Updated: Aug 6
If you're looking for Boardwalk rides or nightclubs, stay up "north" in Wildwood. But if your family just wants to hang at the beach and you want a wide range of motel options, then Wildwood Crest is your spot on The Wildwoods. Wildwood Crest offers the same wide, hard-packed beach as its neighbors and a bike path that connects to the Wildwood Boardwalk. The town has gained national recognition for its so-called Doo Wop architecture reflected in mid-century modern motels.
As befits its image as a family resort, Wildwood Crest is a dry town, where you can not purchase liquor at any store or buy a drink in a restaurant, although most restaurants are BYOB.
Do the Doo-Wop
Taking its name from music of the late 1950s and early ’60s that was popularized in the Wildwoods by performers such as Chubby Checker and Bobby Rydell, the Doo Wop Motel District in the Wildwoods celebrates the mid-century or space-age architectural style of that era.
With Vegas-like neon signs and giant plastic palm trees, these still- operating motels feature exotic names such as the Caribbean Motel, The Starlux and the Bel Air Motel with more than 50 in Wildwood Crest alone. Drive or walk along Ocean and Atlantic Avenues, especially at night with the neon lights, or stop at the Doo-Wop Drive-In at 6200 New Jersey Avenue for breakfast or lunch.
In all fairness, the Doo Wop experience requires a stop in Wildwood. Start with The Wildwoods welcome sign at the foot of the Route 47 bridge. Immediately east of the sign, the mid-century vibe is picked up by redesigned WaWa, McDonald's, TD Bank and Walgreens franchises. Continue to the beach to see the Starlux Mini Golf and Kohr Brothers ice cream stand. Four blocks north along Ocean Avenue across from the Wildwood Convention Center is a Neon Sign Garden with fully-restored and re-assembled neon signs from motels that have been demolished or remodeled.
Most motels and hotels at the Shore
Like Myrtle Beach, Wildwood Crest has a dense strip of motels and hotels along the beach blocks. With 69 motels and hotels with about 3000 rooms, there are more options for places to stay than anywhere at the Jersey Shore. While none of them are rated 4- or 5-star motels by hotels.com, there are a wide range of 3-star options from $100 to $300 a night.
As a comparison, Atlantic City has 15 major hotels -- gaming and non-gaming properties -- with more than with than 17,600 rooms.
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Two Mile Landing Restaurants
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Heather Road Fishing Pier
Like other piers on the Jersey Shore, beach expansion has created a situation where the fishing pier is only useful if you're "fishing" for sand crabs or flip flops. According to Mayor Don Cabera, they are hoping to see a new pier by 2023. He wrote, "We are awaiting the Army Corp to determine when the dune construction will start. When that happens, the current pier will be removed, the dune built, and the new pier extended and raised to go over the new dune."
Walk through the arch along busy bike path
In 1907, the developers of the town built the Wildwood Crest arch across Pacific Avenue so that trolley riders, automobile drivers and pedestrians heading south knew they were entering Wildwood Crest. The arch was 30 feet high and illuminated every evening but eventually was torn down.
In 2007, a replica (see above) was built three blocks east of the original over the bike path that separates the motels and condos from the dunes and the beach.
How Wildwood Crest got its name
The Bakers Brothers developed Wildwood and then looked south. Here's what they wrote about Wildwood Crest: "It was manifest destiny that the silent waste of long neglected beach at the southern end of the island should be made to serve the needs of the present. To place it in condition to attract home builders required great faith, experience and a great outlay of money."
One can assume that they choose the name Wildwood "Crest" because the area is at the crest or highest part of the island. The town was incorporated as a borough in 1910.
Note that the Wildwoods is a marketing short-cut to reference the communities on the island: North Wildwood, Wildwood, West Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, Diamond Beach, Two Mile Beach and the Coast Guard station at the southern tip. Also note that Wildwood Gables is not a separate town but a neighborhood of Wildwood Crest.
Tips for visiting Wildwood Crest
What's New: Nothing new to report
Access and Parking: The main access to the town is from the Garden State Parkway on Wildwood Boulevard/State Route 47. As it reaches the island, Wildwood Boulevard becomes Rio Grande Avenue. Make a right turn on Pacific Avenue, the main street of Wildwood Crest, and head south. Cresse Avenue is the dividing line between Wildwood and Wildwood Crest. There is also access to Wildwood Crest from Cape May and the south along Ocean Drive which turns into Pacific Avenue. Parking is free on most streets. From May 15 to September 15, meters near the ocean are enforced. You pay to park at kiosk or with the Park Mobile app.
Amenities: Restrooms are located at several well-maintained borough parks along the promenade. After the promenade ends at Rambler Road, there are no facilities further south.
Beaches: Free. Note that south of East Jefferson Avenue is the Diamond Beach section of Lower Township where beach badges are required.
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.