Island Hopping

Cape May County is a treasure trove of thrills, games, specialty seafood, happy hour specials, traditional family-style restaurants, beach gear, breakfast favorites, and relaxing rituals. Yet with its six hundred and twenty square-mile span, this Jersey shore county can be quite daunting. With all this ground to cover, where should you even begin? “Blast” is here with this summer’s final edition of Complete Island Hopping, our map of suggestions for a great week of Cape May County fun.

Start the summer’s final weekend with a decades-old tradition. Breakfast of Uncle Bill’s never gets old. Head over to the oceanfront Cape May location and don’t be afraid to bring your pups.
Enjoy your meal on the pet-friendly outdoor patio, complete with pet bowls. For those whose pancakes dreams have been squashed by a gluten allergy, Uncle Bill’s is to the rescue. New this summer season, Uncle Bill’s Cape May and North Cape May feature exclusively gluten-free menus offering diner favorites such as Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Pancakes.

Spend the afternoon on the waves courtesy of Wildwood’s Pier 47 Marina. This family owned and operated business continues to fulfill its mission to offer convenient access to the fun of boating to Cape May County visitors of all sorts. Rent a pontoon boat or a fishing & crabbing skiff and prepare for a relaxing day of big catches. Pier 47 employees are highly qualified and provide all necessary instructions to new renters. Come completely empty handed. Bait, tackle, ice – they supply it all.

Forgot to pack a lunch? Post-boat, make a stop at Bella Vida Garden Café on Broadway in West Cape May. As unique as its name, (“Bella” meaning “beautiful” in Italian and “Vida” slang for “life” in Spanish), this quaint, family friendly restaurant is no longer Cape May’s best kept secret. Owners and operators, the local Monge family, draw from their personal travel experiences and impressions when creating Bella Vida’s innovative dishes. The “Bella” mouth watering half pound burgers, homemade soups, veggie delights, wraps and salads keep diners coming back for more. Signature sandwiches such as the Jeanine Panini – spinach, portabella, avocado, provolone, and veganaise on multigrain bread – perfectly marry the best of the healthy and flavorful food worlds.

For those on 7-Mile Island, make Labor Day weekend your most valiant shopping effort. Snatch up the last of the summer deals before the sun sets on those beach days. Spruce up your home compliments of Ocean Galleries of Stone Harbor and Avalon. They feature an ever-changing display of artwork that includes local artists’ watercolors, nationally-recognized artists’ originals, popular beach prints and high-end reproductions. Ocean Galleries also carries fine furniture and hand-made crafts from around the world.

Get a taste of 7-Mile seafood at Oceanside Seafood of Dune Drive. Oceanside’s fresh seafood market offers a huge variety of fresh catches including locally caught Fluke, Mahi-Mahi, Tilapia, Shrimp, Crab Claw, Lobster Tail, and more. Can’t find the seafood item you’re looking for? Give Oceanside 24 hours and the staff will personally order it for you. Decide to dine in? Thursdays feature all-you-can-eat fresh Snow Crab for only $25.95 to keep crustacean-lovers smiling. Or sample Oceanside’s famous crabcakes, voted “Best Crabcakes” by National Geographic Magazine in 2009.

As the sun begins to set, make your way onto the Wildwoods island for a night of hotspot hopping. Start at the Wharf on the waterway with a beer tower and always-lively entertainment. From there, make your way inland and expand your beer horizons at Goodnight Irene’s Brew Pub of Pacific Avenue. Irene’s is home to Wildwood’s largest craft beer selection and was voted “#1 Best Neighborhood Bar” and “#1 Best Beer Selection” on PHL 17’s Jersey Shore Hotlist. Enjoy the best rotating beer wall in South Jersey. If their wall does not offer what you crave, Goodnight Irene’s also offers an extensive bottle selection of crafts, domestics, and imports. Just consult a resident beer geek right behind the bar and they will point you in the right direction.

As nighttime sets in, there’s no need to ditch your beach mood. After playing in the sun all day, be sure to stop in the Oceanic’s Original Barefoot Bar and party into the evening with fun-filled entertainment and bar games. Happy Hour lasts from 4 to 7 p.m. and features ½ price appetizers and drink specials. Oceanic dares you to kick off your shoes … The party at the Barefoot Bar continues into the early 3 a.m. hour of the next morning.

For a nightclub vibe, set your sights on North Wildwood’s Flip Flopz Beach Bar & Grill. Cape May County crowds flock to Flip Flopz on summer nights as it has quickly become the hottest place for dancing with state of the art entertainment and the area’s most renowned DJ’s. Dance the night away – the party gets started at 9 p.m. Thursday through Monday during the summer season and on Friday and Saturday during offseason. North Wildwood’s own tropical paradise, Flip Flopz Beach Bar & Grill, does not disappoint.

After a late night, why not discover for yourself why Jimbo’s Family Restaurant has become many patrons’ new “Wildwood Summer Tradition” and was voted “Best Breakfast at the Shore 2011”. Jimbo’s proudly offers one of the largest selections of omelets and breakfast foods on the island. Favorites include Jimbo’s homemade Chipped Beef or Eggs Benedict with a generous side of fresh fruit. Spend the day unwinding on the beach. Then, relish your last summer days on the sand…

For your post-beach travel, ditch the car and ride in style on Wildwood’s favorite friendly trolley. Hop aboard Dolly the Trolley Thursday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. This free trolley service sponsored by the Wildwood Business Improvement District runs on Atlantic and Pacific Aves, and stops are located at various spots along the route which extends from 26th to Cresse Aves. Clearly marked “Dolly”, she runs North on Pacific and South on Atlantic.

Explore Downtown Wildwood’s shopping options with the oldest jewelry store of the County, M.S. Brown Jewelers. M.S. Brown has recently updated their extensive collection of Murano glass, 14 carat gold, sterling silver, and colored gemstone Chamilia charms. Make your statement, tell your story, and add some soul by adding uniquely “you” Chamilia charms to your Chamilia piece. Just a short walk north, Hankins’ Fudge offers a delightful shopping experience for those seeking a sweeter type of souvenir. Candy-lovers of the Jersey Shore are most struck by the shop’s unique delicacy – its chocolate-covered taffy. Voted the best by residents and tourists alike, this special taffy combines the best of both worlds with its savory dark chocolate coating and its salty taffy core.

Can’t be bothered to change out of your swimsuit? Sal’s Ristorante & Pizzeria is the answer to your prayers. Call in for take out and Sal’s will prepare your order of quality Italian cuisine for delivery or pick-up. A little bit of Brooklyn and a lot of Sicily blended to create this delightful Italian restaurant. Giuseppe and Cecilia have perfected the art of pizza, combining recipes learned in Palermo with those they’ve learned from family members and other respected restaurant owners. Sample the best slice on the island! Sal’s also features a dining room if you’d rather savor your Italian meal in their relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere.

Evening cocktails call for a stop at Blue Water Grille. Blue Water Grille of the Bolero Resort serves up great-value fun 7 days a week. Sample $3 house wine on Wine Down Wednesday, or celebrate the week’s end with $5 frozen drinks on Friday and a $3 Bud Light Platinum on Super Saturday. Prefer to be your own mixologist? Gleeson’s Discount Liquors of Swainton makes your job easy. The Gleeson family is also sure to carefully taste each prospective product they supply. Only after careful deliberation and selection do they proudly present their latest and greatest beers, wines, and liquors. When going for a desired taste combo, consult a knowledgeable Gleeson’s associate.

Before you conclude your summertime Jersey Shore jaunt, make sure to design your own dessert at a YoGo Factory near you. With Ocean City, Wildwood, and Rio Grande locations, YoGo leaves the creativity to you. YoGo offers a rotation of 52 non fat unique sweet and tart flavored yogurts and 50+ wet and dry toppings. For a unique twist, top your fro-yo with your favorite cereal – Lucky Charms Frosted Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and more.

By Megan Kummer