Essential Take-Along for Days at the Shore
Jen A. Miller has updated her book on Jersey shore must-do's—and has a blog to check daily.
Even if you’ve been heading to the South Jersey shore since the Ocean City carousel was the high point of your visit, this time take along a copy of Jen A. Miller’s newest book: The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May.
As you page through it and look at the color photos—many of them vintage—you’ll say repeatedly: I didn’t know that!
Miller, 30, a graduate of Haddonfield Memorial High School who now lives in Collingswood, is the Coppertone model all grown up. Even when she’s wearing strappy sandals and a dress, you know she’d rather be sitting in a low chair with her feet in the surf.
“The book sells well in bars that people stop at on their way from the beach,” she said.
Her promotional tour will bring her to the Pop Shop in Collingswood on Monday (June 27) to host a round of the restaurant’s shore facts trivia contest. Saturday (June 25) she’ll be at the Shamrock in Wildwood.
Three years ago, Miller’s first book about the Jersey shore covered the same 47 miles of towns lining the beach. (She already knew that people in South Jersey never go to the beach. They go down the shore.)
That version also included information on dining, lodging, and history. The update is brightened with more fun facts. Miller continues to supplement the information with a blog that includes a Jersey Shore Fact of the Day.
On the blog you’ll find tidbits to make your shore time more comfortable, whether it’s the location of the only port-a-potty in one of her favorite towns, Strathmere, or a warning to bring cash when you want to grab food and drink at specific eateries.
Much of the time Miller speaks with a rapid-fire delivery to groups, she’s sidetracked by an aging audience that wants to talk about the way their favorite shore towns used to be. “Things change and that’s why I wrote a new book,” she said with patience.
She notes that residents of towns tend to favor certain seashore locales. Haddonfield folks, for example, are usually bound for Stone Harbor. People from Northeast Philadelphia still head for Wildwood. New Yorkers like Long Beach Island, which they see as an affordable version of the Hamptons, but they also visit Cape May.
There’s a blip about the Angel of the Sea bed and breakfast in Cape May, initially built as a summer residence in 1850. Thirty years later, the owner decided the house should be closer to the water, Miller said, and hired out-of-work fishermen to move the house. When the workmen tried to match up the second half with the first, it didn’t work out, so there were two separate outrageously Victorian buildings. The building suffered severe hurricane damage in 1962, was condemned years later but revitalized and now is ranked one of the 10 top bed-and-breakfast inns in the United States.
Miller started her research on the first book in the library at Rutgers University in Camden, plowing through old guide books. The real meat of the book came from walking on the beaches, talking to people and taking notes.
“In the first book, I listed as many places as possible. This one is more about stuff to do,” she said.
Her information is current, peppered with historical facts. In her blog she talks about the ongoing struggle in Ocean City, established as a Methodist camp in 1987, to allow diners to tote their own wine and beer to restaurants. One of the businessmen who pushed for the proposed bring-your-own ordinance was harassed at a church service, a fact reported by Ocean City Patch.
Working with a publisher in Vermont was a series of minor struggles, she said. It took a bit to convince proofreaders that Atlantic City’s Boardwalk demands a capital B, the only such promenade in the country. But it makes sense, she says, since the Atlantic City Boardwalk was the invention of a train conductor tired of finding small mountains of sand in his train car. He laid boards near the train stations, wooden planks that were taken up for bad weather and in the winter. His name? Alexander Boardman.
Miller’s ability to focus on usable information has led to free-lance assignments in national and regional publications. She also does some writing for corporate clients.
She grew up in Bellmawr (not the North Jersey seashore town of Belmar, she says emphatically). She attended Haddonfield Middle School and then the high school as a tuition student and then got a degree at the University of Tampa.
To track Miller’s blog, do a web search for Jersey Shore Fact of the Day. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Miller started the blog in July 2007 when she was sharing a shore house with 12 other people in Avalon. They all went home, to work, during the week. She started researching her book. “The first thing I wrote about was bowling at the shore. Every other book I found was about a specific town, or ghost stories, or fishing. This was going to be a book about what to do when you’re at the shore–especially when it rains.”
She’ll tell you Lucy the Elephant in Margate is the landmark she always recommends to shore visitors. But Miller won’t identify her personal favorite shore town. She likes to take her dog to the beach in Strathmere, she says, but she mentions the cinnamon buns in Avalon, where she spent summers as a child. She likes the dining options and spas in Atlantic City.
Miller’s vacation plans for this summer include time at North Carolina’s Outer Banks. So, could it be her next tour guide will be for….