Unlikely as it may be, I suspect Pharrell Williams penned his summer hit, "Be Happy," after spending a summer vacation in Sea Isle City. While it might be easy to sulk in the shadow of famous neighbors such as Ocean City, Avalon and Cape May, the people of Sea Isle walk happily out in the light of the sun and share their enthusiasm with others.
In my entire walk of the 139 miles of the Jersey Shore coastline, I never encountered even one
good-humored ice cream person on the beach. In Sea Isle, you'll find plenty of smiling vendors selling ice cream and popsicles.
The lifeguards in Sea Isle City happily boast about their town rather than stare out to the ocean or at the phone their laps.
The town's water tower reminds you to smile. And...
Even the bike racks along the promenade put on a happy face.
(From the vantage point of the beachfront or boardwalk, this is a breezy overview of what you see, where to park and beach access, plus a bit or history and the latest happenings. See map below.)
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Promenade that was once a traditional Boardwalk
Since 1907, there's been a Boardwalk or promenade along the ocean in Sea Isle. Over time, storms ravaged Sea Isle, and a wooden Boardwalk like that in Atlantic City was rebuilt twice. While the Boardwalk was clearly a popular attraction, it never quite compared to the larger and more popular boardwalks in Atlantic City, Ocean City and Wildwood.
After the Great Storm of 1962 damaged the existing Boardwalk and much of the town, a more environmentally sound concrete promenade was constructed to replace the boardwalk with manufactured dunes from the Army Corps of Engineers protecting it from the ocean. There are still some stores and restaurants along the promenade making it feel more robust than small promenades such as in Avalon but less hectic than one of the six big Boardwalks. This one-and-a-half-mile promenade still attracts regular joggers and walkers.
Ironically for such a happy city, amusement parks have faltered. In 1999, the Fun City amusement park was closed, and the land sold for development. In 2009, Gillian's Funland of Ocean City opened a sister amusement park in Sea Isle City with the same name. That closed four years later thanks to Superstorm Sandy and a general lack of enthusiasm. The city has given up on the idea for now.
Want to hear the music of Motown, Journey, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, Elvis Presley, or Ozzy Osbourne performed live? Make a date for the Saturday Night Concert under the Stars featuring tribute bands performing pop and rock music of the past 50 years. From late June to August, townspeople converge in front of the bandshell at Excursion Park, which offers good acoustics and sightlines. Bring your beach chair, blanket, and picnic basket or pick up food and drink at nearby restaurants and stores (but no alcohol) and spread across the lawn. Because of the city’s booking policy, these bands don’t play anywhere else in town.
A bit of Sea Isle City history
No one claims naming rights to the town. But one can imagine that a smart developer or marketing person eager to attract Philadelphians to buy a home at the Shore hit upon the name, and Sea Isle City stuck.
The area was once know as Ludlam Island in recognition of Joseph Ludlam's purchase of the land in 1692. With rail service bringing thousands of vacationers from Philadelphia to Atlantic City in the mid 1880s, Charles Landis purchased Ludlam Island in 1880, hoping to turn it into a Venice-like attraction complete with canals and intricate waterways. That didn't happen, but the town quickly grew as a summer destination, especially with the arrival of the a dedicated rail line in 1882.
Tips for visiting Sea Isle City
What's New: Nothing new to report
Access and Parking: The main access to the town is from the Garden State Parkway on Sea Isle Boulevard. As it reaches the island, the Boulevard becomes John F. Kennedy Boulevard, which was extensively redeveloped starting in 2011 with a gateway to Fish Alley, a new boathouse on the marina, playground and basketball courts on a pavilion at the beach and a bandshell near by in Excursion Park.
Amenities: Bathrooms are located along the Boardwalk.
Beaches: Beach badges are required daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Full season badges are $25 for people 12 and older. Weekly badges cost $10. Daily badges cost $5. Badges can be purchased at the beach or via the Viply app.
This spring and summer, follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he walks the entire 139 miles of the Jersey Shore coastline from Sandy Hook to Island Beach State Park, Long Beach Island from Old Barney to the Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Refuge and from Brigantine to Cape May.
Next stop: Avalon at Jersey Shore Walk Mile post 104. See profiles of Strathmere, Corsons Inlet, Ocean City, Atlantic City and every beach and town along the Jersey Shore at www.jerseyshorewalk.com