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Spring Lake is a gorgeous town with some amazing old homes with large porches. It has been a major destination on the shore for over 100 years. Turn-of-the-century architecture borders the wide tree-lined streets which surround a large lake. There is a nice downtown shopping area with a few good restaurants and shops.

In downtown Spring Lake Ray’s Cafe at 1321 Third Ave. is a good spot for breakfast and lunch. They have good omelettes. A new find is On Third Cafe & Coffee Company at 1300 Third Ave.  This is a very NJ  shore looking restaurant with a great menu for breakfast or lunch and very good coffee. I was just back for the second time. I also want to try Cafe Artiste at 306 Morris Ave. They serve a casual breakfast and lunch plus in the evenings on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Thursday, they feature Dinner with Cosimo, offering his Italian specialties. Call 732-221-9667 for the menu and a reservation.

There are some wonderful boutiques on Third Ave as well. Those specializing on gifts and home accessories include Nest Home Garden and You at 1317 Third Ave, and Whimsicality Bed Bath Home at 1219 Third Ave.

Third Avenue Chocolate Shoppe at 1118 Third Ave. is a fun spot while downtown. They have been there for over 25 years. They have a great selection of chocolates, candies and ice cream. Jean Louise Candies is also a fun spot for candy that opened in 1947.  1205 Third Ave. I also loved fiding, Scone Pony Specialty Bake Shoppe, at 305 Washington Ave. They have a large selection of cakes, cupcakes and scones. I loved the almond cookies and the crumb cake!

Whispers is a very good fine dining restaurant in the beautiful, historic The Hewitt Wellington boutique hotel,  though more formal and not as casual as many on the Shore. 200 Monmouth Ave.

After getting great reviews from my local friends, I had to try Larimar at 1311 Third Avenue,  a lovely spot for French and Italian inspired food. This is a fine dining restaurant with an excellent menu. Rarely do I find so many things that I would like to try. I shared a number of plates including a strawberry gazpacho with lump crab meet and basil ice; the poached pear salad with almonds, gorgonzola and port wine poached pears; the oysters Rockefeller with spinach, leeks, truffle oil and gruyere cheese and the scallops with golden beets, raisins and almonds in a perfect sweet corn puree. All were excellent. I will definitely go back and highly recommend it. The dress code is business casual with no shorts or flip flops.

As far as hotels, go The Breakers Hotel at 1507 Ocean Avenue, has been there since the late 1800s and has a good restaurant. The Grand Victorian also has rooms and a good restaurant overlooking the ocean. Called Black Trumpet, it is a a great spot for lunch or dinner. Both hotels are across from the beach and short walk to restaurants and shops downtown.  There are also other Historic Inns and The Hewitt Wellington, an historic Victorian condominium hotel, just south of downtown at 200 Monmouth Ave. has rooms for rent from the owners plus the Whispers restaurant.

After lunch or dinner head to Hoffman’s Ice Cream & Yogurt for some wonderful ice cream. I loved the banana! 569 Church St., Spring Lake Heights, NJ.

Sea Girt is another lovely town though smaller than Spring Lake. Check out the Beacon House for accommodations at 100 & 104 Beacon Blvd. The Parker House hotel/restaurant is across the street and has been there since 1878. They have a restaurant, raw bar, upstairs Nightclub and downstairs Tavern. 290 1st Ave.

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