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.
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
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
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
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)
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)
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.