Some day-trip travel destinations simply present themselves while others are harder to get a hang of. Historic Smithville, in Atlantic County, is very much of the latter. Why? Well, let’s say the history is the mystery.
Sure, the town is filled with all sorts of attractions for young and old, and the setting is quaint and clever, but something is amiss and Tracy Walsh, innkeeper of Smithville’s Colonial Inn knows what that is: "Historic Smithville insinuates that we are an 'old Towne,' but actually it was never a 'Towne.'"
There is, however, some truth in the claims that Smithville is a place of historic notoriety. Smithville proper actually dates back as far back as the 17th century and was the home of the Leeds Family in 1678. Daniel Leeds was charged by the monarchy to map out the area of South Jersey. In so doing, he was instrumental in naming neighboring Egg Harbor, primarily because of the various numbers and types of birds that were found in the region.
In 1787, the original Smithville Inn was built on land owned by Daniel Smith, who purchased it a few years before. This is how the region got the name “Smithville,” but there is a vast difference between what that was then and what it is now.
“In 1952, Fred and Ethel Noyce purchased a building that was once a stagecoach stop and eventually turned it into a restaurant, the Smithville Inn,” Walsh said. “Fred and Ethel began bringing in buildings from other townships and placed them around the Smithville Inn to create a town-like feeling, and these houses were used as small stores. Many of our buildings have plaques on them that tell you the date they were built and the township they came from.”
The time period of the buildings that were brought in were intended to match, as close as possible, that of the colonies, making the area more an architectural museum than a preserved settlement.
In a sense, today’s Smithville operates as much as as a theme attraction as a functioning town. Alongside shops, restaurants and bed-and-breakfast operations where travelers can stay for extended weekends, there are paddle boats, a carousel in the Village Greene and working replica of a C.P. Huntington train that cycles through the property. A full list of events through the year also informs visitors that, at just about any time, you can expect a good time at Smithville.
That's why we've chosen it for this installment of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town, but in reach, and worth the trip.
DAY TRIPPER DIGEST
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Why it’s Worth the Trip: Smithville is a Colonial-style village located just 12 miles from Atlantic City. The village houses 60 specialty shops that are scattered throughout the scenic cobblestoned village. The Smithville Inn serves food alongside five other eateries. The village also has a carousel, paddle boats and a C.P. Huntington train that takes a seven minute trip around the outskirts of the town. Smithville has 30 free weekend events including Irish festivals, Oktoberfest and car shows. The Colonial Inn, a 24-room a bed-and-breakfast resides right in the village and is perfect for those who would like to turn a day trip into a weekend getaway.
You’ll Probably Get Hungry: You can catch a meal at the Smithville in or a drink at Fred and Ethel’s Lantern Light Tavern featuring casual family dining. There are also the Colonial Coffee Café (some info here), Costello’s Italian Ristorante & Pizzeria, the Smithville Bakery and A.J.’s On the Lake, all in town.
While You’re in the Area: Smithville is 12 miles from Atlantic City, with its boardwalk and beaches, and 30 minutes from Ocean City. Ten minutes from Smithville is the Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge with walking and driving trails. Days of Olde, an antique co-op is just miles from Smithville.
Walsh described several Smithville places of interest for the shopping set: “We like to believe we have something for everyone here at Smithville. The train, carousel, paddle boats and various arcades are fun for the young or the young at heart. Many shops of all types are available for the shopper or the browser. We have shops where you can create, like Bumble Beads, which is a beading store, orEarth and Lace pottery shop. We have a winery for the connoisseurs out there with tastings available. I could go on about the stores but Smithville is so much more.”
Smithville is designed for casual enjoyment, with park benches placed throughout; travel by foot around town is encouraged.
For those looking for activities and diversions, Walsh suggests some of Smithville’s most individualistic features: “Paddle boats are fun and you don't see them very often any more; it is $10 for a half hour and you can fit up to three people in a boat. We have a couple of antique arcades with old-time machines like the old fashion penny press.”
Upcoming events for Smithville include a British Car Show on Saturday April 16, the Easter Parade on the April 24, and the Children’s Festival on April 30. In May, Smithville will host Cruise Nights and a Renaissance Faire on May 21.