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A Shore Thing

by Deborah Boerner Ein

So summer has slipped away and you still haven’t had that vacation getaway you’ve been dreaming of these past two or three years? Might I suggest the staycation? Yes, southern New Jersey has some vacation gems that draw in tourists from all across the country, even around the globe. And they’re right here in our backyard.

In these late summer editions of SNJ Today, we’re exploring the Jersey Shore, our eastern shore, which is less than an hour’s drive from most locations in Cumberland County. Whether you’re into culinary adventures, hiking and birdwatching, gambling, or just looking for a place to hole up in a luxurious room, Jersey’s eastern shore awaits—from Atlantic City to Cape May.

Even pre-pandemic, this mainlander took advantage of post-season day trips and some overnights at the Jersey Shore, so I feel as though I’m letting you in on a little secret. The summer crowds are gone, the ocean is still warm, and we often have some hot-weather spells.

Early this summer, I had the good fortune of being invited to the newest Atlantic City casino, Ocean Casino Resort. Though the structure—with its good bones and ocean views—is a decade old, it has a storied past. Opening in 2012 as Revel, it was conceptually different from all the other casino properties along the beach and bay in that the emphasis was on dining experiences at the expense of the gaming. That concept didn’t hold water, because let’s face it, it’s a casino.

Brian Brennan, Oceans’ PR guru who came from top-ranked gaming property Borgata just prior to the pandemic, says “Why can’t it be both?” That is, a mecca to gamblers, diners, shoppers—families, too. He’s not wrong. A recent weekend stay by this babyboomer was reminiscent of an all-inclusive vacation we took to the islands when our kids were younger. (Shown in the photo above is The Skywalk, the resort’s outdoor space that could just as well be a photo from our vacation in the Caribbean!)

That weekend in June, my husband and I never left the Ocean Casino Resort property. We took a swim in the pool next to the Rum Shack, we dipped our toes in the ocean and walked along the incoming tide to the northside jetty, my husband jogged on the Boardwalk and exercised in the fitness center, we ate well at three of the casino restaurants—Dolce Mare, American Cut, and Amada.

We’re not the gambling type but we ran into some friends playing the slots.

Also, not the nightclubbers, but we did hop into Nola Lounge and enjoyed a few rock anthems by the band playing there. We peered into H2O, a pool/bar that draws a millennial crowd. It’s a good thing about a casino with all these amenities—you can choose what appeals to you and so can other members of your group.

Ever wonder why AC casinos are waterfront but hardly take advantage of ocean views? The world-famous Boardwalk fronting the Atlantic is what sets Atlantic City apart from other gambling towns and venues, and Ocean Casino Resort, for one, takes full advantage of that. As the tallest building in Atlantic City, it has more than 20 beachfront acres along the Boardwalk. From its restaurants and other spaces, unobstructed views of the ocean are glimpsed through floor-to-ceiling windows. Outdoors, there’s access to the Sky Garden, with landscaping, plenty of Adirondack chairs and rockers, picnic tables, and firepits, all overlooking the beachfront.

Mainlanders, September is the month we take back our Jersey Shore gems from the droves of summer tourists. Be sure to read Bill Sokolic’s cover story, “September at the Shore,” as well as Jane Galetto’s “Jersey’s Eastern Shore, Part 2” on page 8. There will be one more segment to each of these stories in next week’s issue, so be sure to report back then.

Happy September, South Jersey, happy autumn!