Walking south along the beach or the promenade from Bradley Beach, you're quickly aware you've arrived in Avon-by-the-Sea. The Boardwalk is elevated and makes a dog-leg toward the ocean so walkers and runners are faced with the Avon Pavilion -- a handsome structure built in 2014 after its predecessor was destroyed in Superstorm Sandy.
Welcome to Avon-by-the-Sea or Avon by the Sea or simply Avon. The Avon Pavilion houses the Avon Boutique and The Avon Pavilion restaurant which just opened for the season and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner daily through the end of the season. The restaurant doesn't take reservations, and, rain or shine, there is almost always a line.
Also with a view of the beach but on the west side of Ocean is The Columns which started serving libations in 1883 before Avon was officially a town. The restaurant, bar and night club are housed in a Colonial Revival mansion with a wrap-around porch. They opened for the season on May 1 and featured a full schedule of bands for the summer.
Boardwalk concerts are back
Starting right after the 4th of July, Avon hosts regular evening concerts Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until mid-August by the Pavilion at Woodland Avenue and the Boardwalk. Bring your own beach chair.
Small beach town
Avon's birth as a town in 1900 springs from the success of Ocean and Grove and Asbury Park which began attracting crowds in 1880s. The original developer Edward Batchelor had envisioned bringing his successful tobacco business from Philadelphia to the area, but it was soon apparent there was more money in using the land for residences and vacation homes.
Like its northern neighbors, Avon is small with an area of about four-tenths of a square mile. Along Ocean Avenue, the condos and apartments on the northern section give way to single-family homes. The town's southern border is clearly delineated by the Shark River Inlet and the operating drawbridge that connects Avon to Belmar. The main commercial activities are away from the beach on Main Street/Route 71.
Shark River Life-Saving Station
Before there was the United States Coast Guard (and even the town of Avon), there was the United States Life-Saving Service. In 1848, NJ Congressman William Newell advocated for a law to establish eight unmanned lifesaving stations from Sandy Hook to Long Beach Island to provide "surf boat, rockets, carronades and other necessary apparatus for the better preservation of life and property from shipwreck". A life saving station (really a boat house) would have been built on the Shark River, presumably on the Avon side.
By 1878, the volunteer life-saving role was assumed by a new federal agency, the Life-Saving Service, which refurbished, replaced or built 40-plus stations from Sandy Hook to Cape May including a new Shark River station in 187, moved close to the mouth of the river in then rebuilt in 1886-87. Eventually, the U.S. Coast Guard was created and subsumed the service. In the 1938, the USCG built a "combination station dwelling, boathouse, launchway and flag tower," and spent additional money for boats and equipment, bulkheading, dredging and fill. The U.S. Coast Guard station still has offices on the very busy Shark River in Avon.
From 1871 through 1914, the Service aided 28,121 vessels, and rescued or aided 178,741 persons. It's unofficial motto: “Remember, you have to go out, but nothing says you have to come back.”
And there's the name
It's not produced "AYY-von" like in the famous commercial "Avon calling" for the cosmetic company of the same name. It's pronounced "ave-on" with a "a" sound similar to when the doctor asks you to stick your tongue about and say "ahhhhhh."
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When looking at the Borough's website, the town is most referenced as Avon by the Sea without the hyphens. But a call to the town's clerks confirms that officially it's Avon-by-the-Sea. The best option -- just write Avon.
Tips for Visiting Avon-by-the-Sea
What's New: Boardwalk Summer Concerts are back. See above
Road Access & Parking: The main entry to Avon is along Route 71/Main Street. Parking is free but limited to street parking.
Amenities: There are restrooms along the promenade at Norwood and Lincoln Avenues.
Beaches: Beach badges are required weekends from May 29 through June 18 and then daily from June 19 to September 5 although the opening date may change. Daily beach badges for people 12 and older are $12 and can only be purchased at the beach from 9am to 5:15pm which may mean long lines. Plan ahead. Seasonal beach badges are $100 for people 19 and older, $55 for seniors 65 or older and $55 for people 12 to 18 years old.
Follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he recounts his 2021 walk of every beach along the 139 miles of the Jersey Shore coastline from Sandy Hook to Cape May. Read all updated stories at www.JerseyShoreWalk.com.