A cooling dip in a haven for grown-ups

Posted: July 11, 2008

WILDWOOD — I grew up in Logan, in a semidetached house with a side yard where my mother would set up a plastic "swimming" pool on hot summer days. The water was barely deep enough to cover my knees when I sat down, but the pool provided a good excuse to play with the garden hose.

Occasionally, on exceptionally steamy days, she'd take us into town, where we'd "swim" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in those old cascading fountains that flank the "Rocky steps." This was in the pre-Rocky years, when the fountains were still working. And yes, it was unsafe and most likely illegal.

FOR THE RECORD - A CORRECTION, PUBLISHED JULY 25, 2008, FOLLOWS: The July 11 column contained an incorrect phone number for Nomad Parking Lot and Bathhouse, 4320 Boardwalk in Wildwood. The business is in operation but does not have a telephone number.

More recently, my sister and I came up with what we thought was an ingenious plan to beat the heat. We'd schedule massages at one of the casino-hotel spas in Atlantic City. A single, one-hour massage was pricey ($100 or more) but it would get us access to the hotel's pools and sun decks for the whole day.

Now, I'm into water parks.

When the heat nudges past 90, with humidity and ocean water temps to match, a standard day at the beach fails to refresh. That's when I want a cool and complete dunking, without the tedium of the township pool.

On those days, only a water park will do.

Water parks evolved from amusement parks when log flume rides were added to their mix of carousels and roller coasters. On the log flume, riders got wet "accidentally on purpose" and discovered they liked it. Next, came swimming pools with machine-made waves and increasingly steep chutes-and-ladder water rides. My inner 8-year-old loved the idea.

But my real self, the adult me who wears sunscreen and skirted swimsuits now, still imagined a more grown-up water park experience. Last week, I found it at the Ocean Oasis Waterpark and Beach Club on the northernmost of the three Morey's Piers in Wildwood. Technically, it's Morey's Surfside Pier at 25th Avenue (www.moreyspiers.com).

Ocean Oasis, which opened two years ago, is an adult-friendly area roped off from the rest of the water rides on the pier.

This section of the park offers secluded hammocks and lounge chairs with additional privacy available in couples or family cabanas. There's waitress service and a cafe offering wraps and salads. Daiquiris are served at a swim-up bar, and the massage table is on a separate perch that peeks out over the sand. (This being one of the widest parts of the Wildwoods, you may need to peek through binoculars to see the actual ocean.)

Amenities include handicapped accessibility, hot showers, clean bathrooms, lockers and Internet access.

Admission begins at $33 (covering admission to the all-ages water park at Mariner's Landing Pier as well). Add-ons such as massage and private cabana are optional and, for the most part, unnecessary. If massage is a must, choose the 10-minute chair version for $15 instead of the 80-minute deep-muscle treatment for $155.

You can save after 5 p.m. when admission is $17 per person, and if you're 65 or older, admission is free - all day, every day, even if you don't have toddlers in tow.

With few restrictions (no glass, no alcohol) patrons can bring their own picnics and drinks. Two or three couples can share a family cabana, bringing the $110 price tag for that option within reason.

And if your inner 8-year-old is tempted to try the Raging Waters, Speed Slides and Shotgun Falls, go ahead. They're included in the admission price.

Contact the Shoobie at 215-854-5702 or shoobie@phillynews.com. And look for the Philly.com blog at http://go.philly.com/downashore.

Those Wildwood Days

Wildwood is about 90 miles from the Ben Franklin Bridge.

All its beaches, as well as those in Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood, are free. And some are so wide the city installed plank walkways and port-a-potties halfway to the water. Still, plenty of spots, such as Seventh Avenue in North Wildwood, offer a shorter hike to the shoreline.

Day-trippers can clean up at Nomad Showers, a bathhouse located behind the boardwalk, in a parking lot near the intersection of Ocean and Montgomery Avenues. One shower is $6; but for $7 you can change into your tankini in the morning, use the bathrooms all day, and shower at night. Admission for children 12 and younger is $3. Parking is free only while you're in the shower. Information: 609-522-2962.

Three Morey's Piers on the boardwalk make Wildwood reminiscent of the Coney Island of old. Information at www.moreyspiers.com or 609-522-3900.

And watch the tram car, please.

- Dianna Marder

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