Ocean Drive Road Trip With Your Dog – New Jersey – USA
This past August, we had the great luck of being invited again to visit our friends on the Jersey Shore. We couldn’t resist the lure of Brigantine and the quiet relaxation it promised. Since our trips tend to be very go-go-go, the idea of simply enjoying the sun and surf and taking many naps sounded just about right. The trip would allow us to enjoy a full 10 days of summer. The bipeds spend way too much time indoors with those “jobs” they have. So I added a loud “YES!” when I was asked if I wanted to go. Plus, I was looking forward to seeing my friends Steve, Suzanne, and Dino once more!
After a few days of doing as little as possible—walks on the beach in the morning, cuddles while the bipeds popped over to the local gym, healthy lunches, pool lounging … and repeat—we decided to break things up a bit. We planned a mini Ocean Drive road trip with your dog – a road trip hugging the scenic coastline from nearby Atlantic City all the way down to Cape May.
Ocean Drive, as it is known, is not one solid stretch under one name like, say, Route 56. Rather, Ocean Drive is a series of local roads connecting coastal towns on a string of barrier islands. The Cape May County Bridge Commission created the Drive in 1934 as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Drive links the islands with four main bridges and some smaller ones, all with wonderful views. Some of those bridges have tolls but the price was never more than $3.00, and often was no more than 75 cents.
As mentioned, we started in Atlantic City on … you guessed it … Ocean Drive. Easy right? And with our handy GPS in the car and on both of our smartphones, off we went. You will not really need GPS, to be honest. We like seeing where we are on our route, so we prefer using GPS, but the route is clearly marked and easy to navigate.
The first stretch of Ocean Drive heading out of Atlantic City is Route 152.
Named after a town by the same name on the Isle of White (UK), Ventnor City has some lovely homes to ogle and a well-kept beach. One section of the beach (closest to Atlantic City) is free; the rest of the beach requires you to have purchased tags. Sadly, the beach is not pet friendly. One thing we noticed as we drove past was that there did not seem to be any bathroom facilities along the beach.
What stood out as we drove by Margate City were the insanely large and beautiful homes. You get the sense that there is money there. Beach access requires tags. And of course, Margate has Lucy: a huge elephant house on the beach! Dogs are not allowed inside but, if you have a stealth bag or are happy to do a trade off, entrance is $8. The elephant house is the strangest thing you have ever seen!
We just cruised past Longport. We noticed that the more traditional Jersey Shore-looking homes started here.
Next, it was on to Routes 652 and 619!
If you ever wanted to kayak with your dog, this is your chance! Stop at Whale Creek Marina. You can explore the bay and marshlands, and not worry about whether your dog is allowed on the beach because your dog will be safely with you on your own little floating island. Bring water!
A bigger stop on the route, Ocean City has a lot to offer, including the old boardwalk and more. Sadly, very, very little of Ocean City is pet friendly. Ocean City did get a big “Yay!” from us when we discovered that they have a pet friendly beach. FINALLY! Longport Dog Beach is an off-leash dog beach, open year-round, where dogs of all sizes can play in the sand and water. The beach is located at the base of the Ocean Drive Bridge on the Longport side, just across from the fishing pier. Bring your own water and waste disposal items!
Sea Isle City
This was the most happenin’ stop along the way. We even found an organic coffee shop! There is 48th street with some shopping, restaurants, and such. Sadly, and predictably, the beach is not pet friendly.
This is where you can stop along the way for a bite to eat with your canine friend. There is ONE pet friendly restaurant. Kudos features a menu of edamame, sautéed crab cakes, and chicken parmesan. Dogs are welcome on the wrap-around front porch.
Home of the Wetlands Institute! The Institute is a nice introduction to the wetlands of New Jersey. We managed to negotiate our own onto the boardwalks to see the wildlife (birds, turtles, crabs, etc.) and boat tours. I’m not sure if it was my ESA certification or small size in a bag that clinched the deal. Call ahead and find out! Stone Harbor also has an almost pet friendly beach. I say “almost” because the hours are restricted: you can go for a sunset stroll but nothing else. Leashed dogs are permitted on the beaches from 7 to 9 p.m. from June 1 through September 30. Dogs and other animals are permitted at all times between October 1 and May 31.
Our drive then switched to Route 147.
This was our favorite stop by far. First, Wildwood has a pet friendly beach! The Poplar Avenue Beach became an official dog beach in June 2014. You can walk your dog over the boardwalk to get to the beach. It is a block wide with plenty of room for you and your pooch to stretch out, soak up the sun, and take a dip. The beach is open daily, year round, and is free. Dogs must be leashed. There is also a 5-mile bike path that is pet friendly. We didn’t have a chance to use the path but the folks in town were quick to tell us about it. What we enjoyed the most was that Wildwood is like a time warp. We really felt like we were on the set of a Mad Men episode. The only word I could use to describe the area is “retro.” I think Wildwood resisted renovations or new builds for so long that they ended up being cool again! It was a hoot to drive around and see the 50s, 60s, and 70s hotels and motels. It was unique.
Our drive finished with a slightly absurd changing of route names from 621, to a dip onto the 109, and then ending with the 622 into Cape May. I wrote an independent post for beautiful (if not pet friendly) Cape May and its glorious Victorian homes.
We enjoyed our drive. It’s beautiful, not overly long, and you get a great sense of the past. The road is smooth and well kept, and the tolls are not insanely expensive. It’s visually interesting enough to make it worth going the scenic route at least once. (You can take the highway that connects Atlantic City to Cape May in less than an hour as opposed to spending three hours on Ocean Drive.)
Our only disappointment was the regular lack of pet friendly beaches. It was August with nothing but mile upon mile upon mile of sandy beaches to be seen from our car. But there were so few places for us to stop, stretch our legs, and have a little walk or a quick swim on a beach. (Well, a swim for the bipeds. I don’t do water!) Beaches are, for the most part, only open to pets between September and May. But there are a few pet friendly beaches; they are just harder to find. That is why I found them for you, Dear Reader!
We saw several little hotels and B&Bs advertising their pet friendliness but if the actual town does not allow pets to join their humans on the beach or on patios to dine—the real reason to be on the Jersey Shore in the summer—then it sort of makes you wonder why bother?
For most places, with–pet–visitors are welcome during the off–season, but as you know, Dear Reader, I always feel ill at ease with those kinds of policies. They say to me that with–pet–travelers are second class citizens, good only to fill up the coffers during the off–season. Luckily, there is a small pet friendly beach where we were staying in Brigantine. Ocean City and Wildwood set themselves apart with their pet friendly beaches. I just hope others will see the light someday soon.
In review: This scenic 30+ mile road runs from Ocean City down through Strathmere, Sea Isle City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, and Wildwood, but it’s at its most panoramic and beautiful when the bridges leapfrog the inlets and beaches into Cape May. The toll roads will set you back a few dollars or so but it’ll be worth every penny. Do note, however, that if you want to include a walk on the beach with your dog, you will have to find the rare pet friendly beaches, get tags, or take your trip at any time of the year other than beach season.