LONG BEACH ISLAND
THE VIBE Thought of as Jersey’s answer to the Hamptons in recent years (one of its towns is called Loveladies, for God’s sake), but the real estate cooldown has slowed its evolution (at least temporarily) into an uptight, vinyl-sided version of Martha’s Vineyard.
THE 411 Mercifully, no one’s managed to detonate any of the World War II-era explosives accidentally dredged off the ocean floor and dumped on the beaches of Surf City during last year’s sand fill. The Army Corps of Engineers project, the fuses, and the closure of Surf City’s beaches have been quite the … explosive topic. All is well, though the witty Surf City Bomb Squad stickers and tees are still popular.
LOCAL LEGENDS “Old Barney,” Barnegat Light’s beloved lighthouse, has been a beacon to sailors since 1859. At 165 feet, it’s the second tallest lighthouse in the entire nation (although Absecon’s makes the same claim). If the sun gods let you break worship for a day, it’s always worthwhile (and a great cardio workout) to climb the 217 steps and bone up on your seafaring history. (Admission’s $1 for adults; 11 and under are free.) Add a basket of clam strips and a soft-serve from the local Kelly’s, and you have a day trip.
WHAT’S NEW The Ship Bottom branch of Farias Surf and Sport shop (other locations are in Beach Haven and Surf City) got a stylish face-lift this winter. But the new rage is Farias’s spin-off, Pine, a very hip art-meets-surf gallery/boutique across the street from the Ship Bottom location. Also on the restoration front, the once-decrepit Quarterdeck Inn, which greets you as you enter LBI off the Causeway, was completely redone — and quite elaborately at that — last year as a kitschy family buffet, complete with daiquiri bar and palm trees. But who knew the tropical foliage would wither and die in the New Jersey winter? The QD has now been reopened as the Stateroom, a fashionable-yet-affordable reception hall catering to beach soirees. Finally, Surf City Pizza has moved into town, and is firing up the ovens for its delish pies at what was once George’s Pizza in Surf City.
TYPICAL DAY There’s no Boardwalk in LBI, which means the narrow shoulders of the Boulevard are packed with fat-wheeled cruisers, red wagons and the Spandex squad each morning. Have your Barnegat Bay kayak tour or windsurf lesson scheduled early with Island Surf & Sail in Ship Bottom, before the sea breeze kicks in. If the morning workout doesn’t drain you, fighting for a breakfast table will. Try Scojo’s in Surf City, Uncle Will’s in Beach Haven, LBI Pancake House in Ship Bottom, or Mustache Bill’s in Barnegat Light. (Best ordering option: the fresh-squeezed O.J. at the Pancake House.)
The rest of the day is all the sun your Louis Vuitton Ronds can handle — Long Beach Township’s seven designated surf beaches, Barnegat Light’s spacious sands, the poolside Tiki bar at the Sea Shell in Beach Haven, or the stretch of fine white right outside your 11-bedroom “bungalow.” For those midday munchies, you don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy the organic sweetness of the delectable wraps at the Living On the Veg vegetarian deli in Long Beach.
Once you’ve shaken the sand off and showered, dinner options abound. Bring your own bottle to Raimondo’s in Ship Bottom (Ray whips up a mean mozzarella en carroza), or try the ever-creative global cuisine at Surf City’s popular Yellow Fin. The neighborhood tavern-ish Black Whale Bar & Fish House in Beach Haven is the perfect place to transition from dinner to late-night debauchery, while the quaint Gables remains an elegant tradition. LBI treats its amusements with an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach, condensing games and rides to one chocked block of fun at Fantasy Island in Beach Haven. (You owe the kids a night of thrills on the Sea Dragon.)
The college and young-professionals-with-a-summer-beach-house crowd haul their Ralph Lauren-clad tans to the Beach Haven club scene by 11. If you’re still gyrating when the bars close, after-hours gorging at The Chicken or the Egg, open 24 hours, is mandatory.
NOTABLE SHOOBIES Paul and Wendy Rosen, Michael Barkann, Lynn Doyle.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT An Exit 63 beach sticker, LBI’s official badge of honor.