STONE HARBOR and Avalon tend to be the most tradition-bound places at the South Jersey Shore, even more than Cape May, with its Victorian claptrap.
A change in a menu item from one season to the next can cause an uproar around here. And when an Italian restaurant closes, for instance, another must take its place (as has happened over the years at a space at 98th Street and 3rd Avenue in Stone Harbor). Even the lifeguards return to the same stand year after year.
So it is difficult to uncover real quirks for the cognoscenti. But even in the most hidebound resorts, there are gems to be discovered - old, new and somewhat old-new.
_ The patch of land on the southwest corner of 96th Street and 3rd Avenue, the head of the Stone Harbor commercial strip, had been vacant since 1999, when the venerable Shelter Haven Hotel was demolished, its new owners seemingly ready to build anew.
Yet there it stood, summer after summer, becoming a little town park after a time. Now, in what seems almost a flash of inspiration, the lot has become The Reeds, the first Stone Harbor boutique hotel, with two restaurants, one out on the back deck looking out over Shelter Haven Cove. The three stories and 37 rooms, many with water views and balconies, go for $400 to $700 a night. Hardly doo-wop Wildwood prices.
"It was time for Stone Harbor to have something like this," said Reeds manager Ron Gorodesky. "The economy is turning just at the right time for us. It is exciting to do something new in a town so based on tradition."
_ The Reeds will be adjacent to the start of the line for the new Stone Harbor/Avalon jitney service. These will not be your grandfather's jittery Atlantic City jitneys, but bright, comfy, green vehicles - both in color and substance, since they run on compressed natural gas.
The jitneys will run on weekends (6 p.m.-2 a.m.) through June and then every evening starting in July. The thought is to keep tipsy drivers off the road on Seven Mile Island but also mitigating the road-rage-inducing parking search in the two towns' shopping and restaurant districts.
The jitneys will primarily ply Dune Drive/2nd Avenue, with some veers off onto Ocean Drive, between 21st Street in Avalon and 96th in Stone Harbor, with the possibility of going all the way to 111th Street if there ends up being a call for that southern swing. The fare will be $2 before 11 p.m. and $4 thereafter.
_ The go-to coffeehouse on the island is Coffee Talk, at 299 97th Street. Taylor Swift, whose parents had a Stone Harbor house, sang there in her early teens. Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco's high-school football photo is laminated on the wall. This year's affectation is a new Oatmeal Bar, with 10 types of oatmeal served near the comfy chairs at the front of the joint.
_ In Avalon, the breakfast of choice is sticky buns from Kohler's, now in its 64th year at 2709 Dune Drive. Those really in the know take a side order out of Kohler's macaroons.
_ All right. Springer's. Every night, the line snakes down 3rd Avenue near 94th Street onto the porch and into the premier ice-cream joint at the Shore. Can it really be worth it? Yes, yes and triple yes.
Each scooper has his or her college T-shirt on, a cheery hello and an explanation at the ready for every arcane flavor.
Channel 3 anchor Pat Ciarrocchi will not demur from her regular Springer Chip (coffee ice cream with chocolate chips). Taylor Swift has said she always had some version of cookies and cream. You can sit inside, but no one does, preferring instead to crouch on a curb, lap at the drippings on the cone and ogle at the rest of the clientele.
_ The Princeton. It's loud. The waits are interminable. The service can be spotty. The prices are a little dear. Don't expect a place to park anywhere near its location at 2008 Dune Drive. But the food - meat and potatoes, frat-reunion regular - is good and the scene is the most fun in town, since everyone has the time to chat you up.
_ You can find seashell heaven at low tide off the parking lot at the end of 2nd Avenue in Stone Harbor. Head south and there is a dirt path through some dunes and you are out on the wetlands. Be careful of the string-cordons protecting the piping plovers, but in the sands will be every Jersey shell you can imagine.
_ Each weekend morning at 7 a.m. some of the best - or at least the cagiest - basketball players gather at the narrow-but-long court at 96th and 1st in Stone Harbor.
It's where Stedman Graham, Oprah's sort-of-beau, played when he was a kid, and he's there when he visits his relatives offshore. The occasional pro comes down, but it is mostly ex-high-school and college guys.
The system of getting to play is arcane, but even if you have to wait, there are stands to sit in. And someone will always let you read his Daily News.