It’s the first thing you see when you cross over the bridge from the mainland to this cozy barrier island – a friendly message on the iconic turquoise water tower greeting both residents and visitors alike. Those who have come this way before don’t need the reminder – but for newcomers to the island, it prepares them to relax and enjoy this fun and friendly seaside resort.
After all, you can’t help but smile when you see the shimmering sea stretching out before you on the sunny horizon and a bustling town center with shops and restaurants just below. From the bridge you can see the well-planned, Venice-inspired waterways lined with bay front homes, wooden docks, and every imaginable water vessel – from paddleboards to yachts and everything in between. Roll down the window and the briny salt air will instantly caress your skin and blow away your worries.
As the town’s greeting suggests, it’s time to be care free in this island gem by the sea.
Sea Isle City is located on a natural barrier island surrounded by the sea and bay, as well as tidal marsh and wetlands areas. It is nestled just south of sandy Strathmere and north of tiny Townsends Inlet. Together, the three share the land known as “Ludlam Island”.
Sea Isle City was officially formed in 1882 by Charles K. Landis after previously serving as a pasture for livestock and, before that, the fishing and shell gathering grounds of the Leni-Lenape Indians. Today, just a little over 2000 residents have made Sea Isle City their home. In the summertime, and increasingly the “shoulder seasons”, this little beach town is a popular vacation destination for folks primarily from Philly and its surrounding suburbs, while also drawing visitors from other east coast states and Canada.
Sea Isle boasts of five miles of white powdery sand beaches flanked by dunes where bayberry, scrubby pines, sea grass and other wild beach growth provide a barrier between the sea and the town. Along the dunes lies a 1.5 mile “Promenade”, a popular venue for walking, running, and biking.
The town center is considered the area where J.F.K. Boulevard (the road you come in on from the mainland) meets the Promenade and the beach. It is here where a block-wide patch of open green space known as “Excursion Park” is home to a band shell where many weekly events are held, including concerts, a dance party, a “Move Under the Stars” night and other free, family-friendly events.
A farmer’s market is held every Tuesday morning throughout the summer featuring locally grown fruits and vegetables, homemade culinary treats and local artisans’ handcrafted items.
A gazebo and sitting area are perched on the Promenade above Excursion Park, creating a perfect place for people-watching. Shops and restaurants line J.F.K. Boulevard and stretch out for blocks on Landis Avenue, the main street running from north to south from one end of the island to the other. Landis Avenue is Sea Isle’s section of “Ocean Drive”, the scenic route that runs along the South Jersey coast and connects these barrier island beach towns through a series of bridges. Many other boutique shops and restaurants are scattered throughout Sea Isle City and are definitely worth a drive, a walk or a bike ride to visit if you are looking for home goods, fashions, souveniers or something good to eat.
The beaches are, perhaps, the town’s greatest attraction. Sea Isle has a full-time lifeguarding staff keeping swimmers safe every day from May to September. Each block has it’s own beach entrance, so no matter where you are in Sea Isle, you have easy and unfettered access. Some beaches are designated as surfing, boogie-boarding and kayaking beaches, so if you wish to engage in these activities you may want to check out our Beach Info page and head to one that’s closest and most appropriate. As the result of a federal grant program, Sea Isle’s beaches were recently replenished and, therefore, are fairly wide and spacious, especially at low tide. Beach tags are required between Memorial Day and Labor Day. They can be purchased at the Welcome Center, at the entrance to each beach or on the beach itself, and are subject to a discount if purchased pre-season. On Wednesdays, the beaches are free – no beach tags required.
On the bay side of the island where JFK Boulevard meets Park Road, “Fish Alley” is home to popular seafood restaurants. Here, you can push off on a wave runner, paddle board or kayak in the morning, catch a dolphin or whale-watching cruise at lunch, and watch the sun slip into the bay at sunset as you dine by the water or embark upon a sunset cruise.
While Sea Isle City is a great destination for families, it offers a lot for the college and single crowds as well, including some beachy, open-air bars and a lively nightlife. Unfortunately for intended weekend visitors, the town only has two hotels and one inn, so most visitors who wish to stay in Sea Isle rent a home or condo on a weekly, monthly or seasonal basis.
For more information about Sea Isle, please follow the links below:
“Smile! You’re in Sea Isle!” – All About Sea Isle City
History of Sea Isle City
Sea Isle City Beach Information
Where to Stay in Sea Isle City
Where to Eat in Sea Isle City
Upcoming Events in Sea Isle City – Fall/Winter 2018
Free Weekly Summer Events in Sea Isle City