Birdwatching on the Jersey Shore
Happily, the Jersey Shore lies right on the Atlantic Flyway for any number of migratory bird species. Cape May in particular is known for sightings of an extraordinary number of bird species when migration is in process. This annual event lends itself to the migration here of birdwatchers and photographers themselves!!
I have yet to be able to devote time soley to birdwatching while in the Wildwoods or Cape May. However, twice on the drive down we have seen Bald Eagles, and we have seen hawks quite often.
However, the birds which I look forward to seeing most while in the Wildwoods are those which nest in elevated platform boxes on the marshes closest to North Wildwood. I had thought the birds I was seeing were American Kestrels, but I now know they are Ospreys. The Ospreys occupy the elevated platform boxes or man-made nests from spring through early fall.
I'm sure it happens in other areas, but the Wildwoods are the first place where I've actually seen seagulls (and other birds?) drop clams, oysters, mussels, etc., on concrete and asphalt pavements to break them open and then eat the contents! Using these hard surfaces is like using a tool -- an activity by other types of animals which are often lauded as signifying that the having more developed brains yet this credit is rarely given to birds of any type.
Of the many projects that the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is involved in, the provision of nesting boxes & platforms for threatened and endangered birds such as the Osprey and American Kestrel have gone a long way toward helping these birds replenish their populations. The New Jersey Division of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife established an American Kestrel Nest Box Project (2006 - 2012) to help encourage the rebuilding the dwindling populations of these magnificent birds, the smallest of the falcon group.
The Natural Beauty of the Marshes
Being brought up in a Virginia town on the Chesapeake Bay meant that being around, in or on open water and all things associated with it was as natural as breathing --- it's in your blood. However, our town had few marshy areas but the ones we did have were fun to explore for whatever could be found there.
When visiting the Wildwoods, don't miss the natural beauty that often goes unappreciated -- the beautiful marsh lands. Pieced together like a green puzzle, they play a part in the separation of the Wildwoods from the mainland creating another natural barrier in their own way. Brilliant green in summer and turning brown in winter, these beautiful marshes, pools, and rivulets provide a home to fish, crustaceans, waterfowl both local and migrating, and nesting birds such as Ospreys and Kestrels.
The calm water surrounding and intersecting the marshes is deep enough in places to allow fishing boats, kayaks, and other small watercraft to wind their way into the most isolated parts. I find this a shame that they allow motorized craft into these waters because of the wave action, and disturbance to waterfowl but the noise and motion doesn't seem to disturb the ospreys which make big nests on man-made nesting platforms.
It took me some time to appreciate the incredible beauty but each spring I look forward to the marsh greening for the summer. The sight of and the singular smell of the marshes, particularly at low tide, experienced when crossing the bridge into North Wildwood for me signals that I am returning to a place I have grown to love.
The Beaches ~ Some of the Widest in the World
Without a doubt, one of the main reasons people come to the Wildwoods summer after summer is for the 5 miles of beach. Facing directly onto the Atlantic Ocean, Wildwood itself has one of the widest beaches in the world!
about.com.philadelphia/southjerseyshore/p/wildwood_beach/htm quotes it as being over 1,000 ft. wide in some places. Given that fact, there is lots of room for beach lovers to enjoy the sun and waves. It sometimes seems even much wider to me --- and especially so if you have ever had to run to the water's edge, a beach blanket or the boardwalk because the sand is burning your feet! Thankfully, several plank walkways have been installed at places to span the beach in order for visitors to avoid having scorched feet!
At different times of the year you will find the beach is a popular place for kite flying contests, boy scouts camping, racing, soccer and lots of other activities. The town of Wildwood Crest hosts a very well attended, annual sand sculpture contest where the composition of the sand lends itself to the talented designs of sculptors. While most of the sand is fine and white, there are also lots of areas where it is black.
Unlike some of the neighboring towns which require "beach tags" to be purchased to use their beach, Wildwood's beach is completely free. It is graded and cleaned every day in season. Food and beverages are allowed on the beach, but not glass containers. (Please be respectful of the environment and do not leave debris on the beach.)
As a child my father took me to our local beach in Virginia especially after storms to hunt for clams or oysters washed up on shore and I was pretty good at spotting them --- my reward was bringing home shells I liked. Winter is also the best time of the year to gather shells in the Wildwoods -- especially after a storm!!! I admit that my favorite time on the beach in Wildwood is October and early June but winter also has its advantages. Even in winter I am not the only one there as nearly always there is some else also walking the boardwalk and beach. As cold as it gets in Wildwood in winter -- and it gets really, really cold -- there is often someone walking.
- Budget Travel
The Cape May - Lewes Ferry
The Cape May - Lewes Ferry could equally be categorized as a "Thing to Do" or "Transportation" tip, and also an "Off the Beaten Path" tip. I list it here only to make it a more prominent tip.
In only a few short months, the Cape May - Lewes Ferry will celebrate its 50th Birthday as a means of transportation between Lewes, Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey. But in recent years, it has become more than that --- it has become an experience in itself!
Since the ferries are car-accommodating ferries, people traveling north or south can save time and miles by taking advantage of this route. However, many people take advantage of the ferries on a passenger-basis only in order to visit Cape May and Delaware beaches and the Tanger shopping outlets on the Delaware side. Four ferries ply the 18 miles of water between the two states. Each ferry has air-conditioning, WiFi, television, gift shops, arcades and lounge areas. If you love being out on the water like I do, you will enjoy the sun on the outside decks in a lounge chair. In finer weather, the ferries offer events onboard which should further add to the enjoyment of your "cruise."
A great service is provided by shuttles which for $4pp take you on to New Jersey's Cape May downtown or Lewes's downtown. These shuttles run continuous loops but check the website for specific date and time information.
Terminals are located in Cape May and Lewes and each offers a nice place to eat, shop and relax! Each terminal hosts an "On the Rocks Bar & Grill", a food court, gift shop, great views, outdoor seating, facilities, and parking. The food court is open year round but the Bar & Grill days and hours depend on the season, so once again please check the website for specifics.
Note: passengers may become sea-sick like my Brother did a couple years ago when he used the ferry. If you fall into the category of people who become sea sick, please remember to use the appropriate medication.
For an example of current fares (2013 prices):
Note: Pre-booking passenger may be necessary for summer months. Please be sure to check the website for availability and price.
High Season: car & driver - roundtrip $88
foot & vehicle passengers over 14 - roundtrip $18
Off-Peak Season November - March: car & driver - roundtrip $56
foot & passenger - $14
George F. Boyer Museum/Wildwood Historical Society
The George F. Boyer Museum, housed in a building of rather nondescript character sporting a brick exterior with white trim, remains one of the better looking edifices on a street which is struggling to regain its footing in a city which to some extent is also trying to regain its footing. The George F. Boyer Museum is operated by the Wildwood Historical Society, an organization which is celebrating its 50th Birthday in 2013!
I must admit that I have yet to see the interior of this museum. The one time we tried to visit was because of an advertised postcard show and sale I had hoped to see. But when we tried to enter the building, it was closed up tight. That was several years ago and we have not yet had the opportunity to revisit.
Yet, I would like to offer up some information about the museum which I believe would be important to those people and families who have had a personal connection with Wildwood over the years. This is not to say that others wouldn't also be interested, but this is the kind of museum where someone would see a display that triggers a personal memory then say, "I remember that from when I visited Wildwood as a child with my parents." Or, "Remember that place?"
I had a look at the museum's interesting website, funchase.com. , which I found extremely well done and certainly takes you back to a time when ..... well, life was simpler, and life may have been a lot more fun. Adults and children weren't constantly connected to or stimulated by their TVs, iPads, tablets, iPhones, videos, etc. and going to the Boardwalk was the type of entertainment which was more special. In fact, the Wildwood Historical Society's Facebook page invites you to "Come and see "The Wildwood Grandma and grandpa knew."
The museum is a mini-treasure trove of items related to Wildwood and worth a visit if only to imagine what the town was like in its heyday. If a personal visit to the museum is not in the cards, please have a look at the website as it is very different from what you would expect and is quite well done! (It also features an online gift shop.)
Tue - Sat: 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
As previously mentioned in introduction page, visiting the Wildwoods is for so many people a family tradition repeated every summer. Some visitors are daytrippers while others stay for at least a week or more. For a lot of these people, 'walking the boards', or being on the boardwalk is part and parcel of their everyday routine. It is like "the Mother Road" of the Wildwoods! The boardwalk has been around in some form since the late 1800's.
Stretching approximately two miles, the boardwalk is an elevated walkway built principally of lumber but also partly of concrete. It is accessed by steps or ramps, and on it's water side steps lead down to the beach. Here on the boardwalk you will find any number of shops, eateries, game places, the Convention Center, and most prominently amusement parks built on piers but connected to the boardwalk. Visitors come to the boardwalk to eat, play, hear music, meet people, get to where they are going or to see and be seen. In the early morning or evening, you will find people who walk, run, bike, and even skateboard there for exercise while being able to enjoy the view of wide beaches and waves slapping the shore.
A rather famous passenger tram runs nearly the whole length of the boardwalk. The "Boardwalk Sightseer" is a slow-moving, trackless tram that for about $2 pp. will transport you along the boardwalk for your sightseeing pleasure or to save your tired feet!
In the accompanying photos you'll see that shop owners go to extremes in trying to attract customers -- from the ridiculous to the slightly less ridiculous -- with signage, props, displays, colors, music and what have you.
Regrettably, you'll find people who look and act like morons in a lot of places and the boardwalk is no exception. However, Wildwood's current Mayor, Ernest Troiano, Jr. (2013) promoted a law and the city council voted for a ban on droopy pants -- pants hanging down below underwear or otherwise exposing bums!! Unbeknownst to myself, there is already a law on the books which prohibits bathing suits on the Wildwood boardwalk, unless covered up by other clothing. I certainly wouldn't want my young children or even my college-age daughter exposed to some nitwit's bum or other exposed parts so I think it's a good idea. Some question the law's constitutionality but that's a fight best left for another arena.
You would think you wouldn't have to explain to someone why they shouldn't dress that way, but obviously a lot of people weren't in line when brains were being handed out or morals either for that matter.
In the winter, the boardwalk businesses are closed and shuttered. However, even in the dead of winter you'll still find people walking the boards and the beach! I'll be the one of the beach looking for shells washed up on shore after the latest 'northeaster.'
Everyone should try this at least once! It was exciting and serene at the same time. We parasailed with Hang Loose Parasailing, soaring approximately 500' above the ocean where we were able to see dolphin and a school of sting rays. I'm usually not this adventurous, but my 9 year old was anxious to try it and didn't meet the minimum weight requirement. So glad I went with her. Hang Loose crew was a lot of fun, spend the extra $ to have them take photos and videos of your adventure.
- Sailing and Boating
- Family Travel
Performance Artist Joshua Moonshine
I hate to use the word amazing to describe Joshua because it's such an overused word, but he is truly an amazing artist. If you are walking on the boardwalk towards Surfside Pier and hear loud synthesized music playing and see a crowd gathering at the Douglass Fudge Pavillion, it's because he is painting/performing. You have to watch Joshua create a painting, in mere minutes, with spray paint, his hands, a putty knife and maybe a twisted up piece of paper, to appreciate his talent. Once you start watching him create these abstracts, you don't want to leave. It's unbelievable that such beautiful art is created from a blank canvas, right before your eyes. The music he paints to are his own mixes, and are always quite good. I never miss an opportunity to stop and watch when he is there.
- Arts and Culture
The award-winning waterparks on the boardwalk are a blast! You can buy a combo ticket which is for 3 hours at the waterpark and unlimited rides on the piers, they are well worth it. Raging Waters is located on Mariner's Landing Pier, Ocean Oasis is located on Surfside Pier. I would say Ocean Oasis is more for adults, they offer spa services, but they both offer a great time. Private cabana rentals are available at both parks.
- Theme Park Trips
- Family Travel
Christmas in July Boat Parade
A beautiful sight! Over a dozen colorfully lit boats with some colorful characters aboard travel from Shawcrest Marina to West Wildwood, Otten's Harbor, Sunset Lake and finish at Lighthouse Pointe Marina. A Saturday night tradition in Wildwood for over 20 years. The date of the parade changes each year but can be found in advance online or on Lighthouse Pointe's website.
- Sailing and Boating
- Family Travel
Speedboat Ride & Dolphin Watching
Speedboat ride and dolphin watching combined into one. There's nothing like seeing the dolphins swimming next to your boat and jumping out of the water. You can experience that, bird sightings plus a speedboat ride in the ocean for approximately 1½ hours. Sails from Wildwood Marina.
- Adventure Travel
- Water Sports
Hit the beach!
Wildwood's beaches are consistently voted the best in NJ. They stretch for miles and miles, providing enough room for all of your favorite activities: boogie boarding, skim boarding, playing washers or snoozing under an umbrella. They host different activities throughout the summer such as volleyball tournaments, Hobie Cat races, and monster truck rallies. The best part is they are FREE. The sand gets hot, make sure you wear sandals or flip flops.
- Family Travel
- Water Sports
Visit the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
While in Wildwood you must go visit the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse located in North Wildwood. This beautiful old lighthouse sits atop an old Victorian home where the lighthouse keeper and his family lived. Built in 1874 this lighthouse has five fireplaces and a beautiful living space for the family while they cared for the lighthouse. This lighthouse can be seen for 13 nautical miles and only stands 57 fett above sea level. Go visit this beautiful lighthouse and feel the history.
Adults: $4.00 & children under 12 $1.00
Summer Hours May 15th to October
9 am - 5 pm
Winter Hours October 17, to May 14
Wednesday - Sunday, 10 am - 4 pm
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
Parasailing is awesome!
Last weekend I took my family parasailing in Wildwood NJ, with a company called Hang Loose Parasail. The place is really fun, we had a great time. The boat ride was really cool, we got to see lots of things that you normally just can't see. When it was our turn to go in the air we were a little apprehensive but we were strapped in an heading up before we even had a chance to be scared. The view was incredible! It was so quiet and still up there 500 feet in the air I felt like a bird. We saw a giant sea turtle and a big sting ray. At the end of the ride we all jumped in the water and went for a swim, its funny how relaxing it all was when I thought it was going to be a white knuckle adrenalin trip. Anyway I will defiantly be going there again this summer, and I think that this is going to be something that we have to do every year on vacation.
- Water Sports
- Family Travel
The Wildwoods’ Boardwalk
More than two miles long, the Boardwalk is host to an endless number of souvenir shops and eateries, amusement park and casino. There is something for everyone.
You can take the tram car to the end of the boards, and walking back to the start. Ding, ding..."Watch the Tram please".
To eat, you'll find everything you could imagine in a huge variety of greasy fried foods and sweet treats. Not the best place in the world for healthy food indeed... :o)
- Family Travel
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