Stone Harbor – The Seashore at its Best
As it’s motto suggests, Stone Harbor is a laid back beach town that offers the best in beachfront living. Like its swanky neighbor to the north, the borough of Stone Harbor is a quiet, upscale community that shares its home on “Seven Mile Island” with Avalon. This barrier island is approximately 36 miles south of Atlantic City and 20 miles north of Cape May. From north to south, it is (as its name suggests) approximately seven miles long and is roughly three to four blocks wide in most places.
Seven Mile Island
As noted, only two towns occupy Seven Mile Island. Beginning at the northernmost point of the island, Avalon runs from 6th Street to the north side of 80th street. Stone Harbor extends from the south side of 80th street to 122nd Street at the southernmost point of the island. Two major thoroughfares run the length of the island. They are both parallel to the ocean from north to south. In Avalon, those streets begin as Dune and Ocean Drives. At 80th Street, Avalon’s Dune and Ocean Drives become Stone Harbor’s 2nd and 3rd Avenues, respectively. The only indication that one is passing from Avalon into Stone Harbor is the towns’ welcome signs at 80th Street. Other than changing street names and a welcoming sign, it is difficult to tell the difference between the two towns. That is because they are very similar in appearance and atmosphere. As a matter of fact, the two towns were once just one town – Avalon – until 1914 when Stone Harbor was founded.
Stone Harbor boasts of both older modest and newer opulent homes. Many homes along the bay have private docks and boats. The New York Times once described Stone Harbor as a place with “gleaming McMansions and elegant shops.”
Stone Harbor is just three miles long but there is something here to satisfy every taste. Its waterfront dining is spectacular at sunset. Its expansive beaches are guarded by a full-time lifeguarding staff in the summer season. Like other beach towns in New Jersey, Stone Harbor requires beach-goers to purchase beach tags.
For nature-lovers there is an impressive bird sanctuary and wetlands museum. The Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary is a 21.5-acre nature preserve. It lies between 2nd and 3rd Avenues and 111th and 117th Streets near the southern-most part of the island known as “The Point”. The grounds of the sanctuary are comprised of fresh and salt water meadows, sandy dunes and natural growth. Here, many bird species rest during migration or have made their homes. Open year round, the sanctuary includes three paths that wind through lush vegetation. This allowing visitors to see the feeding and nesting habits of egrets, herons and other bird species. Tours are offered throughout the summer season. Other wildlife can be seen here, including bats, butterflies and dragonflies.
The Wetlands Institute
The Wetlands Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of coastal and wetland ecosystems. The Institute provides a fun and interactive educational atmosphere for visitors who wish to learn more about wetlands and the many species that inhabit coastal ecosystems, such as diamondback terrapins, horseshoe crabs and shorebirds. Visitors can take classes, attend lectures, go on kayak tours, engage in interactive events such as the release of terrapin hatchlings and enjoy the Institute’s many festivals.
For water enthusiasts, plenty of watersports and boating opportunities abound on the Intracoastal Waterway (bay) which separates Seven Mile island from the mainland. From paddle boarding and climbing on oversized inflatables to chartered fishing vessels, party boats and other maritime excursions, it is hard to stay dry in this coastal town.
For landlubbers, Stone Harbor is filled with unique boutique shops and gourmet treats. In lieu of a beach-side boardwalk such as those found in Ocean City and Wildwood, 96th Street serves as the town’s center for retail and culinary activities. Small boutique stores and eateries line this quaint shopping district which lies perpendicular to the beach between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. This area is a popular destination for vacationers in neighboring beach towns who wish to get away from the typical boardwalk-variety tee shirt and souvenir shops to find an array of upscale fashions, coastal home décor and other specialty items. Strolling down 96th Street to duck in and out of specialty shops is also a favorite rainy-day activity for vacationers up and down the South Jersey coast. On the way out of town, many visitors include a stop in Springer’s Homemade Ice Cream, an iconic mainstay of Stone Harbor for years.
Stone Harbor with its quaint streets, beautiful waterfront and sandy beaches truly does offer some of the best of everything to see and do Down The Shore.
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