10 Top-Rated Beaches in New Jersey
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Although you may think you know the "Jersey Shore" from the MTV show, the truth is, unless you have visited New Jersey's 127 miles of coastline, you have no idea how much fun awaits you. From the popular tourist destination of Wildwood to the quiet, laid-back vibe of Stone Harbor, the New Jersey shore is filled with fun and plenty of activities for solo travelers, couples, and families. Finding things to do is easy. You just need to find the right beach for you. Narrow down your options with our list of the best beaches in New Jersey.
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1 Stone Harbor Beach
Stone Harbor is perfect for those looking for a laid-back vacation at the shore. This beautiful town has pristine beaches and a cobblestone street filled with one-of-a-kind boutiques and unique restaurants. You won't find a bustling boardwalk filled with tourists here, just families looking to enjoy some quality time at the beach (be sure to grab the required beach tag). After a day at the beach, check out the Wetlands Institute to learn more about the ecosystem at the Jersey shore, visit live marsh animals, and get a panoramic view of the beach from the Observation Tower. For overnight accommodation, the Lark Motel is a family-friendly property a block from the beautiful Stone Harbor beach. If you prefer a luxury property, The Reeds at Shelter Haven is a great choice.
2 Sandy Hook
Located at the north end of the Jersey shore, this state park is one of the best beaches in New Jersey. You will have to pay to access it, but when you are inside the state park grounds, you will enjoy beautiful beaches and plenty of parking, something that is at a premium in this state. In season, you should definitely arrive early to best enjoy this destination and the surrounding nature.
There is more to do than just sunbathing on this barrier spit of land. Bring your bike and tour the seven-mile bike trail through the park, reserve a primitive camping spot and sleep under the stars, windsurf, or kiteboard. There is also excellent bird watching. One of the best ways to experience Sandy Hook is through one of the ranger-led canoe tours that take adventurers on a two-mile trip, allowing you to experience Sandy Hook from the water.
Blue Bay Inn is an attractive boutique hotel in nearby Atlantic Highlands. Should you want to spend a day in Manhattan, the Seastreak Ferry is two blocks away and will shuttle you into the city in a scenic 35 minutes.
3 Sea Girt Beach
If you want to live like a local during your New Jersey beach vacation, Sea Girt is the place to do it. It is small, only about one square mile, and most of the inhabitants reside here year-round. Because this town was incorporated around the turn of the century, there are plenty of historical sites and museums available for those craving more than a day on the beach.
A small boardwalk and quiet beaches during the week make this a great destination for couples and families. Be sure to ask one of the locals their favorite places to eat. They may point you to The Parker House, always a good bet. Sea Girt Lodge has an excellent reputation and location. For a special stay complete with pampering, look to the porch-wrapped and pet-friendly bed-and-breakfast, The Beacon House.
4 Wildwood Beach
Wildwood is the spot to be if you crave more excitement. This family-friendly destination has a 36-block boardwalk filled with amusement rides, games, souvenir shops, and all the things that make a quintessential Jersey Shore vacation. A trip to the Wildwood Boardwalk wouldn't be complete without a visit to Morey's Piers and delicious frozen custard from Kohr's Brothers. For the true Wildwood experience, choose one of the small retro motels like the Quebec Motel By-The-Sea. If you're looking for a larger property, the Adventurer Oceanfront Inn is on the main strip at the start of the boardwalk.
5 Cape May Beach
Cape May is arguably the most charming of the Jersey Shore beaches. Dotted with Victorian houses and quaint bed-and-breakfasts, along with a pristine coastline, Cape May is not only a great spot for a couples getaway, but for families as well. The beach is the main draw, as the area is known as the nation's oldest seaside resort, but if you want to beat the heat or enjoy a rainy day indoors, visit one of Cape May's many attractions - like the Cape May County Park and Zoo, Fireman's Museum, or the Cape May Lighthouse, or relax in one of their many spas.
Cape May also has a plethora of water activities, from parasailing to boating and waverunners for the more adventurous. After a busy day in Cape May, stop in at Uncle Charley's for some homemade, hand-dipped ice-cream, an all-time favorite of those visiting the Jersey Shore. A short walk from the beach, The Virginia hotel has a delightful front porch, which will tempt you from the shore, and Angel of the Sea is a Victorian delight complete with afternoon tea.
6 Asbury Park Beach
Asbury Park wasn't always known as one of the best beaches in New Jersey, but things have changed in the last decade or so. Although families are welcome to visit, this town is geared more towards adults, and 80s music lovers will especially love it here. Both Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen graced the local venues and got their start at places like the Stone Pony, where you can still listen to live music. Pinball aficionados will be taken back to their childhood after one visit to the Silverball Museum Arcade on the boardwalk. The eclectic mix of activities in Asbury Park make this a destination for old and young alike. If you want to stay in the area, The Asbury Hotel gets high marks for its professional and friendly staff, and The Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel is a good-value, modern spot with a prime waterfront location.
7 Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park
This narrow barrier island is much quieter than some of the other New Jersey beaches. Mostly because it is undeveloped - one of the few remaining islands like this in New Jersey. You will pay to get on the island, but once you are there, you can enjoy the shore in its natural state, with clean beaches, ample bathrooms, shower facilities, and picnic areas. Visitors can walk the self-guided trails, enjoy a picnic lunch, swim in the ocean, surf, and canoe. This is the perfect spot to visit for the day for those looking for a respite from the hustle and bustle of the other shore towns. It is also home to the state's largest osprey colony, so be sure to bring your binoculars and bird guide. The closest hotel to the park is the Windjammer Motor Inn. Half a block from the beach, this spot is good value, has a large pool, and provides beach passes to guests.
8 Long Beach Island
Long Beach Island is another favorite of families visiting the Jersey Shore. Along this 18-mile stretch of sandy shores, small towns dot the landscape. This summer colony hosts many residents who move to the shore for the season as soon as the school year ends.
Among the many beaches, you will find watersports, shopping, dining, fairs, festivals, and a pretty amazing fourth of July fireworks show. Don't miss the infamous Barnegat Light, an appealing village at the northern end, which has somehow managed to retain its original character. The historic lighthouse is a highlight.
For those seeking adventure, you can take surf lessons or take advantage of the rides at the amusement park. For a rainy day or to get out of the hot sun, take the kids to the Long Beach Island Museum Monday mornings, where they will enjoy fun activities. Steps from the beach, Drifting Sands represents good value on Long Beach Island. Windward at the Beach is a great bed-and-breakfast experience a block from the beach, with free parking and an outdoor shower.
9 Seabright Beach
Sea Bright is more for the discerning Jersey Shore traveler or a couple looking to relax. This beach is known for its private beach clubs and five-star dining experiences. The public beach has a large parking lot and beautiful views.
While you are there enjoying the peace and quiet, be sure to stop and enjoy an Italian meal at Anjelica's Restaurant, hands-down the best Italian food at the Jersey Shore, or head over to the yoga studio or nearby spas. Sea Bright is also one of the most dog-friendly shore points, so be sure to bring your four-legged friends with you.
10 Belmar Beach
Belmar is a favorite of Jersey Shore visitors. With tons of attractions, fairs, festivals, and a beautiful beach, it's easy to see why travelers flock here every year. There is a vibrant downtown, a boardwalk, and a marina for those wanting to get some fishing or sailing time. Belmar is known for its clean beaches and family-friendly playgrounds located every few blocks. It was one of the first New Jersey towns to make its beaches wheelchair accessible.
Be sure to check out the parks and recreation website before your stay, as the summer months are filled with family-friendly festivals and events for tourists and residents alike. While there, visit one of their many seafood restaurants, like Mr. Shrimps.