First Person Experience: All Time Best Vacation on the Jersey Shore

Back in the 1960s, each August, our family vacationed in Avalon, New Jersey. We stayed at a little place on 7th Street called the Sea Jay. This white washed apartment complex featured ocean front efficiencies and 1 bedroom units with balconies where we put all of our treasures from a day at the beach. Buckets of sand and saltwater held precious items like hermit crabs, clams and more. When we weren’t beachcombing the rocks in front of the complex, the Sea Jay also offered a spirited game of shuffleboard. As kids, the competition was fierce as each one of us struggled to protect our position on the court.

The Sea Jay’s location on the tip of Avalon resulted from a hurricane that had taken the first six blocks of Avalon with it. The Sea Jay property was one of the few survivors of this storm and held the line for many years as it stood watch over the bay that separated Avalon from its neighbor Sea Isle City. The Sea Jay beach was fortified with these huge water beaten rocks that were fun to climb on or just explore. The water that sprayed on the rocks all day long formed pools in the crags just waiting for us to discover shells or driftwood that we would carry back as trophies of our vacation in this little beach town. Sea gulls often stood nearby during these adventures as if waiting for a handout while sandpipers played their usual games with the incoming tide.

Avalon in those days was equal parts surf, sand, and charm. It was a place where families came to get away from the city and connect with the shoreline. No, there weren’t any amusement parks or boardwalks to speak of. You’d have to travel to Atlantic City, Ocean City or Wildwood for that. No, indeed, it was quieter but downright perfect. Mornings were devoted to fishing off the docks or selecting the very best donuts and pastries at Kohler’s Bakery in the small, downtown area. Days were spent at the beach, building sand castles or body surfing the huge waves that would crash on the pristine shore. Walks on the beach were magical and we found everything you can imagine, from snapping turtles, hermit crabs and clams to conch shells and jellyfish washed ashore by the unrelenting tide. The beaches themselves were pristine beauties held together by mysterious dunes that held their own secrets. Even today, Avalon is noted for its lovely beaches and family friendly atmosphere.

Evenings in those days were spent with dear friends of my parents whose war stories and sense of mischief kept us all on our toes and delightfully engaged. Even the kids wouldn’t miss a barbecue or gathering on 6212 Dune Drive. We loved hanging out back with the grownups or marveling at dozens of conch shells that lined the pull in driveway. If you picked one up and placed it against your ear, you could actually hear the ocean’s roar. (It’s true. Check it out.)

I enjoyed peeking into the bedrooms of the teenage daughters who held court on Dune Drive each summer. On any weekend night, we would find them getting ready for an evening out with friends. These girls were the stereotypical big haired, beach gals, hair all rolled up around orange juice cans, talking the night away about surf, sand, music and their latest boyfriends. Even as the Beach Boys sang on the radio about California Girls, we knew that nobody could hold a candle to the Avalon scene or these blond haired beauties whose smarts and personalities shined bright in those days.

Over the years, lots of big names and celebrities have called Avalon, New Jersey their home-away-from-home, including Tonight Show announcer Ed McMahon, Penn State coaching legend Joe Paterno and Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback and, later, NFL announcer Ron Jaworski. But, for the rest of us, Avalon, New Jersey was and still is an enchanting and unforgettable vacation destination, reachable by a small bridge connecting the mainland with a 7-mile island. Avalon itself juts out a mile further from the rest of the quaint little shore towns, making this Jersey Shore jewel that much “Cooler by a Mile” in my book.


Borough of Avalon, New Jersey

Avalon Chamber of Commerce

Avalon History Center

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