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Magnolia House
215 Centre Street
Beach Haven, NJ
609-492-2226

Magnolia House Home Page

July 2004

Welcome to www.weloveourlife.com. This is our page dedicated to our experiences while staying at the Magnolia House in Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, New Jersey. The Magnolia House has been awarded a "best of ..." www.weloveourlife.com award for their fantastic breakfasts.

We have been informed that Magnolia House is now available for whole house rentals only.


Accommodations Amenities Food Bar/Lounge Service Attractions Dining Nightlife Weather Tips

Accommodations

We stayed in room #13, which is not shown on the inn’s website. The room has a separate entrance around the rear of the house and contains a queen bed and a sitting area. There are two very comfortable stuffed chairs in the sitting area that boasts a seasonal fireplace and a TV with cable and VCR. It was obvious a great deal of care was taken in furnishing the room with the magnificent antiques and rich textiles. There are two corner windows.

The bathroom is large and includes a corner whirlpool tub for two, a pedestal sink, a generous stall shower, and a closet that contains a small refrigerator. Plenty of towels were supplied as well as a hairdryer with nightlight. It seems the innkeepers try to anticipate guests’ needs, as ampules of spa scents were included in a bowl by the tub.

The inn does not permit smoking or the use of candles indoors, which is understandable, since the inn is wooden and was built in 1867, but the lights in the bathroom were on convenient dimmers, which lent itself nicely to a leisurely soak.

The inn offers 12 additional rooms (as described on the website). The other rooms do not have outside entrances but a couple of them have access to an upstairs veranda.

Inn Amenities

This is one of several areas where Magnolia House differentiates itself from other inns. The first thing guests see when they arrive is the expansive porch that wraps itself partially around three sides of the house.

The porch is furnished with inviting white wicker furniture with ivy cushions. They bought the whole set of the furniture and then some – there are several loveseats, tables, individual chairs, dining tables, and even a double swing.
The porch was really the center of activity while we were there, and that is likely the case when the weather is nice.
Not to be overlooked are the inn’s two cats – Tommy and Buffy – who are retired barn cats and are happily ensconced on the porch ready for petting. Here, Tommy is taking one of his many cat-naps. Note that the cats do not go into the guests areas (for anyone who has allergies).
There is an outdoor pool table in the rear courtyard – yes, a real outdoor pool table, not one that nobody wanted to keep inside anymore!
Magnolia House is rightfully proud of its outdoor garden area, which houses a charming gazebo painted in Victorian colors to match the house. The plantings are lush and lovingly cared for, and there are a number of wrought iron tables and chairs in which to relax. Here is Buffy enjoying the landscaping.
There is an inground pool that is actually one of the biggest outdoor whirlpools we have ever seen. There are four double seats with jets as well as steps that have jets of their own. The middle section is plenty big enough for those with a little energy to have some fun with the floating basketball hoop (as we did on several occasions).
There are some chaise lounges scattered around the pool. This is a very nicely done custom pool perfect for this sort of place – it is 3 feet deep, meant for lounging and not competitive diving.

Magnolia House encourages its guests to make use of the beach only a couple blocks away and makes it convenient to do so. They provide a locker for each guest room that contains a cooler freshly stocked with snacks and an icepack each morning along with fluffy towels. Soft drinks and bottled water are provided in a refrigerator off of the dining room in the main house. There are also numerous beach chairs guests can take to the beach. Beach tags are provided for the guests. There is an outdoor shower supplied with fresh towels which is perfect for getting the sand off of beachgoers before they enter the pool area. The innkeepers recognize that while some of their guests drive to the destination and may stock their cars with beachgoing items, not everyone is able to do that, and this makes it easy to enjoy the beach. For example, a couple from Tennessee was visiting while we were there and the fact that the innkeepers made the beach more accessible was appreciated by the guests.

The décor of the inn is Victorian with beautiful antiques and a wondrous collection of clocks in the downstairs area. Although the décor is formal, the feel of the place lets guests know it is still a casual inn at the beach. Another not-to-be-overlooked amenity is the fact that the inn offers off-street parking to guests.

Inn Food

We need to begin by explaining that Dustin, who is the son of Dave and Sandy (the innkeepers) is a very talented, professionally trained chef. His specialty is pastry (although we didn’t taste anything that was less than special). The inn is renowned for its sticky buns. Dustin told us he allows the bread to rise overnight and then gets up very early to make these wonderful concoctions, complete with a boatload of walnuts. We were there for five mornings and didn’t have the exact same thing any of the breakfasts we had. While we visited, there were three covered, warm dishes that guests served themselves. During the five breakfasts we had at Magnolia House, here are some of the items that were served: sausage, very lean bacon, ham coated with brown sugar, sausage and onions coated in a sweet sauce, blueberry French toast, breakfast casserole, broccoli and ham quiche, sausage and cheese quiche, shredded potatoes with cheese and onions, pineapple casserole – and this doesn’t cover everything! Did we get you hungry yet? There is also fresh fruit every morning, fresh granola, and an assortment of cereals. There is a wet bar in a closet off of the dining room that provides coffee, a number of teas, and all sorts of glassware. Breakfast can be eaten at the massive 12-person dining table or outside on the front porch.

Dustin also works his magic in the afternoon, when tea is served. There are usually some cookies around, and the few afternoons we were there, we were lucky enough to sample: a combination of tomatoes, basis, and mozzarella, gourmet pigs in blankets (sounds simple but this was no hot dog wrapped in a Pillsbury crust), and some of Dustin’s delectable pastry. Fresh brewed iced tea was also served while we were there (in the heat of summer). Guest are also allowed to bring their own wine and have a glass of wine with the afternoon delicacies.

We are pleased to give Magnolia House a “Best of” award for the truly creative and delicious breakfasts they serve!

Inn Bar/Lounge

The inn does not have a bar but guests tend to lounge about the porch sipping a glass of wine while petting one of the inn’s cats and nibbling one of Dustin’s heavenly creations. Ice buckets, glasses, ice, corkscrews, and the like are readily available.

Inn People/Service

The service was outstanding. When we checked in, Dave took quite a bit of time to show us everything we would need. He is an easygoing, seemingly unflappable guy who enjoys talking with people. Although we did not meet his wife Sandy during our visits, Dave explained that Sandy had decorated the inn and that they had been open for about 5 years. Dave was the “out front” person, dealing with the guests. Dustin, their son, does all of the cooking. We saw him doing other things too while we were there (such as lawn work). The innkeepers have accommodations on the premises. If they weren’t about, Dave explained we could simple ring the bell by their private quarters. We did this on several occasions – to ask for the jets to be turned in the pool and for the temperature to be turned up – and always received service with a smile from Dave and Dustin. When the innkeepers aren’t there, they leave a note and, in one instance, even a cell phone number where they could be reached. Sensibly, the front entrance is secure to permit only guests to enter. We simply got a very comfortable feeling from these people and it was obvious that several guests who visited while we were there were repeat visitors. That in itself is likely the highest compliment innkeepers can receive.

Area/Attractions

Magnolia House is located in the center of Beach Haven, a community on Long Beach Island (or LBI). This island is one island above Atlantic City but worlds away. There are no boardwalks on LBI. The main attraction is the beaches. We went to the beach a couple times right down the street from where we stayed. The beach was nice and clean, and adjacent to a beach patrol location with had outdoor showers and restrooms. This is definitely a family island. The island itself is long – 18 miles in length from end to end, and is one of the barrier islands located off the coast of New Jersey. There are a number of towns and townships along the island, but the prominent ones are (in no particular order) Beach Haven, Ship Bottom, Surf City, Harvey Cedars, and Barnegat Light. Beach Haven is towards the southern tip of the island. Bay Drive is the main drag, and the inn’s location was only a few steps away (although not noisy). It was a great location, which permitted walking to a number of things. Bay Village is about 8 blocks away and has a number of shops and restaurants. There is also an arcade and small amusement park (Fantasy Island) next to Bay Village. There is a summer stock theater (Surflight theatre) across the street in the same block as the inn that has an ice cream parlor, and puts on shows as well as concerts. In fact, the parents of one of the stars were staying at the inn while we were there.

Dining

The below listings are in order of when we visited, not necessarily ranked in order of preference.

Buckalews Tavern – 101 North Bay Avenue, Beach Haven, NJ 609-492-1065
Buckalews Home Page
We had a late lunch on a Sunday afternoon at Buckalews, which is right nextdoor to Magnolia House. We sat in a dining room surrounding a very large Christmas tree decorated with seashells. We each had Sierra Nevada draughts and split a white pizza. (Because we were there in mid-afternoon, a limited lunch menu was available.) The description of the pizza mentioned fresh basil, but none was on the pizza we received. It was fairly tasteless. Based on the pizza alone, we did not go back there to eat, although we did go back one evening for drinks at the bar. We should mention that our server was extremely friendly. There is full bar service.

Boat House Restaurant – Dock Road & West Avenue, Beach Haven, NJ 609-492-1066
Boat House's Home Page
We dined one evening at the Boat House, where guests can eat outside overlooking the bay or inside. When we sat down, we asked to see a wine list, and learned the restaurant was BYOB. Our server helpfully explained that there was a liquor store just across the street, so Lori dashed over quickly for a bottle of wine. This was our first tip-off that a number of restaurants do not serve alcohol (but permit diners to bring their own). In the meantime, our server brought out water with lemon and bread. We each had an appetizer: Lori, her ever-constant shrimp cocktail, and Keith, spinach and artichoke dip. Alaskan King crab legs were available that night, so Lori decided on that. She was not disappointed – there were two huge crab legs totaling over one pound and she couldn’t eat all of the rich crabmeat. Keith decided to be adventurous and went for one of the specials: tequila lime mahi-mahi. Our dinner was good. This is a casual place and definitely welcomes families. We were there on the early side and there were plenty of children.

The Boat House Restaurant has been awarded a "best of ..." www.weloveourlife.com award for their crab legs.

Palm Grill at the Sea Shell Motel – 10 South Atlantic Avenue, Beach Haven, NJ 609-492-4211
Sea Shell's Home Page
We had a couple lunches and one dinner at the Sea Shell. On all of these occasions, we dined at the Palm Grill, out along the pool. It is an inviting area, bordered by sand dunes, and with tiki huts on either end. On the several occasions we were there we tried: peel-your-own shrimp with Old Bay seasons (excellent and as expected), peel-your-own 10-to-a-pound (priced each and very good), hot dogs (very good), shrimp basket with fries (good), chips and salsa (surprisingly very good, as the salsa was freshly made and had some heat to it), and hamburger (a disappointment). Food is reasonably priced and since this is adjacent to the pool, it is extremely casual and suits are acceptable attire. The Sea Shell also offers more upscale dining indoors and out, but we didn’t experience that. The Sea Shell offers entertainment (check their website for schedule) and on our final night on LBI, we had a casual dinner poolside for the express purpose of seeing
Phil Stahl, an excellent entertainer with a great sense of humor.

The Ketch – 529 Dock Road, Beach Haven, NJ 609-492-3000
We had dinner at the Ketch on a Monday evening. It is located on the bay side of the island, just a block off Centre Street. The Ketch does indeed have a liquor license (and runs the liquor store where we purchased wine the previous evening), so we ordered a bottle of Kendall Jackson chardonnay. The wine list is simple with popular selections. The Ketch is kid-friendly and had offered an under-21 night the previous evening. We ate outside. Keith had a very luscious Caesar salad and Lori had some steamed clams. For entrees, Keith had chicken over penne pasta and Lori had baked stuffed shrimp. The food was unremarkable but decent.

Sweet Vidalia - 122 North Bay Avenue, Beach Haven, NJ 609-207-1110
We had been checking out Sweet Vidalia, because it was located just around the corner from where we were staying. It is an intimate BYOB bistro and we figured reservations were necessary. On Tuesday evening, we stopped by around 5:45 and asked what was available. We made a reservation for 6:30 and set off to purchase a cold bottle of wine at Murphy’s – a full-service grocery store just a block away on Bay Avenue, which had a strong selection of cold wine and beer. We walked the few steps back to our inn and hung out on the front porch and then, at 6:30, made the brief walk to Sweet Vidalia with our wine in tow. We were greeted warmly and shown to a booth along one wall. The lighting was low on the tan walls and there were many candles. This was a different dining experience than our two previous evenings as this was clearly fine dining. The servers were obviously trained very well. Our wine was opened swiftly and the evening’s specials were explained. We figured with a name like Sweet Vidalia the onion soup would be good, so that’s what Keith ordered. It was out of this world – sweet yet flavorful. Lori opted for the gazpacho, which was a rich, tomato mixture accompanied by breadsticks and a large spoonful of a lobster mix. We were served rustic warmed bread accompanied by heavenly pesto that was so fine it was nearly liquid, and some quality olive oil. We probably could have made a meal from the pesto and bread, it was that good. For his entrée, Keith chose a veal chop in a horseradish demi-glace. Keith doesn’t usually order veal chops as he prefers his veal thinly sliced, but he said this was excellent. Lori ordered the shrimp special over pasta and – as always – told the server of her allergy to mushrooms. The server returned and explained that there was truffle oil in the sauce and gave her two alternatives, and she chose a vodka sauce which was both spicy and flavorful. It was this attention to detail that was appreciated, as truffles would have sent her to the hospital – that shows how seriously this restaurant takes things and trains their employees appropriately. We split a dessert – ricotta and blackberries with a sauce we couldn’t quite describe. It was flavorful but not over the top and a perfect ending to a wonderful meal. We would highly recommend this place, and did so to fellow vacationers at the inn where we were staying. We would not recommend it for young children as this is gourmet fare. It is perfect for a romantic dinner.

The Sweet Vidalia Restaurant has been awarded a "best of ..." www.weloveourlife.com award for their pesto.

Tuckers - Engleside & Bay, Beach Haven, NJ 609-492-2300
It’s our opinion that Tuckers is a well-kept secret. We found no mention of it on the Internet prior to our visit, there was no sign on the main street for it, and we only heard of it through a conversation struck up with a local (although she gave us incorrect directions – she probably figured everyone knew where it was). While relaxing on the front porch of our inn, a couple told us they had eaten at Tuckers the night before and the food was good. We asked them where – exactly – it was, and they gave us directions. We simply went out to Bay and walked a block south to Engleside, then made a right and walked several more blocks to the bay and Tuckers was on the left. There was no sign on Bay Avenue, so one would have to know where to look. We scoped the place out one night earlier and had a drink at the bar (yes, this place has an actual bar). We walked there on Wednesday evening around 6. Expect to wait for a table – the later you go, the longer the wait. We were asked if it mattered whether we were in the room overlooking the water, and since it was a rainy evening, we didn’t mind (there would be a 10-15 minute wait). We went to the bar and ordered a drink and our name was called immediately. This place reminded us of a Boston seafood house. Lots of dark wood, brass, forest green, tile floor, and plenty of noise. We were shown to a corner booth in the very large room not facing the water. Lori ordered the steamed clams (naturally – hey, we were at the beach) and Keith got an order of spinach and artichoke dip. It was accompanied by some fresh pico de gallo that was unexpected but very good. We were served nice salads accompanied by a couple pieces of herbed flatbread. We finished our drinks we had ordered at the bar, and then Lori ordered a mango margarita. Keith asked for a Franziskaner Weisse– a beer that was listed on the menu. The server said, “What?” Keith pointed it out on the menu, and she said she had never had anyone order that before, but she would be sure to find it. She returned moments later with the cold beer and a glass and proclaimed, “There – I found it!” Keith decided to be adventurous by ordering the swordfish which was blackened and had had tequila cilantro butter. Lori ordered the crab cakes. This may sound snotty, but the food was better than we expected. We thought it would be more of a run-of-the-mill seafood house, but the food was fresh, flavorful, creative, and the presentation was excellent. Our entrees were served on square plates with a few herbs scattered around the edges. We also had sides of excellent mashed potatoes. Lori exclaimed several times that these were some of the best crab cakes she has ever had (and she’s had a heckuva lot of crab cakes). We would recommend Tuckers. If you come during high season at prime dining hours, expect a wait, but there is a large bar to while away the time. The place seemed fairly family-friendly, as there were many kids dining with their parents.

Nightlife

The Sea Shell offers entertainment (check their website for schedule) and on our final night on LBI, we had a casual dinner poolside for the express purpose of seeing Phil Stahl, an excellent entertainer with a great sense of humor.

There are bars with live entertainment and other than the Sea Shell, we didn’t seek that out, so we can’t make specific recommendations.

Weather

We visited LBI during the high summer season, in late July. Ordinarily this is a dry time but this summer was wetter than most. We had a bit of rain while we visited, but were still able to go to the beach a couple days. We only had one day that was a complete wash-out. The high season at LBI is generally July 4 through Labor Day, although Memorial Day onward is also a bit in season and the beach can be particularly nice in September. During high season, expect highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s and 70s. Be sure to use plenty of sunscreen and take a jacket along for the evening if you will be outside. We had umbrellas with us, which we did use.

Tips/Suggestions

If you’ve read any other of our reviews, you’ll know we are big on bug spray. It’s especially important at the beach, as the mosquitoes come out in the evening, and near the water. We didn’t remember to spray our legs every evening and got a few bites, which is to be expected.

Several restaurants in Beach Haven are BYOB. If you’d like a drink or wine with dinner, make sure you know in advance, so you can be prepared.

When we’re at the beach, we generally like to park our car and walk. The inn’s location on Centre Street was a good one, and we were well within walking distance of many things. We consider walking distance for us to be about 8 blocks to and from; if you have small children or infirmities, this may not work for you. The further you get from the center of town, the more residential it becomes. LBI doesn’t have a great number of hotels; there are a lot of rentals by the week. If you would like to stay for less than a week, book early. We booked out July vacation in February to ensure we could get what we wanted.

For additional information, check out www.lbi.net.