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“It is a very good land to fall in with, and a pleasant land to see,” first mate Robert Juet penned in his journal aboard English explorer Henry Hudson’s Half Moon in 1608. The excerpt is thought to be a very early appreciation of Brigantine, a scenic rendezvous on Brigantine Beach Island, about 6 miles north of Atlantic City.
The town is a hot spot for water sports, biking, hiking and just plain relaxing. (Little did the Lenape Indians of the 1500s know that their so-called Watamoonica, or “summer playground,” would fulfill the same purpose 5 centuries later.) To get a real feel for the area’s natural beauty, grab a camera and head to the sea wall at the north end of Brigantine Avenue, where you can behold rollicking dolphins and sensational sunrises. Situated 3 miles northwest, the 20,000-acre Brigantine Unit of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge also boasts some outstanding views.
The three-story concrete-and-stucco lighthouse at the center of a downtown traffic circle was built not to warn ships away but to attract customers; a real estate company erected it as a sales office in 1926. It served as Brigantine Police Department headquarters during the Great Depression and a museum and gift shop in the 1940s. Although closed to the public since its increasingly busy location became a safety issue, the historic landmark is still illuminated nightly.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center , just south of the lighthouse at 3625 Brigantine Blvd., is devoted to the rescue and rehabilitation of stranded or distressed marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles that come ashore along the New Jersey coast; phone (609) 266-0538.
Catch another glimpse of local history from Memorial Day through Labor Day at Brigantine Beach Historical Museum, 3607 Brigantine Blvd.; phone (609) 266-9339. Among the collection of artifacts and photos is an exhibit about Brigantine Castle, a beachside bar turned haunted mansion that spooked millions of visitors in the 1970s and ’80s. The attraction, at 14th Street N. and Brigantine Avenue, burned down in 1987, 3 years after shutting its doors.
Along with ghouls and goblins, ferocious storms and seafaring scoundrels are woven into Brigantine’s story. The town was named after a type of 1600s ship—quite possibly one of the first of hundreds of vessels destroyed along the shoreline's treacherous shallows. A particularly interesting wreck was the Florida, which had been toting 15 hefty bundles of ostrich feathers when it was victimized by an 1847 tempest. Practical islanders retrieved the dispersed plumes and used them as wall insulation.
The Brigantine area was once a hangout of Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard; the notorious pirate evaded British capturers by submerging himself in nearby meadow waters, relying solely on a hollow reed for oxygen. In 1698 Scottish buccaneer Captain Kidd and his crew allegedly hid a massive treasure chest under some dunes near Brigantine Inlet; shortly thereafter Kidd and his first mate, Timothy Jones, secretly reburied the loot elsewhere. Legend holds that Kidd killed Jones during a subsequent altercation and interred him next to the trunk. Both booty and body have yet to be found.
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Current Location: Brigantine, New Jersey