Each summer, hordes of Philadelphians head to the Shore — for the season, the week, or even just the day. Year after year, multi-generational families and friends make memories biking, building sandcastles, and feuding with seagulls over the last half of a Wawa hoagie.
Another essential part of being Downashore? The ice cream. Is any summer really complete without drippy, sprinkle-coated cones of soft serve, cherry-topped shakes, and homemade waffle sundaes?
Here are the best places to find ice cream at the Shore. Good luck with those seagulls.
Barefoot beachgoers line up at this shack located on the main stretch of Dune Drive. There’s no hand-dipped ice cream here, but perfect soft serve comes in cones coated with sprinkles or peanut crunch or whirled into a freezer with candy. Also on offer: a rainbow of slushies, hot fudge sundaes, and malted milkshakes. Find a seat at blue benches and umbrella-covered tables next to the walk-up window. Cash only.
The Ocean City market, juicery, and catering outfit is also a surprisingly stellar place to find ice cream. Philly-made-from-scratch Harper’s, specifically, in pints of Blueberry Pie, Strawberry Pistachio Streusel, Caramelized Banana Pudding, and more. Stop in to pick up your backyard barbecue dessert, or tap its new beach delivery service and order treats to be delivered directly to your patch of sand.
Selection reigns at this roadside hut just off the highway, en route to Sea Isle City. Find the usual cones, in either soft serve or hand-scooped, plus gelatis, ice cream sodas and floats, ice cream and cookie sandwiches, smoothies, and more. Sundae specials rotate weekly— including Dole Whips. (Finally, you don’t have to plan a trip to Disney World to get your hands on the frozen pineapple confection.) Take your treats to the red picnic tables out front.
George’s might be best known for its homemade macaroons, but the longtime boardwalk candy shop also sells homemade, hand-scooped ice cream in flavors like Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate-Covered Pretzel, Seagull Droppings (a tastes-better-than-it-sounds mix of vanilla ice cream, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, and dark fudge swirls) and, of course, George’s Macaroon.
There’s no soft serve on offer at this rustic shack just a stone’s throw from the boardwalk, but you can smell the homemade Belgian waffles from a block away. Choose two scoops of the 45-plus flavors of Richman’s ice cream, placed onto a powdered sugar-coated waffle, layered with toppings, and capped off with whipped cream. Also on offer: bike rentals and mini-golf. Park in the adjacent lot for free while you visit.
Kicking off its 20th summer season, Margate Dairy Bar + Burger has more on-premises seating, with picnic tables now occupying what was once a few parking spaces. Instead of taking burgers, fries, and shakes to-go, stay until dessert, from soft-serve cones to elaborate sundaes, floats, and blasters. (The latter is soft serve mixed with toppings, like the house version of a Dairy Queen Blizzard.) Philadelphia water ice is also on the menu — try the Tiger’s Blood, a mix of watermelon, strawberry, and coconut flavors.
There are dozens of ice cream options here, but the homemade specialty flavors — Seashore S’mores, Black Raspberry Bliss, and a handful of others — are on the move at Marita’s, which has strong 1950s vibes, even though it opened only about 30 years ago.
Philly sports fans (i.e., everyone) will love the roster of sundaes at this Sea Isle mainstay celebrating its 26th anniversary this summer. Try the Sixers, with crushed cherries and marshmallow topping, or the one named for everyone’s favorite orange weirdo (Gritty, of course), topped with, obviously, googly eyes. Cash only.
This retro shop on Long Beach Boulevard has dozens of options of both hand-dipped and soft-serve flavors with a dizzying array of toppings on offer. Choose from cookie dough, candies, and sprinkles, plus shells, syrups, and “shmears”— a spoonful of cookie butter, Nutella, or peanut butter dabbed onto your cone. There’s frozen yogurt and vegan coconut milk soft serve, and you can “Skipper-fy” any hard ice cream cone with an extra swirl of vanilla or chocolate soft serve. It’s a seriously robust menu, but you’ll have plenty of time to decide what you want while waiting in predictably long lines.
There are other places to get ice cream in Stone Harbor, all of them certainly with a shorter line, but Springer’s is worth the wait. The family-run shop’s homemade ice cream has been a part of generations of beachgoers’ summers. Among the dozens of flavors, including an assortment of dairy-free options, there’s Black Cherry, Butterscotch Brickle, and Cease & Desist — a coffee base swirled with hunks of Heath Bar. And if you’re in a rush, there’s a grab-a-go section with novelty treats, like sprinkled-coated ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, and the brand-new ice cream doughnut — a ring of ice cream dipped in chocolate.
For over 20 years, Sundae Best has been drawing crowds for its homemade, hand-packed ice cream in dozens of classic and inventive flavors. Some of the most popular: Avalon Mud, with chocolate flecks and caramel swirl; Hurricane, with M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, Butterfingers; chocolate, and tart Key Lime. During beloved nearby bakery Kohler’s summer season, Sundae Best churns Cream Donut ice cream, made with pieces of the bakery’s fast-selling donuts. You can also order pints and treats online for pick up, skipping that line entirely.
About the author:
Regan Stephens is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia, covering food, travel, business, and lifestyle topics for outlets like People, Food & Wine, and Fortune. Follow her on Instagram for photos of ice cream.
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