One Square Mile Hit by Sandy - My Family Travels

Sandy has severely damaged the Northeast. Here is my love story for a favorite place on the Jersey Shore, Ocean Grove. I’ll be back to support this glorious place this summer, help by putting some money into the beach’s fragile economy, hoping the recovery is short.

Vacations come in all shapes and sizes. There’s a once in a lifetime trip to your homeland;  an overnight stay out of town; or maybe one of those winter journeys that leaves you more exhausted and needing a vacation when you come back.  But my favorite is the simple summer week at the beach.  It’s that time for chilling, making no real plans other than where to dine.  It’s easy. It’s just being with family and friends; having conversations that last longer than a text message; and how important is it to get away from all of the electronic devices that now conquer our lives? We need a relaxing time away from the schedules of our lives.

  A beach vacation needs only one rule to enjoy.  Keep is simple. I recommend a local place, one within a short drive. The Jersey shore. No, not the TV show, the nine hundred mile stretch of land along the East coast that is diverse yet exquisite; a little piece of heaven on earth.

  My choice is Ocean Grove.  It’s vintage, simple. It’s small and cozy. There is strolling up and down the Boardwalk.  I love the feeling when riding the waves, of course I prefer body-surfing as opposed to boogie boards. We weren’t rich growing up and I have always looked at that as a blessing. I appreciate the simple joys.  After riding the waves with the family, trying to see who goes farther or just laughing when the waves win, as they will surely do to one and all, you are exhausted and ready to lie down and gather a few rays.  Ah, beach life.

  To gain access to the beach you need to have beach tags. There are easy to purchase and come in different flavors.  Daily, Weekly and Seasonal, It’s the price you pay to have the beaches looking so beautiful. Badges can be purchased at the Beach Office located on the boardwalk at the end of Embury Avenue immediately across from the Fishing pier, 732 988 5533.

  Ocean Grove is a town my Aunt Stella enjoyed.  She loved artsy stuff, knick knacks and going for a cup of tea. I remember years ago that the town didn’t allow cars to be driven on Sunday. How refreshing. Its history stems from religious leaders gathering at the turn of the century, probably why it has that vintage feel. One square mile of natural beauty, tree-lined streets filled with victorian homes. Main Street has that USA feel. American flags are proudly displayed and signs that mention God without fear of political correctness.

  When making plans with the family, Ocean Grove has the advantage of easily being reached by train from NYC, so if you’re there for a week, other family members can come and go if their schedule is different. Penn Station in New York City is under 2 hrs. Tickets for the train are simple, even having the ability to purchase on the train. For more info, has the latest schedules, fares and ticket options, but the price is low.

Packing should be light; besides your bathing suits, include a Frisbee, a football or baseball gloves for a little catch, even if it’s just in the street in front of your rental. Grab some good books that you have been meaning to read, now is the chance. Summer dinner shorts, and comfortable shoes, there is a lot of walking. “Only minutes from the beach” is always longer than you think. But that’s okay because the extra exercise helps to ease the guilt from a nice dinner. This is the vacation that you will not wear everything you’ve packed; however, an extra bathing suit is a must, as is a good umbrella or two. 

I try to choose a place with a porch.  It’s a big part of summer.  Going into town in the morning and grabbing all of the local papers to enjoy with coffee on my porch, {well it’s mine, at least for this week}.  In the evening, it’s nice to enjoy a cocktail in the breezy evening while deciding where to dine. 

One stop to enjoy on this summer vacation is the outdoor café.  My favorite is Yvonne's Café, 54 Main Avenue, 732-775-9004. Good food and nice people, even if the crowds swell. Dining is available indoors and outside on the sidewalk.  People stroll in-between the tables. I just love the feeling.  Leisurely enjoying the summer.  Maybe sharing a glass of wine, but Ocean Grove is a dry town, so you must bring your own. 

Dinner is over and a stroll to the beach at night is another wonderful idea. Nighttime brings a different look to the beach than the day.  Less populated with swimmers, there are still a few adventurers wandering in the sand. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a full moon over the ocean.  But the sounds of the waves cascading up and down the shore bring that peaceful feeling. 

After your post dinner walk, it’s time for a little treat.  Ice cream with the local folk.  Nagles Apothecary Café, 43 Main Avenue, 732-776-9797 is my choice.  I heard there is another place, but this is the one I went to first and I see no reason to keep looking. There is a line most nights on the side of the corner former pharmacy. I think that is one of the reasons I like the place. It is charming to listen to other folks discuss their selection choice.  “I’m having the Double Dutch chocolate with a waffle cone and sprinkles.”  The ice cream is delicious and the atmosphere is perfect. A nice way to cap off a sunny, summer day.

  If you’re looking for Day two, it’s not here because it’s the same as day one, only maybe a different dining choice.  Another place that’s unique is Pizza at The Pizza Shoppe, 60 1/2 Main Avenue, 732-776-5466. Individual pizzas, and out-door seating is also available. It’s also has the best foccacia bread. Besides, can you resist the 60 and ½ address? 

  There is a place near Ocean Grove that is a great surprise, it's Clancy’s Tavern, 35 S. Main St, Neptune, 732 988-4500. An Irish joint that is just outside Ocean Grove in West Grove Square. It’s a family restaurant with decent inexpensive food and drinks.  You can sit at the bar or at a booth. The food here is done well and I must tell you that they do some great dishes; I would even recommend the lobster.  My daughter was looking forward to a lobster, saw it on the menu and I had some doubts since it has the sandwiches and burger feel, but all of their dishes are really good, and there are daily specials on the menu.  

  There are many towns only a short drive away. Here’s a tip if you want a real home-cooked meal. Head over to Bradley Beach and check out Ferraro’s Famous, 400 Main Street, Bradley Beach, 07720, 732 775 1117. Big Italian dishes that can feed more than one person. The sauce is delicious and the garlic knots are addicting. You can sit outside and the friendly waitress will take good care of you.  Very reasonable and there will be leftovers. Go when you’re hungry.

  In Belmar, also not too far away, is Klein’s Fish Market. 708 River Road, Belmar, NJ 07719 732-681-1177 It’s on the waterfront where Snake River feeds into the Atlantic. It is picturesque; the suspension bridges for the both cars and Amtrak trains are raised and lowered as the boats navigate thru. It is a beautiful view. There’s a long line and wait, the food is a bit pricey, but you can head to the Tiki bar. The view is the same. 

So that’s my simple beach vacation in my favorite spot, Ocean Grove. It’s always fun to take a drive to another section of the Shore; each town has a little different feel. Go and find out which one is your favorite. 

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