Heading to the Shore over an expressway isn't for everyone. Some folks prefer the backroads.
But for the experienced trekker, writing down the names of the roads can be tricky. Notes can include phrases such as "past the car dealerships," "that farm stand with the peaches," "that graveyard" and "666."
Jersey Shore backroads can be hard to pin down. Except for adventurous drivers wandering off the Atlantic City Expressway or Garden State Parkway's standard routes with a map or GPS in hand, most Shore routes were handed down by parents and grandparents. They started their summer vacations before the Atlantic City Expressway opened in 1964, and ahead of the Garden State Parkway's completion in 1957.
"I grew up with parents trying to figure out the back way to avoid part of the Garden State Parkway by going through, parallel, and over it," says Kathryn Quigley, 44. Her family drove from Northeast Philadelphia to Stone Harbor along a route that included "the TAC" (i.e. the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge), a "restaurant with a triangle-shaped roof, and the bathrooms were out back."
Now Quigley lives in Deptford, but she still takes the backroads, albeit of the Route 55 to Route 47 variety, with a few twists and turns.
"Why would I go down Atlantic City Expressway?" Quigley asked. "If I go to Atlantic City I do. From Deptford, it makes no sense to go that way," she said.
Quigley starts by heading onto Route 55 south until it turns into Route 47. From there, she has two options: continue taking Route 47 or head on to Route 347, which leads back into Route 47. Quigley said that taking the Route 347 leg means less traffic. She then turns left onto Country Highway 657, which goes behind the Cape May County Zoo and eventually turns into Stone Harbor Boulevard, the main thoroughfare into Stone Harbor.
Barbara Hagin lives in San Francisco, but she grew up in New Jersey and visits her father, who lives in Wildwood Crest, every year. She flies into Philadelphia International Airport.
"I usually take the main roads, but from time to time I veer off the beaten path and take the smaller highways," she says.
Two of her backroads are common and direct: Once she's over the Walt Whitman Bridge into New Jersey, she takes the Black Horse Pike or White Horse Pike straight down to Atlantic City, avoiding the Atlantic City Expressway tolls, but "those aren't very scenic, frankly," she said.
They are also littered with stop lights, but it can be less traffic than the Atlantic City Expressway. From there, she can take Route 9 south.
The route she prefers, though, is like Quigley's. She gets on Route 47 south, but she sticks to it instead of taking the Route 347 sidetrack.
My own backroads are a lot more winding but scenic.
If you take Route 42 south to the Atlantic City Expressway, you can continue on Route 42 by going straight instead of taking the expressway by veering left. After passing the line of Turnersville car dealerships, make a right into Country Road 610 and a left onto Tuckahoe Road. Stay on Tuckahoe (with a few name changes) until you reach Route 666. Yes, I said those creepy numbers. It splits from Tuckahoe to the right. It ends onto Route 49 - make that left, and then a right into Woodbine Road. Then turn left onto Dehirsh Avenue, right onto Kings Highway. That will lead you onto Route 9, which parallels the Garden State Parkway.
Wrangling the knowledge of Jersey Shore backroads out of people can be like Fight Club: First rule is there are no backroads because they, too, can get clogged. On part of Quigley's route, local residents will sell sodas and candy bars to people stuck at traffic lights.
I haven't had that problem. Maybe it's because people are scared of traveling on Route 666.
Either way, it's a lot better than being stuck on an expressway that turns into a parking lot.