The end of the summer always seems to brings a flurry of “things I wanted to do this summer but haven’t done yet”. Fall is fast approaching and whether it’s back to school, back to work or just the shortening of days it always feels like something has ended before it was really appreciated. Well in my case, I realized that I hadn’t been for a day at the beach. Now keep in mind, I’m originally from PA (which is land-locked) so a beach trip was a pretty consistent feature of my summers growing up. Whether it was the Jersey shore or the beaches in Connecticut or Massachusetts (my parents are New England folk) a stay at the ocean was always a highlight. So with my best friend, her convertible and some SPF 45, we were off for a day trip to Ocean City.
The advantages of Ocean City as a day trip location are lots of activities and sights-to-see packed on and around the boardwalk…plus it has Shriver’s, which is my personal vote for best fudge, salt water taffy and mint rolls. I wont tell you how much sweets we bought, but it was a heavy walk back to the car at the end of the day.
But I’m getting ahead of our itinerary. Our first stop was just 15 minutes outside of Ocean City, in Margate. Lucy is a 127 year old elephant…building. Built in 1881 in the middle of what was then nowhere as a way to attract development, Lucy has survived several near misses to live on as a much loved area mascot, not to mention a great first stop on a road trip.
After Lucy (and Lucy’s gift shop) it was a quick ride to Ocean City. Since it was lunch time, we made our first stop at Spadafora’s Restaurant and Clam Bar. It’s not as easy as you might assume to find good seafood near the boardwalk, but what Spadafora’s lacks in ambiance it more than makes up for in food. The little restaurant doesn’t look like much more than a large shack set as it is on a large parking lot, but one look at the lines of people at dinner time will show you just how good their seafood is. The restaurant is just a block off the boards at 9th street and Atlantic Ave.
The Ocean City boardwalk is a great opportunity for taking pictures. On one side you have the beach with it’s sun bathers, colorful beach umbrellas and rolling waves. On your other side a long line of shops, food stands, mini golf and amusement rides will give you all the color and action you may want. Of course the constant stream of people who wander beach and boards are just a shot waiting to happen.
Buy some Italian ice or a smoothy from the Bashful Banana, drink plenty of water and pick up some souvenirs as you stroll the boards. From end to end there are about 3 miles of boardwalk. If you are staying nearby or are just an early riser, the boardwalk is open until 11AM to bikes. You’ll see tandem bikes and families pedaling away in rented surreys as they travel up and down the boards with the walkers and joggers. If you don’t have your own bike there are plenty of places to rent from. Treat yourself to fresh donuts at Brown’s Restaurant down toward the beginning of the boardwalk. Watch your donut(s) fried up right before your eyes then powdered, dipped or dusted to order and served hot.
Of course Ocean City is not all boardwalk. The city is actually a peninsula about a mile wide, with sunrise coming up around the boardwalk side. To get some sunset shots we headed across to the bay side, and ended up weaving in and out of the dead end residential streets searching for access to the water (without having to stand in someone’s backyard). This is a prime example of how a little research and forethought can really make a difference in your photography.
With luck, our map and some fancy “K” turns we finally hit on a street that came right up to the water. Our efforts paid off with a great place to set up just in time for a beautiful sunset over the water. It was the perfect way to finish off a trip to the beach.
A note: finding a place to eat that doesn’t have a 45 minute wait and a line out the door at dinner time is really a matter of a reservation. If you want to have a nice sit down dinner, have a place in mind to eat at and call early enough to secure a table (Ocean City is a dry town, so if you want wine with your dinner you’ll have to head out of the city limits). You can always eat on the boards, and after dark is a great time to ride the rides at the Wonderland Pier, or grab a few rounds of mini-golf.
This is a great trip for peope of any age, so pack up your family, grab a friend or just take a day for yourself and head on out.