Growing up, I coveted the surfer lifestyle. I imagined myself in Malibu catching waves with cool surfer dudes. Problematically, for an East Coast kid, Southern California was … unattainable. I should have imaged myself on Long Beach Island.
Luckily, as I found out during a trip to LBI and its environs last week, it’s not too late to live out my surfer chick fantasies right in New Jersey, with the new Surf & Sip Brew Trail to guide me. An offshoot of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce’s Southern Ocean Made visitation campaign, the trail invites locals and tourists to discover a series of ambitious craft breweries plus surf-related businesses and attractions.
Equipped with a free app that can be downloaded from southernoceanmade.com/brew-trail/ and a printed map available at all eight stops on the trail, travelers can explore the area’s surf-and-sip highlights at their leisure – in any order, at any time. If you go, get your map stamped at each location (no purchase needed). If you drop off a fully stamped map at the chamber’s visitor center before Thanksgiving, you’ll earn a beer koozie and get entered in a raffle for gift certificates to all of the trail’s destinations.
Here’s my account of the tour, roughly in geographic order, starting on the mainland:
• Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen’s Museum: I knew Tuckerton Seaport was a recreated living-history village depicting the economic and cultural legacy of the area’s commercial waterways. I didn’t know about live blacksmithing, duck-decoy carving or boat-making demos. There are also ir hands-on workshops, monthly eco-chats and jam sessions. For east, there’s the on-site Union Market & Gallery, featuring creative sandwiches, coffee, gifts and fresh flower arrangements. A highlight is the NJ Surf Museum and hall of fame. Here, you can peruse surf boards and apparel dating back to the 1940s, learn about the local guys who helped turn surfing into a global sport, and see a signed original poster from classic film, The Endless Summer. Swoon.
• Pinelands Brewery, Little Egg Harbor: Don’t tell owner Jason Chapman that I hadn’t visited his brewery in the four years he’s sold beer. Happily, I finally saw Pinelands’ tiny production area and tasted some excellent beers, namely the Paradise in the Pines coconut cream ale, Blueberry Ale, and Zero Shucks Given oyster stout brewed with whole oysters. Not a beer drinker? Try housemade birch beer or vanilla cream soda.
• Jetty Lifestyle Apparel, Manahawkin: If you’re into surf- and skatewear, this 15-year-old company started by five local snowboarders probably has what you’re looking for. (Pro tip: though it’s not a trail member, you can also shop Ron Jon Surf Shop’s original circa 1961 location in Ship Bottom.)
• Manafirkin Brewing Co., Manahawkin: Order a flight of either three or five beers – out of 20 on tap – to sample anything from a traditional lager to a Scotch ale. Bring your kids or expect to drink next to other people’s. I liked the dark beers best.
• South End Surf ‘N Paddle, Beach Haven: You can have fun here even if you’re not in the market for surf clothes or boards. On given days you can watch employees shape and repair surfboards and paddleboards; take a ukulele lesson; watch old-school surf movies; or jam to a live band. Best of all, you can take a stand-up paddleboard lesson with lovably kooky co-owner Ken Gallant, who, with his wife, brought SUP to LBI from Hawaii. The sport is easier than expected; I didn’t fall once. You can also sign up for or an on-board yoga class (yeah, that looks … um … harder).
• Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, Ship Bottom: It’s a visitor center. Drop off your stamped map here. ‘Nuff said.
• Ship Bottom Brewery, Beach Haven: Total beach vibe. Carved into Beach Haven’s main town square, a staircase leads you up to the brewery and its airy tasting room, where I drank everything from a standard IPA to a lemon basil saison and a Mexican lager with Barnegat Bay sea salt and lime. (Pro tip: Order sandwiches from Spice it Up downstairs. Your seriously lip-smacking Zinnia Vegan may take a while to arrive, but it’ll be worth it.)
• Ann Coen Photography, Surf City: Before settling on LBI, former newspaper photographer Ann Coen traveled the world surfing and taking pictures of surfers. Her eye for capturing the natural beauty of landscapes and people is on display and for sale in her inviting gallery. Here you can peruse pictures or watch the cars pass from the front porch.Click here to leave a comment