Ah, downbeach. The Atlantic City-adjacent towns of Ventnor, Margate, and Longport lovingly call each summer to tens of thousands of visitors, many donning Ivy League T-shirts. They come to speed-walk or bicycle along the boardwalk. And eat.

Here’s what to do, and where to eat, in the three other towns on Abescon Island.

How we choose our best lists
What makes something the best? Our recommendations are based on our reporters' deep regional knowledge and advice from local experts. We also strive to represent the geographic and cultural diversity of the city and region. Spot an error or omission? Email us at phillytips@inquirer.com

Attractions

Beaches

The Ventnor, Margate, and Longport beaches are great, beach-badge checkers notwithstanding. On weekends with lifeguard races, be sure to pack a thermos with vodka before you head out to watch, as the locals do.

» READ MORE: Where to swim for free at the Jersey Shore

Lucy the Elephant

A Jersey Shore icon, the six-story wooden elephant is synonymous with Margate beaches. And even better, the 139-year-old National Historic Landmark isn’t just an Instagrammable monument: It’s also an AirBnB.

📍9200 Atlantic Ave., Margate City, 📞 609-823-6473, 🌐 lucytheelephant.org, 📷 @lucytheelephant

Swim races

Stand on the Dorset Avenue Bridge on Aug. 8 and 9 and wait for the swimmers from the Jim Whelan Open Water Festival & Around the Island Marathon Swim, or take part yourself.

✉️ jwopenwater@gmail.com, 🌐 jwopenwater.org, 📷 @jwopenwater.

Fishing and boat rentals

And if you prefer to fish instead of swim, fishing boats still run out of Ray Scott’s Dock in Margate, or rent a boat or kayak.

📍9211 Amherst Ave., Margate City, 📞 609-822-6819, 🌐 rayscottsdock.com, 📷 @rayscottsdock

Ventnor Square Theatre

The owners of Stone Harbor’s popular Harbor Square Theater have tackled the ambitious renovation of the historic Ventnor Movie Theater and also have a liquor license. It reopened in May 2021 with a three-screen theater, a restaurant, and speakeasy.

📍5211 Ventnor Ave., Ventnor City, 📞 609-830-3566, 🌐 squaretheatres.com, 📷@ventnorsquaretheatre.

Fitness classes at the Milton & Betty Katz JCC

Jon Simon’s epic boxing classes at the JCC in Margate are a favorite of Suzy Kolber, host of ESPN’s “NFL Monday Night Countdown,” and a lifelong regular at the Shore, where she honed those sideline skills as a beach-badge checker during the summer. “One of the best and most fun workouts anywhere,” Kolber said.

📍501 North Jerome Ave., Margate, 📞 609-822-1167, 🌐 jccatlantic.org

Restaurants and bars

Really, do people come here to go to the beach or to eat? On a busy summer evening, take a stroll and count how many sidewalk cafes you pass.

Red Room

A cozy cornerstone Italian restaurant with fresh pasta, generous portions and wood-fired pizza available for takeout. And stick around for the lemon cake. Bonus points for being a BYOB.

📍141 N. Dorset Ave., Ventnor City, 📞 609-822-1067, 🌐 redroomnj.com, 📷 @red_room_cafe

Velo Cafe

The cafe opened in 2019 as a replacement for Cardinal Bistro, and has become a popular spot among the brunch crowd. The healthy-leaning menu includes Millennial favorites avocado toast and egg-white omelet, but doesn’t skimp on the chicken and waffles. Also a BYOB.

📍6525 Ventnor Ave., Ventnor City, 📞 609-727-0499, 🌐 velo-cafe.com, 📷 @velocafe_ventnor

Isabella’s

Isabella’s menu includes hefty, American-style breakfast dishes, but its Mexican-inspired lunch and dinner offerings are its signature. Included on the menu, based on co-owner Lupe Terrones’ upbringing in Oaxaca, Mexico, is a steak-stuffed burrito and corn-tortilla filled sopa Azteca. It’s homemade chips and salsa are always a crowd-pleaser. Another BYOB.

📍4 S. Portland Ave., Ventnor City, 📞 609-822-2477, 🌐 isabellasventnor.com, 📷 @isabellasventnorcafe

Baker Burger Company

Baker Burger married a burger joint with a bakery. In 2020, Kelly Baker and son Ethan Roberts opened a restaurant that churns out blended burger patties as well as Snickerdoodle cookies. Not to mention they also sell homemade ice cream sandwiches, crab cake sandwiches, and varieties of crispy chicken. It’s going to be a busy summer.

📍7903 Ventnor Ave., Margate City, 📞 609-350-6516, 🌐 bakerburgercompany.com, 📷@bakerburgercompany, 🕑 Fri. 4-10 p.m., Sat. noon-9 p.m., noon-8 p.m.

Steve & Cookie’s By The Bay

What more can you say? This Margate classic, for more than 20 years, has been mentioned on most lists singling out the best restaurants at the Jersey Shore. And all these years later their lobster mac-n-cheese is still at the top of the class.

📍9700 Amherst Ave., Margate City, 📞 609-823-1163, 🌐 steveandcookies.com, 📷 @steveandcookies

Tomatoes

Tomatoes includes a stylish setting on the bay with nearly 300 seats spread over three dining areas, a robust bar, and an overstuffed Asian-American-Latin-Italian menu. A curiosity remains the Cuban pork chop seasoned with a spice rub and served with a pumpkin gnocchi with a cinnamon sauce.

📍9300 Amherst Ave., Margate City, 📞 609-822-7535, 🌐 tomatoesmargate.com, 📷 @tomatoesmargate

Ventura’s Greenhouse

In the shadow of Lucy the Elephant is a spacious spot with options. Treat a date to a fancy night in the ocean-view dining room, catch an afternoon Phillies game and order routine pub fare at the downstairs cafe or rooftop deck, or enjoy a few drinks at night at the sandy tiki bar. Good for large families, especially with children.

📍106 S. Benson Ave., No. 106, Margate City, 📞 609-822-0140, 🌐 venturasgreenhouse.com, 📷@venturas_greenhouse

This article has been updated since it first published.

Steven White contributed to this article.

Read more shore town guides:

» READ MORE: Live your best life in Philly: Read our most useful stories here