Wildwood

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Max Miller • Jun 14, 2017


I once heard it said that when Jerseyans go to "the shore," North Jersey goes to Sandy Hook, Central Jersey goes to Seaside, and South Jersey goes to Wildwood. In this respect, unlike most, South Jersey certainly has it best. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Wildwood and the surrounding towns (sometimes referred to as "the Wildwoods") have the best beaches in the state. However, these beaches are certainly open to the rest of the state, and in fact recommended.

Geography

The Wildwoods are located on a barrier island near the southernmost tip of New Jersey. This island, the Island of Five Mile Beach, is (appropriately) approximately 5 miles in length, and ranges from a half mile to a mile in width. The island runs from northeast to southwest, and faces the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Five townships populate the island: from north to south, North Wildwood, West Wildwood, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, Diamond Beach. There is also a national wildlife preserve at the southern end of the island, which contains a US Coast Guard base.The name "Wildwood" derives from the wild flowers local to the island. [1]

History

Wildwood was first incorporated as a borough in 1895, and then again as a city in 1912. It did not truly begin to flourish, however, until the 1950s, upon the completion of the southern portion of the Garden State Parkway. [2] This is evident in the architecture of the towns -- 1950s "Doo-Wop" style is prevalent amongst motels, diners, and even supermarkets. The architectural term "doo-wop" was in fact coined by the Cape May Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts to describe the common style in the area. [3] There is no shortage of neon signs, curvy swoops, plastic palm trees (real palm trees are not native to the area), and cheesy "international" themes amongst the bevy of motels. One trivium of note: the first performance of "Rock Around the Clock," oft styled as the first rock and roll song, was first performed by Bill Haley & His Comets in Wildwood, on 29 May 1954, at the HofBrau Hotel. [4]

Attractions

A few words about the beaches

As mentioned previously, the beaches are what draws people to Wildwood. What sets the beaches here apart from other NJ beaches is the dune-to-shoreline distance -- in places up to 500 feet. [5] This is in direct contrast to other beaches such as Long Branch, which possess a short and steep sandy section. The Wildwood beaches are a swath of flat beachland, optimal for spreading out crowds and providing area for beach activities. This also results in a exceptionally high allowable wading distance in the ocean. This can sometime cause less-than-ideal surf conditions; however, when the weather is right, the flat beach allows a wave to carry you all the way to the shore. The sand is exceptionally fine-grained, and does not possess the coarse rocky quality one might find in Deal or Sandy Hook. All in all, Wildwood beaches are not to be matched within state.

Local cuisine

Wildwood is, at its heart, a tourist destination, which might infer less-than-amazing options for food consumption. I will give you that there are several places which do not live up to the standards one might expect. However, there are, if one knows where to look, a couple of bright spots in the Wildwood dining scene. Don't think too hard on this one -- seafood is the local specialty. Restaurants specializing in seafood range from bare-bones (the "fish shack") to fairly pricey, but most will sate appetites for fresh fish. Jersey crabs are my personal favorite. Italian cuisine, not to be forgotten in any part of this state, makes its appearance as well. Other than these, I caution you to tread lightly.Recommendations:
  • Seafood: H + H Seafood, Harbor View Marina, Wildwood Fish Factory
  • Italian: Crest Tavern, Carini's
  • Avoid: Urie's, Two Mile Landing

Neighborhoods

A short description of each of the five townsNorth Wildwood A part of the island that your author happens to be woefully ignorant of. It seems to me that North Wildwood is a respectable part of the island which tourists may happen to ignore, and is populated more by locals. This claim is lacking independent verification, however.

West Wildwood

Actually located on a separate island bayside, West Wildwood is almost entirely residential.

Wildwood proper

The heart of the island, as one would expect. Contains the boardwalk, including Morey's Piers, the amusement park. The best spot for nightlife.

Wildwood Crest

The more family-friendly part of the island, replete with hotels and motels.

Diamond Beach

An upscale area with condos and luxury hotels. This neighborhood was built up more recently, and you will not find the doo-wop architecture you might have become fond of in other parts of the island.

References:

[1] - Hutchinson, Viola L. The Origin of New Jersey Place Names, New Jersey Public Library Commission, May 1945. Accessed 27 October 2015.[2] - "Neon and Angles: Motels of the Wildwoods", Historic Preservation Bulletin, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Historic Preservation Office, Summer 2006. Accessed 26 October 2015.[3] - Wildwood Crest Historical Society Web site. . Accessed 26 October 2015.[4] - Strauss, Robert. "Cradle of Rock? Two Towns Stake Their Claims", The New York Times, 10 July 2007. Accessed 26 October 2015.[5] - Google Maps. . Accessed 26 October 2015.




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