What can you say other than the summer of 2020 has been … unique (to say the least). And while COVID-19 has put a damper on many of the things we truly love about this time of year, the summer months have still proven to be a very welcome ray of literal sunshine in an otherwise dark and uncertain time. And as with every year, we will be sad to see them go.
But the good news is there is still some time left on the clock. So why not carve out a full day and head to the shore for one last sun-kissed — and socially-distanced — summer outing? Follow us as we put together some options for a perfect beach day in South Jersey.
Oh, and be sure to wear your mask, follow all posted guidelines and social distance while you do each of these activities. We don’t want to go through this again next year.
10 a.m. – Donuts for Breakfast
Yeah, that’s right, we aren’t waking up early for this one. After all, it’s still summer and you have the day off. Sleep in a bit. When you wake up, gather your crew and head out to grab some fresh donuts. No health food today, this is all about indulging in the good times.
Dot’s Pastry Shop: Hardly the new kid on the block, Dot’s Pastry Shop is family owned and has been serving up amazing baked goods to the locals and tourists of Ocean City since 1947. Everything from sticky buns to cookies to butter cake is patiently waiting in their glass case for you to consume. The shop is old school … no trendy coffee drinks, repurposed wood or ironic hipster vibes will be found here, but what WILL be found is one of the best Boston cream donuts on the East Coast and, our personal favorite, the cheese puff pastry, which is like the best cheese danish in the world even though it’s not officially a danish. Dot’s Pastry Shop is located at 3148 Asbury Ave. in Ocean City. Go to DotsPastryShop.com.
RSK Doughnuts: There is no official location for this trailer, but they show up in and around Cape May each day, peddling some seriously tasty mini donuts (or “doughnuts” as they prefer the old-school way to spell it). They come by the bag or bucket, with 12 in a bag and 40 in a bucket. Our favorites are the classic cinnamon sugar or the french toast, which takes the cinnamon sugar variety and tops it with a maple glaze and powdered sugar. Check their Facebook page daily for menu updates and announcements on where they will be located that day.
Noon – Hit the Beach (and bring lunch)
On a hot summer day any beach will do in a pinch, but here are a few of our favorites.
Atlantic City: So many people flock to America’s Playground for the casinos and the boardwalk that many forget there are some gorgeous beaches right there for your sunbathing, swimming and frolicking needs. And the best part? It’s one of the only beaches in New Jersey that is free to all. No beach badges required. Add to that some incredible surf breaks at Crystal Beach, Delaware Avenue Beach and Downtown Beach and you have yourself a sandy paradise right in the middle of the action.
You are going to be hungry for lunch after riding the waves, so we suggest you think ahead and pack a few sandwiches from White House Sub Shop. They are famous for their Italian sub, and for good reason. It’s a symphony of flavors including capicola, coteghino and salami topped with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion along with a bit of oil just to round things out. And it’s all tucked into some amazing, fresh-baked Atlantic City roll either from right across the street at Formica’s or right next door from Rando’s. White House Sub Shop is located at 2301 Arctic Ave. in Atlantic City. Go to WhiteHouseSubShop.net.
Wildwood: When it comes to social distancing options, no beach on the entire coastline of New Jersey can touch Wildwood. With its stunningly wide stretches of sand — up to 500 yards wide from the dunes to the ocean in some cases — you will have no problem staying six feet apart from other sunbathers. But you may want to wear your flip flops because that sand can reach temperatures hot enough to grill a steak, and it’s a looooong way to the water!
Once you plant your stuff on the sand you aren’t going to want to be taking a lot of trips back and forth, so make a quick stop on your way in, pack a local lunch and be glad you did. One great spot to grab some sandwiches is Russo’s Market. This North Wildwood favorite offers some of the tastiest — and largest — hoagies in the area. The “small” is 11 inches, while the large is double the size (that adds up to a stunning 22 inches for the arithmetically disabled). Try the Mom Russo’s Special with thin-sliced genoa salami, prosciutto, hot dried capicola, sharp provolone and pepperoni. Russo’s Market is located at 901 Ocean Ave. in North Wildwood. Go to RussosMarket.com.
Brigantine: Brigantine’s greatest advantage is its location. Out of the way for just about anyone not living there, the bridge connecting it to Atlantic City is both the only way in and the only way out if you are travelling by car. Because of that it has a very peaceful, non-touristy vibe, making it a great option for anyone who doesn’t like the hustle and bustle of the more crowded beach resorts.
For your lunch munch in Brigantine it’s really a no brainer as Ernest & Son is the obvious choice. Known for offering some of the highest quality meats and sandwiches since opening their doors more than 40 years ago, this Brigantine landmark has been featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” where host Guy Fieri salivated over their subs and beef jerky. If you are looking to have one of the most enviable sandwiches on the beach, try the Stormin’ Gorman, which starts with turkey and prosciutto and adds provolone cheese, hot peppers and mayo on your choice of roll, bread or wrap. Ernest & Son is located at 3305 W. Brigantine Ave. in Brigantine. Go to ErnestAndSon.com.
4 p.m. – Shower and Cocktail Hour
OK, so it’s time to wash off the sand and mellow out with a round of beers, a glass of wine or a few cocktails back at the house. Hit up your favorite liquor store on the way home and stock up. Not sure where to go? Look below.
Circle Liquor Store: Those familiar with Ocean City’s draconian liquor laws are hopefully well aware that just over the bridge sits a liquor store that is as well-known and well stocked as they come. Of course we are talking about Circle Liquor Store in Somers Point. This giant space has everything you will need to stock your bar and fridge, including a great selection of craft beers, wines and spirits. And if you aren’t in the mood to take a ride, they deliver! Circle Liquor Store is located at 1 Macarthur Blvd. in Somers Point. Go to CircleLiquors.com.
Passion Vines: With locations in both Egg Harbor Township and Somers Point, Passion Vines is far more than just a catchy name. Owner Michael Bray and his staff are the real deal — a group of highly knowledgeable workers who are truly passionate about the products they are selling. Speaking of which, wines here obviously take center stage, with varieties of high quality vinos from every major wine producing country in the world. Add to that a great selection of spirits and craft beers (15 of which are on tap in their on-site bar) and a laundry list of market items such as jams, Di Bruno Brothers cheeses, chocolates and more. Passion Vines is located at 3013 Ocean Heights Ave. in Egg Harbor Township and 265 New Road in Somers Point. Go to PassionVines.com.
White Horse Wine & Spirits: This shop takes the concept of a liquor store and runs with it. Describing themselves on their website as “a destination for eating, drinking and entertaining,” not only do they offer a thorough selection of all your favorite beers, booze, pinots and other vinos, but they also have an attached market where you can find artisan cheeses, gourmet products, grab-and-go items and grocery essentials, as well as a kitchen serving freshly prepared foods with the highest quality ingredients. And if that is not enough to get you in the door, they offer both pickup and delivery options. White Horse Wine & Spirits is located at 676 White Horse Pike in Absecon. Go to WhiteHorseWine.com.
6 p.m. – Dinner
Let’s be honest: the options are endless when it comes to dining out, and we aren’t even going to begin to attempt to tackle them all. Here are three great spots that we think will offer a wonderful outdoor dining experience should you choose to head out to eat. And since Gov. Phil Murphy is now allowing indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, these great restaurants will offer that option, as well.
Water Star Grille: This gorgeous restaurant is located inside The Reeds at Shelter Haven, a luxurious resort hotel nestled in Stone Harbor. Dine amidst breathtaking sunset views over the bay while you enjoy exquisite cuisine in this casual, yet upscale setting. You can even come by boat if you should happen to be out on the open sea. Menu highlights include wagyu beef sliders with a bacon-shallot marmalade and a seafood pasta with shrimp, scallops, mussels and crab over linguine in an oregano garlic sauce with asiago cheese. Water Star Grille is located at 9601 Third Ave. in Stone Harbor. Go to ReedsAtShelterHaven.com.
The Washington Inn: A beloved staple of the Cape May dining scene, The Washington Inn has managed to somehow become even more charming in the age of the pandemic by offering outdoor dining under twinkling string lights directly on the front and side lawns of their gorgeous property. A fancy place for sure, but if you are looking to impress, this may be the perfect spot to do so. Start with the crab and corn chowder with bacon and roasted poblano cream, then move on to the ginormous 14-ounce lobster tail, which comes paired with a rock shrimp and lobster risotto, grilled asparagus and roasted tomatoes. The Washington Inn is located at 801 Washington St. in Cape May. Go to WashingtonInn.com.
6 p.m. – Dinner continued
Rhythm & Spirits: The new outdoor space at this Tennessee Avenue hotspot is slowly becoming the place to be this summer as Chef Kevin Cronin is now at the helm since The Iron Room and Rhythm & Spirits joined forces to become one awesome dining and nightlife destination with a lean toward modern Italian cuisine. What to order is always the tricky part, but you really can’t go wrong here no matter what you pick. We love the meatloaf mix bolognese with bacon, pork, beef and veal with radiator pasta, red sauce and cream cheese. It’s both decadent and delicious. And don’t dare leave without trying the to-die-for salami toast featuring fresh-baked sourdough bread topped with honey-whipped ricotta, chive-infused olive oil, sundried tomato and black pepper jam. It’s literally one of the best things we have eaten this year. Wash that down with a few of their signature cocktails, and you’ll be good to go. Rhythm & Spirits is located at 129 S. Tennessee Ave. in Atlantic City. Go to RhythmandSpiritsAC.com.
8 p.m. — Boardwalk Fun
Ocean City: Any trip to the boardwalk should include at least one round of mini golf. And if you are going mini golfing, Ocean City offers some of the best options anywhere. Congo Falls Adventure Golf is jungle-themed with gorillas, waterfalls, caves, a snake pit and a giant King Kong. The Ocean City location (there is also a Congo Falls in Margate) offers three different course options within its walls: Congo Queen, Solomon’s Mine and The Lost City. If you seek a spookier golf outing, just up the boards a bit is Haunted Golf, a haunted, hotel-themed mini golf course loaded with skeletons and frights of all types for those who dare enter. Congo Falls Adventure Golf is located at 1132 Boardwalk in Ocean City. Go to CongoFallsGolf.com. Haunted Golf is located at 824 Boardwalk in Ocean City. Go to Haunted Golf.com
Atlantic City: There is always lots to do on the legendary Boardwalk in Atlantic City, but this year thanks to the brand new ordinance from Mayor Marty Small allowing open containers, things just got a whole lot more fun. If you are looking for a bit of over-21 fun, we suggest stopping in at a few bars as you make your way down the boards. As you make your way to the Boardwalk, be sure to stop in at Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall’s outdoor space for a few pints to go from their incredible list of craft beers or signature cocktails including the new Kool Breeze, a frozen drink that comes in a palm tree souvenir cup that features Cherry Kool-Aid, orange vodka and pineapple juice. Then head north to Landshark Bar & Grill, a spot on the sand just outside Resorts Casino Hotel where the margaritas are always flowing. From there it’s a hop, skip and a jump to the Steel Pier, where the Ocean Reef Oasis awaits with brews and cocktails a-plenty. It’s also the best-kept secret in Atlantic City as it sits directly over the ocean and offers the greatest views of any Atlantic City bar. Check it out at sunset and you are almost certain to see plenty of dolphin swim by. Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall is located at 133 S. Tennessee Ave. in Atlantic City. Go to TennesseeAvenueBeerHall.com. Landshark Bar & Grill is located at 1133 Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Go to AtlanticCity.LandsharkBarAndGrill.com. Steel Pier Pub is located at 1000 Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Go to SteelPier.com.
Wildwood: The sights, the lights, the smells, the thrills and, of course, the endless rows of T-shirt shops offering everyone a chance to pick up an airbrushed hoodie with a vulgar slogan on it are the components of a trip to the Wildwood boardwalk, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. No matter what time of day it is, we think you should pick up a fresh-squeezed lemonade and a bucket of fries from the legendary Curley’s Fries. Of course you might want to wait a bit after that before taking on any of the classic rides on Mariner’s Pier (the only continuously operating pier in the Morey’s lineup this year), as stomachs have been known to object to the two activities being paired together. Once you’ve digested a bit, we suggest you hop aboard the giant wheel, where you can relax and enjoy breathtaking views of the entire seascape. After you’ve had your fill of thrills, why not cap the evening with a beloved boardwalk dessert, a frozen custard from Kohr Bros. Frozen Custard. While the vanilla is the obvious and most traditional choice, if they should happen to have the mint twist, we suggest opting for that. Should you splurge for the waffle cone and the sprinkles? Damn right you should. This is the last weekend of summer at the shore during a pandemic so we’re leaving nothing on the table … but we’ll be back next year. Count on it. Curley’s Fries is located at 3501 Boardwalk in Wildwood. Kohr Bros. Frozen Custard is located at 2518 Boardwalk in Wildwood. Go to KohrBros.com.