There are several pit stops along this historic shoreline road
Chances are you haven't given much though to Route 9 unless you've bailed off a main road and zipped up this little back road to get where you needed to go. But this throughway, which stretches from Delaware through New York state and almost up to Canada, is chock full of those little out of the way places that make taking a drive up Route 9 such a delight. Hey, there was a reason Bruce Springsteen belted about being "sprung from cages on Highway 9, chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin' out over the line" in "Born to Run."
So skip Ocean Drive the next time you want to get from Cape May to Atlantic City without using the Garden State Parkway. You might learn a thing or two about what's in the Shore's own backyard.
A lot of people must have checked their heads at the door when they decided to build on the marshes. Instead of thriving wetland ecosystems, now we're stuck with big, ugly rental condos and shoobies. At least someone thought ahead that it might be a good idea not to build on these fragile grounds because in the 1980s, two wildlife refuges combined into the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. It covers 43,000 acres, and the headquarters are located right off Route 9 in Oceanville. For $4, you can tour the site via your car on an eight-mile continuous loop. You can also hike, bike, walk or run that trail -- just make sure that you bring your binoculars (or rent them) as the refuge is located in one of the Atlantic Flyway's most active flight paths. It attracts birds (and birders) from around the world. If eight miles sounds like too much, try one of the shorter, more wooded trails, like Jen's Trail (.75 miles loop) or the Songbird Trail (2.2 mile trail). The rangers offer guided tours, so check the refuge's Web site for more details.
Seaview Resort & Spa
401 South New York Road, Galloway
If you need to relax, hit up this luxe spa right along Route 9. The Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa has a whopping 12,000 square feet of space, which includes 20 treatment rooms where you can be massaged, buffed, plucked, painted and even waxed into looking your very best. OK, the "waxing" isn't exactly relaxing, but the aqua and aroma therapies are. Red Door also offers specialized services for the guys, too. Hey, we all need a break every once and a while, even if you don't want to admit it to your buddies at the bar.
We're big fans of this kick-back-and-relax tavern, which is located in quaint and historic Smithville. Fred & Ethel's runs well priced (and themed specials), with knock-out happy hours and live music on the weekends. The kids menu is a hit with the younger folks, too. As much as we wish it were true, the tavern is not named for Lucy & Desi's trusty sidekicks -- the inspiration for the name is Fred and Ethel Noyes, the late visionaries who founded the Towne of Historic Smithville in the 1950s.
Forget mini put -- this roadside driving range has 24 tees for you and your favorite club (though you can borrow a course driver) so you can work on your swing or work out some excess energy. Billy Bob's also has batting cages, ice cream and video games, hence the "family fun center" part of the name. There's also mini putt if you really can't get enough of all those little obstacles and waterfalls. Just remember your bug spray. Billy Bob's is built back into the woods, which makes for great vistas as you slice or shank, but invites mosquitoes to feast on amateur golfers.
This is the largest annual garden in America, featuring acres of gorgeous flowers and plants. Also among the beautiful scenery are an 18th century Colonial-era farm, bridges, benches and ponds. It's open daily from May 15-Oct. 10 from 9:30am-5pm. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children 7-14 and free for children 6 and under.
Even if you think that zoos are cheesy -- how many times you can you pretended to be freaked out by ominous signage near the reptile area, or think that monkeys scratching their butts are funny? -- the Cape May County Park & Zoo is worth visiting for a few reasons. First, it's free (though donations are greatly appreciated). Second, it's not just a zoo. It's a park, too, with picnic areas, playgrounds, woods, a pond, gazebo and now disc golf course -- again, all free (though, again, donations greatly appreciated).
Winterwood used to be in a secluded spot on Route 9. That was before Walmart and its associated box stores cropped up just to the south on Route 9 (which makes that area one of the most congested parts of the strip in the southern part of the state). But that hasn't changed Winterwood's charm. This Christmas store is set in an old house and sells every type of Christmas ornament, decoration or chotchkie you could ever want. Winterwood also sells beach theme items and decorations for other holidays (Halloween seems to be a popular runner up to the big Dec. 25). You'll find two more Winterwood stores in the area (Wildwood and Cape May), but the Route 9 one is still the best.
The popular Forsythe Refuge Wildlife Drive was yet another part of our coastal community that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. After almost three months of construction and over 2,000 dump truck loads of fill, the popular Wildlife Drive at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Galloway is set to reopen on weekends beginning this Saturday, April 4.
In addition to the area’s beautiful beaches and busy boardwalks, as part of the scenic Garden State, southern New Jersey has a number of parks and picturesque wildlife reserves for you to explore as you re-discover the concept of ambulatory movement.