A Jersey Shore Sojourn to Spring Lake
By Leigh Cort
A radiantly refined and picturesque seaside town, Spring Lake offers its residents and vacationers a gentle and relaxed atmosphere of gracious living. Two miles of private beach and the longest non-commercial boardwalk in New Jersey have made it a unique resort since the mid 1870's, when it was a farm town getting ready to be a ‘summer resort'.
As the 20th Century approached, it was one of the renowned luxurious vacation retreats for the wealthy and privileged, primarily from Philadelphia. In fact, the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia generated homes and artifacts that became part of many of the first homes built in Spring Lake. As the buildings were dismantled after the Centennial, entrepreneurs arranged to transport a number of them by ship as well as via the new railroads.
The ‘Irish Riviera', as it became known at that time, is still evident today, many of the early structures designed in the Victorian style with huge wide porches and turrets. They dotted the landscape of this gorgeous hamlet, interspersed throughout the enormous summer hotels that have sadly disappeared, only stories and shadows remaining along with photos to remind us of a life of wealth and privilege.
Today Spring Lake has earned a place in history by maintaining its old-world charm and grace. "Spring Lake", named for the fountains of crystal clear water which emanate from a multitude of underground springs, is surrounded by wide tree-lined streets, hidden paths and rock gardens peeking through the weeping willows along the shoreline. It's a fabulous destination for walking and biking, the lakefront walk being a daily wellness occurrence for many visitors, including me! Throughout all seasons, the 2.5 mile oceanfront boardwalk is ‘the' place to stroll, jog or bike since there isn't a store, restaurant or intrusive retail establishment anywhere. In fact, there isn't even a stoplight in the entire town...or a parking meter!
Delightfully out of date and where time seems to stand still, there is a distinguished collection of 11 Victorian Bed and Breakfast Inns and Boutique Hotels (circa 1870-1888). They are unequaled for personalized service and amenities, genuinely bringing romance, elegance and history to life. I've had the pleasure of staying in each of them this year, even if only for a night.
Whether enjoying gourmet breakfast in one of their beautifully appointed dining rooms or sipping tea by a warming fireplace, relaxing on a breezy open air porch or painting in a wildflower garden, the Historic Inns of Spring Lake know how to offer extreme privacy and tranquility found in their seaside paradise during each season.
Located very near – and midway - to Philadelphia and Manhattan, Spring Lake is an ideal setting for wedding or honeymoon, romantic getaway or family reunion. It's one of America's preciously kept secrets and I savored every moment during my visits.
I began compiling a comprehensive list of Things To Do when Visiting Spring Lake. Of course one could do absolutely nothing but sit in a rocker on a pretty porch...but there are hidden gems within minutes from Spring Lake that are true ‘Jersey Shore' adventures.
1. MAKE HISTORY -
Spring Lake Historical Society Museum.
The Society's collection of historic photographs and memorabilia transport you through Spring Lake's fascinating history – from Indian times through the grand Victorian Era to the well-known movies that were filmed here and present day events. The museum building itself was built in 1897 as the town's first public school. It's an unusually elaborate space that has an intimate, jewel-like quality. Its highly ornamented interior, rich with architectural details, now plays host to the collections which form the heart of the Society's historical treasures (732)449-0772
Admission Free. Hours: Thursday, 10:00-Noon and Sunday 1:30-3:30pm.
Historic Village of Allaire
Explore life in an early 19th century Industrial Iron Producing Community:
~ Historic Village ~ Retail Stores ~ Allaire Mansion ~ Interpretive Demonstrations ~ Listed on the National and State Registries of Historical Places...where history is forged. Visit trade shops where master craftsmen practice their art. Stroll tree-lined streets to the Manager's House where Mrs. Smith demonstrates domestic skills of the time. Don't miss the General Store and Howell Works Bakery for some fresh baked ‘flat cakes'.
Call for seasonal hours and special events. Farmingdale, NJ. 732-919-3500.
2. DIVINE PARK NATURE WALKS
Spring Lake is a fresh water lake in the center of the 2 mile-long historic town. It covers approximately 16 acres with a maximum depth of 8'. Its sources are the numerous natural springs for which the lake is named and the town became famous in the late 1800's. It drains into the Atlantic Ocean. The lake and the surrounding pristine park provide a habitat for fish, birds, plants, small woodland animals and distinctive trees.
Tree lovers will find white oak, pin oak, sugar maple, sassafras, horse chestnut, common persimmon, northern catapalpa and black locust.
Birding enthusiasts can spot mute swan, Canada goose, mallard, house sparrow, ring-billed gull and great blue heron, depending on the seasons.
In Spring Lake, one can step back in time; the tree-lined avenues and gracious ‘cottages' are reminiscent of the grand Victorians who spent their summers and holidays in the most picturesque village by the sea. Turn-of-the-century architecture is alluring, stretching out in every direction whether crossing the lake's romantic footbridges, strolling the legendary pristine beach or catching the late afternoon's last rays of sunshine along the boardwalk that whispers...somewhere in time....
3. ART & ANTIQUES –
Weston Art Gallery – A trio of fine art and porcelain restoration, Steven Weston's celebrated sea and landscapes and fine art jewelry. A little gem! Sea Girt.
The Hand Works – Whether on a budget or a spree, you'll find hand-painted furniture, pottery, Yankee Candles, Vera Bradley or Byers' Choice collectibles. Known for their ‘Noah's Arks'. Manasquan. 732-223-3060
Irish Centre – From Waterford and Belleek to Irish woolens, paintings and jewelry, There is always a delightful deluge of Irish inspiration. Their calendar of special events is filled with dates for your pleasure. Spring Lake. 732-449-6650 www.irishcentre.net
ThistleDown Gallery/Frederick Gallery – A fine art gallery where talented designers can frame anything worthy of being framed. A favorite of locals too.
Open daily. Spring Lake/Allenhurst. 732-974-0376
Point Pleasant Antique Emporium – With 100+ antique & collectible dealers, this 3-story mecca of ‘something for everyone' is open all seasons. They're celebrating a 25th anniversary! Pt. Pleasant Beach. 732-892-2222
Anchor and Palette – ‘Meet the Artist' receptions, shows, art classes, featuring Dick La Bonte and contemporary N.J. Artists. Bay Head. 732-892-7776 www.anchorandpalette.com
Point Pleasant Galleries – The Jersey Shore's premier auction house (2nd Sunday each month) with a website of dates, photos and auction details. Pt. Pleasant. 732-892-2217. www.pointpleasantgalleries.com
4. SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOURS & BIKING TRAILS
A. Visit the 11 Historic Inns of Spring Lake - The Historic Inns of Spring Lake are a distinguished collection of Victorian Bed & Breakfast Inns and Boutique Hotels (circa 1870-1888) in the radiantly refined seashore town of Spring Lake. The 11 properties are very photogenic, unequaled for personalized service and amenities, bringing romance, elegance and history to life. Their graceful architecture and manicured lawns whisper peacefulness while the saga of each one evokes mystery, sophistication, drama and a dazzling past. Each Innkeeper has an easy map to follow that depicts all of the streets of Greater Spring Lake, highlighting each historic inns' location. For the energetic adventurer, add a stroll or bike along the famous boardwalk that spans 2 miles of private unspoiled oceanfront views. It's the longest non-commercial boardwalk in New Jersey. A comprehensive list follows.
B. Edgar Felix Bicycle Path (est. 1971) Spanning from the beach town of Manasquan to the visitors center of Allaire State park, the Edgar Felix Bike Path provides a unique destination ride worthy of "racking up" the bikes. The distance of 5.4 miles and only 4 road crossings with light rural traffic, plus multiple "turn around" points makes this an ideal family friendly ride; adding to the enjoyment is the paved surface of a graded rail bed to make the pedaling easy. The Edgar Felix provides more than just a bike riding opportunity, it provides destinations; a lunch, snack or "antiquing" stop at the authentic Allenwood General Store, a visit to a restored bog iron village, a steam train ride, a road trip to the beach, tennis, play grounds, bridges & over-passes to explore and even an ice cream shop. All these man-made things along with nature's beauty you'll encounter along the trail. (This is a dedicated and uncrowded bike path, running east-west from downtown Manasquan. On relatively smooth asphalt, you'll pass playgrounds, go through woods, over and under highways, ending a half mile short of the main entrance to Allaire State Park. A moderately busy highway finishes the trip).
C. SEA GIRT LIGHTHOUSE - One of 20 Surviving Lighthouses in New Jersey - The Sea Girt Lighthouse, opened December 10, 1896, was the last live-in lighthouse built in the United States. Within steps from the famous Wreck Pond, bordering Spring Lake and Sea Girt, U.S. Congress authorized a beacon to bridge the 40-mile gap between the Barnegat Light and the Navasink Highlands. (It is estimated that 92 assorted vessels foundered along the NJ coast during the early 1890's). Upon completion, the light flashed red once every second and the keeper of the light had to wind the clock every 7.5 hours to keep the signal continually beaming. By 1915, electricity replaced the kerosene and by 1921, the first radio fog beacon was installed.
Today the Lighthouse is a national treasure, visited by photographers, artists and lighthouse lovers who appreciate America's landmarks. The museum is filled with rare artifacts from its coastal legacy as well as from the famed luxury liner Morro Castle that sank offshore in 1934. Open Sunday 2:00-4:00, except holidays. Admission free. (732)974-0514
5. READ A BOOK – Take Time for Yourself - 11 Spots to Curl Up
Chateau Inn & Suites – Settle into the front porch of the Villa with a panoramic view of Constitution Gazebo in the Park and let the ocean breezes relax.
SeaCrest by the Sea – Cuddle up in a deck chair on the Captain's Quarters balcony. Summertime is perfect for working on your tan, feeling the warm breezes; in winter, wrap yourself in a blanket and let the afternoon sun warm you up.
Sandpiper Inn – Sit on the wraparound 2nd story porch, settle into a comfy white wicker sofa with a view of the ocean OR choose a chaise lounge next to the heated indoor pool (a perfect winter spot to retreat)
Breakers Hotel – Select a favorite chair on the only legendary oceanfront verandah listening to the waves breaking on the Shore
Victoria House B&B – Curl up and relax in the parlor while enjoying a cup of specially blended tea and listen to musical greats
Ocean House B&B- Find peace and serenity in the intimate Library, a sanctuary of automobile memorabilia, Hollywood collectibles and elegant 1920's antique furnishings.
Villa Park Inn- Nestle into a wingback chair next to the fireplace and listen to the soft sounds of the player piano.
White Lilac Inn – Feel the glow of the fireplace in the parlor, legs stretched out on the ottoman in ‘Jack's Chair' (circa 1950's)
Beacon House B&B – Find peace in a rocking chair on the wraparound porch or stretch out on a chaise lounge by the tranquil pool in the summertime
Evergreen Inn – Settle into one of 3 recliners facing the rustic stone fireplace
Spring Lake Inn – Hide away in the Parlor on Andy's favorite comfy wingchair with your feet up on the ottoman
6. DINE AROUND - Top 11 Picks for Dinner & 11 Roadtrips for Lunch!
INDULGE IN FABULOUS DINNER FARE!
Island Palm Grill – Chef Dave Kruse worked with Bobby Flay at Mesa in NYC. His food is fun and distinctive, blending Latin & American cuisine with flair. It's a savvy spot at once cozy & casual. Stroll historic downtown before or after and it's a memorable ‘event'. Spring Lake. www.islandpalmgrill.com
Rod's Olde Irish Tavern – It's a scene ....a turn of the century old-fashioned saloon... one of the most popular destinations on the shore. Casual, lively and known for he-Man portions...Burgers & hand-cut steaks to salad & seafood. The biggest cocktails in the area with TV's everywhere. Sea Girt. www.rodstavern.com
Matisse – Cuisine by Matisse, View by Mother Nature! (Zagat "Top Notch"). Chef/Owner Tony Wall pairs the oceanfront view with stunning dishes that have dash. He's masterful at blending ethnic flavors with a profusion of the freshest seasonal ingredients. Belmar. www.matissecatering.com
Brennan's Steakhouse – There's something ‘Sinatra' about the style, menu and sophisticated piano music. Rivaling the BEST steakhouses anywhere, begin with crusted onion soup or shrimp scampi, then indulge in a classic NY strip or filet mignon, colossal pork chops or rack of lamb. Happy endings are NY cheesecake, even chocolate chip cookies & milk! Neptune City. 732-774-5040
Brandl- Zagat '07 says "...lavishly prepared food & fine service. Period."
Innovative American Cuisine where you can indulge in caviar, wild boar, exotically prepared dishes and adventure the globe with Johnson & Wales Chef/owner Chris Brandl. Belmar. www.brandlrestaurant.com
Black Trumpet – It's smart & casual with epicurean flair. Duets and Trios of handsomely presented dishes, homemade pastas and distinctive ingredients make choosing your dinner an adventure. Bring your favorite Wine Spectator Pick and take time to savor the moment. Spring Lake. www.theblacktrumpet.com
The Breakers – It is the landmark oceanfront restaurant that transports you back to the luxe days of vintage Spring Lake (circa 1880). The grand verandah and intimate cocktail lounge welcome you. A classic Italian/seafood menu matches the refined stylized ambience. www.breakershotel.com
Shipwreck Grille – From Sushi Tempura to creative seafood delicacies, flawlessly prepared and presented. Imagine a butter-poached lobster over fresh saffron fettuccine! Add a killer view of Brielle's Manasquan Marina. www.shipwreckgrill.com
Klein's – Savor Atlantic-fresh seafood or Sushi on the Inlet. Don't dress up. It's a staple for locals & visitors. Lobster rolls and steamers...yummy! Lunch & Dinner daily, with a seafood market when you yearn to cook yourself. Belmar. www.kleinsfish.com
Whispers – The Zagat's Top Elegant Pick ..tucked inside a 19th Century Spring Lake Victorian. It's on everyone's list as a culinary jewel, where food is a fine art. "Charming and a Mistake to Miss" (NY Times) Spring Lake. www.whispersrestaurant.com
Sunsets on the Shark River – It's all about the Shark River view and the food. Locals and visitors love this Key West Style/casual eatery. Seafood specialties from Conch Chowder in warm bread bowl & Key West Grouper encrusted in macadamia nuts with rum fruit salsa. Open daily all year. Neptune. www.sunsetsdining.com
DAYTRIPPING FOR FUN AND FOOD
Allenwood General Store – Take Time for Tradition! Eat a pork roll sandwich and shop for dusty antiques in this 150+ year old wooden floored general store. Where 4 county roads come together, you'll find area memorabilia and Philly cheesesteak. You're on the honor system. Tell them what you ate and then pay! Open daily til 2pm. Allenwood. 732-223-4747
Avon Pavilion – Gourmet breakfast & dinner, fresh seafood lunch served on the boardwalk for those who cherish the simple divine pleasure of the Shore. Enjoy the Pavilion's olde-fashioned ice cream parlor or the Boardwalk Grille without leaving your beach blanket. Closed for the winter. Avon. www.avonpavilion.com
Bistro Ole – Spanish & Portuguese menu with pizzazz. Proprietor Rico Rivera attends to the authenticity, ambience and fabulous food in the heart of Asbury Park. Tapas of Sweet Plaintains stuffed with Manchego Cheese, or Fresh Clams in Green Sauce make the trip worthwhile. ‘The' place for fun on the Jersey Shore circa 1930's was Asbury Park. Lunch Tues-Fri. www.bistroole.com
Harrigan's – "Enter a world of Irish hospitality where delicious food warms the heart and generous drinks lift the spirit." Sizzling Garlic Butter Sliced Steak Sandwich & Fish & Chips with Ale are renowned. A comfy bar with fun loving bartenders, owners Bill & Kasey are true restaurant pro's. Sea Girt. www.harriganspub.com
Hoffmann's Ice Cream Parlor – Life should always include a little ice cream, especially when you're on the Jersey Shore. The homemade flavors are endless, with combinations like caramel nut cluster and espresso mocha chunk. The ‘Bobsicle' is an ice cream sandwich on a stick dipped in Chocolate and rolled in crunch. Yum! Spring Lake Heights. www.hoffmansicecream.net
La Nonna Piancone's Cafe– Authentico Italian Family...An overwhelming and lively Ristorante where you'll need a serious appetite. Don't miss the irresistible mouth-watering Deli and Bakery. The ‘leaning tower of grilled eggplant and mozzarella' set the tone! This is a must visit before traveling home to buy the best gourmet Italian dishes ‘to go'. Bradley Beach. www.piancone.com
Pete & Elda's – Raves in for 50+ years, their thin-crust pizza and home-made Italian specialties are served daily for lunch, dinner and late-night Munchies until 1:15am. Who can resist a salami & provolone platter, fried ravioli or Stuffed jumbo shells! Neptune City. www.peteandeldas.com
Pier Village – It's truly a little European Village by the sea ...elegant yet casual...transporting you to St. Tropez, Roma, Mykonos, Tuscany...within steps of each other. The collection of restaurants are fabulous, the shopping sublime. Spend a memorable evening dining and strolling or an afternoon of pure luxe indulgence. Long Branch. www.piervillage.com
Red's Lobster Pot – The ‘Maine' thing on the Jersey Shore. Waiting for one of 12 cozy tables is fun at the riverfront raw bar. Lobsters of all sizes for patrons of all sizes! BYOB and let the sunset do the rest. This is for folks who love rustic reality! Point Pleasant Beach. www.redslobsterpot.com
Union Landing – Pre-Revolutionary history equals the view overlooking the Manasquan Inlet. Ideal for a sunny Sunday afternoon, Thai Spring Rolls and Crabmeat Wontons share votes with Grilled Clams and Chilled Cherrystones. Open daily for lunch & dinner. Brielle on the Manasquan River. www.unionlanding.com
The Windmill – The legendary hot dogs say it all. "Even if the summer is over, the taste of summer never ends" with ¼ pound griddle cooked dogs your way, cheese fries, burgers, wings, steak & chicken sandwiches and fun! The original Windmill is in Long Branch but you can enjoy the same magic in Belmar. www.windmillhotdogs.com
7. SPRING LAKE THEATRE - The Spring Lake Theatre Company is known far and wide for producing Broadway-quality musicals, comedies, and dramas, with professionally talented casts, lavish sets, costumes and show-stopping performances. The highlight of every Holiday season is the annual performance of the Christmas classic "Scrooge", with generations of families returning every year to experience its unique magic and spirit of giving. For over 80 years, this beautiful old building has been the town's Community Center, now a 350-seat Theatre, dance school and cultural hub; even if there isn't a staged performance, this handsome building is worth the visit. And surprise! It's also a Library.
(732) 449-4530 www.springlaketheatre.com
8. ENERGIZING IMAGINATION, BODY & SOUL
For a vacation ideally secluded for the spa-goer seeking rest, relaxation and rejuvenation, whether meeting kindred spirits or enjoying quality solo time, Day Spas can provide a space of calm where you fulfill your need for tranquility. Soothing massages, beautifying facials and rejuvenating body wraps are just a few of the heavenly healing breaks from your everyday routine.
Senseabilities – Rt. 35, Manasquan
A journey to healing and self-discovery. Add wellness services from Reiki, yoga, pilates & meditation to massage, spa and skin treatments
Shaves – Warren Avenue, Wall
The Gentleman's Barber Shop by master barbers in a luxurious setting. Shave, haircut, pedicure, manicure, foot massage, coloring and trims.
The Art of Skin Care – Third Avenue, Spring Lake
Exquisite European style skincare is the obsession here featuring Swiss and French product lines. Enter this airy light-filled vintage building and relax.
The Atlantic Club, Wall
The best Club on the Jersey Shore for the most exciting state-0f-the-art facility for health, wellness and recreation. In the Milagro Spa, you can indulge your senses in a full-service experience...facials, massage, hair, nails, beauty and workout.
Hand and Stone – Warren Avenue, Wall
Making the soothing wonder of ‘the massage' an affordable luxury. Hot stone, couples, relaxation, face and foot massage.
Spring Lake Therapeutic Massage – Jersey Avenue, Spring Lake
Custom blending Swedish deep-tissue muscular therapy with Reflexology, aromatherapy and sound therapy techniques.
9. CELEBRATE GOLF!
Golf as we know it today originated from a game played on the eastern coast of Scotland in the Kingdom of Fife during the 15th century. Players would hit a pebble around a natural course of sand dunes, rabbit runs and tracks using a stick or primitive club. Today, we invite you to enjoy golf the Jersey Shore way at one of our area's courses, celebrating each glorious round with family and friends.
Shark River Golf Course – Neptune Township, NJ 732-922-4141
18 Holes, Par 71
Was the old Asbury Park Country Club and during the 1940's-1950's home of the Ballantine Open. Open March – December, weather permitting.
Pebble Creek Golf Club – Colts Neck, NJ (732) 303-9090
18 Holes, Par 71
Intermediate Course, front 9 wooded, back 9 water views. Around the corner from Delicious Orchards and near the ‘Springsteen' spread
Open all year, tee times 1 week in advance
Spring Meadow Golf Course – Allaire, NJ (732) 449-0806
18 Holes, Par 71
Every hole is guarded by traps. Open all year.
Bel-Aire Golf Course - Wall Township, NJ (732) 449-6024
27 Holes (9 holes par 27) (18 holes par 60)
Executive course, great for beginners. Open all year.
Cruz Farm Golf Course – Farmingdale, NJ (732) 938-3378
18 Holes, Par 71.
Intermediate course, Easy to walk; Flat terrain with lots of water. Open all year.
10. FISHING, SURFING AND BOATING –
For a personalized 2-hour Wildlife Ecological Tour or Sunset Cruise, join Captain Dave to spot shorebirds, waterfowl and marine life in and around the Shark River. His pristine boat accommodates 6-10 guests by reservation. 732-546-1221. www.sharkrivertours.com
3rd Avenue Surf, owned by T.R. Deveney, has surfboards, wetsuits, swim fins and body boards, plus he's in the know about everything YOU need to know. WALL. www.3rdavesurf.com . 732-223-7433
Captain Howard Bogan at Bogan's Basin, Brielle – The Bogan Family has been offering one of the largest fleets of fishing boats for 75 years. Read the fishing reports of what's hot and who is catching at www.fishinnj.com 732-528-5014
Belmar has one of the premier marinas along the Atlantic coast with one of the most modern and largest party & charter boat fleet in New Jersey. Fish, Fish, Fish. Visit www.Belmar.com and click on the Seaport.
For fun and fabulous seafood, take a cruise and arrive at one of the area's waterfront restaurants aboard the www.manasquanwatertaxi.com . 732-528-9248
Replicas of Mississippi Riverboats, the River Belle and River Queen cruise the calm inland waterways of the Manasquan and Metedeconk Rivers, Point Pleasant Canal and Barnegat Bay. Mahogany decks and unparalleled views make these journeys perfect for sightseeing, dining or dancing the night away. www.riverboattour.com . 732-528-6620 for private or group events.
11. FALL IN LOVE and Do Nothing at the Beach!
The day belongs to you! Start with no agenda and let yourself live the moment. Relaxation is more than getting away from the day-to-day grind. It's more than the absence of stress. It is something positive and satisfying. Spring Lake is a destination that might help you become sensitive to the basic need for peace, self-awareness and thoughtful reflection. Don't feel guilty when you're not involved in accomplishing something or producing something. Let vacation time be an opportunity for diversion, restoring your energies and turning off your body clock. Relaxation, not achievement, is the main reason for doing nothing.