Maybe you come for the casinos. Maybe a stroll on the Boardwalk or the clean, free beaches are more your style. Some people come and enjoy the fishing, shopping, or entertainment.
However, more and more, people are coming to Atlantic City and getting turned on to the off-Boardwalk treasures of Historic Gardner's Basin.
Nestled on a protected channel along the back bays, directly across from the state marina and Coast Guard station, this maritime park on North New Hampshire Avenue replaces the hustle and bustle of the Boardwalk with a different type of activity. Enjoy a sightseeing or fishing cruise, whet your appetite with fresh seafood while enjoying ale house brews or make a trip to the Atlantic City Aquarium.
As you look around, it is hard to believe that the site of "The Basin" -- once a lively haven for rumrunners and commercial fishing fleets -- was as recently as the 1960s a trio of overgrown baseball fields.
Easily accessible, Gardner's Basin is a great place for visitors of all ages to come and enjoy the facilities that are tucked away amidst elegant bay front homes, a municipal park and exclusive Smugglers Cove boathouses (the original owners, rumrunners, built their houses over their docks in order to unload their bootleg bounty in secrecy).
Gardner's Basin's offerings include:
Atlantic City Aquarium
The $4 million Atlantic City Aquarium is the crowning achievement of Historic Gardner's Basin. The three-story aquarium and interactive marine life education center has a mission to foster awareness and appreciation of the ocean and its wonders, and to reveal how they affect our lives.
The Aquarium provides an up close look at sea life with various tanks and exhibits. The main tank spotlights fish of the mid-Atlantic Ocean and features "Groman," the resident loggerhead turtle. Find a "Nemo" in the tropical tank and also see a host of moray eels, venomous fish and live jellyfish.
Touch tanks allows visitors to "pet" starfish, crabs, sharks and other sea life while the live diver feeding and animal shows will leave you in awe.
A 16-station computer center uses interactive games and computer-enhanced information stations let you take a self-tour.
The Aquarium’s third-floor observatory provides a glimpse of the area where the ocean meets the bay. As your eyes follow the path of the bay, you see the island of Brigantine, Absecon Harbor, Harrah's, Golden Nugget and Borgata casinos -- the first visual reminders since entering Gardner's Basin that you are still in Atlantic City.
Gardner's Basin hosts a series of fun-filled activities for the entire family. Hop aboard Cruisn' 1 for a variety of sightseeing adventures including dolphin watching and happy hour cruises. If fishing is your thing, High Roller Fishing or Twrecks Charters offers fishing excursions for the novice to the well-seasoned angler. If you're into thrills, Atlantic City Parasail provides the breathtaking sights of Atlantic City from 500 feet in the air.
Historic Gardner's Basin offers ample opportunity for the weary traveler to rest awhile.
Back Bay Ale House offers a menu of old favorites and newer recipes, along with unbeatable cocktails, a variety of ales and a great second-story view. The deck provides al fresco dining in the summer and enclosed dining in other seasons.
An Atlantic City staple since 1946 and known for their hot cakes, Gilchrist features a hardy array of dining options for breakfast and lunch.
Before heading out of Gardner's Basin, be sure to check out the early underwater exploration vehicles and the "Diving Bell" that was used as a ride and attraction on the Steel Pier, lowering guests into the ocean for a glimpse of underwater life.
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Photo Credit: Photos Courtesy of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.