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. But the most impressive attraction for someone who has walked the entire beach of Stone Harbor is one that is least visited -- Stone Harbor Point, the conservation area south of the developed part of the island.
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 along 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.
When you reach the end, turn your back on North Wildwood and the busy Inlet. The view is exhilirating. (see above photo).
(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.)
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.
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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. This 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.
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: North Wildwood at Jersey Shore Walk Mile post 115. See profiles of Avalon, Strathmere, Corsons Inlet, Ocean City, Atlantic City and every beach and town along the Jersey Shore at www.jerseyshorewalk.com