Many people vacation at the Jersey Shore -- which to outsiders, sounds like a raucous (rather trashy) party destination thanks to MTV's hit series featuring the state's new mascots, Snookie and The Situation. However, some beach town gems are dotted along the coast and clustered in the small Garden State. The barrier islands are the best beaches for quick vacations to the coast. During the summer, the quiet, quaint little blocks of Avalon, N.J. become a bustle of summertime fun -- bikers, lemonade stands, and kids being carted to the beach in wagons decorate the sidewalk. At night, you can walk through town where the trees that line the main drag are adorned with twinkling Christmas lights. Here are a few of the reasons that Avalon, and the neighboring beach town of Stone Harbor (which together are dubbed the Seven Mile Island) are my favorite spots on the Jersey Shore.
1. The various prime spots to watch the sunset and sunrise.
Avalon and Stone Harbor offer great spots to watch the sunset. With public docks virtually on every other block on Ocean Drive, there is never a shortage of great bay views. However, the pinnacle sunset and sunrise spots are at opposite ends of the island. You can catch the sunset and sunrise at The Point in Stone Harbor or you can wake up at 6 a.m. and head to the jetty bordering Townsend's Inlet for a gorgeous, unobstructed sunrise. My personal favorite spot for the sunrise is under the 30th Street pier. As for the sunset, I head to the Avalon Yacht Club to watch the sun dip below the horizon behind a sandbar plopped in the middle of the bay.
2. The boardwalk, which is just as quiet as the rest of the town.
3. The small-town vibe.market for some Jersey tomatoes or heading to Summer Breeze to get your nails done, you will most likely run into someone you know.
4. The jetty.
The rocky path that lines the inlet is conducive to pensive walks where you can just take in the expansive ocean view from the tiny little island. It's always a fun adventure to head to Black Sand Beach (which unfortunately does not have black sand) tucked into one of the crevices of the jetty near the bridge for an afternoon picnic at low tide.
5. The ice cream.Shorebreak, Avalon Freeze never lets you down. Other popular spots include the Buccaneer, where you can get a 12-scoop Shipwreck Sundae served in a pirate hat (and get your picture pinned to a bulletin board after completing the nauseating challenge); Sundae Best, where you can get homemade ice cream; and Springer's, another spot for delicious, homemade, hand-scooped ice cream.
6. The acai bowls -- which can be found at just about every breakfast spot on the island.
7. The persevering surf culture.
It seems like the waves barely ever get bigger than about knee-high swells. However, no matter how flat the ocean is, you're sure to see surfers bobbing in the ripples. The Seven Mile Island even hosts a few surf contests, the most popular of those being the Brendan Borek Surf Memorial and the Nun's Beach Surf Contest! Although Brendan's fund hosted its final competition in memory of Brendan Borek this past summer, the legacy of the charitable event that embodied the spirit of summer -- sandy toes and salty hair -- will live on. And yes, the Nun's Beach Surf Contest is actually hosted by nuns. You can also find an abundance of local surf shops when you're walking along Dune Drive or 96th Street. My favorite store is Avalon Surf Shop on 22nd and Dune.
8. Taylor Swift used to spend her summers on the island.
Taylor Swift's grandparent's own a home in Stone Harbor. Some of Taylor's primordial performances even took place on the island at Coffee Talk.
9. The isolation.
With a small beach town comes a surreal sense of separation from the outside world. The Seven Mile Island is nearly devoid of chains, and to get to a mainstream grocery store you need to head inland. With this comes many perks however. No shirts and no shoes does not lead to no service -- Avalon storeowners embrace the barefoot lifestyle. As gross as it may seem, I have never been questioned for walking into a store or restaurant barefoot, with sand still stuck between my toes.
11. The perfect mix of preppy and artsy.
At first glance, the island appears to be overwhelmingly preppy. You can definitely get your preppy fix at one of the two Yacht Clubs on the island, or at some of the boutiques (Preppy Palm, Skirt, etc.). However, the Seven mile island boasts many artsy events and stores, too. To get unique handmade clothing, jewelry, and art, you can go to Summer Studio. To peruse artwork, you can hit up some of the various galleries sprinkled around the town. On a rainy day, you can head to Just Bead It to make yourself some jewels. In addition, many of the restaurants and bars offer live music. It's always nice to catch Long Miles at the Windrift while hearing the waves echo with applaud.
12. The feeling you get when you enter the island -- salt air wafting through your windows as you drive over the 30th Street bridge.
It's an inexplicable moment that just smells like summer.