Point Pleasant, New Jersey
A "Pleasant" Getaway at the Jersey Shore
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When one thinks of the Jersey shore, they usually think of Wildwood, Belmar, or Seaside Heights. On a very rare occasion, I will find someone who has actually heard of what has now become one of my favorite vacation spots Ė Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
Located in Ocean County, Point Pleasant is a resort community dating back to the 1800s. Its very first luxury hotel was host to the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Grover Cleveland and more. As modes of transportation improved, so did tourism, which in turn spurred rapid growth within the once tiny beach community. With the construction of the Garden State Parkway, it became apparent that Point Pleasant could be the perfect year-round community and people flocked to the area, causing a major population boom. The town is still expanding today with the increase of business caused by one of its major attractions, Jenkinsonís Boardwalk.
Check out what makes Point Pleasant such a great getaway:
There are several hotel and lodging accommodations to choose from. Those with money to burn can often find houses to rent for the summer, but this can be costly depending on the size of the house and the proximity to the waterfront. For those with a tighter budget, there are a multitude of hotels and motels scattered throughout the town, but make your reservations quickly. In the summer months, when looking for a spur of the moment room, you will often find that vacancies are hard to come by. There will be rooms available at some places, but to guarantee a stay at your favorite location, booking early is essential.
You will find that certain hotels are just as enjoyable as the boardwalk and the beach. Some even offer such amenities as on-site restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, discount ride packages, spas, state-of-the-art gyms, free access to the beach, and more. Most hotels have special rate packages available for three-day or weekend stays.
My favorite place to stay is the Windswept Motel, located at 1008 Ocean Avenue. The motel offers a variety of rooms at a fair price both mid-season and off-season. Ocean Front rooms have terraces which provide you with an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean. Each room provides the guest with an air conditioner and a color television, and many come equipped with refrigerators. The rooms are pleasantly designed to infuse the guest with a feeling of total relaxation. The rooms are visited daily by maid service who go out of their way to ensure that your stay at the Windswept is enjoyable. Guests are issued free beach passes, and after a day at the beach, can cool off in the well-kept outdoor pool. If you donít feel like swimming, there are plenty of chairs for sunbathing pool-side. The hotel is close to all the action, just a short walk to boardwalk or beach.
When it comes to eating, Point Pleasant has an abundance of places to choose from that cater to a wide variety of tastes. For fast foods such as french fries, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, and more, the boardwalk has numerous eateries that will offer tasty fare for an average price. But if itís a sit down dinner youíre looking for, there are a few choice locations you should visit.
Martell's Tiki Bar is located in the center of the boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach. Martellís is well-known for its Tiki Bar whose bartenders serve just about any drink you can think of and a few specialties of their own. Bar attendees are treated to regular performances by a variety of bands hailing from various locations in the New Jersey area. Singing up with the Beach Bar gives you access to Martellís very own private beach. But Martellís is not just a bar. Attached to the bar is Martellís Sea Breeze Restaurant where patrons are treated to a tasty selection of mouth watering cuisine that can be enjoyed in the main dining room or out in the open air of Martellís outdoor seating area. Thereís something for everyone on the menu whether you are a fan of seafood, chicken, beef or pasta. Children under the age of 12 can select from the Little Skippers menu which features kidsí favorites like burgers and fries, chicken nuggets, personal pizzas and more. Dinners range from $16 to $30 depending on the season. A special favorite of mine every time I have dinner at the Sea Breeze Restaurant is the New York Sirloin, a 14 ounce center cut of Black Angus steak topped with beer-battered onion rings and served with your choice of baked potato, mashed garlic potatoes, or rice pilaf. The meat is always cooked to perfection and the sides are equally appetizing. Be forewarned, Martellís Sea Breeze Restaurant has two different menus, one specifically for lunch and one for dinner dining. Some items that are available at lunch may not be available at dinner and vice versa, so check out the menus at the front desk before being seated to make sure your favorite meal is available. Martellís also provides on site catering for wedding parties, beach parties and more. Visit their website for more information.
If itís seafood you crave, then head to Jack Baker's Lobster Shanty, located at 81-83 Channel Drive in Point Pleasant. The Lobster Shanty was always a classy looking restaurant, but recent renovations add even more style and charm to the physique. Reservations are not required at this restaurant, but I would recommend them as the place is a favorite of locals and visitors alike and can get booked fairly quickly. If you hit the restaurant at just the right time, you may be able to get a seat without a wait, but if you do have to wait, the Lobster Shanty is set up so that patrons can find their wait relaxing and enjoyable. You may sit outside on one of the three outdoor benches, or you may remain inside and watch the plasma television from your comfortable seat in the bar area. Seating is on a first come first serve basis, and there truly isnít a bad table in the house. However, if you are fortunate, you may be seated at one of the many window-side tables which offer an outstanding view of the various boats going in and out of the inlet. Diners are treated to beautifully soothing music played with style by the Shantyís very own pianist. The Lobster Shanty's website states that they have been in business for over 35 years and so they must know what theyíre doing when it comes to seafood. I whole-heartedly agree! The addition of a sushi bar gives the Shanty a well-rounded menu of foods to choose from. Dinners range from about $16 - $24 and the diner is never disappointed by the amount of food served at each meal. My dining experience usually begins with a basket of tasty breads, hush puppies and cheese sticks, followed by the best New England Clam Chowder I have ever tasted. My main meal usually consists of flounder stuffed with a savory crab meat stuffing, served with rice pilaf and mixed vegetables. The food is always pleasing to the palate and the service is never lacking, even on days when the restaurant is very crowded.
Recently, I visited Tesauro's Ristorante, located at 401 Broadway in Point Pleasant. The restaurant has come under new management and I was curious to see how things had changed. The interior of Tesauroís is reminiscent of many a quaint Italian restaurant, with butcher block tables, stone facades and fireplaces. The menu is chock full of a large variety of Italian cuisine and one would be hard-pressed not to be able to find something they would enjoy. The meals are well-presented and very appetizing. However, diners must be sure to come at times when the restaurant is not crowded. My first visit was extremely enjoyable. Not so the second visit due to the amount of people dining at Tesauroís. Staff are still learning how to juggle such a crowd, and I would say that they need some help in this regard. The only pleasant part of the experience that day was the valet parking that was available Ė the lot is fairly small, so this feature is more than welcome. We had the misfortune of showing up on Magic Night, an event held on Wednesdays and Thursdays that takes place on the second floor of the restaurant. The place was packed and seating was fairly unavailable. A thirty minute wait turned into an hour as staff struggled to get everyone seated and served. When we were finally seated, we were not even spoken to by a waiter. After nearly 20 minutes of waiting at our table, we finally left the restaurant and headed toward the boardwalk for a quick bite, our appetites a tad soiled by the experience. In summary, Tesauroís is recommended for its tasty pasta dishes, but make certain that you plan to visit on a night when the restaurant is fairly empty.
For a less pricey, less formal affair, diners should try out Broadway Bar and Grill located just a block away from the beach and tucked behind the Lighthouse Ice Cream shop at 106 Randall Avenue. The bar is small, but staff make every effort to get you seated. Dinners range from $7 to $15 and include cuisine such as crab cakes, burgers, ribs and more. A favorite among the appetizers on the menu is the appetizer combo which contains mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers and more. My favorite dinner is the crab cake meal Ė two succulent crab cakes served with cocktail sauce and your choice of garlic mashed potatoes or french fries. Beer is plentiful, either on tap or in the bottle, and the bar is well-stocked. Patrons who arenít in the drinking mood have their choices of sodas or iced tea. While you dine, enjoy the view of several televisions showing everything from sporting events to prime time television. Thursdays through Sundays promise dining to the tune of the local bands that serve as entertainment at Broadway Bar and Grill. Afterwards, head over a few feet toward the beach to the Lighthouse, where the best ice cream and Italian ices are served for low prices!
If itís your sweet tooth that needs satisfying, there are several booths and sweet shops all along the boardwalk. The Kohrs Ice Cream shop sees a huge amount of business in the summer with lines stretching across the boardwalk. But if you arenít a fan of Kohrs Ice Cream, thereís a TCBY, a Haagen Dazs vendor, Breyers vendors, and more. You can get every ice cream creation Ė soft serve, hard serve, waffle cones, Dippin' Dots, shakes, floats, and more. The sweets shops are stocked with every candy imaginable Ė licorice, fudge, candy cigarettes, mints, taffy, chocolate covered cherries, truffles and much, much more. Those who canít have sugar can treat themselves to the great selection of sugar-free candies available at every shop.
A day at Point Pleasant promises a myriad of events to keep the visitor occupied. The beaches are vast and beautiful, kept clean daily and monitored until 5pm by lifeguards. Consumers can find terrific buys on souvenirs in the many shops all along the boardwalk. If itís games of chance and skill youíre after, try your hand at the various booths along the boardwalk with games for all ages including wheels of fortune, ring tossing, ball throwing, dart throwing, water gun races, and more. There are also a variety of arcades along the boardwalk featuring the latest video games, crane prize games, and games that offer tickets that when combined can total up to some really cool prizes. Games along the boardwalk average from $1 to $5 depending on the skill level.
Also found on the boardwalk is a mini-amusement park with rides for all ages. Patrons can enjoy rides on an old-style rollercoaster, the Jenkinsonís train, a ferris wheel and more. There are 27 rides in all. And donít forget to visit the newly redesigned miniature golf course. The Shipwreck boasts two different golf courses designed to entertain as well as to keep the lines moving. A game of miniature golf at The Shipwreck costs $9, but itís well-worth the money!
Animal lovers should spend some time at Jenkinson's Aquarium located right on the boardwalk at Point Pleasant and open year round. For a mere $8 per adult and $5 per child (seniors receive a discount and children under 2 are free), patrons are treated to an educational and recreational experience that they wonít soon forget. Exhibits include: penguins, tropical fish, turtles, freshwater fish, marmosets, an albino alligator, parrots, frogs, seahorses, lobsters, sharks and more. Children and adults alike will love watching the seals at play both in the underwater viewing area on the first floor, and in the above water viewing and playing area on the second floor. Attendees can look down over the shark tank from the balcony on the second floor, or be wowed by the numerous sharks in the shark and ray underwater viewing area on the first floor. The inquisitive can check out the touch tanks and the fossil and educational rooms on the second floor. Children will enjoy the daily storytelling time and all patrons will ooh and ahh at feeding times. Schedules are available on location or online at the Jenkinsonís Aquarium website.
Jenkinsonís Boardwalk is also host to the annual NJ 101.5 Big Joe Henryís Jersey Talent Show. Contestants young and old are invited to come on stage and show off their talented voices and dance skills. The categories are divided into three groups by age so as to make the contest fair. In order to give everyone a fair shot at winning, the rules of the contest clearly state that past champions are not eligible to compete. The contest is free, but there are rules and regulations to follow, so for contest dates and rules, visit the website at NJ 101.5 BIG Joe Jersey Talent Show '05.
Several cruises are available at Point Pleasant where patrons may enjoy the sights and sounds of the Manasquan River, Point Pleasant Canal and Barnegat Bay. Some cruises offer food, music and dancing and more. Prices range from $15 to $50 depending on the type of cruise youíre looking for. For cruise schedules and rates, visit www.riverboattour.com.
Fans of the sport of fishing will be delighted to discover that they can go on fishing boat excursions for anything from Sea Bass, Black Fish Cod, and Flounder to Blue Fish and Chumming. Some boats even offer some amenities as satellite television and radio. There are day and night trips all year round on boats like Norma-K III, Miss Michelle III, Dauntless, and A-Lure. Prices vary, so check out the websites for rates and trip times.
If itís history you are into, you might want to check out the Point Pleasant Historical Society Museum, located at Point Pleasant Beach Borough Hall at 416 New Jersey Avenue. However, this is not a museum you can just stroll into. The museum is only open on the second Thursday of each month from 1pm to 4pm. For more about the Point Pleasant Historical Society and the museum, visit their website at http://www.pointpleasanthistory.com/.
The beautiful ocean scenery, the pleasant community atmosphere, the available cuisine, the number of hotels, and the variety of things to do make Point Pleasant a terrific vacation spot. Itís also a great place to head to when looking for a weekend getaway. I come here as often as I can, even in the winter when, standing on the boardwalk, I can take in the soothing effects of the waves lapping at the shore and marvel at the beauty of the area. But be forewarned, during the off-season, parking is no problem. However, if you are planning for a one-day excursion in the summer months, plan on showing up early. Parking is limited and the lots charge anywhere from $7 to $20 depending on location. Coming to Point Pleasant early in the morning usually ensures that you will find parking at a reasonable price. But donít let the parking dilemma dissuade you. Point Pleasant, New Jersey is a terrific place to unwind and let all the stresses of the work week wash away with the tide.