Best: Family Fun Beaches
Point Pleasant Beach
Fun House isn’t just an attraction on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk; it’s an appropriate metaphor for this seaside playground with its world-class aquarium, live entertainment, amusement rides, wide beaches and array of dining options. A recent boardwalk addition: Jenkinson’s Adventure Lookout Ropes Course. Also on the boardwalk, Jenkinson’s South Amusement Park features more than 20 rides for kids of all ages. 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 on Richmond Avenue to feast on 10-ounce sirloin hamburgers, a perennial winner of New Jersey Monthly‘s Jersey Choice restaurant poll. End a great day at Hoffman’s, where you can indulge in delicious homemade ice cream—from strawberry bon-bon to peanut butter nugget.
Read More: Destination: Point Pleasant Beach
Beach Haven (Long Beach Island)
Most of the towns on LBI are quiet retreats; Beach Haven, on the other hand, is hopping, with plenty of fun attractions for the whole family. LBI’s only amusement park, Fantasy Island, bustles with arcade games and kid-friendly rides. A short walk away, waterslides and mini-golf await at Thundering Surf Waterpark. For shoppers, there are plenty of browsing opportunities (and dining, too) at Schooner’s Wharf and Bay Village. For a rainy-day diversion, the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History has two floors of artifacts and underwater finds that are sure to fascinate. Of course, the main attraction is Beach Haven’s mile-square stretch of guarded ocean beach, but families with young ones are happy to discover the calmer waters (and play area) of Taylor Avenue beach on the bay side of LBI.
Read More: Destination: Long Beach Island
Best: Quiet Family Beaches
With its small-town charm, laid-back shopping district and varied restaurants, Stone Harbor offers fun for the whole family—at a slower pace than many of its Shore neighbors. The beaches are never crowded and are within walking distance of all points in the town. 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; rent bikes for a tour of the cycling-friendly island; catch a film at the town’s three-screen theater; 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 stand-up paddleboard from Harbor Outfitters for some flat-water paddling on the calm bay. For a better understanding of the bay’s ecosystem, visit the Wetlands Institute, which has an ambitious schedule of tours and nature-oriented festivals. Cap off the day with a trip to Springer’s Homemade Ice Cream, a Stone Harbor staple since the 1920s.
Read More: Destination: Stone Harbor
With one mile of uncrowded beaches and an old-fashioned boardwalk, Sea Girt is ideal for a quiet family getaway. The newly rebuilt 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. For people watching, grab a table for lunch at the Parker House—but be ready for long lines. For indoor fun, try the Lanes at Sea Girt.
The sandy beach seems endless here—it’s eight miles long—and so do the activities on the 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 scene 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—right on the boardwalk. Come early—the line can be a mile long on summer mornings. For seaside excitement, check out Gillian’s Wonderland Pier with its 28 rides and attractions. For an encore, there’s Playland’s Castaway Cove, which boasts 10 thrill rides, including the GaleForce triple-launch coaster, and plenty of family favorites like the Antique Cars and the Ferris wheel. Grab a slice for lunch at one of Manco & Manco Pizza’s three boardwalk locations. For dinner, Clancy’s by the Sea offers patio seating with great views of the beach. Save room for sweets at Shriver’s, where you’ll be torn between saltwater taffy, creamy fudge and other confections.
Read More: Destination: Ocean City
Best: Amusement Parks
There’s no more exciting place in New Jersey than Morey’s Piers, the three amusements parks clustered in a 12-block span of the Wildwood boardwalk. Combined, the parks boast more than 100 rides and attractions. Mariner’s Pier has the air of a traditional amusement park, with classic rides such as the Teacups and the Giant Wheel. Surfside Pier feels like a seaside carnival, with endless games and the glow of neon lights. Adventure Pier is the spot where thrill seekers kiss the sky on rides like SkyCoaster and SpringShot. But the entertainment isn’t limited to roller coasters and ring tosses. Nostalgia-minded adults can visit the Doo Wop Experience Museum to learn more about the architecture, music and arts that made Wildwood famous in its neon-infused heyday.
Read More: Destination: The Wildwoods
Best: Dining Scene
Indian curries from a Scottish chef? As chef/owner Jack Wright will tell you, curries are the most popular food in his native land. They are a menu staple at his Exit Zero Cookhouse. High-end dining options abound in Cape May, from the Washington Inn to the Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel to the Peter Shields Inn. Our fave breakfast spot is George’s Place, but the Mad Batter has a decades-long track record of making people happy. Speaking of happiness, people form lines at Hot Dog Tommy’s, a sidewalk institution just off the beach. Cape May’s most exciting and creative chef, Lucas Manteca, sets up a couple miles down the road in Cape May Point. An NJM Top 30 restaurant, Manteca’s Red Store is worth the drive. Time your reservation to catch the sunset at nearby Sunset Beach just before dinner.
Read More: Destination: Cape May