Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wildwood, NJ and Stone Harbor NJ- Our Last Day

Today was our last day here in the Wildwood area, and I think it turned out to be my favorite of our days here. As some of you may already know, I home school one of my children and so I wanted to do something fun and educational on this trip with them. We learned of the Wetlands Institute before we left located in Stone Harbor, NJ just a short 20 min. drive away. They teach wildlife conservation and have this great animals of the wetlands educational program there.
One of the fun things they have for kids is a turtle room that gives lots of fun facts about the Terrapin Turtles found on the island. They deliver the information in a fun and hands on way.
They also had a small aquarium filled with some of the smaller ocean creatures you might see around the island. The boys really enjoyed the little octopus they had there and the touch tank which contained hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, star fish, sea urchins, spider crabs and a flounder.
After the aquarium we took a self guided tour of the salt marsh outside the Institute. Throughout the year the tour is guided by a Dosen, an expert in the marshes, but we arrived one week to late for their last guided tour. We were however given a very detailed booklet with map and lots of helpful information to walk along the trail. Outside there were two paths you could choose to take, one was a straight dry trail, that was covered with a layer of crushed sea shells.
Or for a more submerged experience, step off the beaten path and walk a trail covered with bent reads at the waters edge. Be warned this route is muddy, but as long as you carefully plan each step, I was able to navigate with out much damage to my new sneakers. Luckily the high and dry road is just a step or two to your left so you can jump back on it at any time.
At the end of the tour we found a boardwalk that extended out over the marsh and gave you an opportunity to see dozens of small fiddler crabs.
At the very end of the trail the kids stopped to dip their feet in the cool marsh.
On the way out we stopped to enjoy their butterfly gardens.
I am so glad that we went the the Wetlands Institute, not just because it was a fun day trip, but because if we hadn't we would never have discovered Stone Harbor. I have to say I have just fallen in love with this island. Stone Harbor is just the next island over you can get to it by getting onto New Jersey Ave. towards North Wildwood. And then following the signs to Stone Harbor, there is a small toll of $1.50 one way to use one of the 2 bridges you will cross to island hop from North Wildwood to Stone Harbor.
I've discovered I love this island better than Wildwood and when we come back again, I'm going to try and stay here. They have their own beach that stretches the island, which I believe is about 7 miles long from Stone Harbor to Avalon. It is nice little beach that has a very exclusive feel to it, it was not crowded at all.
The island is filled with these beautiful homes, all ranging from charming cottages to large grand beach houses. They are all beautiful and make you feel like your on Martha's Vineyard or some other exclusive island. We picked up a few real estate magazines at a Wawa and discovered that probably all of the ones we liked the best were at least $1M., but fortunately a great deal of them are rented out so you don't have to be a millionaire to live like one for a week.
At the center of Stone Harbor is their shopping district. The streets are lined with all kinds of shops, and the best part is their not all those high end over priced designer shops either. As a matter of fact all the shops I noticed I had never heard of before, they were all new to me and that made them all the better. It made the whole place feel like a small intimate town. While walking around the square I counted 3 ice cream parlors, four Christmas shops, two of which also had handmade or vintage looking Halloween items. There were 3 miniature golf courses on the roof tops of some of the other shops.

They had small coffee shops, bookstore, a 5 & 10cent toy store, which I don't know why they call it that, there weren't any 5 or 10 cent items in there, let alone toys, it was actually filled with an assortment of home decor and other wonderful beachy items as well. There were lots of unique boutiques and jewelry stores, even a cute little pet shop filled with wonderful little things you could buy for your pet.

I can't even cover all the types of little shops they had, I am so impressed with this place it's very family friendly. They were even starting to decorate things for fall, the street lamps had corn husks and hay bails around them. Little mums and pumpkins lined the streets. Due to the amount of holiday themed stores, I imagine their over compensating for it, because it must be kind of hard to experience all the things you associate with fall, thanksgiving, or Christmas on an island. I live in PA so fall for us is all about, visiting an orchard, picking fresh apples and pumpkins to bake into apple and pumpkin pies, choosing a carving pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern, hay rides and corn maizes. I imagine living in a coastal region makes allot of these things impossible to come by, it's just not the same feeling. But when it comes to summer living here I bet you just can't beat it. 

We drove the length of the island after visiting the beach up to Avalon were we found our hands down favorite, and the largest of all the homes we saw, this beauty. I imagine this is way above $1M. This one was so beautiful, it reminds me of a castle. Ah, from now on when ever I picture my dream home, it will look just like this.
After our champagne wishes and caviar dreams, we found a great pirate themed miniature golf place in Avalon and had to stop. My kids love pirates and so do I, we had been looking for a good miniature golf spot all week. One that didn't look like it was just slapped up for the tourists. This was very nice, they really put allot of detail into the course, and they played great caribbean themed music, I felt like I was in Florida. This course was so much fun, they used every bit of space on the lot they had. 

Several of the courses were inside a grotto, where there was a pirate skeleton locked behind bars guarding his treasure.

Korbin really enjoyed all the water around the courses. He loves getting wet.

The courses then continue up on top of the caves for a really nice view.
We made our way across a rickety pirate bridge..

And down to the sunken pirate ship that was the last course.
We even got a chance to try and win a free game for next time. My husband won the free game, which we will be saving till we come back next time. Today, by the way, was my husband's birthday, so I guess it was birthday luck.

We snapped some sunset pictures of the wetlands, as we island hopped back to our condo in Wildwood. This place is so beautiful I can't wait to come back.

Thanks for stopping by. Nicole

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