On the Ocean City beach, conditions were nearly as brutal as on the mainland. At the water's edge, the temperature was over 90 degrees at midday and the sea registered an unseasonable 72 degrees, according to a local surfing report.
In Atlantic City, the ocean was 70.2 degrees, and at Cape May it was a freakish 76.8 degrees, according to the National Oceanographic Data Center, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Water temperatures in the mid-Atlantic are usually in the 60s during June, according to the agency.
Relief from the heat brought many to the resort's Ninth Street Beach, which was covered towel-to-towel with sunbathers.
"It looks like August, it really does," said lifeguard Matt Betson, 26, a member of the city's beach patrol for 10 years. "It's normally not this crowded on a weekday in June, not until the season really kicks in."
Those who ventured into the ocean, whether in a cautious tiptoe or a full-throttle run, were pleasantly surprised.
"I can never remember [the water] being this warm this early," said Ed Miller, 67, down for the day from Laurel Springs.
Sandra Miller, whose family has a summer home in Margate, had brought her four children to town in search of a guarded beach. Margate begins full coverage on Saturday.
"Nobody usually wants to go in the ocean this time of the year, so we usually don't have to worry about it," said Miller, of East Greenville, as she bounced her 11-month-old son Archer, in the shallows.
While some beaches in the city already were scheduled to have guards, the favorable conditions prompted officials to add more locations, according to Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"We are prepared and open," Gillian said. "We want to put safety first for our visitors."
Members of her group report that reservations are up at hotels and motels, and restaurants have done a brisk business in recent days.
"It truly has been instant summer. It's like we turned on a switch and all of a sudden, the visitors are here," Gillian said. After the rough winter and several seasons of a bad economy, the surge is the answer to the tourism industry's prayers, she said.
Diane Wieland, director of the Cape May County Department of Tourism, echoed Gillian's sentiments.
"What a difference a year makes," she said, recalling a very wet May and June 2009.
Local businesses had worried that, with schools extending their calendars to make up for snow days, the lucrative summer season would be cut short. But everyone from retailers in Cape May to motel owners in Wildwood and ice cream vendors in Ocean City have reported that their numbers are up, Wieland said.
"So far, I don't think they have anything to worry about. The weekends have been incredible," Wieland said. "If this kind of weather holds out all summer, it'll be a really good one."
Contact staff writer Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.