The mid-Jersey Shore towns of Stone Harbor, Avalon, Sea Isle City, and Strathmere are coastal enclaves that locals and visitors return to for their intimate neighborhoods, clean beaches, and long-running independent businesses.
Starting from Stone Harbor and working north, here are some traditional routines and new adventures to scope out in these beach towns.
Fred’s Tavern, Stone Harbor’s favorite family-owned pub since 1934, is named for its founder, Fred Menzel. In the summer, seasoned regulars and first-time visitors belly up for food and drinks and to shop the on-site liquor store.
“It’s kind of close-knit with all the people who keep coming back each year,” said Tom Hand, Menzel’s grandson who runs the tavern these days. “It’s generation after generation.”
A quick walk down 96th Street toward the ocean will take you to Hoy’s 5 & 10. A landmark of Stone Harbor since 1935, the general store has been passed down through the Hoy family and is now operated by David Hoy, the grandson of shop founder Bernard Hoy. Selling a little bit of everything, from beach clothing to children’s toys, Hoy’s attracts visiting customers from as far as Jamaica and Russia.
At Harbor Square Theatre, a staple of family entertainment in Stone Harbor, take in a movie or live comedy show. Stock up first on burgers, beers, and other treats at the theater’s Harbor Burger Bar.
Mike’s Seafood in Sea Isle City offers a more low-key culinary experience than Polpo. Still, the 108-year-old fish market and restaurant has been a Shore tradition for generations.
Drive a few miles north to Strathmere for a worth-it dinner at Mildred’s Strathmere Restaurant, which has been Shore-famous since 1952 for its Italian specialties like homemade spaghetti with clams.
The Reeds at Shelter Haven, built in 2013, has added a new space on Third Avenue in Stone Harbor that includes 21 guest rooms and a 6,000-square-foot spa with the cutting-edge Soft Pack Float treatment. The spa opened before Memorial Day, and the guest rooms opened last fall.
“It’s a very quintessential, all-American town,” said Justin Mogavero, general manager of the Reeds at Shelter Haven. “From the businesses that are here, to the people who visit, it’s just a really wholesome, very safe environment.”
New in Avalon this summer is Surfside Park, a recreational destination that includes a performance stage, playgrounds, and ample green space.
“Surfside Park will bring families for active and passive recreation for decades to come,” Avalon Mayor Marty Pagliughi said. “We were thrilled to receive a $2 million grant for the park.”
Former Philadelphia Flyer Tim Kerr and his wife, Midge, live in Avalon, the home base of their Tim Kerr Charities.
“We love Avalon because it is a small town and is ideal for families to live or vacation,” Midge said. “Avalon has anything and everything you could possibly want to do with your family and friends.”