Gardner's Basin: Atlantic City's Hidden Treasure

Maybe you visit Atlantic City for the casinos, shopping, entertainment and nightlife.... Or maybe it's the beaches, fishing or strolls down the boardwalk that float your boat. Either way, chances are you've missed a hidden gem just steps away from the boardwalk!

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?
Nestled on a protected channel along the back bays, directly across from the state marina and Coast Guard station, this maritime park located on North New Hampshire Avenue replaces the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk with a totally different vibe. Sightseeing and fishing cruises come and go from the docks, restaurants serve up seafood, ice cream and ale house brews and the Atlantic City Aquarium offers interactive events that attract thousands.

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!)
What to Do

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.
Boating Adventures - Gardner's Basin hosts a series of fun-filled cruises during spring, summer and fall. The Morning Skyline Cruise provides a tour of Atlantic City's ever-changing skyline and calm back bays. Marine Mammal Adventure cruises spot whales in spring and fall, dolphins in summer, while providing commentary from an onboard marine naturalist. Enjoy a late afternoon cruise through the harbors and marinas of Brigantine Beach and Atlantic City on the Harbor Cruise. Evening cocktail cruises take you through backwaters with perfect sunset vistas, and a Moonlight Dance Party features music from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. For a full schedule and reservations, call 609-347-7600.
The modern docks are available for rent, and boaters are welcome to tie up at the public docks while they visit the Atlantic City Aquarium, Ocean Life Center or the restaurants.
Fishing Excursions - Gardner's Basin is home to some of the area's top fishing excursions. For more information on these charters, visit
Water sports - Web Feet Watersports offers everything you need to play by the bay, including rentals and sales of bicycles, kayaks, fishing gear, crafts, collectibles and more. Call 609-572-1004 for rates and seasonal hours.
Dining - Dining treasures include the Back Bay Ale House, which 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. For information and seasonal hours, call 609-449-0006.

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.
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