Continued from Part 1.
I exited Wildwood using the Wildwood/Stone Harbor bridge. This is one of several, independently operated toll bridges that connect the barrier islands of New Jersey along a 50 mile road known as Ocean Drive. I rustled up $1.50 in stray quarters hanging around my car’s center console to pay the toll only to find that the toll booth was closed. I’m not complaining.
Stone Harbor and Avalon are the towns located on the barrier island just north of the Wildwoods. There aren’t any amusement parks and little in terms of year round establishments here. I thought Wildwood Crest was desolate, but this place seemed practically devoid of movement. The odd street would have a dumpster and some trucks parked around a house, but I literally saw four cars driving around the whole time there. This is what I love about the shore in the off season. Growing up in northern NJ where congestion is abundant and where the population density is among the highest in the nation, it’s a welcome change to be in place that’s so desolate yet not really in the middle of nowhere.
I parked down some random side street and took a walk to the ocean. Between the residential areas and beach is a large swath of dunes. Once you finally get to the ocean, it feels like you’re on some isolated stretch of coastline. There were actually a few people on the beach, albeit so far away that they were just shapes in the distance. Speaking of shapes in the distance, I could just about make out the Giant Wheel and Sea Serpent down in Wildwood through the blowing sand. I strolled around for a few minutes and found this sand toy embedded in the sand. Creepy! I didn’t stick around for too long as it was really starting to get nippy out as the sun got lower.
I made my way to the next bridge to cross into Sea Isle City but was denied by bridge construction. Blah, this meant that I needed to get onto the Parkway and go around. As a result, I skipped Sea Isle City and Strathmere completely and headed straight for Ocean City.
I arrived in Ocean City just before sunset. I was actually a little later than I wanted to be to get some sunset good shots. Actually, I was about a month late if I wanted to get some really good sunset shots as the angle of Ocean City’s boardwalk makes for some really good photo opportunities in late January. I parked near Playland’s Castaway Cove and walked up to around Music Pier before getting some photos near Gillian’s Wonderland and heading back. It was getting really stinking cold now! Didn’t see much happening at Castaway Cove. I know they’ve been trying to sell the Python looping coaster for a little while now, but it’s still there.
I exited Ocean City via the bridge heading into Longport. I then drove northward until I stopped by at Lucy the Elephant. I knew it wasn’t going to be open, but I wanted to check it out nonetheless. At this point I had to make a little decision: either go through Atlantic City and catch the Parkway in Absecon, or just head out the way I came and make my way to the Parkway from there. I decided on the latter as Atlantic City is a pain to drive through with like 20 traffic lights, bus traffic, and pedestrians. One of these winter trips I’ll probably just get a room in AC and hit up a casino to gamble a bit…and get comped drinks. I eventually made it back to Brick at around 9:30pm.
The next day, I took a little trip to Seaside before heading back north. The area between Sawmill and the last business untouched by the September 2013 fire was completely cleared. A temporary sand dune replaced what was once a boardwalk and stores. Funtown Pier essentially ceases to exist now with Drop of Fear and Sky Coaster having been removed. I read recently that they’re hoping to get the boardwalk completed by this summer. They might complete it, but I’m not sure if there will be anything to go with that boardwalk this season.
Since it was about 50 degrees out, there were some people on the boardwalk and even a few shops and games open for business. I saw one store selling outdated signage and even wheels of chance. For $300 bucks, you could own a legitimate, Seaside Heights used chance wheel that has probably raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in 25 cent bets over the years. The signage for sale was interesting as well, one was a Tamogachi sign. Jeez, remember those things? The store must have had that thing sitting around in the back room since 1999!
I walked down to Casino Pier before turning around. Looks like Casino Pier is still working on getting the back of the pier rebuilt. There was a giant pile of lumber next to the pier which I can only assume will be used for the decking. I figure by next season they’ll be ready to add rides onto the new portion of the pier. Looks like they were also getting the Sky Ride ready to open this season.
I headed out eventually and stopped by at the shore house before heading back north. Fun little weekend shore trip overall!
What a great post! and some wonderful photos. I also found it very enjoyable to visit off season for walks. I started going to Wildwood 2X a year for 5 nights in 1986. Early June from Mon-Thurs at the time still yielded a feeling of desertedness when compared to the seasons height…I continued that until 1994. I made myself a vow that when I got to be a certain size or a certain age going to the beach would become a thing of the past. The size came long before the age did. I did however, return for 2 nights in 2010 sandwiched between a 2 night free stay in AC and and a free stay with a friend and his family at a Cape may house rental.
Wildwood had changed very much. Thank God they started the preservation of the doo wop architecture….so much of it is already gone. I used to love walking around Ocean Ave at night and looking at the different lighting on all those little motels. The Northern end once had many, many tall rooming houses. I stayed at the Maple Leaf
the first 2 years, and then moved on to the immaculately clean and well managed “Heart Of Wildwood” motels for the rest of my stays, which is still ocated at the foot of the southernmost pier. In healthier times I loved long walks, and I would walk north almost up to the lighthouse in Anglesea, and then the next day walk deep down into the crest. These days I don’t walk that much in a month! (gotta change that)
On one trip, I got off the parkway in North Wildwood and discovered the abandoned yet to be torn down houses on the right side of the road that were merely built with the front steps on land and the remainder on pilings in the water in the area known as Grassy Marsh. You could see the wallpaper thru the missing front doors, and I always wondered what great stories had once lived there. I remember when the Seaport shopping pier was just built. The entire area had a very noticeable (dirty diaper) bad pungent odor and there was a sign stating the lumber had been harvested from S. America and it would loose the fragrance over the first season. I remember when they built the massive rollercoaster on the former Hunts Pier….even for Wildwood, that was quite an impressive installation and I was surprised it only lasted a brief period of time. It was on my last trip there in ’94 I realized I was getting old. I was able to handle the Zipper at Seaside after a pint of Southern Comfort at 18, but finishing chewing a Gyro while getting on line for Breakdance was not a good idea at 35. The ride lurched forward and the seat dipped and whipped back, and I knew I was in for at minimum a difficult ride. I managed not to get ugly but got off totally sick! Ocean City seems to be the most traditional and least commercial of the remaining shore amusement areas, and the architecture is wonderful to boot. Seaside Heights was wonderful in the late 60’s to mid 70’s. The Swiss Bob was my favorite ride….it was right in the front on the Casino Pier and very very fast and the operators always gave you the full experience. Later it was moved to the left side of the pier right before the rise to the now missing back section. The 2 seasons that I went when the Turbo was there the ride was out of service both days….pity for me. I saw standing but never moving with my own 2 eyes! Even not moving it looked very devilish and unique…. Please continue with the postings and this site….I find it great fun and applaude your efforts. Thank you!
Garry G / Staten Island NY
Glad you liked the post Gary! Got to say, I really enjoyed your own writeup as well. It’s nice to know that there’s other people that enjoy the shore during the off season. It really has such a different vibe during the winter than during the peak season.
I’ve definitely noticed the changes over the years in Wildwood as well. When my family used to head down there, we’d always do a ride around on the first day to see what was different from the year before. I think three of the motels that we’ve stayed at in the past are gone now (Town & Country, Breezy Corners, and Pink Orchid if I remember correctly.) A lot of them were torn down in a span of a few years for condos which ended up not selling as well as they had hoped thanks to the housing market crash. It’s a shame.
I remember the coaster on Hunts Pier also. It was called Kamikaze and lasted from 1989 to 1991. It was actually relocated to Six Flags Over Georgia and goes by the name Ninja currently. Here’s an on-ride video of it if you ever wanted to take a spin! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIbxlpMBkww
If forgot Seaside had a Turbo. I want to say Wildwood did too at one point, but I’m not entirely sure. That ride does indeed like wild. Kind of reminds me of a sideways Zipper of sorts.
I am interested in purchasing one of the wheels of chance in Seaside. Do you remember what store was selling them?
I wish I remember the exact place. It was a couple of blocks south of Casino Pier if I remember correctly, some storefront selling T-shirts and other items…which I guess doesn’t help too much as basically every store sells t-shirts and other items. Haha