Weekend Getaway

Weekend Boating in Southern New Jersey

Mid-Atlantic
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April 2018
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By
Tom
Schlichter

For boaters, just a glance at a chart is all that's needed to fall in love with the southern tip of New Jersey, full as it is with white sandy beaches and calm bays. Add in the lively entertainment and good eats, and some might argue that there's too much to do here for a single visit, so you'll likely have to plan multiple trips to see all that the area has to offer. But, that's ok! Boating in Southern New Jersey is a Summer pastime sure to draw you back again and again.

Never will your approach to a major harbor be more forgiving. Arriving through the Cape May Canal or Cape May Inlet, you'll find that the channels in this area run straight and wide. For the canal option, enter at Brandywine Shoal Light and favor the north side before easing out into the middle; there's no need to worry about the swinging bridge, as it's always raised. If you're coming from the inlet, simply steer between the jetties and straight into Cape May Harbor.

South Jersey Marina, in the northwest corner of the harbor, and Canyon Club Resort Marina, on the northeast side, are both great places to start your weekend adventure. South Jersey Marina is closer to the town of Cape May and within reasonable walking distance, while the more sprawling Canyon Club offers a pool, additional amenities and shuttle transportation to downtown.

Cape May itself is filled with Victorian charm. You'll see plenty of unique architecture, such as the Emlen Physick Estate, and even a few horse-drawn carriages. Bikers shouldn't miss the scenic 12-mile loop that offers spectacular ocean views.

The wine and distillery industries are both bustling here. Nauti Spirits Distillery produces handcrafted specialties such as vodka, gin and rum using primarily ingredients grown on their preserved, 60-acre coastal farm. The Cape May Winery offers tastings and tours throughout the year, and is known for their award-winning chardonnay.

For restaurants, head to 410 Bank Street for French New Orleans cuisine with a Caribbean flair, or The Lobster House, a locals' favorite and adjacent to South Jersey Marina. There are dozens of other dining options worth checking out, including the Ebbitt Room, the Washington Inn and, for casual family eats, Lucky Bones Back Water Grille.

If you would like to spend even more time on the water, consider visiting the Cape May Whale Watcher. Bottlenose dolphins are seen on a daily basis, and humpback whales are often spotted within a couple of miles of Cape May Inlet.

DAY ONE - Wildwood 4.5 NM

It's a straight shot up the ICW and to the north and east of Cape May Harbor to Schooner Island Marina, the gateway to the Wildwoods. Pass the Middle Thorofare Bridge and you'll find the facility just before the George Redding Bridge on the starboard side.Excellent for fisherman and beachgoers, Schooner Island Marina features floating docks, a fuel dock, swimming pool, bikes to borrow, and can accommodate vessels up to 110 feet in length. It's also within walking distance of several restaurants and convenience stores and the famous Wildwood Boardwalk.

The boardwalk is where you'll want to start your tour. It stretches for two and a half miles and sports more than 100 amusement rides and attractions, ranging from world-class roller coasters and wet-and-wild water parks, to carnival-style midway games, flashing arcades and a myriad of retail shops and eateries. You'll find the most rides at Morey's Piers, and boardwalk treats such as hand-made funnel cakes, frozen custard and fried Oreos and Twinkies along its entire length.

As with Cape May, dining possibilities abound, as this barrier island boasts hundreds of independently owned restaurants. Consider the casual Beach Creek Oyster Bar & Grille for surf and turf with a great outside bar and excellent live music. Boathouse Restaurant is known for its seafood and steaks, panoramic harbor views and tropical cocktails. Urie's Waterfront Restaurant is another great choice for steaks and seafood. Whale watching is big here too, with at least four outfits to choose from. Big Blue Sightseer has the longest history, spanning more than 50 years.

DAY TWO - Atlantic City 35 NM

For the next day's explorations, tie up at the Senator Frank S. Farley State Marina, connected to the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, offering easy access to the big resort, and features a dockside restaurant don't pass on the mahi tacos. The marina also has plenty of transient dockage and is a great jumping off point.

A quick jitney or cab ride will put you on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the famed promenade known for its beautiful waterfront views, great beaches and dozens of confection shops and amusements. Don't miss a visit to the Absecon Lighthouse, New Jersey's tallest lighthouse with 228 steps and breathtaking vistas.

Enjoy a special dining experience at the Chart House in the Golden Nugget, overlooking the Atlantic City skyline. This fine seafood eatery offers classic dishes with a creative twist. A short ride away is the historic Knife & Fork Inn, a legendary landmark for more than 100 years that offers classic and contemporary dishes and a fascinating history sprinkled with celebrity sightings since the Roaring Twenties.

Fishing is also quite good here. The area is known for stripers and tasty summer flounder. For easy fueling, with high-speed pumps, visit Kammerman's Marina across from The Golden Nugget.

DAY THREE - Brielle/Manasquan 51 NM

Start your day in the Brielle area by pulling into Hoffman's Marina East, just a half mile inside of Manasquan Inlet on the starboard side. This is another easy approach with a deep, wide inlet, no shoaling concerns and a straight shot into the dock.

Hoffman's can accommodate boats up to 120 feet in length and there are plenty of transient slips available here but make sure to call ahead to reserve one. It's a very clean, full-service marina with a pool, marble-and-tile restrooms and a particularly attentive crew. Hoffman's also has its own restaurant: Waypoint 622, a family-friendly place specializing in seafood and American fare and sporting a large patio bar that overlooks the water. If you want to head into nearby Brielle, you'll find plenty of additional choices for dining such as Simko's Grill, within easy walking distance of the marina.

Head across the river to the very family-oriented Jenkinson's Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach to investigate the amusement park. Sea lovers of all ages will also appreciate Jenkinson's Aquarium, especially the shark exhibit. Castaway Cove Miniature Golf is a great activity for the kids, while adults can enjoy a little down time at Martell's Tiki Bar, a great place to chill out, take a dip or catch a nap.

Kayaking is available at various points along Manasquan River, as is stand-up paddle boarding. The crew at Hoffman's Marina East can point you in the right direction for rentals. If you love fishing, there are open boats, charter boats and plenty of beach and dock access should you want to wet a line for blues, stripers or fluke.

And if you don't catch anything, don't worry. With all that the New Jersey shore has to offer, you'll be back soon.

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Day 1: Wickford Cove

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Day 2: Block Island

Wickford to Block Island 29 NMCruising down the western shores of Narragansett Bay under the Jamestown Bridge, passing magnificent mansions then Point Judith Light, you are soon on your way across the open expanse of Rhode Island Sound to Block Island. The farthest island from land on the entire Eastern seaboard, Block Island is even more remote than Monhegan in Maine (10 miles out by comparison).

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Day 3: Newport

Block Island to Newport 25 NMDeparting Block Island, perhaps after fresh coffee and pastries delivered to your boat by enterprising locals, you will be in the company of power boaters and sailing vessels, plus the occasional charging ferry heading to Newport. It's a direct course northeast to the Sailing Capital of Newport.

Bannisters Wharf - weekened warrior - marinalife
Bannisters Wharf, Newport | Greg Burke

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Day 1: IslamoradaKey Largo to Islamorada 15 NM

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Day 2: Duck KeyIslamorada to Duck Key 21 NM

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Day 3: Key WestDuck Key to Key West 52 NM

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Day 1: Solomons Island

Just a sliver of land measuring a mile and a half long, and in some spots it's just the width of a single road, yet Solomons is alive with eateries, shops, a tiki bar, marinas, a scenic sculpture garden and a world-class museum.

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Several marinas on Back Creek include the resort-style Solomons Harbor Marina close to the town's center, and the larger, 246-slip Spring Cove Marina that offers a courtesy shuttle to restaurants and shops.

Day 2: St. Mary's City

Solomons Island to St. Mary's City 36 NM

"Where's the city?" is a frequent question from arriving tourists who haven't yet realized they are standing on the archaeological site of Maryland's first capital. Tours of replica buildings bring that era back to life. Trails along this historic exhibit on the St. Mary's River wind past a replica of the Dove (one of the ships that carried Catholic settlers), the Godiah Spray Plantation and a fully excavated 17th century building at St. John's Site.

St. Clements Island - weekend warrior - marinalife
St. Clements Island | Susan Elnicki Wade

After a 90-year search, a fort-like formation the size of a football field was recently uncovered. Ground-penetrating radar scans revealed a brick cellar guardhouse and dwellings -- possibly Native American -- within the walls. Native communities in the area can be traced back 10,000 years, and a quartzite arrow dating back 4,500 years was unearthed.

Eating options are limited but tasty. Tiny Enso Kitchen has amazing breakfast sandwiches and lunch salads, but its fame comes from scrumptious bread and pastries. Although it's located in a gas station, St. James Deli & Spirits is known for excellent take-out pizza and subs.

Boats can dock for the day on site, and the closest full-service facility, Dennis Point Marina in Drayden, offers gas and diesel.

Day 3: Coltons Point

St. Mary's City to Coltons Point 26 NM

Off-season, the pace of life in this peaceful little community on the Potomac is lower than the speed limit. That all changes as warm weather tourists arrive at St. Clement's Island Museum to learn about the 1634 arrival of two ships, the Ark and Dove, whose English passengers sought to establish a new colony based on religious tolerance.

Bald eagle in flight - weekend warrior - marinalife
Bald Eagle in Flight | Frank Cone

A half-mile offshore is the 62-acre St. Clement's Island state park and federal nature preserve. A towering white cross marks where the first Catholic mass was held in the new colony. The park includes a hiking trail, beach, picnic pavilion, and fishing and hunting grounds.

In 1967, local preservation groups organized the annual Blessing of the Fleet, a time-honored traditional benediction for the boats and the St. Mary's County watermen. The event also raises awareness about the island's future, currently one-tenth its original size due to rising sea levels.

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