The Essential Shore

ROLL DOWN THE CAR WINDOWS
By Carrie Denny
When you ease back on the gas after stopping at the Great Egg toll, you can smell it through your open sunroof. Rolling your windows down, you fill your lungs with it — the bay, the tide, the marsh, the muck, the salt air, even the little fiddler crabs with their


ROLL DOWN THE CAR WINDOWS
By Carrie Denny
When you ease back on the gas after stopping at the Great Egg toll, you can smell it through your open sunroof. Rolling your windows down, you fill your lungs with it — the bay, the tide, the marsh, the muck, the salt air, even the little fiddler crabs with their one big claw, scurrying from the water’s edge back into the marsh as if they didn’t know the water was going to lap up and get them. And by the time you exhale, the past week’s, month’s or winter’s worth of stress and aggravation simply goes away.

GET STUCK IN SHORE TRAFFIC
By Amy Strauss
Try as they might, the John Butterworths and Bob Kellys of this world can’t save us from Shore traffic. You’ve sat in it. You know which routes to avoid — and when. But you won’t, because you want to get down there as badly and as quickly as we do, and all of us get off work and check into rental properties and stay late to watch the fireworks at the same times and places (and even if we didn’t, we’d still get stuck at those damn Egg Harbor tolls, E-ZPass notwithstanding). Truth is, if you drive, you suffer. At least we’re right there with you.

BURY DAD
By Tom McGrath
Note to prospective fathers who have not yet had the pleasure: Do not look sternly on your children for wanting to reverse the natural order of things and, temporarily at least, reign mightily over you. Do not be angry with them for kicking sand in your face and screeching in your ear as they giggle and laugh and scream, “Mommy, Mommy, look what we did to Daddy!” Do not be harsh with them, even though your chest will feel heavy and your arms will be paralyzed and you will swear to the heavens that you are, in fact, having a myocardial infarction. No, loathe your children only because you will never, ever, ever get the sand out of your bathing suit.

READ ON THE BEACH
By Timothy Haas
Let’s see. I’ve squared the edges of the Neat Sheet and installed a shoe at each corner to keep it from heading aloft. I’ve got the rainbow-striped chair dug in at an angle slightly oblique to the surf, to keep the wind from riffling the pages. Now, for the book bag: Hmmm. The last three New Yorkers? Master and Commander? The Proper Study of Mankind? Wodehouse: A Life? Why do I continue to delude myself like this? Every year, my best literary intentions give way to the kids, the kite, and my secret summertime need to simply do nothing. Even if it’s just for the day. Atlantic Books in Beach Haven, Cape May, Ocean City, Somers Point, Stone Harbor and Wildwood; atlanticbooks.us.

REMINISCE
By Michael Callahan
It can be hard to relive the Shore of your youth, since so many of the icons that made us fall in love with it have been bulldozed in recent years to make room for all those shiny new condos. (If you need proof, try finding an old, authentic doo-wop motel like the Satellite in Wildwood.) But while I still cry at the thought of the Pirate Ship Skua and its Boardwalk brethren being gone, some pieces of the “old” Shore still thrive. Go watch the guys make a classic Italian sub at the White House Sub Shop in Atlantic City, or ride a rolling chair. Rumble through Lucy the Elephant in Margate, or listen to the Ocean City Pops perfrorm for the billionth time on the Music Pier in Ocean City. I still get a small thrill from buying one of the elegant tartan-wrapped boxes of fudge at Douglass Fudge on the Wildwood Boardwalk, which always makes me feel like I’ve just strolled into a shoppe (that’s two p’s) at some grand old resort hotel in Newport. And of course there’s Cape May. If you want a real throwback treat, stand in front of the baronial Our Lady Star of the Sea church on a Saturday and watch a bride and her groom scurry out amid a cascade of rice, just as they’ve been doing for more than a century. Because some things never do grow old.

PUT OUR TOES IN THE WATER
By Lauren McCutcheon
A.k.a. “feeling the ocean,” using your feet to determine the water’s temperature and seaweed content is — or should be — the first thing you do after parking your towel, chair, bag and umbrella in the hot sand.

BUILD A SAND CASTLE
By Tom McGrath
My friend Bill likes to say this about life: “The only thing we know for sure is that it’s all going to end horribly.” Okay, so Bill’s a little dark. But is he wrong? And couldn’t we say the same thing about sand castles? Because all we really know for sure is that after we dig the moats and build the walls and craft the turrets and scoop out the tunnels and make the fancy drip spires that look for all the world like European cathedrals — well, all we really know for sure is that in the end, the whole thing will be stomped on by an oafish beachcomber or washed away by the next tide. Which, for some reason, just makes getting up in the morning — and making sand castles — that much more heroic.

JUMP THE WAVES
By Tom McGrath
And thereby pass along to another generation a useful life lesson: a) See big scary thing that can knock you on your ass. b) Try to avoid big scary thing that can knock you on your ass. c) Laugh hysterically — even if you get knocked on your ass.

WALK ON THE BEACH
By Lauren McCutcheon
The reason Pat and Diane Croce — and my mom — have the best gams in Ocean City? All three of them always seem to be walking on the beach. (Not together, of course — not that my mom would mind an invite, Croces.)

DOCK AND DRINK
By Victor Fiorillo
Sure, you could drive your car to a bayside bar and saddle up for an afternoon of libidinous consumption, but why do that when you can get there in a boat? Several dock-up bars offer slips, whether your ride is a yacht, a pimped-out paddleboat or a Jet Ski. Just don’t forget your GPS. Our favorites: The Crab House, Wildwood Crest, 609-522-1341, thecrabhouse.com; 38° 57' 23.4''; -74° 51' 44.64''. Deauville Inn, Strathmere, 609-263-2080, deauvilleinn.com; 39° 11' 57.84''; -74° 39' 17.28''. The Inlet, Somers Point, 609-926-9611, inlet-restaurantnj.com; 39° 18' 30.7404''; -74° 35' 50.4852''. The Black Whale Bar, Beach Haven, 609-492-0025; 39° 33' 55.7604''; -74° 14' 37.5252''.

DO PUZZLES ON A RAINY DAY
By Michael Callahan
Each year, during the week my family pays an obscene amount of money for a chance to bask in the Kennedy-esque seashore glamour that is beachfront Ocean City, we faithfully unleash a puzzle on the living room coffee table, happily dealing with clouds and rainstorms via the simple bliss of making the pieces fit. I’m not much help — a random patch of sky here, a bit of boat there — but somehow just observing the project, seeing the picture slowly come into focus as I peer over my book from my perch on the sofa, relaxes me. It also helps allay my grouchiness when the latest nor’easter comes by to interrupt my beachgoing.

BUY A T-SHIRT
By Andy Zahn
I remember the smell. No, not the ocean, the pizza or the suntan lotion, but the synthetic scent of melting plastic being pressed onto cotton. The fragrant fumes indicated that inside one of the scattered Boardwalk novelty shops, blank t-shirts were being printed with bright red Rolling Stones tongue logos, or adept turns of phrase such as I’M WITH STUPID, HERE COMES TROUBLE or NUMBER ONE MOM. Which to choose? How about a classic sans-serif SEA ISLE CITY, NJ, in case you forget where you’re vacationing over the next six days?

PEE IN THE OCEAN
By Anonymous
Oh, you know you’ve done it. Still do.

FLY A KITE
By Jessica Blatt
They were some of the most invigorating beach moments you can remember, those pre-sunset late afternoons when you and your dad — your strong, tanned, quietly tender Pop — and no one else (not your sister or brother or mom or cousins) would head near the shoreline and, without a word, let the endless waxy string unravel from its spool as your diamond- or dragon-shaped kite flailed and then flapped in the breeze. Your heart, too, soared, because you had Dad all to yourself, you and he and your Boardwalk-bought delight, away from and above it all. Where to buy a kite: Cape May Beach and Kite Shop, 7 Guerney Avenue, Cape May; 609-898-2008. Air Circus Kite Shop, 1114 Boardwalk, Ocean City; 609-399-9343. Kite Store, 103 North 12th Street, Surf City; 609-361-0014.

NAP ON THE BEACH
By A.J. Daulerio
The best place to go for weekend beach napping is Nun’s Beach in Stone Harbor, waaay up on 111th Street, where the families seem more civilized. The place has become something of a surfing hot spot, but watching surfers is a whole lot more relaxing than gazing at old guys falling off boogie boards. Snoozing conditions are especially great around 3 p.m, when everybody seems to slumber spontaneously. (You’d notice it, too, if you could just lift your head up from the beach towel).

WATCH THE DOLPHINS
By Lauren McCutcheon
Let’s settle this debate, once and for all. When you spy a silvery flash of fins just past the breakers, emerging and submerging parallel to the shoreline, and you, the family seated next to you, the couple beyond that family, the family beyond that couple, and so on, rise, wave-style, to catch a glimpse of these most graceful swimmers, you’re ogling bottlenose dolphins. Not porpoises. Definitely not sharks. Dolphins.

FEED THE GULLS (INADVERTENTLY)
By Andy Zahn
It’s late June. I’m reclining on the beach for the first time this season. The salt air smells clean. My feet dig into warm sand. The Atlantic rolls and retreats. In one hand: a fresh-from-the-nightstand book. In the other: a fresh-from-the-cooler PB&J. What could be more relaxing? And that’s when it happens: out of nowhere, a flurry of white and gray feathers and bones and bill, right in my face. Suddenly, there’s no ocean, no warm sand, no gentle lapping of surf — nothing except this winged beast flapping. I’m facing my own personal inconvenient truth: That bird wants — and has — my lunch. “What the eff?” I say to no one in particular. “Did you see that?” My mom — now clutching her box of Cheez-Its — laughs. “Get your own box,” I think I hear her say. What can I do? The egg-laying sandwich stealer stands 10 feet away, stopping every third peck to twitch her little head at me as if to ask, “Chunky? Who gets chunky?” Even this calm doesn’t last. In moments, more seagulls are everywhere, hovering over us like paparazzi, hoping I’ve packed backup fare. Lesson learned: When seaside, dine with caution.

SEE A COVER BAND
By Michael Callahan
Back in my Paleozoic-era college years (the ’80s), I frequented the bars in Sea Isle, which is what you did if you were young and Catholic and had bad hair. One of my favorite cover bands was Secret Service, basically two guys with a backbeat machine who rocked the Ocean Drive with renditions of “Sweet Caroline,” “Fight for Your Right,” and, of course, Billy Idol’s version of “Mony Mony” — replete with obscenities sung in unison by drunk kids during the chorus. (No wonder so much beer ended up on the floor.) That’s the beauty of Shore cover bands — year after year they return, providing a soundtrack to your summer. Secret Service is still rocking the O.D. on Sunday post-
beach afternoons and at the occasional evening show, which is either reassuring or just pathetic. I caught them last summer, a little gray at the temples, a little paunchy, a little off-key, but jammin’ for the kids of the kids they first played for 20 years ago. And as I lifted my plastic cup of draft beer in the air once more, it seemed that indeed, good times never seemed so good. Ocean Drive, 3915 Landis Avenue, Sea Isle City, 609-263-1000; theod.com.

BODY SURF
By Lauren McCutcheon
Make like a board: Find a chest-high wave, turn toward shore, paddle like crazy, and, once the tide catches you, surf your spine.

GO TO A BAR (AND DON’T ACT OUR AGE)
By Carrie Denny
Instructions for channeling your undergrad awesomeness if you’re female: Don your skimpiest tank top and lowest-rise jeans that you know in your heart are more than a little too tight. Travel in a large pack of similarly clad ladies to the Princeton in Avalon. Dance sexily until a boy in a backwards hat buys you shots. To pick up the pace of shot-buying, faux-steal his backwards hat and place it on your own head. Act drunker and dumber than you are. Sing the lyrics louder than anyone to James’s “Laid” or “Love Shack.” When the bouncers toss you, rock a few slices of pizza at Circle. Instructions for channeling your undergrad awesomeness if you’re male: Don backwards hat; enter Princeton; make beeline for girls acting like they’re still in college, and don’t leave their sides until it becomes clear they’ve chosen pizza over you. Princeton Bar & Grill, 2008 Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-967-3457; princetonbar.com. Circle Pizza, 2108 Dune Drive, Avalon; 609-967-7566.

WATERSLIDE
By Jessica Remo
When you’re 10 years old and bravely facing Cliff Dive, the mack daddy of slides at Raging Waters in Wildwood, you stand alone, with arms and fingers crossed, fearing the five-story vertical drop that will plunge you into a deep, watery pit, when what you should be concerned with is the volume of bathing suit you’ll have to pick out from your heinie while still underwater. Raging Waters, 3501 Boardwalk, Wildwood, 609-522-3900; moreyspiers.com. Thundering Surf, 806 North Bay Avenue, Beach Haven, 609-492-0869; thunderingsurfwaterpark.com.

RUN ON THE BEACH
By Lauren McCutcheon
When low tide and 7 a.m. coincide, there’s no place I’d rather be than strapped into my well-worn Adidas, tramping over packed sand, circling into softer territory as I approach piping plovers at the tide’s edge, working up a doubly salty sweat, leaving tracks in my wake, making mental room for a busy day at the beach — and making physical room for breakfast.

RUN ON THE BOARDWALK
By Amy Strauss
Jogging on the beach may abound with psychological benefits, but I’d rather hit the Boardwalk’s less forgiving but more stable terrain. The trick is to find a mileage to match your workout — and to get there before the bikers take over the pedestrian lanes. Atlantic City, four miles; Ocean City, 2.5 miles; Ventnor, two miles; Wildwood, two miles; Sea Isle (paved promenade), 1.5 miles.

PROPOSE VIA AIRPLANE BANNER
By Amy Strauss
Send this message (hint, hint) via airplane banner: MARRY ME, AMY! Call Paramount Air Service (609-886-9090; paramountair.com), Aero-Tag Inc. (800-756-6247; skywrite.com) or AirSign (704-408-1733; airsign.com) for quotes. Since cost depends on number of flights, size of banner and area covered, it can be anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. A small price to pay for my eternal love and devotion, Billy. And I’m worth it.

GO BAREFOOT
By Carrie Denny
Let us break it down: If you’ve got shoes on at the Shore, you’re not doing it right.

FLIRT ON THE BOARDWALK
By Lauren McCutcheon
Woe to the ’tweens whose barrier islands are Boardwalk-less. They have to beg adults for rides in order to engage in the timeless, better-than-the-mall tradition of roving in packs of two or more, stopping only to satisfy unsupervised, nearly hormonal cravings for funnel cake, cotton candy, greasy pizza, soft-serve, bin candy, fries, lemonade, and raunchy t-shirts that they’ll hide in the bottoms of their dressers. And, more pressingly, to watch the girls or boys go by, and, after a brief in-pack discussion, turn on flip-flopped heels to stalk these t-shirted objects of communal attraction through arcades or amusement-park mazes, where they’ll inevitably stare and look away and stare and look away until eyes meet, and everyone runs home to safety.

PLAY AT THE BEACH
By Jessica Blatt
What is it about sun and sand that brings out the inner athlete in all of us? Something in the DNA of couch potatoes and gym rats alike makes us long for — and, weirdly, excel at — the same simple, rhythmic, practice-makes-perfect, subtly competitive beach games our parents (and their parents, etc. … ) played before us: horseshoes and quoits, paddleball and bocci. It’s as if there’s a message in the seashells, the sun’s rays, telling us: “Leave the Game Boy, the PlayStation, even — gasp — the BlackBerry at home, and keep it simple, sweethearts.” (Now if only your newfound athletic skills translated onto the courts of Germantown Cricket.)

GO TO THE ARCADE
By A,J. Daulerio
Back in 1983, home video-game systems were just starting to pop up everywhere. For the real, more exquisite elements of video play, you’d head to Morey’s Pier in Wildwood — then, 90 percent less riffraffy — and plunk down as many tokens as possible on more “realistic”-looking games like Galaga and Zaxxon, and those Star Wars ones with the climb-in pod, to fly an X-wing fighter. However, even the flashiest, noisiest video games of the era were nothing compared to Dragon’s Lair. Lines 20-deep with kids stood for hours in front of this game, a fully animated dragon-slaying adventure that charged a then-princely buck to play. Most of the time, you’d spend the dollar just to get a look at the thing, and clumsily try to last more than 12 seconds without getting vaporized. The game was impossible to master. That didn’t matter, though, to a 10-year-old. Dragon’s Lair was mind-blowing, and Wildwood’s whole Boardwalk was so much more alluring because of it. Take that, Dance Dance Revolution junkies.

CHANGE BEHIND A BEACH TOWEL
By Jessica Blatt
Once, you really did have the cutest heinie on the beach. Your mom convinced you, of course, that no one could see it as she haphazardly held a Holly Hobbie towel around you while sliding down your sand-filled swimsuit, wiping you off, and slipping you into — ahhh — dry bloomers and a white tee or madras sundress. You believed her, too (anything to avoid those public changing areas) — and now knowingly wink or sigh at the moms around you who do the same timeless towel-dangle, and the next generation of the Shore’s tiniest tushes.

LIFEGUARD AFTER HOURS
By Lauren McCutcheon
When afternoon turns to evening, right after lifeguards have waved an official so-long-for-today to swimmers, pint-size pretenders scramble up on the beach patrol’s whitewashed wooden stands. Here, perched upon sandy seats, bathing-suited youth blow into imaginary whistles, motioning to invisible surfers and jetty-walkers, and performing endless make-believe rescues.

SWIM IN THE BAY
By Carrie Denny
We love the ocean. It’s alive and refreshing and playful — everything the Shore is about. Perfection. A wonder. But the bay … the bay is an entirely different animal. There it is, outside your window — either just off your top deck, or in the corner of your eye as you cruise down Ocean Drive. It’s flat and glistening, and something about its cool calm beckons you to grab the nearest fluorescent noodle and take a dip. If you’re happy enough to find yourself in a house on the bay, there’s not a backyard pool in existence that can compete. And if you’re blessed enough to find yourself in a house at the bottom curve of a lagoon, well, go ahead — grab a raft and fall asleep.

BUY JERSEY PRODUCE
By April White
The supermarkets that dot the Jersey Shore know their audience: In the summer months, they’re well-stocked with margarita mixers, tortilla chips and salsa. For a taste of New Jersey produce, however, Shore-goers have to venture back inland. Those who plan ahead slip off the A.C. Expressway at exit 17 to stock up on corn and tomatoes at Butterhof’s Shady Brook Farm, or take the back roads to LBI or Cape May for just-picked blueberries at Haines Berry Farm, off Route 644, and sweet cherries, raspberries and peaches at Mood’s Farm Market in Mullica Hills. Butterhof’s Shady Brook Farm, 5800 White Horse Pike, Egg Harbor City, 609-965-1285; shadybrookfarmnj.com. Haines Berry Farm, 98 Sheep Pen Hill Road, Pemberton, 609-894-8630; hainesberryfarm.com. Mood’s Farm Market, 901 Bridgeton Pike, Mullica Hill, 856-478-2500; moodsfarmmarket.com.

WATCH FIREWORKS
By Carrie Denny
Packing the car full of lawn chairs and blankets, pulling on your comfiest hoodie, and heading down to the beach to watch the Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza? Scratch that. The beach is crowded. And dark — stepping on shells hurts. Find a boat. If no one in your family or beach house has one, make friends with someone who does. Pack the boat full of blankets and beer, and head out on the ocean. Once you’ve reached the street where they set off the fireworks (à la 30th Street in Avalon), drop anchor and assume fireworks-watching position out there. It’s quiet, the moon bounces off the waves all around you, and as the tiny drops of purple, green, red, white and blue fizzle out just a few feet above your head, it’ll seem like the show is only for you. Talk about the best seat in the house. More fireworks: Cape May: Congress Beach. Wildwood: Boardwalk and Pine Avenue. Sea Isle City: JFK Boulevard and the beach. Stone Harbor: 80th Street Field. Ocean City: 6th Street and the Boardwalk. Atlantic City: The Borgata. Barnegat: Barnegat Municipal Dock, East Bay Avenue.

WATCH THE SUN SET OVER THE BAY
By Lauren McCutcheon
The sky is tangerine-and-fuchsia-striped. The bay is calmed. Your legs dangle over the dock’s edge, toes not quite touching the water. Across the mainland, a slow-burning sun sinks slowly enough that you don’t notice its progress if you keep watch, but you can’t believe how much it’s disappeared if you look away and back again.

DON’T DIAL AN AREA CODE
By Lauren McCutcheon
Since it’s all 609, you can leave that part off. Isn’t it nice?

STAY LATE AT THE BEACH
By Sandy Hingston
Six p.m. at last. Ocean City’s 29th Street lifeguards have already rolled the rowboat back from the shoreline; now, together, they haul their tall wooden stand up to the edge of the dunes. Moms and dads drag coolers and boogie boards and beach chairs and tired, whiny kids across the sand, heading home. I tuck my knees to my chest and hug myself with glee at their departure. The best part of my day at the beach is about to begin. It’s quiet now, except for the steady crash of the waves and an occasional hysterical seagull. The view from my towel is unobstructed by necking teenagers or games of paddleball. Here and there, some renegade leads a dog to the water. It’s Labor Day, September, the end of the day and the end of summer. The light is strong and low, slanting through the dune grass, casting long shadows from my beach bag and bare toes. It sets fire to the ocean that stretches out until it becomes one with the horizon. This is infinity, or what God is to me: the brink of the season, the endless shoreline, a house a block away filled with all the people I love. I linger, though I’m late to supper. I have no right to wish for dolphins. And yet here they are, silver leaping and crashing into silver, an ephemeral coda to what heaven had better be.

GET A SUNBURN
By Andy Zahn
There were a few things that always happened to me on any given family trip to the Shore: I’d get lost on the Boardwalk, only to be found by my very pissed-off older sisters in an arcade, hopelessly trying to get to that elusive third level of Donkey Kong. I would eat too much Mack & Manco pizza, get on a roller coaster, and vomit on one of my aforementioned sisters, usually Kathy: “Mom, Andy just barfed on my new Springsteen shirt!” And finally, despite repeated warnings from my parents, I would get a sunburn. I never learned. Nor did I ever get tan. No, my pasty Anglo-Saxon skin pigmentation didn’t allow it; if I was lucky, by September I looked beige. I can still remember the eight-part recovery process back at the Shore house bathroom: 1. Very carefully peel off bathing suit, avoiding any unnecessary contact with skin as it drops to the floor. (This step could take from five minutes to an hour.) 2. Set shower to a cool, gentle stream. 3. Enter shower without stretching or contorting body. 4. Stand there for a good 20 minutes, ignoring pleas from other family members wanting showers. 5. Turn shower off. Stand in tub. Drip dry. 6. Liberally coat affected areas of body with aloe. 7. Repeat step six. 8. Wrap towel around waist, exit bathroom, find nearest air conditioner, and soak in the freon.

RENT BIKES
By Michael Callahan
Things you would never think about but should when renting a bike at the Shore: Program the number of the rental place into your cell phone. If you get a flat, you won’t have to walk the bike back, but rather can have them come to you.
Don’t rent for more than an hour. A three-hour trek up and down the boards at 7 a.m. sounds like a terrific idea, but the truth is, after 40 minutes you and your kids will be ready to ditch the wheels. For a true bike-riding experience, skip the boards, which are clogged in the morning hours when bikes are allowed. Consider more secluded, picturesque locales that have less traffic. See newjerseyshore.com/bike-trails.shtml for a list. If you have little ones and must relegate your posse to a Boardwalk, get moving. Most towns with boards allow bike riding from early morning till 11:30 or noon. Your best bet to avoid fender-to-fender traffic is to get up with the gulls and set out by 6 a.m. Those adorable Oklahoma!-worthy surreys may make for a Christmas-card-worthy snapshot of you and the family, but remember that if you rent it, someone actually has to pedal all of that weight and navigate it through crowds. For rentals: Oves, 4th Street and the Boardwalk, Ocean City, 609-398-3712; ovesrestaurant.com. AAAA Bike Shop, 5300 Ventnor Avenue, Ventnor; 609-487-0808. Walter’s Bicycles, 418 Long Beach Boulevard, Ship Bottom; 609-494-1991.

RIDE THE RIDES
By Amy Strauss
It’s no wonder teens and ’tweens wanna spend all their summer nights (and allowances) in Wildwood. With 70-plus rides in three amusement piers and two “wudder” parks — all Morey’s-owned — the doo-wop beach town boasts the largest amusement piers in the world. Our favorite rides are the 156-foot Ferris wheel, with its unparalleled shoreline view (five tickets); the Great Nor’Easter roller coaster, with its 2,100 feet of twisted steel and speeds of up to 50mph (eight tickets); the 160-foot-loop, 70mph SkyScraper coaster ($20); and the five-story Cliff Dive and, perhaps best of all, the regularly-dumping 1,000-gallon bucket of water (Raging Waters, $15-$31 for a water-park pass). Morey’s Piers, 3501 Boardwalk Avenue, Wildwood, 609-522-3900; moreyspiers.com.

GO FISH
By Andy Zahn
Poor little guys, flapping away under your seat, gasping for air. (Or gasping for water? No, it’s air, never understood that, they live underwater but they breathe air.) That’s the part of fishing I didn’t like. Oh, and removing the hook from Mr. Flounder’s mouth wasn’t exactly fun either. Come to think of it, I didn’t like eating them much, but somehow, I remember fishing trips with my family as boatloads of fun. There was something so great about zipping around the bay in a little motorboat, Zebco in hand, the sun turning the back of my neck a nice shade of merlot, the gentle sound of water lapping against the … umm, yeah, I’m gonna throw up now. Looking to catch dinner? Go to Barnegat, by the lighthouse, or Corson’s Inlet, at the southern tip of Ocean City. Or take an excursion from Cape May’s Miss Chris Marina (1218 Wilson Drive, 609-884-3351; misschrismarina.com). But go easy on the breakfast pancakes — or they might just end up in the bay.

DANCE WITH JERRY
By April White
On summer Sunday afternoons, it doesn’t matter what the weather’s like in Sea Isle. The forecast at LaCosta is always the same: In the dim, crowded Bud Light bar, there’s a Heat Wave. And there’s Jerry “The Geator With the Heator” Blavat calling out over his signature tune, “You’re the best!” The Boss with the Hot Sauce — tank top, running shorts, microphone, strange repeated phrases, odd nicknames — has been emceeing unlikely dance parties like this for more than 40 years, and you suspect the gray-haired Geator Gold dancers, with their intricate left-right-shimmy-clap dance steps for everything from “Build Me Up Buttercup” to the polka, have been at it just as long. But they aren’t the only ones following Blavat along the Shore line. The Geat even has the mini-shorts-and-bikini-top crowd dancing, from A.C.’s casinos to his very own Memories in Margate to, my favorite, LaCosta’s mid-afternoon rave. Memories in Margate, 9518 Amherst Avenue, Margate; 609-823-2196. LaCosta Lounge, 4000 Landis Avenue, Sea Isle City, 609-263-3756; lacosta-seaisle.com. See geatorgold.net for the summer schedule.

BIRD-WATCH
By Amy Strauss
When some of us think of the Jersey Shore, we don’t think beach tags and sunburns. We think birds, thousands of them — more than we’d imagined existed — stopping over during their spring and fall migrations at a coastal wildlife preserve on the southernmost tip of Cape May. In 1975, the island’s 192-acre stretch of tidal marsh and dune grass was officially protected as a bird observatory. These days, it harbors 38 species of sandpipers, and more pro and am ornithologists that you ever imagined existed, too. Cape May Bird Observatory, 701 East Lake Drive, Cape May Point, 609-884-2736; njaudubon.org/centers/cmbo.

WATCH MOVIES ON THE BEACH
By Amy Strauss
Whoever thought to offer Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Ocean’s Thirteen on a big screen — on the beach — deserves a gold star. We love everything about the experience: the ticket price (usually $5 to $8), the chair rental ($3), the BYO blanket-and-beverages policy, the jovial crowd crammed into a fenced-in area, and the Dolby Digital surround sound, which, despite its best efforts, can’t drown out the background noises of crashing waves, roller coasters, and intermittent announcements of “Watch the Tram Car Please.” Daily from June 22nd through Labor Day, weather permitting. Behind Wildwood’s Convention Center, 4501 Boardwalk Avenue, Wildwood; sunsetcinemainc.com.

WHALE-WATCH (OR NOT)
By Dan P. Lee
Despite what the names on the boats and the pictures on the advertisements would have you believe, you likely won’t see many whales during your “whale-watching” adventure. That’s because in keeping with New Jersey’s grand-thoroughfare tradition, the ocean off South Jersey is little more than a watery expressway for nature’s most spectacular mammals. “What happens is, the whales migrate by here; this isn’t really a summer feeding ground,” says Sheila Dean, co-director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. Charles Schumann, 62, who captains the Wildwood’s Big Blue Sightseer and has been steering ships out in pursuit of marine mammals for almost 50 years, says last summer he spotted four whales — total. Which isn’t to say that a few hours out on the sea reenacting Moby Dick can’t bear significant rewards. Schumann says his boat once came upon a pod of beluga whales — and besides, the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are the most exciting to see. “There have been times when we’ve had the entire population of them — some 2,500 animals — right off our shores,” he says. “You can see their facial expressions. They look like they’re interacting with people on the boat — and maybe they are.” “Whale”-watching tours to try: Big Blue Sightseer, 4500 Park Boulevard, Wildwood; 609-522-2919. Cape May Whale Watcher, Schellenger’s Landing, 2nd Avenue and Wilson Drive, Cape May; 800-786-5445. Atlantic City Cruises, Historic Gardner’s Basin, 800 North New Hampshire Avenue, Atlantic City; 609-347-7600.

VISIT A FORTUNE TELLER
By April White
Sandwiched between souvenir shops on the Boardwalk of almost every Shore town, you’ll find a slender storefront with a small sign: PSYCHIC ADVISER. PALMS READ. The future — and a few minutes out of the summer sun — will cost you $10 or so. The who changes — Madame Cora may give way to Madame Sylvia as the seasons pass — but the why stays the same: What better to gossip about on the beach than a mysterious man with the initial M? Madame X always gets one thing right: You’ll be back again next year.

KAYAK
By Dan P. Lee
Around Ocean City and Sea Isle are amazing marshes with small salty creeks and rivers snaking through them, leading to a majestic opening into the bay. Here, your kayak is drifting, spinning in Pocahontas-like loops in the calm currents of the bay, with egrets and herons feeding on the edges of the marsh. At dusk, more huge dark birds appear in crazy fits of thrashing, though you can’t make them out but for the sound. (One caveat: Not a good idea to climb up into the black marsh, which can suck off shoes, socks and pants — embarrassing.) Always go with a guide or armed with a tide chart, and experience some of the deepest almost-religious moments of your life here when the sky and water converge, and all seams fade away. Aqua Trails, Cape May, 609-884-5600; aquatrails.com. Harbor Outfitters, 354 96th Street, Stone Harbor, 609-368-5501, and 88th Street Pier, Sea Isle City, 609-263-0805; harboroutfitters.com. New Jersey Kayak, 409 East Bay Avenue, Barnegat, 609-698-4440; njkayak.com.

DRINK LIKE A LOCAL SAILOR
By Victor Fiorillo
We like $12 martinis as much as the next person, but sometimes, when we need to keep it real, we find a good dive bar and embrace our blue-collarness. At the Shore, these are the places where the locals go to talk about what an asshole you were at the pool. Places where if they don’t recognize you, they probably won’t like you. Sound inviting? They’re not hard to find. Just get off the Boardwalk and drive around “town,” looking for any neon lights on a relatively deserted street. Or, if you’re not intrepid enough to scout out your own, try Le Grand Fromage, 25 Gordons Alley, Atlantic City, 609-347-2743; Mayer’s Tavern, 894 3rd Avenue, Lower Township, 609-884-8980; or Hudson House Bar, 19 13th Street, Beach Haven, 609-492-9616.

GOLF WHERE THEY INVENTED THE BIRDIE
By Lauren McCutcheon
Atlantic City Country Club’s highly coveted course is 110 years old, and has hosted “Slammin’” Sammy Snead, Arnold Palmer, Bob Hope, and, more recently, a family of foxes on its immaculate, fast, view-of-Absecon-Island greens. (In 1903, an ACCC threesome coined the term “birdie” here.) The clubhouse, with its dark-wood taproom, black-and-white photos, and most gentlemanly of men’s locker rooms (the women’s are newer), is worth a visit on its own. Get here in time to enjoy what might be the world’s best crab eggs Benedict — and, as of this year, Tom Collinses and Greyhounds from a newly licensed bar. Leo Fraser Drive and Shore Road, Northfield, 609-236-4400; accountryclub.com.

EAT IN
By Sandy Hingston
Some people eat out when they go on vacation. Not my family. For one thing, there are too damned many of us: 16 on our annual Labor Day weekend in Ocean City, counting my dad and Cousin Pam and my three siblings and their spouses and kids, plus mine. And since we’re not the sort of family that has its act together and says, “Let’s make reservations for Saturday night at Luigi’s,” by the time we all get back from the beach and shower and dress we’re so cranky and hungry that we need to eat now. So we take turns cooking — or, rather, one-upping. Each night of the long weekend, one of us shops, preps and cooks for 16. It’s our private Iron Chef, a culinary face-off with the stakes (steaks?) heightened by sibling rivalry. Which will prove more popular — David’s spaghetti and meatballs, or Nan’s kielbasi and sauerkraut? Whose children are sophisticated enough to like squid? Does cousin Pam’s really excellent garlic bread make up for the fact the corn she bought is only B-minus? Do I get extra points for having grown the tomatoes I serve? The kids roll their eyes at our competitiveness; my dad sits and eats, a proud, sated pasha. And then there are dishes to be done. On that, at least, we manage to cooperate.

STOP AT FRANK S. FARLEY
By Richard Rys
April 12, 1977. On that date, at what’s roughly the halfway point on the Atlantic City Expressway, an otherwise unremarkable service center was renamed — nay, make that knighted, by Jersey standards — to honor the state senator who practically built the road it sits on. His name: Frank S. Farley. And his legacy is neither his 30-plus years of legislative service to the Garden State, nor his sturdy, oft-forgotten nickname, “Hap.” Though the senator passed on to the great toll road in the sky 30 years ago, his name lives in the hearts of everyone who’s ever been stuck in endless traffic on that barren stretch of asphalt, and thus has been forced to confront life’s great mysteries, such as “When the hell will we get to Sea Isle?” or “How many axles are on that truck in front of me at the toll?” When motorists see the billboard-size blue signs bearing the Farley name, the Atlantic’s saltwater breezes haven’t yet arrived, but something else has — hope. Hope that perhaps the kids will shut up with the “Are we there yet” crap, knowing they are indeed not there yet, but will be soon. Hope that the rest stop’s Burger King will have freshly flame-broiled Whoppers at the ready. Hope that when you commence the final leg of the trip, a family of 17 changing a flat tire on the shoulder won’t create a 10-mile gaper delay. And, most importantly, hope that your bladder, on lockdown since you got off I-95, will finally be granted a reprieve. Frank S. Farley Plaza, you are an oasis in a grand highway of suck, and for that, we salute you. Milepost 21.5 on the A.C. Expressway.

WEAR A BEACH TAG
By Lauren McCutcheon
There is only one way to wear a beach tag, and that’s affixed to an old, worn-out fishing hat, where the badge will join your over-the-years collection of these plastic pin-on permits. Never wear a beach tag on your swim trunks — and never, ever on your bikini. It just doesn’t look right. You may, however, fasten one to your monogrammed boat tote, or keep a stash in a plastic baggie inside that tote, so when guests visit, you can just flash the tagger the bagful, like the pro you are.

SECURE THE UMBRELLA IN THE SAND
By Tom McGrath
Or we should say: “Attempt to secure your umbrella in the sand on a windy day without having it flip down the beach like a giant, pointy nylon-and-aluminum tumbleweed that will most certainly impale someone unless you scamper crazily off after it, looking not unlike a young Jerry Lewis.” At times like these, a little basal cell carcinoma doesn’t sound so bad, does it? (Well, maybe it does, so angle the umbrella against the wind and jam it in as far as you can. Then pray.)

EAT DOUGHNUTS
By April White
Just before 7 a.m., a line forms on the narrow north end of the Ocean City Boardwalk. The wait — up to an hour — is for the takeout window of Brown’s Restaurant, home of the Shore’s most famous, freshest doughnuts. As you approach the window, you can watch each golden circle get fried. When your turn arrives, request your rings tossed in cinnamon and sugar, or flurried with powdered sugar, or dipped into vanilla, chocolate or honey glaze. Even plain, the still-hot cake doughnuts are a sweet revelation, one that’s had Shore-goers lining up for 31 summers. Brown’s Restaurant, St. Charles Place and the Boardwalk, Ocean City; 609-391-0677.

SIGHTSEE
By Lauren McCutcheon
Who needs a $3,300 telescope from the Borgata’s swanky new gift shop? With a perch on the high dunes, an old viewfinder and a quarter, you can see to the earth’s edge.

RIDE THE MERRY-GO-ROUND
By Sandy Hingston
Time it so you’re at the front of the line when the gate opens. Hop up onto the platform to claim an outside horse, even though the inside ones go up and down. Climb on, and stand in the stirrups to test how far you can lean. Wait, impatiently, while the other seats fill up, the swan gondolas and Cinderella carriages and those plunging horses in the middle. Grow more impatient as moms wave to riders, dads snap pictures, until finally — the calliope wheezes to life; the horses circle, gaining speed. And then the attendant clicks the long wooden slide into place, and all around the outside edge of the merry-go-round, arms SNAP out, hands LUNGE out, fingers SCRABBLE for the metal rings the slide dispenses one at a time. Your chest pounds as your mount approaches; you lean, strain, reach, and YES! The brass is cold and smooth; you touch it to your sunburned forehead in triumph as you sit and wait for another try, and another, and another. Then the calliope winds down; the wicker basket appears, and you relinquish your trophies until next year, with a rattle and clang. Wonderland Pier, 6th Street and the Boardwalk, Ocean City, 609-399-7082; gillians.com. Fantasy Island Amusement Park, 320 7th Street, Beach Haven, 609-492-4000; fantasyislandpark.com.

RIDE BIKES ON THE BOARDWALK
By Tom McGrath
Of all the wonderful memories I have of the Shore, the most wonderful is this: It is the only place I ever saw my father ride a bicycle.

PLAY PUTT-PUTT
By Timothy Haas
Miniature golf is the great leveler. A child big enough to keep a putter steady is a child who can win. This, sadly, is where age and treachery must combine to unleash their unholy power. My dark secret? Pirate-themed adventure golf. The clanking-chain sound effects, the dank re-creations of a ship’s hold, the inevitable shrieking eye-patched skeleton — they always deeply unsettle the young and pure, throwing them off their game just long enough for you to drop that final hole-in-one and triumph. Go ahead. Blackbeard did it to his kids all the time. Shipwreck Island Adventure Golf, Wildwood; 609-522-3300. Pirate Island Golf, Ocean City, Sea Isle City and Avalon; pirateislandgolf.com. Golden Galleon Pirate’s Golf, Ocean City; boardwalkfun.com.

PLAY SKEE-BALL
By Richard Rys
Shaking the hand of Philadelphian J.D. Estes would be difficult for me. Chiefly because he’s dead. But even more so because Skee-Ball is his fault. I don’t suspect that when he invented it in 1909, old Estes could envision that people like me would spend hundreds of dollars and countless irretrievable life-hours rolling those leaden brown balls for some lousy tickets. Redemption was rarely sweet, usually amounting to rubber finger puppets, foam gliders and spider rings, none of which I still own or ever need to own again. Still, for all the fun I had Skee-Ballin’ at Jilly’s in Ocean City and Fantasy Island in Beach Haven, obsessively aiming for that elusive 100-point ring in the corner, I would lock palms with this Estes in thanks. I would then ask him to do me a solid and hook me up with that 13-inch flat-screen TV that costs a zillion tickets. And to throw in a Super Ball. Fantasy Island Amusement Park; Jilly’s Arcade, 1168 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 609-399-2814, jillysarcade.com.

BYOB
By Lauren McCutcheon
We wouldn’t dream of carrying our state-store-bought swill across the Delaware River — and not just because we’re especially law-abiding. We’d rather buy our booze in Jersey, where there are better prices and a better selection of all manner of vino — and plenty of Shore-y bistros to BYOB. Our faves: George’s Place, 301 Beach Drive, Cape May; 609-884-6088. Sea Salt, 8307 Third Avenue, Stone Harbor, 609-368-3302; seasaltstoneharbor.com. Karen & Rei’s, 1882 Route 9 North, Clermont, 609-624-8205; karenandrei.com. Dune, 9510 Ventnor Avenue, Margate, 609-487-7450; dunerestaurant.com. The Clam Bar, 910 Bay Avenue, Somers Point; 609-927-8783. Chef Vola’s, 111 South Albion Place, Atlantic City; 609-345-2022. Hooper’s Seafood Café, 3312 West Brigantine Avenue, Brigantine; 609-266-6826. Blue, 11th Street and Long Beach Boulevard, Surf City, 609-494-7556; bluelbi.com. And most of all, Louisa’s Café, 104 Jackson Street, Cape May; 609-884-5882.

CHECK OUT A LIGHTHOUSE
By Michael Callahan
There is no better way to drink in the full 360-degree beauty of the Shore than to climb to the top of a lighthouse. Our picks: either the recently restored Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City, or the fab model in Cape May Point, where you can almost feel the ghosts of old keepers of the light standing beside you. To find all of Jersey’s lighthouses, go to njlhs.org.

STEP INTO A PHOTO BOOTH
By Amy Strauss
“Smile,” she says. He makes a funny face. *Flash* “You stuck your tongue out,” she says. *Flash* “You look angry in that one,” he says. He gives her a kiss on the cheek. *Flash* She and he smile. *Flash*

EAT AT THE COUNTER
By Lauren McCutcheon
Being 12, or even 14, and sitting at a counter, ordering a thin, grilled burger with homemade relish from a thin, tanned waitress with a ponytail, is a thoroughly liberating experience. It’s even better if the counter is octagonal and wooden, and if you’re sitting there beside your bestest summer friend, and if you’ve both arrived there via one-speed beach bike with seats and wide handlebars raised high, and most of all if, after you’ve finished your burgers, you split a giant slice of homemade blueberry pie à la mode, or a thick, marshmallow-icing-slathered wedge of chocolate cake. Where to do this? Only one place: The Holiday Snack Bar, 401 Centre Street, Beach Haven, 609-492-4544; holidaysnackbar.com.

For more Shore essentials, go to phillymag.com. E-mail: lmccutcheon@phillymag.com