we were crazy to open a restaurant there, because it was out of the way and in a marsh.”

Now, Melanie says, “for people to think it was out of the way is mind-boggling.”

Within three weeks, the 65-seat crab house was one of the most successful restaurant in the area, the partners agree. All four credit the seafood and the fact that Manahawkin residents didn’t like having to cross the bridge to LBI for something good to eat. “Beach Haven West, across the highway, did not have any restaurants at the time,” says Melanie.

Though the partners got used to seeing each other every day at their restaurants, roles were never clearly defined. They still aren’t. All four of the partners do a bit of everything. “He cooked,” says Bob, meaning Eric; “She cooked,” he says, meaning Ginna: “and I just came along for the ride,” he jokes. Eric, Bob says, lost 30 pounds the first year Mud City was open because he was working so hard. “At one point,” says Bob, “we realized Eric hadn’t had a beer in like a month and a half. I go, ‘Are you sick?’”

Eric was not sick, just consumed by his new responsibilities. But he had already been through a major health scare. “Eric had cancer as a child,” says Melanie. He doesn’t talk publicly about his past affliction and current health status, she says, but it’s obvious he’s a survivor. Though he is upbeat and talkative, his voice is all but missing; he can barely speak above a whisper.

“It’s one of the reasons we work with local cancer organizations,” says Melanie. Typical of their efforts is Crabbin’ for a Cure, for which Tide Table hosts a crabcake dinner each year that benefits Jetty Rock Foundation.

Tide Table Group’s charitable instincts don’t end there. The foursome, together with Linda and Bill Burris, the couple with whom they partnered in the Black Whale and two more Beach Haven locations—Parker’s Garage & Oyster Saloon and Bird & Betty’s (due to open this summer)—are known throughout the area for their support of local nonprofits. In addition to Melanie’s volunteer work on the board of the Hunger Foundation of Southern Ocean County, there is Chowderfest each fall and each winter, Arctic Outreach, an organization that helps local people and environmental causes. The partners also support Clam Jam and Coquina Jam, surf competitions that bring the surf and business communities together; Coquina also raises funds for women with cancer.

Even that barely scrapes the sandy surface of their local good works: Jeremy DeFilippis, Jetty Rock’s treasurer and one of three directors, says his organization collaborates on about 10 charity events with Tide Table every year. “They are over-the-top dedicated to their community is why,” he says. “We partner with other restaurant groups, but none of them anywhere near the extent of Tide Table. They were the first, and the relationship blossomed from there 15-plus years ago.”

Tide Table’s willingness to pitch in sealed its relationship with Jetty Rock, but it’s the vibe of their establishments that makes it a pleasure, DeFilippis says. “Not only are they great people, their places are fun,” he says. “They’re places where you find yourself having a good time.”

That seems to be the case regardless of what each new restaurant has to offer. The first two restaurants did not always have liquor licenses, for example (Mud City now does), so regulars got used to bringing their own coolers of beer and wine. The coolers were fully packed, says Billy Mehl, the Nugents’ son-in-law and Tide Table’s general manager, because most patrons knew they might wait outside upwards of two hours for a table. The Black Whale Bar & Fish House, Tide Table’s third location, opened with a liquor license in 2006.

Though the formula for the Black Whale is slightly different, the result upon opening was the same. “It was a new adventure, because this place is a little more refined than the first two,” says Melanie. “But it was instantly successful. I think our reputation followed us. Plus, in Beach Haven, once the summer gets here, you’ve got a captive audience.”

The reliable formula of fresh, local seafood in a town where every summer night is a Saturday night, according to Bob, accounts for why Tide Table has focused on Beach Haven for its latest openings. After the Nugents and Magaziners joined forces for their fourth place in 2014, a 100-seat seafood and steak house next door to Mud City called Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House, they returned to Beach Haven to open Parker’s Garage, their most ambitious restaurant to date.

Parker’s opened in 2017 in an old boat-engine repair shop right on Barnegat Bay. It’s the only restaurant for which they brought in a top-tier chef, Kyle Baddorf, who formerly worked with the Garces Restaurant Group of Philadelphia.

“When you have four restaurants that are established, you can’t just do the same old thing,” says Melanie. “People expect more from you.” With Parker’s, they got it.

The restaurant’s view across the bay “is like being on Key West every night of the summer,” she says. Summertime sunsets, seen out the open back of Parker’s Garage, can be extraordinary. Parker’s also opened a new chapter in local farming for Tide Table. In 2017, just as the restaurant was opening, the partners started an oyster-farming co-op with the Barnegat Oyster Collective.

“We have 75 cages, called float cages. You get a few thousand oysters in each cage,” says Eric. Tide Table also has its own local oyster farmer, Shane Logo. DeFilippis likes the plan for oyster recycling that Melanie implemented after learning about a Virgina-based program. After the staff collects empty oyster shells, they are dried and returned to the bay, where spat, or oyster larvae, can attach to them and grow. “One oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water each day, so in essence, they’re cleaning the bay and contributing to the health of our coastal waters,” he says, of the program now run by Jetty Rock Foundation, Stockton University, Parsons Seafood and Long Beach Township.

The Nugents, Magaziners and Burrises weren’t necessarily looking to expand when they landed their sixth property, a giant nightclub and restaurant across the lane from Parker’s, in 2017. The historic building, which can accommodate 1,200, opened as a hotel in the early 1900s and is believed to have been home to Long Beach Island’s earliest tavern. Melanie dug into local history books to research the onetime fisherman’s bar and found that it was popular during Prohibition. But a more recent chapter in its history interested the Tide Table partners.

In the 1950s, the building, then known as the Acme Hotel, was sold to a local married couple, Bird and Betty Clutter, who owned it until 1976.

“Betty was well known in the community for yelling at everybody to leave when it was closing time,” says Melanie. “She’d shout, ‘Get out!’ But nobody ever did. People have been stopping by to tell us stories about them. They were characters.” Acme changed hands again in the 1980s and became the Ketch, a nightclub and restaurant. Tide Table plans a throwback 1960s and ’70s feel for the location, which they dubbed Bird & Betty’s. It will be their first expansion into nightlife.

“We’ll have a talent booker. We may get national touring acts,” says Bob. The menu will include Neapolitan pizza in addition to seafood and cocktails. Baddorf will be executive chef.

“It’s kind of monstrous, but it’s a natural progression for us,” says Melanie during a tour of the vast building, which Tide Table GM Mehl was gutting in anticipation of a pre-Memorial Day opening.

For the moment, the partners are too preoccupied with Bird & Betty’s to think of a name for their seventh place, the 5-acre site in Eagleswood that will become a restaurant in 2020. But no one minds the distraction.

“As crazy and as busy as we are, we’re in a fun profession where we get to try new food and cocktails daily. We’re lucky,” says Melanie. Her partners are quick to chime in about the other things that make them feel lucky: the quiet winter months, when several of the restaurants are closed and the Nugents and Magaziners often travel together; the five or six employees, including waitresses and bartenders, who have been with them for more than 20 years and feel like family; and the promise that Mehl and his wife, Brianna, the Nugents’ daughter, are on board to guide the business into the future.

“It’s not a bad life,” says Melanie.

“We wouldn’t trade it,” says Ginna.

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Exploring 5 Fun Destinations at the Jersey Shore

An aerial view of Townsends Inlet Waterfront Park, a popular surfing beach on Sea Isle City’s south end. All photos by Jessica Orlowicz

It’s always a tough call: With so many great destinations down the Jersey Shore, which beach towns should we feature in our annual Shore Guide? This year, we’ve made it easier by highlighting five different destinations.

We start with Long Branch. One of New Jersey’s earliest beach resorts, Long Branch has historic sites to go with its wide beaches, ample shopping and dining options, and exciting nightlife. Speaking of history, no Shore town sticks to its traditions like Ocean Grove, which still shows off its roots as a religious retreat while also attracting a new generation of beachgoers. Next, we move on to Manasquan, which, we find, is the very embodiment of Americana. In Seaside Heights, family fun spots sit side-by-side on the boardwalk with attractions for young couples and the single set. Finally, we visit Sea Isle City, a popular vacation spot that doubles as an active fishing village.

Long Branch: History, Hot Dogs and Oceanfront Indulgences

Ocean Grove: Where Summer Congregants Maintain a Century-Old Tradition

Manasquan: The Epitome of Americana

Seaside Heights: The Boardwalk Town with Something for Everyone

Sea Isle City: The Fishing Village That Reels in Summer Crowds

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