Many images come to mind when you ask people about Stone Harbor. There's the attractive downtown along 96th Street, handsome vacation homes and the famous Nuns' Beach. f
Having been at The Point once or twice in the past, I've only ventured along a few paths from 122nd Street to the observation deck which alone is worth a visit. Standing above the dunes, you see the ocean and inland waterway, dense seaside undergrowth, low grassy dunes, and wet, tidal marshlands. In the summer, some of the area is roped off for nesting grounds for Piping Plover, Common Tern, Least Tern, Black Skimmer and American Oystercatcher. On a busy summer day, I was surprised how few people who starting walking at the Point actually went all the way to the point of the Point. Do yourself a favor and walk as far as you can along the irregular coastline occasionally having to walk over tiny inlets created by the ocean currents.
Over the past 30 to 40 years, sand has accumulated on the southern tip creating a wide sandy area, especially at the low tide. There has been so much sand in fact that more than 50,000 cubic yards of it were moved from the southern tip/inlet area to construct elevated habitat areas for beach-nesting and migratory birds between the Channel and ocean.
This area is where the authorities want to dredge and then use that sand on the northern tip of the Stone Harbor. That work is supposed to start this fall and possbily in 2023.
When you reach the end, turn your back on North Wildwood and the busy Inlet. The view is exhilirating. (see above photo).
The seven-mile island that's more than seven miles.
From checking my pedometer as I walked the entire length of Stone Harbor Point, it's clear that the so-called Seven Mile Island is definitely longer than seven miles. The island extends at least one additional mile beyond where the road ends at 122th Street. Even Google is confused about the island's length as shown below. The dot is where I stood on terra firma at the end of my walk to the southern section of The Point.
It's been more than 100 years since the original developer, the Seven Mile Company, bought the island, so you can imagine that getting people to start calling it the Eight Mile Island won't happen soon.
Buy the #1 NJ Travel Guide:
Hoys 5&10s or Barrier Island Books
Stop by Hoys or Barrier Island Books & Arts for autographed copies of #1NJ Travel Guide, 100 Things to Do at the Jersey Shore. Explore fishing spots, outdoor adventures and more at the Shore.
Former Life-Saving Service Station now American Legion Hall
Before there was the United States Coast Guard, 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".
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 and many more along the nation's coastlines. By 1915, the Coast Guard was created and subsumed the Service.
In Stone Harbor, a station was built in 1855 but then replaced by new station in 1895. After many years, the station was closed in 1947 and sold to American Legion Post 331.
In addition to serving as a meeting place for legionnaires, it also houses a life-saving museum on its first floor and a military museum on its second floor. The building’s tower offers a panoramic view of the southern part of the island. Legion members provide free tours of the historic building five days a week during the summer.
From 1871 through 1914, the Life-Saving 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.”
A diminished Villa Maria at Nuns' Beach
In 1937, Villa Maria By the Sea Convent opened a summer retreat home for the sisters of Immaculate Heart of Mary Congregation at 111th Street. The huge building on a 4 and half acre lot faced a beautiful stretch of private beach. Over the years, surfers asked permission to use their beach for surfing. They agreed and the beach became known as "Nuns' Beach". To thank the nuns, surfed created an annual "Pray for Surf" tournament which has not been held recently.
As shown in the photographs, the main building has been demolished. A small retreat house is planned. Last summer, the town's Planning Board approved subdividing the lot into 13 private single-family homes. Homes overlooking the vacant lot sell for $3 to $6 million.
Well manicured town like the suburbs
Particularly near the southern end of the island, Second Avenue is hard to match as the nicest residential street at the Jersey Shore. Early postcards from the turn of the last century show the street with a manicured medial strip and barely a tree next the homes lining the street. After almost a hundred years, the greenery on the strip is a mature. Many of the homeowners have invested time and money so the street looks like an well established high-income suburban New York or Philadelphia neighborhood rather than a Shore town.
At the intersection of 86th Street and First Avenue s a quintessential American main street experience. A library, a volunteer firehouse, a post office, and a city building sit squarely on each corner. Heading away from the ocean along is Hoy’s 5 & 10, a movie theater, a hardware store, a barbershop, a liquor store, a market, art galleries, clothing and jewelry stores, and two mini-malls.
How Stone Harbor got its name
In 1891 a development company bought the land south of Avalon and named it Stoneharbor after a mariner named Captain Stone who sought harbor during a storm. There's no documentation of this Captain Stone so perhaps it's a legend made up by the development company.
In 1931, the name was changed to Stone Harbor.
Tips for visiting Stone Harbor
What's New: Nothing new to report
Access and Parking: The main access to the town is from the Garden State Parkway on Stone Harbor Boulevard, Cape May County Route 657. As it reaches the island, the Boulevard becomes 96th Street, the heart of Stone Harbor's quaint commercial district. From the northern end, the east-west streets start at 80th and run to 122nd Street where the road ends Stone Harbor Point begins. Street, the border with Stone Harbor. The numbering continues consecutively to 122nd Street in Stone Harbor. At 117th Street, there is a bridge across The Great Channel to North Wildwood. Parking is generally free on the island.
Amenities: None at the beach.
Beaches: Beach badges are required daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Full season badges are $30 for people 12 and older. Weekly badges cost $13. Daily badges cost $6. Badges can be purchased at the beach or via the Viply app. Avalon has reciprocity with Stone Harbor so no need to purchase more than one tag on the island.
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.