Ferris wheel,” says Emil R. Salvini, a
shore historian and author who summers in Cape May.
The Jersey Shore is its own sweet
universe, a world that thrives adjacent
to the beach but remains distinct. That’s
why no one will raise an eyebrow if you
go down the shore but never set foot on
On the Boardwalk
New Jersey’s coast stretches about
127 miles along the Atlantic, from Long
Branch and Asbury Park, immortalized
by Bruce Springsteen’s first album, to
its southernmost tip, Cape May. Linking
them is a string of sandy seaside towns
that burst with activity from Memorial
Day through Labor Day. The best-known
shore town is Atlantic City, which gave
the world the Miss America pageant,
the names of the Monopoly board properties and the boardwalk—the classic
The boardwalk is “a Jersey thing.
It’s really Jersey born and bred,” Salvini
says. Atlantic City’s Boardwalk—the city
spells it with a capital B—is, he says, “the
biggest, busiest and brightest wooden
walkway in the world.” It was born out of
necessity. When a new railroad line began shuttling Philadelphians 60 miles to
the Jersey Coast in the mid-1850s, beachgoers flocked to the shore to escape the
oppressive summer humidity. They tracked fine beach sand into the seaside
hotels, boarding houses and train cars.
Jersey businessmen and railroad owners
quickly realized that a raised promenade
along the beach would not only provide
amusement for the crowds but also keep
grit off their carpets and floors.
As train service expanded through the
turn of the century, the shore boardwalks
widened and lengthened to accommodate
the increasing flow of pleasure seekers.
Shore towns have a total of 31 miles of
boardwalk, Salvini says. Atlantic City’s
is the longest, with nearly five miles of
elevated wooden walkway fronting casinos, shops and glitzy retail piers. Ocean
Grove’s is the shortest—less than one
mile, punctuated by benches and planters.
Each community’s boardwalk is an
extension of its character. Ocean Grove,
founded in 1870 as a Methodist summer
retreat, clings proudly to its devout
roots. The town is “dry” (no alcohol
permitted) and its little boardwalk is
Lower expenses, not expectations.
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