New Jersey’s beach towns are beautifully diverse, but not every beach is for every person. While they all offer sun, surf, and scenic views, some are more serene while others are can be a bit on the rowdy side. Many offer boardwalk amusements, while some are simply sand and shoreline. Every beach is different, to find the perfect New Jersey beach for your needs, read on. I hope you find what you’re looking for!
Family Fun On A Budget
Keansburg and Wildwood are both budget friendly and filled with family activities. They offer free beaches (a rarity), amusement and water parks, casual, kid-friendly dining, and boardwalk games. Keansburg is particularly convenient for North Jersey families! Don't miss Keansburg Amusement Park/Runaway Rapids Waterpark, Bev & Wally's Arcade, and The Olde Heidleberg Inn (try the hot dogs).
When in Wildwood, check out Morey's Piers, Raging Waters Waterpark, Seaport Aquarium, and Mack's Pizza.
Adventures For Adults
Atlantic City and Asbury Park are top picks. While both offer something for everyone, they're really about the adult fun. Atlantic City offers shows, gambling, a free beach, outlet shopping, incredible restaurants, spas, and plenty of nightlife. Don't miss the Playground Pier (luxury shopping and dining), Dock's Oyster House, Sugar Factory (insane sweets and treats), Central Pier Arcade & Speedway, Qua Baths, and the 1927 Lounge & Speakeasy.
In Asbury Park, check out the Silverball Museum Arcade, Wonder Bar, Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, Paranormal Museum & Bookstore, Cookman Creamery (vegan and gourmet ice cream), Hot Sand (Glassblowing), and the Stone Pony. Honestly, that's just the start. Asbury Park is constantly listed among the best/trendiest beach towns in the U.S.
Highlands is home to the Navesink Twin Lights & museum. Both the architecture and the history will enchant you - it's a very special place. And there's another special lighthouse in Highlands - Sandy Hook Light. You may know it as the oldest operating lighthouse in America. The town has a small beach on the mainland (Snug Harbor), several beaches on Sandy Hook (including a nude beach) and some great restaurants (try Porcini). Don't miss the Mount Mitchill scenic overlook nearby.
Escape In Nature
Island Beach State Park is the largest reserve of undeveloped barrier island in New Jersey and one of the largest in the United States. It is famous for its beautiful red foxes! You'll also find dunes, maritime forest, and marine estuaries to enjoy. Swimming, kayaking, and fishing are permitted in some areas of the park. Four wheel drive vehicles are permitted on the beach with a permit.
Cattus Island County Park is another top pick. It's a 530-acre nature facility located on Barnegat Bay in Toms River. The highlight of the park is the Cooper Environmental Center. It includes exhibits that educate guests about the Barnegat Bay ecosystem. The park offers 8 miles of walking trails, a wheelchair accessible nature trail, a butterfly garden, a picnic area, and a playground.
Cape May tops the list and Ocean Grove is a close second. In addition to the amazing architecture and charming bed and breakfasts, Cape May offers spectacular beaches, shopping, and dining. For your couples escape, check out Sunset Beach, Willow Creek Winery, Cape May Whale Watcher, Peter Shields Inn, a moonlit or mansion trolley ride, and the West End Garage (antique and artisan goods).
Ocean Grove is another lovely Victorian town in New Jersey. When you visit, check out original music at Cafe Artiste (part of the Jersey Shore Arts center), the historic Great Auditorium, the savory pies at Bürbelmaiers, and Nagles - a renovated pharmacy serving up ice cream and American eats. You'll also want to spend some time on the beach.
Rest And Relaxation
We love New Jersey's sleepier shore towns and Harvey Cedars and Lavalette are two of our favorites. You won't find wild parties or endless arcades, but you'll find long stretches of sand for swimming and sunbathing. Harvey Cedars has both bay and ocean beaches, a picturesque park (Sunset Park), and some wonderful eateries, like Black Eyed Susans and Plantation Restaurant & Bar. Lavalette also offers ocean and bay access, and a pretty park (Hankins Park), PLUS they've got a dessert shop and cafe with nightly cabaret shows - don't miss the Music Man Singing Ice Cream Shoppe.
We've got plenty of epic boardwalks in New Jersey but Ocean City and Point Pleasant Beach are among the best. Ocean City is often billed as America's Greatest Family Resort...we agree! They stand out for their special events, Gillian's Wonderland Pier (dating back to 1929), downtown shopping, and more. Don't miss Playland's Castaway Cove, the Ocean City Historical Museum, or the Hula Restaurant & Sauce Co. for a little slice of Hawaii.
Point Pleasant Beach is a Garden State favorite, home to Jenkinson's Boardwaks and Aquarium. Play games AND enjoy special aquarium events like Shark Week and Beachcombing. Don't skip Lighthouse Point Mini-Golf or Hoffman's Ice Cream.
Sand, Sun, And Outdoor Fun
Stone Harbor is the perfect destination for a day spent outdoors. Besides the beautiful beach, visitors will enjoy the bird sanctuary and The Wetlands Institute. The Wetlands Institute is a can't-miss destination offering a variety of fun and educational events like back bay kayaking, and salt marsh safaris.
Spring Lake is a low key community with few frills, and that's why we love it. They've got a long stretch of clean beach and a great dessert shop - Scone Pony. You'll also want to visit Divine Park for a scenic walk around the lake.
Low Key Day Trip Destinations
What do you look for in a day trip? I look for a nice mix of fun, food, and relaxation. You can find it all at both Long Branch and Beach Haven. When in Long Branch, check out the shopping and dining at Pier Village, the rich history at Seven Presidents Park (so named because seven presidents shored and attended church here - the church is pictured), the open studio and gift shop at Art Shack, and the exciting escape room at Escape The Puzzle. When it comes to food, check out Windmill Hot Dogs, Strollo's Lighthouse Italian Ice, and Amy's Omelette House.
Beach Haven is one of the best neighborhoods in LBI for day trip fun. It has an amusement and water park, is home to the New Jersey Maritime Museum, and has fun, fantastic restaurants like The Chicken or the Egg. You'll also enjoy checking out the quaint Bay Village Mall.
What’s your favorite beach in New Jersey? What would have you added to this list? It only scratches the surface when it comes to all the Jersey Shore has to offer. To discover more, check out these
fun facts or this featured article on Island Beach State Park.