This post is part of our Vacation Inspiration Series, sharing local families’ favorite places to get away, all within driving distance of Cumberland County.
Not having ties to any particular beach, my family explored a few before finding our favorite. Over the past several years we vacationed in Rehoboth, in Cape May, in the Outer Banks (pre-kids) and Ocean City, Maryland. Each summer we chose a different beach to visit. But when we spent a few days on Seven Mile Island in New Jersey it was clear: This was the beach we would come back to. And we have, for the past three years.
Seven Mile Island is a barrier island off the coast of New Jersey which is – you guessed it – seven miles long. At its widest the island is only a few blocks wide, with the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. There are two towns on the island – Avalon to the north and Stone Harbor to the south. The towns run right together and it doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to drive the length of the island, so it is super easy to enjoy both towns – which is exactly what we do!
Why do we love it so? I’ll tell you!
- It is a quiet, family-friendly island. Traffic is minimal and parking isn’t an issue, except maybe right at the center of Stone Harbor. There is a beach entrance at almost every block and street parking is pretty easy to find, although the island is narrow so you are rarely more than a 10 minute walk to the beach. Last summer we went in July, which is peak season, and the beaches were busy but not crowded.
- Although it is quiet, both towns have lovely downtown areas with shops, restaurants, and those beach essentials – mini golf and ice cream! Stone Harbor has a movie theater, which is great for a rainy day.
- Bikes! Lots of visitors bring bikes to cruise around town and the main road has a dedicated bike lane. Although I have a bike, I really want to rent one because the beach bikes are so.darn.adorable. I realize that is not a good reason to plunk down $50. But still. So cute.
- Great lifeguards. The lifeguards are admittedly a little micro-manage-y at times. They insist that anyone doing any more than wading in the water swim near the lifeguard stand, so they can keep a close watch, and will blow their whistles on anyone going out too deep. But as a mom with young kids, I find this very reassuring! (That said, I always keep a close eye on my kids when they are in the water.)
- The ocean life. My kids love digging for “sand fleas” in the surf. We’ve seen horseshoe crabs wash up on shore. And it never fails that we see a pod of dolphins swimming just off the coast. Maybe this is the same everywhere but my kids weren’t old enough to notice until we started staying in Avalon. Regardless, it’s a lot of fun. My boys also enjoy visiting the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, which runs some great programs throughout the week. On our most recent visit they got to help the staff catch fiddler crabs to feed the terrapins!
- Location. Seven Mile Island is just 3 1/2 hours from Carlisle (not factoring in beach traffic which inevitably makes any trip to the shore excruciating). It is also within 30 minutes of Wildwood (home to Morey’s Piers and water parks), Ocean City, and Cape May, making it easy to take a little “side trip” for the day.
We’ll continue to explore new destinations, but when my boys are all grown up, I hope they’ll have fond childhood memories of Seven Mile Island.
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