Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Oyster Creek Inn, Leeds Point, NJ

Feeling peckish?
Let's say you're cruising along the piney back roads of southern New Jersey just a tad north of the town of Absecon when suddenly your stomach starts to rumble.  If you're in the mood for sea food then you're in luck.  The Oyster Creek Inn, a collection of cedar shacks which have been stitched together over the years, is an unpretentious place to get a good meal once you get to the end of Oyster Creek Road as it threads its way through the marsh.  I started going to Oyster Creek back in the mid-1970s after I got out of the Coast Guard and moved back home from Boston.  Every summer the Brigantine Yacht Club would organize an "Oyster Creek Night" on the evening of a favorable high tide and members with power boats would take boat loads of club members across the back bays for dinner and then a nice moon light cruise home across those same, but now darkened waters. In those days going by boat was for the best because the roads were poor and Oyster Creek Inn was not air conditioned. In July and August the Inn was a fly blown hot box and it was often better to escape the sticky interior with it's unshaded circular florescent lights by getting your dinner in a box and then hopping back on the boat!  But while the atmosphere was primitive the food was always good and continues to be good to this day.  The only disappointing meal I've ever been served at Oyster Creek was one occasion when I came late on a very busy holiday and most of the food had been sold out hours before.  Not bad for a joint that got its start offering sandwiches, bait and diesel fuel to local watermen.

Here's a look at the landward side of the Oyster Creek Inn.  Now days, we come by car.  Over the years the Inn has been slowly upgraded and now features air conditioning and other comforts while retaining the rustic "charm" of its early days.

The main bar is off from the dining rooms.  It was built from the port side of an old fishing boat called the "Rock & Rye".  In the fall the bar is very popular during football season.  Sorry Baydog, they're mostly Eagles fans (with a sprinkling of Steelers fans) down here.  I never mention the Skins or Caps...

This is the type of boat the watermen and clammers now use.  This boat is tied up just a couple of docks away from the Inn.  The Inn gets most of its fish fresh off these boats.  Note the large Herring Gull roosting on the cabin roof of the boat.

No, this isn't a statue of an insect.  It's the Jersey Devil.  Oyster Creek is very close to Leeds' Point.  The Leeds family name goes back to the earliest days of European settlement in this neck of the woods.  Old Mother Leeds' house is still standing a couple miles from the creek.  More information about the Jersey Devil, or Leeds Devil as it's sometimes called can be found here.
That wooden devil didn't get in the way of a good meal.  The sea scallops, crab cakes and seafood pie were as tasty as ever.

Views up and down Oyster Creek from the Inn's dock.  The shacks belong to local watermen.

Zooming in across the tide marsh one sees the village of Mystic Islands.  This started out as a collection of  summer bungalows, each with a finger pier out the back door.  Today many of the original modest houses have been torn down and replaced by bigger ones.  I've been told that's called "progress".

Looking/zooming to the right, across Great Bay, one sees the Rutgers University Marine Field Station.  This complex of buildings started life in 1937 as a Coast Guard lifeboat station.  This building is miles away but can be seen form Oyster Creek by eye.

Another satisfied customer!  This is a Laughing Gull, also known as a Summer Gull.


  1. Wow! Where do I begin? What a great sample of coastal New Jersey barely changed by modern times.
    I try like hell not to frequent seaside shacks that don't sell bait and diesel fuel. This is really not too damn far south of where we sail.

    And yes, there are way too many Eagles fans in South Jersey.

    If you're interested, John McPhee wrote a great book about the Pine Barrens.

    1. Yes, McPhee's book is a great read. I read it many years ago and still have my copy. There is also a nice series written by an Episcopal priest called "lost towns of New Jersey". He wrote those in the 1930s and 40s; he's go for drives around the state looking for the remains of Piney ghost towns like Ong's Hat and interview the locals to get his details. Good stuff. Regrettably, southern Ocean County and Atlantic county are changing at a rapid pace. Cumberland and Cape May counties are still like the south Jersey I remember of 40 years ago.