The 20 Best Beaches in New Jersey

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

Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Asbury Park
Exit S-102/N-100A

With Asbury Park’s resurgence in real estate, business and tourism, its restaurants have been soaking it all up. One of the city’s hottest spots is The Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, a German-style beer hall featuring over 50 beers on tap and various selections of schnitzel. If you’re looking to grab some breakfast before you hit the beach, Toast has everything from pancakes to crab cakes. Barrio Costero, one of NJM’s Best New Restaurants of 2017, offers a modern take on Mexican food with innovative cocktails. For a fresh slice, Talula’s serves pizza and sandwiches with gourmet toppings like housemade fennel pork sausage, all on their own sourdough bread. Enjoy the Stella Marina, an intimate, upscale Italian restaurant located on the boardwalk. Seafood is the star at the Bonney Read, while French fare reigns at the romantic Pascal & Sabine.

Best: Nightlife

Atlantic City

Exit 38B
Even if gambling isn’t your thing, there is plenty of nightlife to enjoy in the Garden State’s casino capital. Haven, a 12,000-square-foot nightclub located inside the Golden Nugget Casino, brings the fun with techno lighting, multiple dance floors, two bars, table service and 28 comfy banquettes. At the Tropicana, Ivan Kane’s Kiss a Go-Go is an audio-visual explosion with dazzling images and edge-pushing dancers.  The scene at Premier in the Borgata, is no less frenetic. The 18,000-square-foot club boasts tiered booth seating, a horseshoe-shaped mezzanine and an A-list roster of guest deejays. If you want to stay in the swim after the sun goes down, Harrah’s Pool After Dark is the ideal party spot. The pool, enclosed in a 90-foot-high glass dome, has five Jacuzzis, 12 cabanas and an indoor/outdoor deck, plus a gaming loft. By day, you can relax in this faux tropical oasis; on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, deejays transform the space into an all-out dance party. And did we mention that Atlantic City’s showrooms attract some of the biggest names in music and comedy all year long?
Read More: Destination: Atlantic City

Best: Beach Shopping

Long Branch
Exit 105
If shopping rivals sunning on your list of favorite Shore activities, Pier Village in Long Branch is the destination for you. Just across the street from the boardwalk, the Pier Village shopping plaza is lined with unique boutiques, including Molly & Zoey for trendy clothes; Nirvana for denim creations; Shore Runner for athletic gear; Aloha Grove Surf Shop for surf accessories; and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for sweet treats. This is an upscale see-and-be-seen beach destination—take a dip and hit the stores, then grab a bite at Avenue, one of our perennial favorite oceanfront restaurants.

Best: Upscale Beach

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 classic Victorian homes with their perfectly manicured lawns. But don’t skip the beach—it’s two miles of pristine sand (no food, no drinks) flanked 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 shops on Third Avenue, feast on modern Italian and European dishes at Larimar, fish along the shores of Spring Lake or grab a slice at the Spring Lake Gourmet Pizzeria. You can also splurge on dinner at the Black Trumpet in the Grand Victorian Hotel or Whispers at the Hewitt Wellington. For overnight stays, there are plenty of B&Bs from which to choose.

Best: Party Scene

Exit 98
The town has made a concerted effort to broaden its appeal and play down its rep as party central. To a large degree it has worked, but the south end of Belmar is still hopping. D’Jais Bar & Grill is still the hottest of the hot spots, with its choice location, across Ocean Avenue from the beach. Away from the waterfront, the Boathouse Bar and Grill on Main Street boasts one of the few outdoor patio set-ups in town. Also, on Main Street, the new tap room at the Beach Haus Brewery is a fun destination for craft-beer fans.

Best: Secluded Beach

Strathmere (Upper Township)

Exit N-13/S-17
Tucked between bustling Ocean City and Sea Isle City, this cozy 1.5-mile hamlet requires no beach tags and remains under the radar for most beachgoers. Approach the beach 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 us. The town’s oval car decals even say “Shhh.”

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 nonjudgmental, 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 $15. Apply sunscreen liberally—and don’t gawk at your neighbors.

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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!!!