Townsends Inlet is located on the barrier island of Ludlam Island. It is considered an “unincorporated community” – much like its cousin, Strathmere, which flanks Sea Isle on the north end of the island. Known locally as “TI”, the essence of its classification rests not so much on the word “unincorporated” as it does “community”. With one stop light, a tiny non-denominational church, a country store and a couple venerated, historic restaurants, Townsends Inlet once represented the quintessential small town America. But that is all beginning to change.
In 1692, John Ludlum bought the island where Sea Isle City, Strathmere and Townsends Inlet are located. Three years later, he divided it into three sections and sold the southernmost section to John Townsend who named the land after himself and its location on the inlet. Today, although it is still referred to by its birth name, Townsends Inlet remains under the jurisdiction of Sea Isle City.
Despite its unified governance, Townsends Inlet has a definitive vibe of its own. Perhaps it is because of its location – being forty blocks from the town center of Sea Isle has allowed Townsends Inlet to develop a personality of its own, much like a child who has gone off to college. Perhaps it is because of the atmosphere – surrounded on three sides by ocean, bay and wild dunes, TI’s landscape creates the perfect prescription for peace. Or perhaps it is because of the community itself – residents here enjoy fellowship with one another throughout the year with various social clubs focusing on neighborhood improvement, gardening and books.
Before the summer of 2017, only 2 stores existed here – Blitz’s Deli and Nickelby’s Country store, a one-stop-shop for all things deli, bakery, café, grill and coffee house-related. Live music is also offered here on weekend nights. Recently the building that once housed Blitz’s Market was demolished so a new, bigger and better Blitz’s could be born.
Around the corner from Nickelby’s is a tiny ice cream shop called “Scoops” where visitors can grab a cone and sit at one of the few oversized wooden picnic tables to watch the Landis Avenue passersby.
Further south, where Landis Avenue meets the bridge at 94th Street is the Townsends Inlet Waterfront Park. Here, visitors can find a playground, shade pavilion and a nature walk that opens up to an expansive natural beach area where the ocean meets the bay. The inlet, an entry way to the Intercoastal Waterway from the Atlantic Ocean, serves both commercial marine traffic as well as pleasure craft. It is a favorite spot to fish, have a picnic or just and watch a beautiful sunset over the bay.
Life is slower here than in Sea Isle City proper, where bustling Landis Avenue in the summer season – particularly on weekends – is lined with parked cars and gridlocked intersections. With a 25 mile an hour speed limit and a law requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians in the many crosswalks that are found on Landis, it is hard to get anywhere quickly at the height of the summer season and, in fact, can at times feel like midtown Manhattan at rush hour. But going south, you find a different atmosphere – at around 80th Street, Landis dwindles to a laid back stretch of roadway. That is because travelers who do not live or stay here come through for one of three reasons: to dine, to go to the waterfront park or keep driving out of town over the bridge to Avalon. But now, with the development of new commercial attractions, people will have more reasons to stop in TI.
Until now, TI had basically three restaurants. Sunset Pier, at 86th Street and the bay, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a choice of indoor or outdoor seating and a BYOB option. A juice bar called Sunset Squeeze featuring acai bowls, smoothies and fresh squeezed juices was recently added to the restaurant. A Tackle Shop is open daily and provides boats for rent for crabbing, fishing or joy riding on the back bay, including a 20’ pontoon boat. Parasailing excursions also launch from this dock.
Hank’s Sauce is located at 8605 Landis and features a variety of homemade sauces and original menu items developed by once-college roommates who “shared a passion for the ocean and a DIY attitude”. After successfully marketing their unique brand of sauces, they opened a restaurant in the south end of Sea Isle featuring creations such as soups, tacos and other handheld delights.
In 2015 the famous Busch’s Seafood Restaurant, most known for its legendary She Crab soup, was demolished to allow new construction to begin on an upscale condominium and restaurant complex. Busch’s was a dining mainstay of Townsends Inlet since 1882 where loyal customers frequented the restaurant for delicious local seafood cuisine.
It is here that Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House has made its home in the trendy Dunes Building. This upscale restaurant features a raw bar and serves flatbreads, steaks and seafood. Also located in the Dunes is the Breakwaters Ballroom, a perfect venue for a beach-themed wedding, and 13 luxury condominiums that are available for rent for as little as a 3-night stay. The Dunes is one of three mixed-use buildings coming into Townsends Inlet between 85th and 87th Streets in the next year. Currently under construction are the Cove and the Cape Buildings, both 3-story retail, restaurant and condo complexes.
The Cove is home to TI’s first boutique shop, the Pink Gator. A new restaurant called the Fishin’ Pier Grille is scheduled to open here as well. The top two stories of the Cove will include 11 luxury condos catering to Sea Isle’s high-end tourist market. The Cape, meanwhile, is scheduled to open later in 2018. It will be the home of the new Blitz’s Market, and above it will be nine luxury condominiums.
By 2018, Townsends Inlet may seem like a very different place, catering to Sea Isle’s visitors who wish to tuck away from the crowds into a quieter, more upscale environment for their beach vacations. Soon, TI is likely to be more of a final destination resort and less of a place to stop and grab dinner on the way out of town. And from the looks of things, they won’t be disappointed. As the creators of Hank Sauce say on their website in encouraging people to travel to the south side of the island, “Go the extra mile, we promise to do the same.”
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