Doggie Days of Summer

Finding a Shore destination amenable to dogs and their owners can be “ruff,” but these 16 sites let dogs have their day in the summer sun.

Jeter, a 5-year-old spaniel mix loves prancing in cool, calm water almost as much as he enjoys rolling in the sand and sniffing his fellow canines.

“He’s very social,” says his owner, Rebecca Nannarone. “For Jeter, this is like the best day ever.” Nannarone and Jeter, who live in Howell, were spending a summer day at the Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area in Manasquan. A portion of the site’s beach is open to dogs year-around.

Fisherman’s Cove is an exception. For the most part, finding a Shore destination amenable to dogs and their owners can be rough—or “ruff,” as a canine might opine.
Most New Jersey beaches prohibit dogs from romping in the sand during peak season. But New Jersey Monthly found 16 sites at or near the ocean where dogs can have their day in the summer sun.

Fisherman’s Cove, lovingly referred to by locals as “the dog beach,” is one of these little-known gems. The 55-acre county park sits along the Manasquan Inlet just off the Atlantic and offers a couple hundred feet of sand, water and dunes where leashed dogs can play all day. About a quarter mile from Manasquan’s oceanfront beach, the cove has a private feel, with nothing but water in front and open, preserved land behind. What’s more, it’s free.

Amanda Benhamou made the trip from Bloomfield to Manasquan for the benefit of Archer, her 4-month-old beagle mix. “We want to go to the beach during the summer and we can’t really leave him alone for a long time,” she says. “This beach is really our only option.” She’s certain they’ll be back. “When you go to the beach,” says Benhamou, “you want to go with your family—and your pet is part of your family.”

For dog lovers like Benhamou, we’ve assembled this north-to-south guide to dog-friendly destinations—at or convenient to the Shore—for them to enjoy between Memorial Day and Labor Day.


Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook
The Sandy Hook Bay side of the park is a paradise for pets. Leashed dogs are allowed year-round at Plum Island and Horseshoe Cove. 5 am to 10 pm. Free; $15 parking fee. 128 South Hartshorne Drive, Highlands.

Thompson Park Off-Leash Dog Area, Lincroft
Just five miles from downtown Red Bank, this canine complex includes two dog areas. Amenities include a concrete walkway and patio featuring a water fountain with two levels. 7am to dusk. Free. 805 Newman Springs Road.

Wolf Hill Recreation Area, Oceanport
This dog-friendly park near the Long Branch oceanfront has two off-leash areas. There’s also a patio with sheltered picnic tables where you can relax while keeping an eye on your furry friend. 7 am to dusk. Free. 3 Crescent Place.

8th Avenue Dog Beach, Asbury Park
Beachgoers can enjoy the sand and surf with their loyal canine at the 8th Avenue beach during off-peak hours in the summer, and any time the rest of the year. Dogs allowed 6 pm to 8:30 am; all day off-season. Free. 8th Avenue Beach.

Wonder Bar Yappy Hour, Asbury Park
Want to keep your dog happy while you enjoy a cocktail or two? This is the place—and it’s just across the street from the beach and boardwalk. Dogs can run free in a play space outfitted with kiddie pools, picnic tables, an agility area and plenty of sand. Check website for details. Free. Fifth and Ocean avenues.

Fisherman’s Cove, Manasqaun
Located on 55 acres of marshland along the Manasquan Inlet, the Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area has a designated Dog Beach Park where leashed canines can swim, play and dig in the sand year-round. 7 am to dusk. Free. 391 Third Avenue.


Sunset Beach, Seaside Heights
Leashed dogs are allowed on this bayside beach year-round. On National Dog Day (August 31), leashed dogs are allowed on the oceanside beach between Hiering Avenue and Sherman Avenue, and on the boardwalk.

Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park
Dogs are not allowed on the Spizzle Creek Bird Blind Trail, but are welcome south of the ocean swimming areas on a leash no longer than 6 feet. 7 am to dusk, weekends; 8 am to dusk, weekdays.

Barnegat Light Dog Park, Barnegat Light
This combination ball field and dog park is the only place on Long Beach Island where off-leash dogs can run free. All dogs must be licensed; hole digging forbidden. 7 am to 7 pm. Free. West 10th Street and Bayview Avenue.


Jackie Antonucci, left, and Amanda Benhamou let their pups, Molly and Archer, romp at Fisherman's Cove in Manasquan.
Jackie Antonucci, left, and Amanda Benhamou let their pups, Molly and Archer, romp at Fisherman's Cove in Manasquan.
Sofia Wall, 10, pets Maggie.
Sofia Wall, 10, pets Maggie.
Kevin Cohn, 4, leads Jade into the surf.
Kevin Cohn, 4, leads Jade into the surf.
Eric Paperth and Dante have beards, but only Paperth shaves.
Eric Paperth and Dante have beards, but only Paperth shaves.
Eric Paperth romps with Dante.
Eric Paperth romps with Dante.

Photos by Joe Polillio


Malibu Beach Wildlife Management Center, Egg Harbor Township
One of the Shore’s best-kept secrets, Malibu Beach lets dogs run free all year long. The 95.7-acre site is home to an array of Shore birds, including black skimmers and common terns, which nest on the beach in summertime. Free.

Longport Dog Beach, Somers Point
A year-round spot where your pup isn’t required to be on a leash. Dogs are permitted sunrise to sunset. Bring your own water and waste-disposal supplies. Free.
Route 152 and Ocean Drive Bridge.


Ocean City Dog Park, Ocean City
The Ocean City beaches are off-limits to canines during peak season, but dogs are always welcome at Ocean City Dog Park, a 42,000-square-foot park including three sandy areas for dogs to play in. Dogs can frolic off-leash while their keepers relax at picnic tables and benches. 8 am to dusk. 45th Street and Haven Avenue.

Stone Harbor Beach, Stone Harbor
Leashed dogs are permitted all year long on the north end of the beach between 80th and 83rd streets before 9 am and from 6 pm until dusk.

Poplar Avenue Beach, Wildwood
You can’t miss this dog-friendly seaside spot. Just look for the 25-foot fire hydrant. Canines on leashes are welcome on this 1,500-foot stretch of wide Wildwood beach. Fresh water and doggy clean-up bags are available. 6 am to dusk. Free. 487 E. Poplar Avenue.

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Cape May
This 11,000-acre park situated in the Delaware Bay watershed is ideal for hiking and birdwatching—and your pup can tag along. Leashed dogs are permitted throughout the refuge except at the Two Mile Beach Unit. Dawn to dusk. Free. 24 Kimbles Beach Road.

Sunset Beach, Cape May
All three shops at Sunset Beach and the Grille’s lower deck are pet friendly year-round. Leashed pets are permitted on the beach only off-season. Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area and Cape May Point State Park allow pets off-season.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Jeff Deckman

    I can’t believe you left out North Cape May! Beautiful beaches and pet friendly all year!

  2. NJBloodyMary

    Great list! I”m definitely going to check out Wonderbar’s yappy hour

  3. Laura B

    Forget LBI- the most unfriendly dog beach I’ve ever experienced, particularly Love Ladies Beach. In fact, there were some residents I encountered who actually told me how much they hate dogs on their beach. They even harass responsible dog owners to the extent that they don’t even want to be there. I had my dog on a held leash in the water with me, and a resident called the police to report my dog was un-leashed. Of course when the officer came he saw my dog was leash held, told me someone here called to say my dog wasn’t leashed, and rolled his eyes. What a horrible place for responsible dog owner. Never again.