Exploring Manasquan: Americana at the Shore

The Monmouth County village is home to one of Jersey's most idyllic Main Streets.

BookTowne on Main Street All photos by James J. Connolly

Many small towns claim their Main Street represents the best of America. In Manasquan, that just might be true. Take a stroll on Main Street and see for yourself. Teens giggle as they ride pastel colored bikes to the beach. Boutiques flaunt paraphernalia emblazoned with the town’s unofficial motto, “Squan Strong.” Little free libraries and benches dedicated to loved ones dot the streetscape.

On this summer day, the town-wide Surf Board Decorating Contest is underway, and an array of artfully decorated, surf board-shaped planks has been added to the picture. Enter participating shops and you can vote for your favorite to win Shore-inspired prizes.

“There’s not many towns like this where you have a beach and a town that’s walkable,” says Kathy Salerno, a Chamber of Commerce administrator. “That’s something that’s unique about Manasquan.”

Siena Notaro, of Madison, catches a wave on the Manasquan beach while attending Pink Pineapple Surf Camp.

The beaches and the bar scene make Manasquan popular among millenials, but families also flock here for seasonal rentals. The shops, galleries, food options, entertainment and intimacy of the place draw all kinds of visitors in search of idyllic memories.

“We always say it’s like a Norman Rockwell painting,” says Salerno. “It’s cozy, and it’s very family oriented.”

Manasquan is awash in activities; much of the action can be found on Main Street. Catch a show at the Algonquin Arts Theatre (60 Abe Voorhees Drive), where the Summer Series for 2019 features Broadway smashes Newsies and A Chorus Line. To pick up a beach read, stop by BookTowne (171 Main Street). Peruse local art at Main Street Gallery (131 Main Street) or Weston Gallery (79 Main Street). Shop for stylish accessories at Waterlily (177 Main Street) or Katherine’s Boutique (100-a Main Street), or grab a gift for your favorite baby at Charlotte West (98 Main Street). Unearth hidden gems at the consignment shop Squan Dry Goods (73 Main Street), or find the perfect piece of coastal decor at Squan Trading Company (20 Abe Voorhees Drive). Sweet tooth acting up? It’s no scoop that Norton’s Main Scoop (140b Main Street) is the place for ice cream, including vegan options.

Top and right: Browsers peruse Main Street. Bottom left: Manasquan’s Kaitlin Rossinow and her dad, Seth, enjoy their cones at Third Avenue Chocolate Shoppe on Main Street.

For the adventurous, Paddle Out Manasquan (537 East Main Street) offers stand-up paddleboard, kayak and tandem kayak rentals, as well as guided tours through the waterways and lagoons of the Manasquan River. After you dry off, swing by the Squan Beach Life-Saving Station #9 (124 Ocean Avenue), which is on the National Register of Historic Places and represents Manasquan’s rich marine history. A small museum of nautical artifacts will interest buffs. And don’t forget the beach; this summer, daily badges are $9.


WHERE TO EAT

Squan Tavern: A local staple, serving pizza and Italian food in a casual settling. 15 Broad Street. 732-223-3324.

The Committed Pig: The downtown spot for generously portioned burgers and brunch. 168 Main Street. 1-800-908-4960.

Leggetts: This longtime favorite watering hole features an outdoor patio. At night, it’s packed with partiers. 217 First Avenue. 732-223-3951.

Surf Taco: The local outpost of the popular coastal-cuisine chain. 121 Parker Avenue. 732-223-7757.

Green Planet Coffee Co.: Sustainably sourced coffee served in an earthy environment. 78 Main Street. 732-722-8197.

WHERE TO STAY

Twin Oaks Motel: A charming and unpretentious drive-up motel with retro vibe. High-season rates up to $350. 2300 Highway 35. 732-223-1247.

Inn on Main: Boutique hotel with upscale comforts in the heart of downtown. High-season rates up to $329. 152 Main Street. 732-528-0099.

The Salty Whale & Guesthouse: A beach-chic restaurant with seasonal rentals in its boutique inn. High-season rates vary. 390 E Main Street. 732-592-3344.

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