When I say the “Jersey Shore,” I’m not referencing a ridiculous reality television show, but a fantastic getaway destination. The New Jersey coast may not be a place that comes to mind when you think of vacation, but after riding a wave with white foam crashing around you, or sunbathing until the wet sand becomes twilight’s mirror… it could be one of your most memorable vacations yet.
The shore is its own special escape from the rest of the world. Most towns are situated on islands, reachable through farmland drives and series of long bridges. Once there, you’re surrounded by blocks of craftsman beach houses with white-painted balconies. College flags hang over the streets and surfboards stick out of backyard sheds. Downtown there are quaint ice cream shops, breakfast restaurants, crab shacks, boutique stores, and mini-golf courses. Beachgoers bike through the breezy streets with chairs and towels slung over their shoulders. And everything, of course, gravitates around the crashing waves of the Atlantic that lie at the edge of grassy sand dunes.
The water is not like the silky, azure bath of the Caribbean—in fact, the ocean is chilly and duller in color with waves that will knock you over if you don’t stand your ground. However, I love it this way. I have traveled to the seashore to visit my relatives every summer since I was born. Every trip, we alternate between swimming in the waves and basking among bright umbrellas with Earth, Wind and Fire filtering through a speaker. From the beach you’ll see families fishing off the pier, college kids playing paddleball, and at least one person who has painfully fallen off their skimboard at the water’s edge.
The seafood on the coast is so deliciously fresh, but there are three things specific to the coastal area that are unique. Number one is a Philly soft pretzel—the shore is popular with Philadelphia residents since the drive is only about two hours. You can buy these doughy, elongated soft pretzels pretty much anywhere. My family always stops at a Wawa convenience store on the way into town to pick up a bunch. A great sweet treat to enjoy is a cup (or two, or five) of Philly water ice. Think of a blended snow cone, or a smoother version of Italian ice. Now picture yourself at the beach, standing in front of an ice cream truck that has just rolled up with buckets of 10 different flavors that will melt on your tongue. Another unique savory item is Philly cheesesteak. Peppers and onions mixed with cheesy meat between slices of hoagie bread: this meal dominates the takeout scene at the shore.
Another fun way to spend time is at the boardwalk. There’s nothing like looking high out over the ocean’s expanse right before you plunge towards the sand on a rollercoaster. My family likes to visit Moorey’s Piers in Wildwood. The theme park has a vintage-beachy feel with a log ride that goes under the boardwalk while playing The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk.”
I have traveled to the Jersey Shore so many times that I don’t even have to close my eyes to imagine its details in my memory. As I write about this amazing place, I can feel the chipped wood of the lifeguard stand underfoot, I can smell the salt in the air, and I can hear the seagulls echoing over the tides. However, every year, there is always something I do for the first time—playing basketball on the town courts, eating a new type of fish, or finding another nightlife spot. With each trip to the shore, I am reminded that wherever I go, there are always new experiences to be had.