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LBI Aficionado Goes West – Beach Haven West

By WENDY McCLURE | Mar 28, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill LIFE IS GOOD: The author couldn’t be happier living in Beach Haven West, known for its network of lagoons.

Now, bear with me before you pounce. I hail from Philadelphia but had the distinct pleasure of moving to Long Beach Island full-time years ago. Not only was I lucky enough to live on this beautiful sandbar, but I even scored a rental on the bay that had a water view from every window in my house. I was in my early 30s, working at my dream job in nearby Manahawkin and dreamed of a different life than the one I lived in the city, a better life.

Most of my new co-workers lived in Toms River and I had a choice of a place there or one in Ship Bottom that was far less attractive and had far fewer amenities. But, oh, that view! My love of the shore led to my decision to choose Ship Bottom. I had just lost a boyfriend, the love of my life at the time, and hoped this next chapter would be a better one.

I dove into my new life with gusto. I knew no one here, which was pretty intimidating and made me question as to whether moving so far away from my co-workers was a mistake. But an enormous snowstorm that dropped 31 inches on us that first Presidents Day weekend I lived here forced me out of the house to meet my neighbors.

I met a guy, someone who was pretty ingrained in the fabric of the Island. He went out a lot and everyone knew him. And when I went with him I made new friends. It didn’t work out with that guy, but my desire to continue to get out of the house and have some fun gave me the confidence to apply for a bartending job at Joe Pop’s Shore Bar, one of the most popular places on the Island. I had lied and said I was experienced. It worked – I was in.

I can’t tell you how many people I met that summer and the dear friends I made who enriched my life in ways I dreamed it would when my new chapter started. I got in with a group of friends and they loved to go out and hit all the happening hotspots. We were regulars at the Sand Bar and Sea Shell in Beach Haven, Kubels Too in Long Beach Township, the Port Hole and Gateway in Ship Bottom, The Quelle on Cedar Bonnet Island and the newly opened Friday’s in Manahawkin.

I started kayaking. I rode my bike up and down the Island. I had turned into a doer. I no longer sat on the couch and watched other people have interesting lives. I was living my own great story and it felt fabulous. LBI did that for me!

I got to live here for four glorious years until work took me back to Philadelphia. I was away from my happy place for five years. In the meantime, I met the true love of my life, got married and decided to look for a rental on the Island. We found one and rented for several years in addition to the condo we owned in Bucks County.

We had toyed with the idea of renting out our condo and renting down here full-time, but it never seemed to work out. After having to let our latest rental run out due to a job loss, we went back to Bensalem and tried to make life good there. But no. The condo board was making our lives miserable.

The housing market was still significantly down and it didn’t seem like we could sell without taking a loss. We put the condo on the market anyway at a price that would have us breaking even, not really expecting it to sell. It sold in five days. As great as this news was, we didn’t have a place to move to.

I was on a mission to find a rental on LBI. It was February and not the greatest time to be looking for a year-round rental on the Island. I couldn’t find anything in our price range. So, I wrinkled my nose and started looking in Beach Haven West. Yes, I had heard what everyone said about BHW. Those people are nothing but a bunch of partiers, people of no class who shot off fireworks and played loud music all hours of the night. The people who lived in BHW were the ones who couldn’t afford to live on the Island. They must be slumming it, right?

I found an adorable three-bedroom ranch, newly renovated from Sandy damage, and we moved right in. On the first warm day I rode my bike all over my new neighborhood. What a nice ride it was! It wasn’t one-directional like on the Island: 5 miles into the wind so I could ride with it on the way home. The twists and turns of my new route gave me some tough, wind-driven times, but I would turn a corner and get a nice break. I loved riding all over the West.

We had our very own dock from which I could kayak. I kayaked so much more often than when I had to drag it to a launch area on the Island. Easy in, easy out. Oh, and I became a friend to the ducks. They would come flying when they heard that slider door open because they quickly learned I would give them food.

These “slums” were turning into the dream life I once had, and I quickly realized I liked it much better in the West than on the Island. Living on the water, which is pretty hard to come by in availability and affordability on the Island, is incredible. I wake up every morning and the first thing I see is the light reflecting off the waves of the bay – lagoon living at its finest.

And what an amazing community! The neighbors are always willing to help out and organize something everyone can enjoy, like our very first Christmas tree and lighting ceremony this past Christmas season. The full-timers are there for each other and always looking after their part-time neighbors’ properties.

It is definitely louder in the summer and people do party when they come here to vacation, just as on the Island. I have to say those fireworks do get pretty annoying. But we no longer have to go to the Island to pay for overpriced beers so we can sit and look at the water. We just need to walk out to our own backyard, pop open a beer and maybe even light a fire in the pit to toast a couple of marshmallows. We love it so much, I am proud to say we are now happy homeowners in the West.

So, I apologize to my fellow Beach Haven Westers for having thought the terrible lies I was fed. When will I learn to stop listening to the negativity of other people?

Wendy McClure is the morning show co-host on 107.1 The Boss, heard on 99.7 in Southern Ocean County.

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