Charles Darrow, a salesman from Germantown, Pennsylvania, lost his job to the Great Depression. He passed the idle days and evenings waxing with his wife about better times, namely past years' vacations at their favorite destination, Atlantic City. Eventually, Darrow got to doodling, and he drew a game grid on his tablecloth. Still reminiscing, he filled each grid box with the name of a street or an avenue between Absecon Inlet and Park Place, surrounding the beloved Boardwalk. Using paint samples from a local merchant, he colored the spaces and matched their hues on cardboard "deeds" for each property. From salvaged wood scraps he made houses and hotels. Play money and a pair of dice rounded out his new game.
Atlantic City Marinas is an Exciting Cruising Stop
Most of the Darrows' friends were also jobless during those tough times, so they dropped by often. One evening Darrow broke out his invention, and it caught on-to say the least. Before long he was taking orders and producing copies as quickly as he could. Soon enough, retail stores in Philadelphia and New York demanded some of his games to stock on their shelves. After initially rejecting the game, Parker Brothers purchased the rights from Darrow in 1935. Monopoly became an instant success. Today the game is printed in several dozen languages and has numerous alternative versions, but the original Atlantic City design remains the most popular. It doesn't include streets in the Atlantic City marina district-which is where you'll likely tie up before catching a cab downtown to the boardwalk and main gaming area-but most visitors to the town that's "always turned on" still enjoy walking down Ventnor and Atlantic avenues on their way to the casinos, while hopefully staying out of jail.
That's not to say that you want to stay out of the Brig here-meaning Brigantine, the town next door that used to be called North Atlantic City. When you've had enough of the bright casino lights and festive boardwalk games, Brigantine offers winding creeks and leisurely cruises past quiet summertime homes.
In Brigantine, your dinghy or center console will loom over the marsh grasses Bally's and Caesar's tower over the famous boardwalk to the south. There are parts of the back bay area where a 30-foot sailboat can easily get through, just as it can in deep Absecon Inlet, but back in the Brigantine wetlands, prepare to get your keel stuck in the sand, even if you're in a rowboat or kayak.
Things to See and Do
Atlantic City boasts more than a dozen world-renowned casinos, full of high-rise glitter, all-you-can-eat buffets and blackjack dealers who are happy to take your money 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are a couple of big-name hotels in the Atlantic City marina district, including Harrah's (609-441-5000), whose marina has 65 slips for boats up to 125 feet long. Also in this part of town is Golden Nugget (609-441-2000), which overlooks Frank S. Farley State Marina (800-876-4386) and its 640 slips for boats up to 300 feet long. The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa (609-317-1000) is also in the marina district, but it does not have a marina facility. While you can gamble by the boat, if you'd like, but the main action in Atlantic City is a short cab ride away in the downtown district, which is where casinos like Caesar's, Bally's and the Trump Taj Mahal sit right on the boardwalk, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Your whole family can enjoy a day of playing in the sun and sand, with plenty of opportunities for beach volleyball and similar games not to mention free admission, something you can't find on most New Jersey beaches anymore. Come nighttime, while the casinos along the waterfront don't welcome anyone younger than 21 for betting, the boardwalk sure does, with games, rides and junk food that will keep kids of all ages smiling until bedtime. The boardwalk is four-and-a-half miles long, making it bigger than some barrier towns you might explore along the New Jersey coast. There's lots to see and do, from carnival setups to more established sites such as the Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum (609-347-2001).
There are also a ton of live acts performing in Atlantic City at any given time, and many of them are big names like comedian Jerry Seinfeld and singer Sheryl Crow. Many performers book their acts directly through the casinos, and unfortunately you have to call each one to see who's performing on any given night. If you have some idea about the kind of entertainment you'd like to see, try places like the House of Blues (609-343-5700) or the Comedy Stop Cafe (609-822-7353).
A note of caution: Don't wander too far away from the boardwalk area and into downtown on foot, as the scene quickly shifts from tourism to poverty. Crime-especially theft-can be a problem on the streets after dark, as you might imagine in a city where high-rollers walk around with wads of cash in their pockets just waiting to be picked. Cabs are easy to come by in Atlantic City, and you would be wise to use them. If you have trouble hailing one New York style in the street, try Mutual Taxi of Atlantic City (609-345-6111).
If you find yourself at the end of the boardwalk where the Showboat casino is located, consider walking a bit farther, to the intersection of Pacific and Rhode Island avenues, where you'll find the Absecon Lighthouse (609-449-1360). It's the tallest in New Jersey as well as one of the oldest in the entire country. After climbing its 228 steps, you'll be rewarded with a look at the original first-order Fresnel lens, built in 1857, not to mention a spectacular view of the Atlantic City skyline and the smaller towns all around it.
One of those towns is Brigantine, accessible either by boat or by a short cab ride from Atlantic City's marina district across the Atlantic City-Brigantine connector bridge. The beaches in Brigantine are just as pretty-and a lot less busy-than the ones in Atlantic City (badges are $7 daily). And the wetlands are great for exploring by dinghy or small center console, particularly if you have some fishing gear onboard. The folks at North Point Marina (609-266-3939) are especially nice and eager to help transients see the backwaters, while other local marinas tend to cater primarily to local boaters.
If you'd rather get off the water altogether for an afternoon, consider playing 18 holes at The Links at Brigantine Beach (609-266-1388). It's the closest golf course to Atlantic City, allows play year-round and offers nice water views. Another good walk to be had is along Brigantine's North End Beach, where leashed dogs are allowed year-round.
Restaurants and Provisions
The easiest place to reach for most boaters will be right at Frank S. Farley State Marina, adjacent to the Golden Nugget, where you can grab wings or a pizza at The Deck along with some live music on the side. Late-night gamblers love the fact that the Upstairs Cafe here never closes. For a more elegant meal in this area, try the Harbor View (800-777-8477, then press 2).
At breakfast and dinnertime in Atlantic City's marina district, the buffet at FantaSea Reef, inside Harrah's, will feed and entertain you at the same time, as extensive aquariums abound and video screens play underwater clips. For fine dining at Harrah's, make a reservation at The Steakhouse (609-441-5575) or try Polistina's (609-441-5576) for a family-style Italian meal. More casual options include a deli, coffee shop and casual grill.
If you decide to go downtown to eat, you'll find all the traditional summer fare that your stomach can stand along the boardwalk, everything from hot dogs and vegetarian wraps to frozen custard in wafer cones. And while walking off the boardwalk and into downtown proper isn't the best idea at night, you'll be missing out on one of the city's best carryout meals if you fail to walk at lunchtime over to the corner of Arctic and Mississippi, about three blocks in from the boardwalk. That's where you'll find the White House Sub Shop (609-345-1564), which has been serving spectacularly overstuffed sandwiches to the stars since 1946. The walls of the place are lined with signed photos of everyone from Dean Martin to George Clooney, and your chances are good for spotting whichever headliner happens to be playing a show at the casinos during your visit.
For groceries, you'll need to head to Brigantine by boat or by cab. Joe's Seaside Market (609-266-7611) and Acme Supermarket in Brigantine (609-264-0041) should have everything you need to restock your galley.
Use ChartKit Region 3, page 18 and 59; Maptech Waterproof Chartbook New Jersey Coast; Maptech Waterproof Charts 34, 35, and 46; or Maptech electronic and NOAA paper charts 12316 (1:20,000) and 12318 (1:80,000).
Navigation and Anchorages
The well-marked Absecon Inlet is one of the best inlets along New Jersey's coast, especially in poor weather. From any direction, pick up G "1" Fl G 4s GONG and R "2" Fl R 2.5s about one mile southeast of the inlet. Head north through the jetties and follow the uncharted buoys.
The channel is deep and fairly wide, but don't get too close to the northern jetty because shallows extend south of it. About one mile inland, Clam Creek's basin opens to the south; this is your access to Atlantic City's transient facilities. You can go to Kammerman's Atlantic City Marina (609-348-8418) for a quick re-fuel or a long stay, and they will arrange transportation to the Boardwalk and casinos if you don't care to walk. Frank S. Farley State Marina, in the shadow of the Trump Marina Hotel Casino (800-876-4386), is the most popular place for transient boaters because it has hundreds of slips and can accommodate even the largest of motoryachts and sailboats. It also sells fuel and supplies. Farther inland you'll pass under a fixed bridge with 60 feet of vertical clearance. Be wary of strong currents under this bridge, and look north, to your right, for the only opening you'll see-the wide entrance at the base of the bridge that will take you into the neighboring town of Brigantine.
About a half-mile past the bridge you have two choices:
Head north on the ICW at G "181" Fl G 4s or south on the ICW at Q R 15ft 3M "182."
Once you make that right-hand turn and leave Atlantic City on your stern, you'll be anywhere from 20 minutes' to 45 minutes' worth of cruising from your Brigantine marina of choice. Most of the ride is no-wake zones because of the private homes that line the thoroughfare and bay, and they're lovely to look at as you make your way along the island's back side.
Shoreside and Emergency Services
Airport: Atlantic City 609-645-7895
Coast Guard: Atlantic City 609-344-6594 or VHF 16
Police, Fire, Ambulance: 911 or VHF 16
Sea Tow 800-4SEATOW or VHF 16
TowBoatU.S. 800-391-4869 or VHF 16 F74Â°25.50W