Wildwood, Part 3

Stardust Motel, Wildwood, NJStardust Motel, Wildwood, NJ

For part 1, click here

For part 2, click here

Due to the construction in Wildwood last October, we found ourselves diving down streets that we probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. We ended up on Spicer Avenue, which held a few more motels of the golden era. Remembering back to the research I had done, I knew the Stardust Motel was there (see the shot above) so I went after it. But on the way there, I saw a neon palm tree that needed to be photographed. I was just the guy to do it.

Mango Motel, Wildwood, NJ

As I stepped out to get this shot, somebody pulled out of the parking lot behind me. The driver was, at first glance, Jersey through and through, and for those of you who don’t know New Jersey, this could be either a good thing or a bad thing. Either I was going to get the chewing out of a lifetime or I was going to get a too-hard slap on the back and invitation to the nearest beer. I got the obvious question about what I was doing. He didn’t ask me what I thought I was doing, so I took that as a good sign. No pun intended.

Turns out, this was the owner of the Mango Motel. And further, the sign had just been restored, and he was obviously very proud of it. He had spotted me taking shots with my iPhone, so I let him know about my Instagram account.

Mango Motel, Wildwood, NJ

In my experience, it’s rare that I get a chance to interact with the owner of a business whose sign I’ve singled out, and rarer still that I get any appreciation for it. I’ve been chased off rudely at least twice, and more often than not, when I explain what I’m doing, the owner turns around and goes back in the building shaking his head. But every once in a while you find someone who is proud of their sign, and more than willing to show it off. In light of this, I honestly wish I had taken more shots at the Mango Motel other than the ten or so I did.

But Wildwood is endless supply of neon, and it was getting late in the day. Honestly, I was exhausted before Wildwood was, but I continued to snap away.

Caribbean Motel, Wildwood, NJ

The Caribbean, which was one of the better-attended motels in Wildwood that Sunday in October, has one of the best signs going, although it’s a little difficult to get, as it sits atop a lovely 50s style deck. It’s right across the street from the Bel Air, which just had its sign restored as well.

Bel Air Motel, Wildwood, NJ

One of my favorites was the LuFran, which was slightly in need of a new coat of paint. My regret is that I got there too late, and the shadows were not in my favor. Still, I managed to get a long shot to zoom in on some great details.


To tell the truth, this is not all. I still have a bunch of shots from other locations that I’ll share later on. Another regret is that my time was limited, and I was not able to stay long enough to get these wonders while they were lit. To be fair, this was more of a fact-finding mission. Rest assured I’m going back there, if all goes well during the Spring, so stay tuned!

Wildwood, Part 2

Sand Dune Motel

The more you go through Wildwood, the greater the embarrassment of riches. Just going down a side road can lead you to a sign you didn’t know existed, one that no one seems to have posted on Flickr or Instagram. The Sand Dune, for instance, which seems lost during the day, caught between a few other motel signs that catch the eye. I got out to get a picture of the Jolly Roger (below), in its Pirate-topped 50’s glory, and on the way along the sidewalk nabbed the Sand Dune!

Jolly Roger sign, Wildwood, NJ

Jolly Roger Statue

The Sea Shell is one of the more well-known, perhaps for its odd shape, the highly-stylized “M” in “Motel”, and its visibility on the main drag into Wildwood proper.

Sea Shell Motel, Wildwood, NJ

Right down the street from the Sea Shell is the equally-impressive Pink Champagne sign. The hotel is pure 50’s, with pink accents!

Pink Champagne Motel, Wildwood, NJ

Another back-to-back grouping was in toward the center of town, with the Skylark, which was a paint-peeling nod to the old days, and the Quebec Motel, with its rooftop sign. At first, I thought I could sneak a shot which got both signs in it, but this turned out to be trickier than I thought. At any rate, the Skylark shot is among my favorites.

Skylark Motel, Wildwood, NJ

Quebec Motel, Wildwood, NJ

And we’re not even remotely done. My word, no. Literally you can’t go to Wildwood for one day and expect to get all the shots you could get. I haven’t even gotten to my favorite story of the trip yet!



So where was I? Oh, right.

We were in Philadelphia, having visited the Reading Terminal and Termini Brothers, when we realized that we still had more than half a day. So I said, why not go to Wildwood? It’s not tremendously far away, and I had been looking forward to going. The neon had been drawing me like a moth to a flame. So off we went.

About halfway there, we stopped at the Starbucks on the Atlantic City Expressway and ate the chocolate-banana-raspberry-loveliness we purchased from Termini Brothers. We looked at each other as we ate, confused by its perfection. There had to be a flaw. A sour portion, air bubbles, bones, something to reveal that such transcendence does not exist in this world. Nothing was forthcoming.

The one thing we hadn’t counted on with Wildwood at this time of year was how few people were there. True, it was Columbus Day weekend and well past the end of their season, but it was still a surprise, considering what a nice day it was. We pulled in and some off-season road construction was going on, which deterred us from going to the first sign on my list. However, the detour lead us down another road where we caught sight of a couple that weren’t even on my list: the Fairview (which looked closed) and the Harbor Inn.

Fairview, Wildwood, NJ

Harbor Inn, Wildwood, NJ

If this was any indication of how the afternoon was going to go, it was going to be more than worth the trip.

We pushed on toward the northern end, where the Lollipop Motel was. The Lollipop sign has captured the imagination of many, including me, most likely because of its supreme oddness. Alternately delightful and terrifying, this sign is the most marvelous paradox. Why choose lollipops as a theme for your motel? Why the children’s faces impaled on spikes, their knowing gazes at each other seeming to stem from a secret only they know? Why should I care? It’s big, it’s weird, and it’s wonderful.

Lollipop Motel, Wildwood, NJ

We passed back into town, unimpeded by the usual summer traffic. While the sun was shining, we felt it best to get a glimpse of the ocean. Parking is still at a premium in Wildwood, even at this time of year. We decided to kill two birds with one stone and paid to park at Laura’s Fudge, just up from the boardwalk and Morey’s Piers. Laura’s Fudge has a dazzling array of signs, and even in the day they were all lit up.

Laura's Fudge, Wildwood, NJ

Water Park

Which way to the water park? Hmmm…

Wildwood Lifeguard Station

No one for miles on the beach. Granted, the ocean temperature was low enough to ward off all intruders, but how could you resist a scene like this? We walked for a bit, and quickly ran across one of the most unforgettable scenes of recent times.

Roller Coaster, Wildwood, NJ

Following the destruction left by Superstorm Sandy a few years ago, pictures of this roller coaster half-submerged and falling down became a symbol of the natural disaster. It’s still closed, and the yellow signs around it warn you to stay as far away as possible, but remarkably it still stands. Whether it will ever be resurrected is a greater mystery.

But this was just the start. Much more Wildwood awaited!