The 20 Best Beaches in New Jersey

Our definitive list of the state's must-visit Shore destinations.

Photo by Michael Kaucher/Pixabay

Best: Family Fun Beaches

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 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)

Exit 63
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

Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Best: Quiet Family Beaches

Stone Harbor

Exit 10
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

Sea Girt

Exit 98

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.

Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Best: Boardwalk

Ocean City

Exit N-25/S-30
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

Exit N-4B/S-6
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

Cape May
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

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  1. Jonathan Stokes

    What an awesome compilation! This article contains everything one needs to know before planning a vacation to Jersey Shore. There is something for everyone out there. Whether you are a beach person, or a history buff, or a foodie, Jersey Shore is always full of surprises.

  2. Vicki Pollack

    How could you not include Sandy Hook in your best NJ Beaches?!! 7 miles of unspoiled, non-commercial, shore, with fantastic views of the NY harbor. There is plenty of parking (if you arrive at a reasonable time, early on weekends is a must). There are showers, changing and restrooms. A visit to the Lighthouse and the north end of the island (the climb to the top is well worth it) and Fort Hancock is a special treat. You also will get a reminder of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy from some abandoned and unrestored buildings.

    • Maria Espada

      Yesterday went to sandy hook I’ve been going there for 20 yrs and I had to say good bye because I will look for another beach to visit. The bathroom were disgusting and I was not the only one who said this lots of people complained. pampers,toilet paper garbage soooo bad.

      • Vicki Pollack

        So sorry to hear. This is likely a direct effect from the reduced funding for National Parks, resulting in a cut-back of staff. We were at the Roosevelt Estate in May and talking with the Rangers there who said there wasn’t enough money to keep up with the repairs. If only people would clean up after themselves when they use the facilities!

        • Maria Espada

          I agree,I picked up a couple of emty cans and put in dumpster but still they charge $15 per car and that place gets pack so come on really.I just don’t want to take my granddaughters to a beach where they can’t use the Bathrooms because of the filth…
          When we got in the car I told my granddaughters to say goodbye and they said what do u mean and I said we r looking 4 another beach and they both agreed. My 22 yr old granddaughter and her 13 yr old sister have been coming here with me since baby’s this was our place sorry to say goodbye with such h great memories!!!