Wild, Wild, Wildwood Days
The Wildwoods are located a barrier island known as “Five-Mile Island” which lies 30 miles south of Atlantic City. The term “The Wildwoods” refers to the four communities that are found Wildwood Island: the boroughs of Wildwood Crest and West Wildwood, and the cities of North Wildwood and Wildwood City. It also includes a portion of Lower Township known as Diamond Beach. The area derives its name from the wild vegetation once found on this island.
However, don’t confuse the similarity in name with personality – each of the Wildwood communities have a very different vibe. Wildwood City and North Wildwood are known for their shared wooden boardwalk and abundant nightlife, although North Wildwood is more of a modest residential beach town at its northern tip. Wildwood City is more populated and lively. To the south lies Wildwood Crest, a quiet seaside town with no boardwalk and where the sale of alcohol is prohibited within its jurisdiction. Like North Wildwood, Crest promises visitors that “It’s Better in the Crest”. Even further south is Diamond Beach which is part of Lower Township. Diamond Beach is another upscale and quiet community with large hotels and condominiums lining the beachfront. Finally, tiny West Wildwood is known for its “Small Town Charm on the Back Bay”. It is an island unto itself, connected to the other Wildwood communities by a bridge. It is quiet and laid back here with no commercial center and most homes have beautiful views of Grassy Sound.
The Wildwoods began developing as a resort in the last decade of the 19th century when a railroad track was added from Cape May to Anglesea. The completion of the Garden State Parkway in 1955 led to a building boom when over 200 motels were built in the area, causing it to become an iconic venue for mid-century architecture and giving it the title of “Doo Wop Capital of the World.”
As a matter of fact, the Doo Wop museum, located across from Wildwood’s expansive convention center, exhibits neon signs and furniture salvaged from motels that were demolished in more recent years so that larger, more contemporary hotels, homes and condominiums could be built in their place.
A world-famous boardwalk runs through part of North Wildwood and Wildwood. Built at the turn of the century, it consists of more than 70,000 planks of wood and stretches for 37 city blocks. It is the hub of activity for the Wildwoods in the summertime, as it features five ride piers, two water parks and hundreds of shops and restaurants. For visitors who wish to rush to the next ride pier or who are too tired to walk after a night of frivolity, a trolley called the “Tram Car” runs the length of the boardwalk.
Wildwood beaches are, by far, some of the largest on the East Coast – as wide as 500 yards in some places. The reason these beaches are so large is due in part to their fortuitous location, as well as man-made changes to the coastline that caused a disruption of natural ebb and flow of sand movement along the coast. As a result, sand that erodes from Avalon and Stone Harbor tends to gather here and grow bigger beaches. The upside to larger beaches is that the town, boardwalk and beaches are well-protected from damage caused by storms such as Hurricane Sandy and Winter Storm Jonas. Unlike other northern boardwalks, the Wildwood boardwalk has never been destroyed by a storm and, in fact, was twice moved closer to the beach.
The downside of having such large beaches is that the walk to the ocean from the boardwalk can be tiresome and grueling on a hot summer day. Thanks to an all-terrain beach taxi service, beachgoers can be driven out to the waterfront so they don’t have lug all their gear through hot sand. Another perk: Wildwood can play host to many beach sports activities, such as volleyball tournaments and soccer camps. Perhaps the best part of Wildwood’s beaches are that they are free, unlike its neighboring beach towns that require beach tags to be purchased and worn. Wildwood’s beaches have appeared on many “best of” lists, including the Travel Channel’s “Best Beaches” show and Conde Naste’s “Best Sports Beach” list.
The Wildwoods are a popular destination for vacationers, as well as day trippers vacationing in neighboring beach towns who seek a night of excitement on the boards. In fact, at the height of the summer tourist season, the population swells to as many as 250,000 or more, compared to the year-round population of just over 5,300. With so much to see and do here, it is no wonder that the Wildwoods are so visited and so well-loved.
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