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On The Road. . . Jersey Shore - Happenings Magazine — Happenings Magazine

On The Road. . . Jersey Shore

Residents of Northeast PA have harbored an affinity for the Jersey Shore for generations. But chances are even if every family vacation brought you to some part of the Garden State’s 141 miles of coastline, you haven’t experienced even a fraction of all there is to see and do.

Location, Location, Location!

Long Branch, NJ has the distinction of being one of the closest beach points to Northeast PA. The year-round resort town is just over a two-hour drive from Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre. Ocean Place Resort and Spa is the hub of activity in the community. The full-scale luxury hotel and conference center is the only one of its kind between Manhattan and Atlantic City. Amid the pristine white sand beaches, palm trees (the resort plants 55 every spring!) and oceanfront Tiki bar, you may think you’re on a tropical island except for the distant views of the New York City skyline!  

Director of Sales and Marketing Susan Penman is somewhat of an expert on the destination– she’s been vacationing in Long Branch since she was a child. Though her 32-year career in hospitality took her to many exotic locales, she says she always returned to Long Branch for some R and R. Now she’s able to work and play in her destination of choice. She says the year-round residents and businesses make the town more pure and centered. Penman describes Long Branch as a suburban bedroom community to Wall Street. “It’s high end, but not snooty,” explains Penman. “It’s very family-oriented.” Though the area is teeming with history, shopping, dining and recreational opportunites, the resort’s amenities make it difficult to leave. The 17-acre complex boasts 256 guest rooms and two massive pools– indoor and outdoor. In the 14,000 square foot spa guests may select from an endless option of services. The resort manages five ultra-clean beaches that stretch in front of the property and therefore is able to offer perks such as a beach bonfire every Friday night for guests. Clam bakes and lobster bakes on the beach can be arranged for private parties. Guests may also stroll on the brand new three-mile long boardwalk. The sun-drenched, comfortable lobby is conducive to sitting and re-connecting. Oceanfront conference space makes doing business a pleasure, but when you’re not working the toughest decision you’ll face is whether to lounge beachside or poolside. 

East Coast Culture Meets West Coast Vibe

Little Egg Harbor. Barnegat. Long Beach Island. They’re the iconic Jersey Shore vacation destinations. Located mid-way along the New Jersey coast, most of the communities date to the Revolutionary War era and have welcomed tourists since the late 19th century. Long Beach Island is perhaps the most well known of the oceanfront towns. CEO and Destination Marketing Director of the Southern Ocean County Chamber, Lori Pepenella describes Long Beach Island as, “The closest thing to California you will find at the Jersey Shore. We pride ourselves in the way we have redefined beach culture and ask you to immerse yourself in our local brands and experiences.”

Although the area’s 18 miles of sugar sand beaches are a tempting way to while away the day, Pepenella encourages visitors to explore. “In between our spectacular sunrise and sunsets, do not miss a chance to visit the majestic Barnegat Lighthouse,” recommends Pepenella. The historic 1859 structure is located in a state park complete with an oceanfront jetty and maritime forest walk. Also on the to do list– a visit to Viking Village to see one of the largest commercial fleets on the Eastern Seaboard. There’s also the nature trail at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences. Depending on your preference, the ideal day in the Long Beach Island area may include visits to the NJ Maritime Museum and LBI Historic Museum, dining on the day’s catch of fresh seafood, seeing a show at the Surflight Theatre, salt water fishing, a boat cruise or stand up paddle board lessons. Pepenella aptly sums up the area’s appeal, “It should not take long, once you enter the Long Beach Island region, to succumb to the beauty and peaceful nature of our area. Art, culture and historic sites add to the atmosphere along with water sports, amusements and bustling shopping villages.”

Thrills & Chills

What’s a beach vacation without unexpected surprises? The Atlantic City Ripley’s Believe It or Not location is one of 23 Ripley attractions throughout the U.S. The 12,000 square foot complex features 400 exhibits in 14 galleries. According to General Manager Chris Connelly, a tour of Ripley’s is a must for Jersey Shore travelers. “There are things here that you cannot see anywhere else,” explains Connelly. “Quirky artwork, amazing artifacts and interactive exhibits.” A Volkswagen Beetle car hood etched with the image of John Lennon ranks as a favorite for Connelly, who describes it as, “A Beatle on a Beetle!”

The attraction’s newest exhibit has quickly become the most unique. Visitors can see a vial of moon dust that was collected by cutting a meteorite from the moon. New additions this year also include a virtual playground.  A giant tablet screen is projected on the floor with ten interactive games visitors can play. For an additional charge visitors may get a “Mission Impossible” experience in the Laser Maze Challenge. Here players maneuver through a maze of lasers trying to reach three checkpoints without touching the laser beam. The Vortex Tunnel ranks as the most popular attraction at Ripley’s. Guests try to keep their balance walking across a bridge while the room spins around them.

Connelly recommends allowing at least 30 to 60 minutes for the self-guided tour but cautions there’s so much to see visitors may lose track of time. “Even our bathrooms are fun,” exclaims Connelly!

Seaside Southern Charm

Cape May is recognized as the country’s oldest vacation resort. Visitors from Philadelphia flocked to the idyllic location on the southern tip of New Jersey as early as the mid 18th century. Following a fire in 1878 that destroyed much of the city center, Cape May was rebuilt and nearly all the structures were fashioned in the Victorian style. The homes were largely preserved ever since and now Cape May hasthe second largest collection of Victorian homes in the U.S. next to San Francisco. The area is so rife with charm and exquisite architecture that the entire city is officially designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Henry Sawyer Inn is a great home base for a Cape May getaway.  The 1877 Victorian home is centrally located in the historic district. Innkeepers Mary and Barbara Morris were tourists from Queens, NY who fell in love with the town and decided to relocate. They purchased the home in 1992 and undertook a lengthy renovation to convert the antique shop/apartment building into a bed and breakfast. The fruits of their labor yielded a stunning amenity-filled lodging complete with five guest rooms (each with a private bath), antique furnishings and comfortable common areas. Guests may enjoy a full breakfast served in the dining room or the veranda. According to Barbara Morris, about 70 percent of the inn’s guests are repeat visitors. “Its the welcoming ambience, quiet relaxation, immaculate cleanliness, lovely Veranda (a Cape May must), central location and sumptuous breakfasts that keep guests coming back.” The beach is just a few blocks away and during summer beach chairs, towels and umbrellas are available for guest use. Morris describes Cape May as a seashore resort for all seasons where porch sitting and strolling the beautiful streets are a favorite pastime.

The Periwinkle Inn is a favorite for visitors who want to plant themselves beside the beach but within walking distance of the historic district. Located on Beach Avenue, “the pink hotel,” as it’s known offers lush gardens, panoramic views and sprawling pool grounds.  The boutique hotel strikes a balance between ultra-modern accommodations and charming atmosphere. A variety of rooms are available to host any number of travelers. Private balconies overlook the Atlantic Ocean and the bustling Cape May promenade.