When most people think of New Jersey they think of crumbling industry and big polluted cities. People think of it as a lesser version of New York and no one seems to want to give it a break. Believe it or not, there is more farmland in NJ than there is acreage in the state of Delaware. You can find some of the most beautiful sunsets, best flounder fishing, and the most quaint little towns in the entire country. Although Atlantic City is not at it’s peak, there are many beautiful places around it. Some places within a 30 to 40 minute drive of the city are worth a minute or two of your time. Below are my favorite places in and around Atlantic City, NJ that you didn’t know existed, but definitely need to see.
6 places (shockingly) located in and near atlantic city
the Historic Town of Smithville
The small historic town of Smithville is located north west across the bay from Atlantic City, NJ. The little village is full of shops and restaurants with amazing food and great atmosphere. They also have revolutionary war time themed re-enactments and host two craft fairs during the year; May Fest & October Fest. Previously surrounded by pine barrens, Smithville is now the heart of a small town.
Locals and travelers alike love to come walk the old bridge, feed the ducks, and have a slice of pizza or “Stockton Bomb” from Costello’s sitting on the deck over the small lake. Take a ride in the duck boats or have a competition at the “shooting range” to see who can score the most points. The Smithville Inn is an old restaurant that was once a stop on the stage coach route which is now Route 9. The Inn dates back to 1787 and some believe that many of the stores around the Inn are haunted.
Santa visits at Christmas time and a haunted train ride is fun for all ages during the month of October. Carolers sing during the holiday season and a large Christmas tree lights up the train station near the center of town. You can even stay over night in the village and enjoy a relaxing weekend by visiting their website, here.
Gardener’s Basin is a small area of Atlantic City that barely seems like Atlantic City. One of the best places for a good breakfast in the city is Gilchrist which makes amazing eggs and breakfast sandwiches. Drink a warm cup of coffee and look out over the bay as the sun begins to rise behind you.
Start your afternoon by checking out the little shops and then head over to the Atlantic City Aquarium. Although it is quite small there a lot of really cool “touch” exhibits and craft areas for kids depending on the time of year. They have a decent amount of aquatic life and some really cool relics from old ships to diving suits. There is even an observation deck where you can see a good distance over the city.
Back Bay Ale House is the home of the famous “Basin Mason”. Try a 32 oz mason jar full of delicious adult beverage you can select from their cocktail menu. The drinks are both satisfying and strong for $12.50. If you order a 32oz jar they do have a 2 drink limit and trust me you won’t need a third one. They have mouth watering clams and amazing fish entrees to choose from. The small upstairs balcony, which can have up to a 3 or 4 hour wait time to be seated, has the best view of the sunset. There is an outside bar under the second floor balcony that sits about 100 yards from Scales
When night falls Scales Grill & Deck Bar has the best entertainment. Fairly new after the old building that once stood in its spot burned down a few years ago, Scales provides live entertainment and a fun atmosphere. Located directly on the water, you can either boat here or drive.
Ocean City boardwalk
Ditch the Atlantic City Boardwalk and drive 15 minutes south on the parkway until you get to the Somers Point & Ocean City Exit. Pay the toll and follow this road over the 9th street bridge and into Ocean City. One of the last dry towns in the United States is nestled right in southern New Jersey. Ocean City is one of the best shore towns for families with two amusement parks, a large arcade and miles of boardwalk. The beaches are clean and have life guards during the summer months.
Have a Khor’s Bros ice cream cone, enjoy a show at the Ocean City Theatre Company, or play a round of mini golf at Congo Falls. Gillian’s Wonderland Pier sports a huge ferris wheel and rides geared toward smaller children. Take a walk down the boardwalk a little further and find Playland’s Castaway Cove a pirate themed park with rides.
Grab a slice of famous Manco & Manco pizza and sit on the boardwalk enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean. Check out the shore stores that line the boardwalk to purchase your own hermit crab and a bright neon t-shirt or sweatshirt with an obnoxious saying. You’re in New Jersey, so why not?
Cape May, NJ
Located all the way down the parkway South to Exit 0 from Atlantic City is Cape May, NJ. This not so little town has a million things to do. From the concrete walkway along the ocean, to the southernmost tip of NJ, to the shops and bed & breakfasts throughout the town there are so many things to see. Check out the Cape May lighthouse, which also happens to be the place my husband and I got engaged in 2015. You can get perfect sunset pictures at the top of the light house and on the beach. While you are there, check out the old ship wreck a few hundred feet away on the beach.
Walk around down town, or rent bikes to ride to the beach. Stroll down the cobble stone streets and eat an ice cream cone and stop at the Lobster House restaurant & raw bar. This is one of the best places to eat in southern New Jersey. You can eat dinner in the 5 star restaurant which is a little more business casual, or sit on the deck by the clam boats and order from the raw bar wearing your flip flops.
Take a walk back in time and explore this old town about 30 minutes west of Atlantic City in the pine barrens. Batsto is a New Jersey state park with large old barns, mills, and trails to explore. Keep an eye out for the Jersey Devil who is known to roam these woods and has been spotted in the area. The village dates back to 1766 when a large iron works plant was built there. Over time, the natives of the town eventually all died or moved out. Today it is a historical land mark in the state.
The village is right near the river and is well known for hiking, biking, star gazing, and glass making. It is a great place for the whole family to spend some time out doors and exploring history.
the edwin b. FORSYTHe Wild Life Refuge
Located in Oceanville, NJ the wildlife refuge is a beautiful place to reconnect with nature and is found 12 miles from Atlantic City. You can drive, hike, or bike around the 8 mile one way dirt road. Climb the observation towers to get a bird’s eye view of 47,000 acres of preserved wetlands. You will find amazing views for landscape and nature photography as well as diverse species of birds.
When you are finished exploring the wild life refuge trails, check out the Noyes Museum which offers a ton of culture and history of the area. The museum is full of local art and offers many arts and crafts days for kids and is a collaboration with Stockton University. The staff is very friendly and the show room offers interesting art work and beautiful views of Lily Lake.
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