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Jersey Shore
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Best Beaches

Where's the best place on our fabulous Jersey Shore to plant your umbrella this summer? Depends what you're looking for. Our intrepid beachcombers weigh in with their favorites.

Posted May 9, 2011

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Shore feature June 2011
Stone Harbor
Stone Harbor.
Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Ocean City
Ocean City.
Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Asbury Park
Asbury Park.
Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Best: Family Fun Beach
Point Pleasant Beach
Exit N-90/S-98

Fun House isn’t just an attraction on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk; it’s an appropriate moniker for this seaside playground with its first-class aquarium, live entertainment, arcades, wide beaches and array of dining options. Rent bikes from the colorful fleet at Shore Riders Bike Rentals and cruise the boardwalk while the line winds down at Perk’s Café, a popular breakfast spot featuring candied French toast and fresh fruit. Then hit the beach at Martell’s, where you can enjoy alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages from its Tiki Bar. Want to get the kids out of the sun? At Jenkinson’s Aquarium, they can view sharks, penguins, alligators and seals—even sea stars and stingrays in the touch tank. For dinner, head over to Frankie’s Bar & Grill to feast on 10-ounce sirloin burgers. A $5.95 children’s menu offers six selections served with fries and a glass of milk or soda. End a great day at Hoffman’s, where you can indulge in delicious homemade ice cream—from strawberry bon bon to peanut butter nugget.

Best: Family Quiet Beaches
Stone Harbor
Exit 10

With its small-town charm, laid-back shopping district and numerous restaurants, Stone Harbor offers fun for the whole family—at a slower pace than many of its Shore neighbors. The beaches are never overcrowded and are within walking distance of all points in the town (which for the most part is just two or three city blocks wide). Shoppers flock to 96th Street, but the town has plenty to keep the kids entertained as well. Peek through the windows at the Original Fudge Kitchen to see the sweet stuff being prepared; pop into Island Studio to paint your own pottery; or play a rooftop round of mini golf at one of Tee Time’s two locations. For fun on the water, you can rent a kayak or a surfboard from Harbor Outfitters for some flat-water paddling on the calm bay, or sign the family up for one of their guided ecotours. Satisfy the kids’ pizza cravings at Peace A Pizza, which serves offerings such as chicken parmesan and mac-n-cheese pizza. And cap it all off with a trip to Springer’s Homemade Ice Cream, a Stone Harbor staple since the 1920s. On summer Mondays, bring a blanket to the firehouse lot at 7 pm for family nights featuring magic shows, jugglers, puppets and songs.—DAS

Bay Head
Exit S-98/N-90

There are no public changing rooms in Bay Head, and food and beverages are prohibited on the beach. But the strand is never crowded, bathers are protected by lifeguards, and you can rent kayaks, surfboards and bikes right in town. For dinner, bring the family to Theresa’s South, a casual and creative offshoot of the popular Theresa’s in Westfield. Later, stop in for ice cream at Dorcas of Bay Head, a classic soda-fountain sidewalk café. Don’t miss the Summer Surf Movie Nights at the Beach House Classic Boardshop on select Fridays throughout the summer. —DAS

Sea Girt
Exit 98

With one mile of uncrowded beaches and an old-fashioned boardwalk, Sea Girt is perfect for a quiet family getaway. The boardwalk begins at the foot of the Sea Girt Lighthouse and runs to the south end of town. Hungry? Check out Rod’s Olde Irish Tavern, a turn-of-the-century saloon, for some traditional pub fare.—DAS

Best: Secluded Beach
Strathmere, Upper Township
Exit N-13/S-17

Some folks in Upper Township are not happy with New Jersey Monthly. Why? Because in last year’s Shore Guide, we spilled the beans about their beloved gem—Strathmere. (Seriously, they yelled at this reporter last summer.) Well, the secret is out, and yes, Strathmere is as unique as it sounds. Tucked between the busier Ocean City and Sea Isle City, this cozy 1.5-mile stretch is quiet, shoobie-free and requires no beach tags. Approach it from two-lane Commonwealth Avenue (where you can always find free street parking, even in the height of summer) and stake out a sandy spot for the day. Enjoy sunbathing at the shoreline, take a walk to the northern end of the island for views of OC, watch the dolphins commute, or try ocean kayaking, surfing, fishing, even kiteboarding—all without kitschy shops and boardwalk hubbub. For a break from sun and sand, grab an ice cream at the Old Shack or a cold beer or two during happy hour at hole-in-the-wall Twisties or on the outdoor deck at the popular Deauville Inn. Just don’t tell anyone you heard about it from me. The town’s oval car decals even say “Shhh.” —EMF

Best: Boardwalk
Ocean City
Exit N-25/S-30

The eight miles of sandy beaches seem endless here—and so do the activities on this 2.5-mile boardwalk. Ocean City Bicycle Center opens at 7 am. Rent an adult trike, kid's bike, cruiser or surrey, and scope out the shops and eateries at a leisurely pace. You’ll be glad you got a little exercise before caving to the aroma of fresh donuts wafting from Brown’s Restaurant. Come early—the line can be a mile long on summer mornings. For a little excitement, check out Playland's Castaway Cove. This amusement park, the oldest in Ocean City, boasts 11 thrill rides, as well as 19 family favorites like the Antique Cars and the Ferris wheel. Grab a slice for lunch at one of Mack & Manco Pizza’s three locations, then beat the heat with a matinee at the Strand 5 movie theater. For dinner, Clancy’s by the Sea offers patio seating, which provides great views overlooking the ocean and the beach. Save room for sweets at Shriver’s, where you’ll be torn between salt water taffy, creamy fudge and other confections. Then burn off your sugary snacks at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier with its 35 rides and attractions. —AJC

Best: Nude Beach
Gunnison Beach, Sandy Hook
Exit 117

You’re in for an eyeful when you venture to Gunnison Beach. Not only do you get some of the best views of Manhattan and Brooklyn, but the two-mile stretch of sand is also the largest nude beach on the East Coast and the only legal nude beach in New Jersey. Past the signs that read “Beyond This Point You May Encounter Nude Sunbathers,” anything goes, so expect to see a whole new kind of beach bum. The crowd is super friendly and judgment free, but the amenities are minimal—a small snack shack and volleyball net. Beach badges are not required (where in the world would you pin one?), but parking is $10. Apply sunscreen liberally—and don’t gawk at your neighbors. —EMF

Best: Surfing Beaches
Inlet Beach, Manasquan
Exit N-90/S-98

Surfing in New Jersey is generally an exercise in either patience or fearlessness. When the water is warm, you’ll often wait weeks for decent breaks. When the water is cold, the waves are epic but often beyond the skill level (and temperature threshold) of most casual surfers. Enter Inlet Beach, the Garden State’s most consistent year-round surfing spot. The beach’s reliable surf can be attributed to its enormous jetties, which corral approaching waves into long, glorious breaks even in the flat summer doldrums. Things get particularly interesting just before storms and during late-summer swells, when it’s not impossible to find standup barrels as the inlet breaks at 15 or 20 feet. However, Manasquan’s reliability comes at a price. The spot can get crowded on summer weekends. Also, when the waves get epic, Inlet Beach attracts a lot of hardcore locals who have a rather inflexible sense of surf hierarchy. Treat fellow surfers with respect and you’ll be just fine. And when the surf’s down, pay a visit to Inlet Outlet, Manasquan’s only surf shop and a local institution for more than three decades.—ND

Whale Beach, Upper Township
Exit 17

Go down to Sea Isle City, turn left at Landis Avenue, and keep going until you pass Taylor Avenue. Once the homes and crowds begin to disappear, you’ve arrived at Whale Beach, one of the Jersey Shore’s best-kept (until now) surfing secrets. Frequent sandbars create nice, long, clean breaks all summer, and the lack of crowds allows everyone to have his or her own little slice of wave heaven.—ND

Long Beach Island (southern tip)
Exit 63

The most crowded break on LBI can be found at Holyoke Avenue in Beach Haven. But go a little farther south to the island’s southern tip, and you’ll find great waves and far fewer people. An imposing jetty creates an intimate and consistent cove of long, tidy lines. Make sure you bring some bug spray—the greenhead flies can get pretty intense. But the waves are worth it.—ND

Best: Gay-Friendly Beaches
Asbury Park
Exit S-102/N-100A

Diversity helps make Asbury Park a standout destination. Here, buff and bronzed Speedo-clad men roam comfortably on the beach and boardwalk alongside preppy young couples equipped with diaper bags and beach pails. The lively boardwalk starts at Convention Hall—the restored concert venue—on the north end and runs to the dilapidated (and closed) Casino Pier at the south end. In between there’s a bit of everything—even a miniature water park and putt-putt course for the kids. Mostly, though, it’s about food and drink and music: Grab a beer at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, tapas at Langosta Lounge, a hot dog at Mayfair Boardwalk Grill, or join the crowd for music at the Stone Pony. Paradise, in the Empress Hotel, is the late-night hangout—equal parts gay revue and nightclub. Asbury Park has been cleaning itself up over the past several years and it shows. The vibe is funky—and all are welcomed. —LP

Ocean Grove
Exit N-102/S-103

This quaint community is literally adjacent to Asbury Park but figuratively miles away. A long-time religious retreat, Ocean Grove is known for its Victorian homes, Great Auditorium, B&Bs, summertime churchgoers—and more recently, a growing gay community. The pristine boardwalk is lined with benches, street lamps and potted flowers but nary a shop, bar or restaurant. For that (minus the bar), head to Main Avenue, with its boutiques, gift shops, pizzerias and a few fine restaurants. A crowd favorite is Nagle's Apothecary Cafe for ice cream. On the beach, generations of families co-exist with the quiet gay population. Restrooms and showers are convenient on the south end of the boardwalk, near the fishing pier. Parking can be difficult, even with blocks of on-the-street free parking. (Free shuttle buses run from nearby Neptune Midtown School on Saturdays only.) —LP

Best: Upscale Beaches
Spring Lake
Exit 98

There’s a case to be made to skip the beach while visiting Spring Lake and just wander the tree-lined streets looking at the gorgeous Victorian homes with their perfectly manicured lawns. But don’t skip the beach—it’s two miles of pristine sand (no food, no drinks, no dogs) bordered by the longest noncommercial boardwalk in the state—a magnet for astonishingly fit joggers and young couples pushing strollers. There’s plenty to do off the beach: Enjoy a bloody Mary on the porch of the Breakers Hotel and restaurant, stroll past the quaint shops on Third Avenue, fish along the shores of Spring Lake and grab a slice at the Spring Lake Gourmet Pizzeria. You can also splurge on dinner at the Black Trumpet at the Grand Victorian Cafe or Whispers at the Hewitt Wellington. For overnight stays, there are plenty of B&Bs from which to choose. —LP

Exit 90

There is absolutely nothing to do in Mantoloking except go to the beach, which may be its lure. There are no restaurants, bars, hotels—or public restrooms. But, the beach is a spectacular stretch of uninterrupted surf (no jetties), which makes it a surfer’s delight. Wooden walkways lead over the dunes to the mostly unguarded beaches (one area, south of Herbert Street, has lifeguards). There are lots of rules here—no food, no drink (unless in a re-usable container), no dogs, no getting too close to the waterfront homes—but all that tends to make for a tranquil experience.—LP

Best: Party Scene
Exit 98

A certain reality TV show would have you believe Seaside Heights is the party town of the Shore. Forget that. Belmar has just as much going on in terms of nightlife, but with less neon-lit intensity. Start your night at 10th Avenue Burrito, with some of the best Mexican food around. Or head to Ragin‘ Cajun, a hip BYO. On the north end of town, the party really gets going at 507 Main, which offers a front-room dance scene (with DJ) and a back-room concert (with a live band). Connolly Station is an old-timey, pub-style bar—with band or DJ on various nights. On the south end, the Boathouse Bar and Grill boasts one of the few outdoor patio set-ups in town. After closing time, satisfy your late-night munchies at Jimi’s Main Street Cheesesteaks (where the line often extends down the street) or the WindMill, with its out-of-this-world french fries and short-order fare. —BS

Best: Pet-Friendly Beaches
Island Beach State Park
Exit 82

Island Beach is for lovers of animals, both wild and domestic. One of the few undeveloped barrier beaches on the north Atlantic Coast, it is home to a large osprey colony, as well as red fox, blue herons, peregrine falcons and more than 400 species of plants. Man’s best friend also is welcome in designated areas of the park’s sandy beaches, as long as he or she is leashed (maximum length six feet). Dog-friendly areas are the non-swimming beaches located approximately five miles into the park, after Swimming Area #2. Most visitors with four-legged friends pack picnic lunches. Located near the entrance to the park, Ebby’s Café Alfresco is a popular pit stop for a giant sub or specialty sandwich. Check in with the park office before bringing your furry pal, as there are certain times of the year when birds nest and dogs are prohibited. —AJC

Stone Harbor
Exit 10

Don’t be misled by the oceanfront signs saying pets aren’t allowed on Stone Harbor’s beach. Last year, borough officials opened more than 40 blocks of beachfront, from 80th Street to 122nd Street, to leashed canines from 7 pm to sunset. During the day, the 82nd Street Park is popular for dog-toting families. Your pup can take in the fresh air and green grass while your family enjoys the playground, baseball and soccer fields and basketball and tennis courts. At night, take Fido for a stroll downtown, where the staff of Paw Prints hands out treats to quadrupeds. —AJC

Written by Ashley J. Cerasaro, Nick DiUlio, Emily Faherty, Lauren Payne, Brett Savage, Drew Anne Scarantino.

Click on the links below to read more Summer Shore Guide stories:

Beyond Pizza & Frozen Custard

If you've had enough of the typical Shore fare, and are looking for high-quality cuisine, we've got some tips that will point you to the right exit.

Go Fish
A fisherman's guide to the best and most pristine fishing spots on the Jersey Shore.

A Different Kind of Beach
Higbee Beach, on the Delaware Bay, welcomes a different type of crowd in West Cape May.

A World Apart
Summer crowds and chic amenities have encroached on LBI, but for most, it’s still a magic place.

Island Attractions

Things to do and see in Long Beach Island.

Before You Go
Things you should know before hitting the sand on Long Beach Island.

An Eater's LBI
Places to know when hunger happens.

Shifting Sands

Beach damage is more than a tale of man against sea.

What's Happening
Your calendar for a summer of fun.

Belmar Kicks Sand on Castle Ban
Belmar finally repeals an anti-sandcastle building law that had been on the books for 20 years.

Swan Boats Are Back (With Pelicans and Dragons!)
Swan boats—once a fixture of summer life in Asbury Park—will return after a prolonged absence.

He Sells (and Displays) Seashells
The Discovery Seashell Museum in Ocean City brings the bottom of the ocean to you.

Just Wild About Wildwood

We've got the scoop on some new attractions set to appear on Wildwood's boardwalk this summer—be sure to check them out.

All The Shore's a Stage
The Jersey coast offers more than just sun and sand. Use our guide and you’ll be ready to take in top-notch theater—from Broadway productions to children’s shows and outdoor classics.

Tour de Shore
Bicycling the beaches, byways (and some harrowing bridges) from Monmouth County to Cape May.

Safe and Sound
At the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, seals, turtles and other sea creatures get a second chance.

Pirates Anyone?
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center offers summer educational programs for children.

Effortless Vacationing
A lifelong New Jersey resident founded Relax Concierge—a service designed to provide people with living essentials at their seaside vacation homes.

Related Articles:

Weston Gallery
Village Green
Only Mom Need Know: Snacks That Emphasize Nutrition
Dream On: Exotic Cars, Pedestrian Speeds
Pesce Out of Water: Rustic Italian Food in Spring Lake

If you like this article please share it.

You missed a great hangout

On Belmar being the best party town: You forgot Klein’s Tiki Bar. There’s live music and a real Caribbean Island feel to the place. Imagine: beautiful golden evenings on Shark River Inlet, steel drum music playing, and a boat drink in your hand.

Posted by: Tracey, Wall | May 24, 2011 12:23:53 PM |

Lavallette is the best beach

my family has been coming to Lavallette NJ for 65 years / It has never changed. You feel safe and is only 1 % crime. people are always friendly.. cleanest beaches whitest sand. Best restaurants. you have Point Pleasant and so many other places close. it is the best come and try it you will love it... once you go and will always come back.

Posted by: Lynda, Lavallette NJ | Jul 01, 2011 11:25:53 AM |


Your obvious distain for Seaside Heights and Seaside Park is not becomming to a magazine that is supposed to be objective.

The best beach--Seaside Park

The best boardwalk--Seaside Heights

Posted by: frank welzer, Boca Raton Fl. &Seaside Park N.J. | Jan 30, 2012 21:34:28 PM |


This article is exactly what I’ve been searching for. Most "Best Of" lists simply include the most popular (and crowded!) beaches, but now I know of at least five new spots that I absolutely have to get to this summer. Thank you so much for taking the time to introduce us out-of-towners to some of your hidden gems we would have never otherwise known, and compiling such a great list.

Posted by: Rachel, Poconos, PA | May 29, 2012 01:44:57 AM |

born in n. j

just want to say i lived in keansburg i have so many happy memories . i really miss living there

Posted by: anna barnes, rossville ga. | Sep 06, 2012 11:02:39 AM |

Handicapped Access...

What’s the best beach for the handicapped? ... with dune-buggy-chairs. I’m coming from Philly..what’s both ’close’ and a good beach?

- Randy

Posted by: Randy Zeitman, Phila | May 18, 2013 14:27:07 PM |



Posted by: bob, bobtown | Jun 22, 2013 13:39:59 PM |



Posted by: carmen, nj | Jul 19, 2013 17:13:47 PM |

Sea Girt

Going to Sea Girt today to get some sun and surf. Will let you guys know how it goes.

Posted by: Davorin Piljic, Clifton | Aug 04, 2013 16:14:57 PM |

looking for a beach to go to

Hi - Been going to Cape May for YEARS with my kids and would love to find out if theres any other beach (NOT atlantic city, seaside heights or wildwood) that is a family friendly setting - has the little shops, restaurants that we could walk to plus walk or stay close to the beach. I have no clue how to find out this info other than to write someone familiar with tourism. If you can please contact me. Like the Stone Harbor/Avalon area but do they have shopes.restaurants like Cape May?

Posted by: Colleen Shearman, Windber, PA | Oct 06, 2013 15:51:52 PM |


Don’t sleep on Sandy Hook.

They have done an incredible job since Sandy in terms of cleaning it up and policing the riff raff that has been a problem there in recent years.

Now a more quiet, family friendly type of beach.

Posted by: A.J., Piscataway | Feb 24, 2014 18:16:03 PM |

best beach and boardwalk

Just came back from Seaside Heights for the weekend and spent every weekend at a different beach since last year. Seaside Heights has the overall best boardwalk and cleanest beaches. The sand is beautiful and the waves are outstanding! Also new shops are on the all new boardwalk. I’ve lived in NJ all my life and have owned shorehouses in the past all along the Jersey Shore. Seaside has it all!!

Posted by: Janice, Hillsborough | Jun 02, 2014 20:42:34 PM |

Dog Friendly Beaches

I’ll have to give Island Beach a try! I’ve always brought my dog to Long Port - always other dogs to play with there! I also found some other dog-friendly beaches on this blog:

Posted by: Hannah, Philadelphia | Jul 21, 2014 18:47:12 PM |

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