The legendary beach towns that comprise “The Wildwoods” in New Jersey are Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and North Wildwood. Each of these towns is adjacent and situated in the southernmost area of the shore, just north of Cape May. This vibrant area’s fun ambiance and carefree summer vacations are forever captured in the catchy tune “Wildwood Days,” made famous by pop singer Bobby Rydell in 1963. This spirit lives on in the vibe of the town’s architecture as well, which is referred to as “Doo Wop” design and featured in many of the area’s hotels and motels. Although these towns come alive in summer, it’s still a great place to visit year-round.
Relax on the Beaches
Wildwood beaches are known as the widest beaches in the state of New Jersey, as they can be nearly 500 yards from the boardwalk to the ocean at certain points. Although it can be a bit of a hike across the hot sand to reach the ocean, the good news is that you will have plenty of space to call your own on these beaches—and you can sit far, far away from your nearest neighbors. Most beaches have installed a flat, non-slip surface atop the sand that helps beachgoers roll wagons and strollers closer to the shoreline. The busier beaches have buggies that transport those who may need assistance. There are lifeguards stationed at every beach.
Walk on the Boardwalk
The famous Wildwood Boardwalk is 2.5 miles long and is always bustling day and night, stretching about 38 blocks—from 16th Avenue in North Wildwood to Cresses Boulevard in Wildwood Crest. In fact, it is the hub of all beachfront activities in this town. A few favorite sites on the boardwalk include Morey’s Piers that feature an abundance of amusement park rides, carnival games, arcades, and snack stands. There’re also several waterparks and many small shops selling beach gear, casual clothing, saltwater taffy, and more. You’ll also find plenty of cafes and restaurants on the boardwalk, some with ocean views, such as The Seaport Pier restaurant and bar that serves up great burgers, seafood, and casual fare overlooking the Atlantic.
Sip Beer at a Local Brewery
Wildwood’s award-winning brewery is Mudhen, a popular, expansive brewery and restaurant that’s always buzzing. This indoor-outdoor establishment offers great food, live entertainment, and of course, a diverse menu featuring a wide variety of house-brewed beer. A few favorites are the 1883 IPA, the Mudhen Pils, and Rising Tides pale ale. Aficionados love sipping on flights—and the menu changes often. Most beers are available for take-away (in crowlers and growlers). Check their website and see what’s on tap before you go!
Visit the Doo-Wop Museum
A step back in time, the Doo Wop Preservation League is a whimsical destination is a must-visit spot that showcases the style, design, and music of an era from days gone by. Many of Wildwood’s distinctive motels were built in the 1950s and 1960s and reflect the recognizable mid-century modern style known as “doo-wop.” The museum is overflowing with a wide variety of items that highlight this “space-age” style of architecture, as well as home furnishings, kitchen gadgets, books, magazines, record players (and albums), as well as other memorabilia. Take a self-guided tour, and be sure to chat with the locals here—and you’re guaranteed to learn some fascinating stories from years ago.
Admire Classic Architecture
Design enthusiasts enjoy the Wildwood Shore Resort Historic District here, also known as the “Doo Wop” Motel District. It features over 300 motels—all with cool design and brightly-colored neon signs—constructed over a half-century ago. Although many of these buildings were demolished over the years, there are still a number of mod hotels (and motels) here currently on the National Register of Historic Places. Be sure to visit (or stay at) the hip and groovy Caribbean Motel, with its one-of-a-kind curved ramp to the second floor and the swimming pool surrounded by palm trees; it’s an exceptional recently-restored example of this fantastic architecture.
Watch for Dolphins
If you’re looking for a memorable adventure on the water, be sure to take a whale and dolphin-spotting cruise while you’re visiting the Wildwoods. The boats offer both outdoor and shady seating, and you’ll learn a great deal of information and entertaining anecdotes along the way. If you’re an ocean-lover, you will be thrilled with this breezy cruise along the shoreline—in addition to seeing dolphins (and possibly whales), you will get a unique view of the Wildwood beaches from the ocean. Snacks and beverages are provided.
Enjoy Wildwood’s Dining Scene
If you’re ready to explore the dining scene in The Wildwoods, be sure to bring your appetite! This area boasts a wide array of great restaurants and cafes, many of which offer outdoor patios in the warmer months. You will also find a variety of cuisine here, and most places offer fantastic food—with a laid-back, casual vibe. A few favorites are: the Jellyfish café, the Surfing Pig, Maui’s Dog House, The Seaport Pier, and Beach Creek Oyster Bar and Grille.
Still have room for dessert? A long time family sweet spot is Duffers Restaurant and Ice Cream parlor, known for their homemade ice cream and massive sundaes.
Take a Selfie by the Wildwood Sign
You can’t visit the Wildwoods without stopping by the giant “The Wildwoods” sign situated on the boardwalk in the center of the action. The oversized letters are perfect for selfies and family photos, and provide the perfect backdrop for locals and visitors’ cherished photos. Everyone loves posing in front of this legendary spot—and it’s busy, so just wait your turn. Then perch atop one of the many scattered beachball structures and pick your favorite angle. Photo tip: The sun rises in the east (over the ocean), so the most ideal lighting is later in the day, as the sun is setting and producing that golden glow.
Experienced wildlife watchers and novices love “Birding by Boat on the Osprey,” a memorable birdwatching experience on the calm waters of the area’s scenic bays. A professional guide navigates this unique birdwatching tour around New Jersey’s southernmost salt marsh, Cape Island Creek Preserve, and the Intracoastal waterways. The boat is small but shaded and comfortable. You’ll enjoy this unique and surprisingly exciting excursion that invites you to spot a variety of common and rare sea birds—beyond the usual laughing gulls and piping plovers. Bring your camera and binoculars (or borrow a pair onboard)!
Visit the Wetlands Institute
Although not technically in Wildwood, the New Jersey Wetlands Institute is a fun and fascinating place to visit, especially on a rainy day when you can’t go to the beach. This under-the-radar yet impressive facility has various indoor and outdoor spaces. Professional environmentalists and marine biologists provide a fascinating insight into the endangered species that live in this stunning environment. You can stroll along the newly-refurbished walkways above the marshlands, participate in an educational program, and visit the indoor aquarium area and take a peek at some marine life (including turtles and horseshoe crabs) close up and most importantly, learn about the local area and animal conservation.