Often called Atlantic City's "best kept secret", Gardner's Basin is a quaint, former fishing village that features an aquarium, shopping, water sport and bike rentals, boat cruises and charters, an inlet fishing bulkhead, large fishing vessels and tons of free parking. What's not to love about that?
As you look around, it's hard to believe the site of "The Basin" -- once a lively haven for pirates, rum runners and commercial fishing fleets -- had once become a trio of overgrown baseball fields.
Accessible by car, jitney or cab, Gardner's Basin is now teeming with life -- and not just marine life either. Visitors of all ages come to enjoy the sights and sounds tucked in among elegant bay-front homes, a municipal park and exclusive Smugglers Cove boathouses (the original owners were reportedly "scallywags" who cleverly built homes over the docks to enable secret unloading of their bootleg bounty - ARRRR!)
Atlantic City Aquarium - The $4 million Atlantic City Aquarium is the crowning achievement of the Basin. The three-story aquarium and interactive marine life education center fosters awareness and appreciation of the ocean and its wonders. With 11 tanks exhibiting more than 100 varieties of fish and marine wildlife, including flounder, striped bass, moray eels, live jellyfish and Groman, the resident loggerhead turtle. The third-floor observatory provides a glimpse of the island of Brigantine, Absecon Harbor, Harrah's, Golden Nugget and Borgata casinos -- the first visual reminders that you're still in Atlantic City.
Hours are 10 am to 5 pm daily. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and $4 for children over age 3. For information about tours, call 609-348-2880, Ext. 17.
During summer months, the Lobster Shanty features fresh-off-the-boat seafood. Chow down on hearty chowders, clams, crabs and lobsters right along the waterfront. For information, call 609-344-9030.
Also open during the summer season, Back Bay Ice Cream offers soft serve ice cream, hand dipped cones, sundaes, water ice, gelatos, beverages and snacks. Call 409-449-0006 for more information.
Your visit to Gardner's Basin won't be complete without a stroll through the grounds where you'll see 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.
By the way, in case you're wondering, Gardner’s Basin was named after John H. Gardner who was mayor of Atlantic City from 1868-1872, and was later a Congressman for Atlantic County.
For additional information, call Gardner's Basin at 609-348-2880.