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May 17, 2024

Stone Harbor: What you need to know about the beaches and things to do there this summer

Originally marketed as a vacation destination for well-to-do travelers, it maintains that reputation today. It was also the first South Jersey town to require beach tags.

Travel Jersey Shore
Stone Harbor Provided image/Marnie Lengle

Stone Harbor is one of just two shore towns on the barrier island Seven Mile Beach.

When Stone Harbor was founded around the turn of the 20th century, it was marketed as a destination for the wealthy, right off the old Pennsy railroad. That railroad may be long gone, but Stone Harbor has retained a ritzy reputation, thanks to its real estate, boutiques and art galleries.

You won't find a boardwalk in Stone Harbor — a storm knocked it out in 1944 and the city never rebuilt it — but you will find many other beach staples, including water sports and a boat parade, which marches down the Atlantic in August. Despite its small size, Stone Harbor is also home to two nature preserves, open for tours all summer long. Here's what else you should know before visiting the Cape May County shore town:

What are some things to do in Stone Harbor this summer?

The calendar on the Stone Harbor Borough website is a good place to start when you're looking for something to do in the shore town this summer. Memorial Day weekend is packed with events, starting with the official Beach Opening Ceremony starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, on the 95th Street Beach and then the Color Run form 95th Street to 110th Street and back at 10 a.m. (runner registration is from 9-9:45 a.m.).

Starting on July 7, bands and at least one swing orchestra will perform weekly at the 95th Street Water Tower Plaza as part of the city's Tuesdays at the Tower concert series. The 7 p.m. shows will include a beer & wine garden and snack stand for bites between songs.

The Yacht Club of Stone Harbor will host another Festival of Lights boat parade on Friday, Aug. 3 at 8 p.m., but the accompanying viewing party and food truck festival starts an hour earlier. The Stone Harbor Sandbag Challenge, a 31-block fitness course with squats and burpees, starts bright and early on 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 30. Stone Harbor also goes big for the 4th of July with fireworks, races and contests.

Stone Harbor and Avalon are the only shore towns on Seven Mile Beach, a barrier island with lots of places to fish, kayak, surf, jet ski and paddle. (One of the rental companies, Island Water Sports, also has an aqua park with inflatable slides and walls to climb.) Nature lovers can visit the 21-acre bird sanctuary, home to thousands of herons, or the Wetlands Institute, which offers a "salt marsh safari" in the summer. Basketball, pickleball, tennis and volleyball courts are spread among Stone Harbor's three recreation centers at 82nd and 96th streets and Chelsea Place Park. And on rainy days, visitors can head to the city's shopping district or the Harbor Square movie theater.

Do you need a beach tag in Stone Harbor?

Yes, Stone Harbor was the first South Jersey shore town to require beach tags more than 50 years ago.

All visitors 12 and up must have a tag while sunning. Tags are available for purchase at the Beach Tag Office at 95th Street, right along the shoreline, each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They cost $32 in the pre-season but will increase to $40 after May 31. Weekly and daily tags are also available for $17 and $8, respectively, and veterans can claim a free tag with identifying documents or discharge papers.

When are Stone Harbor's lifeguards on duty?

Lifeguards are at their stands daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Memorial Day and ending Labor Day. The full list of Stone Harbor's protected beaches is available on the city's website.

What are the rules on Stone Harbor's beaches?

Alcohol, glass bottles, bonfires and picnics are not permitted, nor is sleeping on the sand from sunset to sunrise. Boats are only allowed in designated areas with the right license. Vehicles are banned from the beach during the summer, but you can get a permit for one in the off-season from October 1 to March 31.

Unless otherwise noted, Stone Harbor's guarded beaches are for swimming only. The town's surfing beaches are at 81st Street and 110th Street, and kayaks can be launched from 122nd Street through 126th Street. Kayakers must wear lifejackets.

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