Blue Bay Inn
51 First Avenue, Atlantic Highlands
Number of rooms: 27; summer price range: $189–$550
More cosmopolitan chic than classic Jersey Shore, the Blue Bay offers guests an elegant getaway just two blocks from the Seastreak Ferry, a 40-minute ride to Manhattan, and a mere two miles from the beaches of Sandy Hook. Locals Dido and Stark Krikorian, on the brink of retirement, purchased what had been a dilapidated tavern and, nearly seven years ago, turned it into the classy hotel it is now. Working with interior designer Thomas Hauser, the trio created the stylish look. There’s an ever-changing gallery of art in the lobby and on the hotel’s two guest-room floors. Each room is slightly different, done up individually in a welcoming palette ranging from plums to golds. All rooms have fluffy bedding and comfortable seating; most have balconies overlooking the Raritan Bay or the bustle of downtown Atlantic Highlands.
The Oyster Point Hotel
146 Bodman Place, Red Bank
Number of rooms: 58; summer price range: $189-$229
Renovated and relaunched in June 2009, the Oyster Point offers seductive views of the Navesink River from guests’ rooms. Oyster Point has the feel of a spacious yacht; indeed, guests may arrive by boat and dock at the adjoining Oyster Point Marina. Red Bank beckons off the starboard side, with excellent shopping, restaurants, and bars. Beaches are five miles away. Food at Oyster Point includes the Pearl restaurant’s contemporary American cuisine. Guests can enjoy cocktails and light fare in the Pearl Lounge, with its fireplace and contemporary decor, or venture outside to dine on the ship-like Terrace Deck.
The Oyster Point puts on a July 3 outdoor barbecue that sells out every year. A reservations-only brunch is offered at nearby sister property, Molly Pitcher Inn, October through Father’s Day. Special packages include New Year’s Eve, Romance on the River, discount tickets to Red Bank’s Two River Theater, and Jersey Shore Premium Outlets shopping. —C.P.
The Bungalow Hotel
50 Laird Street, Long Branch
Number of rooms: 24; summer price range: $199-$979
Walk across the patio, past the fireplace, through the garage-style glass doors, and you might think you’ve entered a hunting lodge belonging to an eccentric surfer-millionaire, or at least a big Rolling Stones fan—Mick Jagger’s photograph hangs on the wall. In addition to a vintage 1920s pool table, the lobby is full of art objects, wooden animal heads, photos of surfers, art books lining shelves. The décor of the hotel, opened in 2009, is the work of Manhattan-based Sixx Design principals Robert and Cortney Novogratz, who recently signed on for the Bravo TV show 9 by Design, based on their redevelopment of abandoned Manhattan buildings. The hotel is owned by Anthony and Nick Diaco and David and Michael Barry, owners of the nearby Avenue restaurant .
Upstairs, the rooms flaunt white-on-white decor. The intention is to soothe and cool, but each room features a fireplace, should the night air nip. Situated at the edge of Long Branch’s Pier Village and just a few steps from the ocean, the Bungalow offers access to nearby Le Club, a private beach club with pool, cabanas, and other amenities, for $25 per day per person. The hotel is half a block from a day spa and next door to a bakery, Cake Bake & Roll, which also serves breakfast and lunch. —C.P.
408 Seventh Avenue, Asbury Park
Number of rooms: 20; summer price range: $145-$225
The old-school white clapboard facade of Hotel Tides gives little hint of the contemporary, renovated interior. The single clue as you approach is the front entrance: handsome, art-deco glass-and-wood double doors. In the lobby you’ll find an art gallery with a fireplace flanked by mirrored walls streaming with water. The dining room captures the history of the building with its ornate walls and tin ceiling, discovered after workers scraped away layers of paint. Out back, a heated swimming pool sets the scene for poolside dining. A small spa adjoins the pool area.
Under executive chef and general manager James Hurley, the kitchen produces New American cuisine made with local and sustainable ingredients, including the new addition of an all-organic foods brunch. No two guests rooms are alike, although each shower features river-rock floors. Beds have pillow-top mattresses. The Tides is not just for grown-ups; Children and even pets are welcome. Open year-round. —C.P.
4401 Long Beach Boulevard,
Brant Beach (Long Beach Island)
Number of rooms: 22; summer price range: $280-$435
The vibe is more South Beach than Brant Beach at Daddy O, a hip hotel located just across from the beach. Not exactly a sleepy spot, Daddy O is known as much for its popular restaurant and lively bar scene as for its sophisticated boutique hotel. Owned by a partnership headed by restaurateur Martin Grims—who also owns Long Beach Island’s Plantation restaurant and several others in the Philadelphia area—Daddy-O was opened in 2005 following a multimillion dollar transformation of a rundown hotel.
Rooms are small but stylish, with lacquered mahogany furniture, stainless steel and leather accents, and faux mink throws. Each room has a flat-screen television, wireless hook-up, MP3 player, and a marble shower with a rainfall showerhead. Guests, mostly couples seeking an ultra-chic getaway, can enjoy the private rooftop sun deck with its ocean and bay views. Or they can walk half a block to LBI’s pristine beach.
As the day winds down, Daddy O heats up, with a nightly Happy Hour featuring the signature Sparkling Cosmo for $5. There’s live entertainment on Thursday and Friday nights from Memorial Day to Labor Day. —L.P.
111 South Chelsea Avenue, Atlantic City
Number of rooms: 331; summer price range: $99-$347
The Chelsea is daring for what it lacks—the hysterical sounds and flashing lights of a gambling floor. That’s because the Chelsea, which opened in 2008, has no casino. It is, by Atlantic City standards, a boutique hotel, and a stylish one at that. Think 1950s retro chic, a place Dean Martin and Rosemary Clooney would have gotten a kick out of. Forged from the renovated bones of a former Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson Hotel (which was once the Teplitzky Hotel, an Atlantic City fixture for many years) now joined at the hip (pun intended), the Chelsea’s rooms are divvied up in two sections: the hotel (the former Holiday Inn), has bigger rooms, some with ocean views, and the annex (the former HoJo’s) has less pricey rooms that draw a younger party crowd on summer weekends.
The two sections are connected by a lobby that leads to several attractions: the Sea Spa, with saltwater pool; restaurants (Teplitzky’s, a retro diner, and Chelsea Prime, a steakhouse on the fifth floor); and plenty of opportunities to party (the fifth-floor bars, Cabana Club, and pool that feature DJs on weekends). The Chelsea also stakes out a section of beach, where cabana boys set up lounge chairs, towels, and umbrellas for guests. The hotel bills it as the only full-service beach in A.C. —J.A.M.
Golden Inn and Resort
7849 Dune Drive (oceanfront at 78th Street), Avalon
Number of rooms: 154; summer price range: $230-$495
Robert Golden built the Golden Inn in 1961 as a 50-room hotel with a dining room. Today, it has 154 rooms and is run by VF Hotels, which bought the hotel when Golden died in 1983. Everything in the rooms has been renovated and replaced in the last three years. Beds are queen-size pillow-tops with down pillows, and the pull-out sofas have been fitted with bedding double the standard thickness (so you won’t feel that bar in your back when the couch turns into a bed).
You’re at the beach, but you can also enjoy the inn’s heated pool and barefoot beach bar and grill, which presents live music seven nights a week in season. This year, the Inn will launch new daytime activities for kids and provide dinnertime babysitting. For meals one can choose between the dining room, with its upscale menu, or Luigi’s Pasta & Vino, a casual Italian restaurant.
Feel like splurging? Book one of the six oceanfront studios. They sleep six people and look right over the dunes onto the beach. For a summer deal, ask about midweek getaways, which come with a reduced rate and food and beverage credits. —J.A.M.
305 East Rio Grande Avenue, Wildwood
Number of rooms: 39; summer price range: $148-$339
The Starlux started as the Wingate, a typical 1950s Wildwood motel. Rooms cost $8-$10 a night and offered “Free Drive-In Parking!”—as a vintage advertisement boasted. The bones of the Wingate are still part of the Starlux, but the building was gutted in 2000 and expanded in 2002 into a 39-room boutique hotel with a lounge, a pool, and hot tub where the parking lot used to be, and two Airstream trailers tricked out, modernized, and available for rent. If Atlantic City’s Chelsea resonates with Dean Martin and Rosemary Clooney, the pop touchstones for the Starlux would be Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Every room and suite is done up in doo-wop kitsch. Each comes with a microwave, refrigerator, and coffee maker. Guests get free bike rentals and access to the Astro Lounge, which is set up for continental breakfast and has a flat-screen TV, DVDs and a place to hang out if the weather is not beach friendly.
The biggest deals, though, are the Stay & Play packages. The same company that runs Morey’s Piers—and all the rides and waterparks on the Wildwood Boardwalk—also owns the hotel. Starlux guests can buy discount park passes that are good until 6 pm on day of checkout. A five-day Stay & Play adult pass, for example, costs $85. The regular price is $210 (deal not valid for arrivals between July 16 and August 21). The Starlux is open year-round, with off-season rates as low as $69 between January 1 and April 30. —J.A.M.
The Caribbean Motel
5600 Ocean Avenue, Wildwood Crest
Number of rooms: 30; summer price range: $69-$219
The Caribbean, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has been renovated and re-imagined to pay homage to Wildwood’s doo-wop history. Built in 1957, the Caribbean was considered ultramodern. Not only could you drive right to your room—a novelty at the time—but it featured plastic palm trees, a crescent-shaped pool, and what was later dubbed a Jetson ramp that curved from the second-story sundeck and lounge down to the first floor.
When Carolyn Emigh and George Miller bought the property in 2004, the sundeck was rotted through and the motel was “slowly deteriorating,” says Emigh. But it was close to the beach and had a loyal following who returned in the summer of 2005 after the renovation. The exterior has been spruced up, the pool rebuilt, and everything inside has been gutted, restored, and redecorated in the best ’50s-kitsch tradition. Rooms sleep two to six people (rooms with kitchenettes are $10 more). The Caribbean has ten event weekends when Miller and Emigh throw parties for guests, including special dinners. The Caribbean opens in late April and closes after Wildwood’s Fabulous ’50s weekend, the third weekend in October. —J.A.M
29 Perry Street, Cape May
Number of rooms: 51; summer price range: $199-$699
The Sandpiper is a condotel—each of the 51 units in this beachfront building is privately owned, but rentals are managed by Cape Resorts (which also runs the Congress Hall and other properties in Cape May and Atlantic City). The building has a lobby and concierge service, plus outdoor pool, beach changing rooms and showers, sauna, game room, exercise room, and lounge. The units are beachy-keen—a lot of cool whites, shell and wood accents, and plenty of space to stretch out and relax. The units come in two sizes: one bedroom, one bath; and two bedrooms, two baths. All units come with full kitchens, living rooms, washer and dryer, and private balconies. All but four have ocean views. Staying at the Sandpiper is more like dropping your stuff at your friend’s Shore house than renting a room. Rentals are available from late March through New Year’s Day. —J.A.M.
The Virginia Hotel
25 Jackson Street, Cape May
Number of rooms: 24, summer price range: $299-409
The chic sister to the grand Congress Hall and the family-oriented Beach Shack, the Virginia is a mainstay on the B&B row that is the last block of Jackson Street before the beach. Semi-celebs often haunt the place—like New York literati Jay McInerney (Bright Lights, Big City) and Candace Bushnell, on whom Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw was modeled. All rooms have Belgian and Italian linens, flat-screen TVs, Bulgari bath products, in-room wireless connections, and twice-a-day housekeeping. The Virginia also provides beach chairs and umbrellas for the small beach a half-block away. The property includes five Victorian cottages down the block, most with seven-night minimums in the summer. The Ebbitt Room, an elegant restaurant with a marvelous wine list and even-higher-than-usual-Cape-May prices (entrées $30-$39), is right off the lobby. Rock on the porch and see the best of Cape May stroll by, or sit inside and play the baby grand. —R.S.
The Beach Shack
205 Beach Avenue, Cape May
number of rooms: 65; summer price range: $229-$399
The Beach Shack, which opened last summer, is a kicky kid brother to the stately Congress Hall—both are owned by Cape Resorts. The building itself was the Coachman, an aging motel, and had been slated for demolition. When the economy soured, though, the Coachman lived to see another day—refurbished, refinished, and re-opened last year as the Beach Shack, while amping up the late ’60s beachcomber vibe that is retro-cool today. The plan worked. The Beach Shack has become an attractive family option. Rooms sleep four to six people. For a big group, book Bungalow 2, which looks like an addition to the Brady Bunch house, with its full kitchen and living room done in burnt orange and heavy wood. Make sure you stop at the Rusty Nail, the on-location eatery that was once the hangout for the Cape May Beach Patrol. The Nail still serves beer in frosted mugs, though it’s more an upscale outdoor bar and restaurant than a lifeguard dive and has an expanded seafood menu this year. There is outdoor picnic seating and, at night, live entertainment and a bonfire. The Beach Shack is seasonal, opening in early May and closing after Columbus Day Weekend. In the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, the Beach Shack sometimes offers free nights on extended stays. —J.A.M.