One Thing You Must Do in Every Jersey Shore Town

Fun activities, tasty restaurants and natural wonders to explore along our entire coast.

Girl on carousel

Amusements abound at the Jersey Shore! Photo: Ann Coen

For our 2024 Shore Guide, the editors at New Jersey Monthly wanted to shine a light on every beach town in our state. Not just the ones with the splashy attractions or the busy boardwalks, but every town—big, small or in-between—along the coast.

Here, you’ll find at least one fun thing you must do in each town, from restaurants to natural wonders to boardwalk attractions for the whole family.

Wishing you a wonderful season down the Shore!

MONMOUTH COUNTY

Sandy Hook

Gunnison Beach

Feeling bold? Ditch your swimsuit and spend the day at Gunnison Beach, the largest clothing-optional beach in the northeastern United States and the only legal one in New Jersey, thanks to Sandy Hook’s federal land protections. If you’re a first-timer, you’ll be happy to know that Gunnison sunbathers are generally laid-back and welcoming. Don’t forget sunscreen! —Connor Carlin

WANT MORE? Visit Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the country’s oldest.

Sea Bright 

Seawall Pedestrian Walkway

Stroll up the ramp or steps to this unique pedestrian walkway atop the Sea Bright seawall. You’ll get a view of the bustling downtown on one side and the beach on the other. If you plan to hit the sand before or after your stroll, know that outdoor showers are located along the walkway, and restrooms are inside Sea Bright Pavilion. But you don’t need a beach badge to enjoy the walkway scene. —R.C. Staab

Monmouth Beach

My Kitchen Witch

Crumb cake is a Shore staple, but when you want something healthier for breakfast, try My Kitchen Witch. The decor is fun, the menu playful, and the food so tasty. Try a Wicked Witch of the Shore omelette, with pork roll, peppers, onions and pepper jack. There are a café, a shop and an all-organic Magic Potions juice bar. —Julia Martin
29 Beach Road, 732-229 3033

Long Branch 

Avenue Rooftop Lounge

Arrive before the sun goes down to get a prime spot along the outdoor terrace’s perimeter. Views overlook the beach and offer premier people watching, volleyball-spectator cheering and sunset gazing. A bar and DJ contribute to the party atmosphere, while the pool and indoor/outdoor seating give full resort vibes. Set on top of the popular Avenue Le Club, a French restaurant in the heart of Pier Village—a hub for shopping, dining and being seen—the rooftop is public, whether or not you are dining there. —Deborah P. Carter
23 Ocean Avenue North, 732-759-2900

WANT MORE? Shop at Pier Village; try honey wine at Beach Bee Meadery; stay at the trendy Wave Resort.

New Jersey Monthly magazine's June 2024 cover

Buy our June 2024 issue here. Cover photo: Ann Coen

Deal

Historic Mansions

In the early 1900s, Deal saw a who’s who of famous people summering in their fabulous beachfront mansions, including Isidor and Ida Straus, who cofounded Macy’s and whose tragic love story was made famous in the film Titanic. Sadly, their mansion no longer exists, but many more still stand, including that of the A&P heir E.V. Hartford. His former estate is on the corner of Ocean and Roseld avenues and was designed by famed architect Stanford White. For more info, go to oceanmuseum.org. —Jacqueline Mroz

Asbury Park

Madam Marie’s

Boardwalk fortune teller Madam Marie was immortalized by another Shore icon: Bruce Springsteen. The Boss used to stop by her booth and have his fortune read. Rumor has it she told him he’d someday be a huge success. (She was right!) Springsteen mentions Madam Marie in his song “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).” Madam Marie—whose real name was Marie Castello—died in 2008, but her family continues to give readings. —J. Mroz
Fourth and Ocean Avenue, 908-338-5434

WANT MORE? Click here for our guide to Asbury Park and click here for our guide to the best restaurants in Asbury Park. And read about the famed Stone Pony, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, here.

Ocean Grove

Great Auditorium

No matter what religion you practice, if any, you’re welcome at the Sunday morning (10:30 am) or evening (7 pm) Methodist service in Ocean Grove’s enormous and gorgeous Great Auditorium, built in 1894. There are a magnificent pipe organ and choir, stirring speakers, and nattily dressed ushers who do a coordinated march to bring up the offerings. Enormous windows funnel in the sea air. —J. Martin
21 Pilgrim Pathway, 732-775-0035

WANT MORE? Click here for our guide to Ocean Grove. 

Bradley Beach

Live Music at the Gazebo

In this family-friendly Shore town, a lovely way to spend your evening is to stop by the gazebo on the boardwalk at Fifth and Ocean avenues and listen to some free live music. Anyone can dance along to the sounds, which can be anything from blues to rock to standards. Go to bradleybeach.com/events for a schedule. —J. Mroz

WANT MORE? Click here for our guide to Bradley Beach.

Belmar

Fender Guitar/Springsteen Tribute

Springsteen fans can stop by the corner of 10th Avenue and E Street and see the 8-foot Fender guitar that marks the site where his band rehearsed  in the early days. The intersection, home to the Belmar Public Library, gave the E Street Band its name; E Street is where former keyboard player David Sancious lived. —J. Mroz

WANT MORE? Sit outside on the deck at Beach Haus Brewery; grab a table and order fresh seafood at Klein’s Fish Market or pick some up to grill at home; enjoy dinner and views at Marina Grille; go parasailing with Belmar Parasail.

Spring Lake

Thunder Road Books

Conveniently located to provide your beach reads, Thunder Road also hosts summer book clubs on the third Wednesday of each month and author visits. Best-selling author Jodi Picoult will visit town on August 19, sponsored by Thunder Road. They’re happy to give recommendations, too, in person and on the website. —J.Martin
1108 Third Avenue, 973-436-0914

WANT MORE? Click here for our guide to Spring Lake.

Sea Girt

The Parker House

In a quiet neighborhood sits a stately building that is, surprisingly, home to one of the most raucous summer nightclubs around. The Parker House, built as a seasonal hotel more than 100 years ago, is today mostly known for its wild party scene in “God’s Basement.” For a more tranquil experience, head to the main level for lunch and dinner served on the outdoor terrace with the scent of the ocean one block away. —RCS
290 1st Avenue, 732-449-0442

Manasquan

Inlet Beach

Manasquan Inlet surfer

Photo: Andrew Mills

Surfing in Jersey is an exercise in patience or fearlessness. When the water is warm, you’ll often wait weeks for decent breaks. When the water is cold, the waves are epic, but often beyond the skill level (and temperature threshold) of casual surfers. Inlet Beach is our most consistent surfing spot due to its enormous jetties, which corral approaching waves into long, glorious breaks. Things get interesting before storms and during late-summer swells. The spot can, however, get crowded on summer weekends.

WANT MORE? Bring your pup to Doggie Beach at Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area.

Avon-by-the-Sea

The Promenade

In this town, a perfect blend of bustling cosmopolitan and laidback beach community, you’ll want to stop on in at the Promenade, the casual yet elegant BYO restaurant located right on the beach, with a front-row view of the sand and surf. Enjoy a scrumptious seaside meal of crispy chicken and Belgian waffles, coconut shrimp, or chicken Milanese with friends and family. —CC
600 Ocean Avenue, 732-505-7770

OCEAN COUNTY 

Point Pleasant Beach

Jenkinson’s Aquarium

A child at the touch tank at Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach

The touch tank at Jenkinson’s Aquarium Photo: Courtesy of Jenkinson’s Boardwalk

Marine life typically resides outdoors at the Shore, but here, at one of the best aquariums in the state, you can get up close with fish, penguins, seals and sharks—right on the bustling Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, where the rides, games and boardwalk treats usually take center stage. The littlest visitors will love the touch tank. —Julie Gordon

300 Ocean Avenue North, 732-892-0600

WANT MORE? Eat at Red’s Lobster Pot (expect a wait at peak times); cool off at Hoffman’s, one of our favorite ice cream spots at the Shore.

Bay Head

Beach House Classic Boardshop

Man with surfboard at Beach House Classic Board Shop in Bay Head

Beach House Classic Boardshop sells apparel, accessories and boards, like this 6-foot-8-inch Hot Potato board from Clean Ocean. Photo: Courtesy of Beach House/Eric Beyer

This is a throwback, brick-building surf shop that celebrates authentic surf culture in the heart of town. Find vintage used boards, but also new, handcrafted longboards, fish and mid-length-style boards inspired by ’60s and ’70s design with updated elements. It’s also a great spot to pick up surf accessories or check out full lines of timeless surf and Bay Head apparel. —Jon Coen
517 Main Street, 732-714-8566

WANT MORE? Stay or eat at Grenville, a bubblegum-pink Victorian hotel.

Mantoloking

Coastline Adventures

In this teensy town, learn something new with Coastline Adventures, which offers surfing, bodyboarding and stand-up paddleboarding lessons at Brick Beach 3 and Trader’s Cove. Kids’ camps are offered most weekdays, and adult surf camps are on weekends. Adaptive surf lessons  are available. Prices are $75-$400-plus. Get more info or register at njsurfschool.com. —Emily Melvin

Normandy Beach 

Charlie’s Farm Market, Café & Bakery

For decades, the big, brown placard for Charlie’s Farm Market on Route 35 has been a welcome sign to those arriving at the Shore. Pull in from either the north or south side of 35 and stock up on watermelon, Jersey tomatoes and fresh corn. There’s a café with basics like burgers and onion rings, and a bakery where you can pick up one of their classic cheesecakes. —J. Martin
491 Route 35

Lavallette

Pickleball Courts

Woman playing pickleball at seaside court

Photo: Ann Coen

Aficionados of the fastest-growing sport in America can find some friendly competition every Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to noon on the eight pickleball courts along the bay at Magee Avenue. Just stick your paddle in the fence and drop $5 in the bucket, and it’s game on. —J. Martin

WANT MORE? Visit Crab’s Claw Inn for seafood.

Ortley Beach 

Barnacle Bill’s Amusements

Barnacle Bill’s Amusements is a vintage Shore classic that’s been around since 1963, with prizes for Skee-ball, pinball and video games—plus an 18-hole miniature golf course that’s a true Shore favorite. The iconic 1967 giant fiberglass statue of black-bearded Barnacle Bill oversees the ninth hole. —Barbara Leap
1968 Route 35 North, 732-793-9345

WANT MORE? Pick up fresh fish at Ortley Seafood Market.

Seaside Heights

Funhouse Mirrors

On the Seaside Heights boardwalk, you get used to emptying your wallet. But there’s plenty of fun to be had for free posing in front of the fun-house mirrors in the arcade space along Ocean Terrace. Seeing everyone’s bodies stretched thinner, wider and longer by the wavy mirrors, it’s impossible not to laugh out loud. —J. Martin

WANT MORE? Drive past the house at 1209 Ocean Avenue where the Jersey Shore cast lived.

Ship Bottom (LBI)

The Local Market & Kitchen

Blessedly just seconds from Long Beach Island’s entrance, this is a small but mighty one-stop spot for a tasty breakfast, lunch, early dinner or afternoon pick-me-up. Offerings include hearty sandwiches, sides, salads, a tantalizing array of fresh baked goods, and specialty coffees precariously piled with whipped cream and indulgent toppings. Stop in to grab sustenance on your way to the beach, or stick around to eat on the patio. —Jennifer Finn
604 Central Avenue, 609-342-0061

Seaside Park 

Island Beach State Park

Man and woman at Island Beach State Park with kayak and surfing board

Island Beach State Park is a beautiful spot for activities like kayaking. Photo: Frank Marshal

This little-known barrier-island preserve contains almost 10 miles of pristine, sandy beach, an extensive shoreline along Barnegat Bay, dense maritime forests, rolling sand dunes and tidal marshes. There’s a vehicle entry fee of $6-$20, and, when parking is full, the park is closed to additional cars. The most popular activities are swimming and surf fishing, but you can also ride your bicycle, surf, go for a hike, have a picnic, kayak, or even bring your horse. However, Island Beach State Park may be most famous as the site of former governor Chris Christie’s 2017 family beach jaunt, which they enjoyed even though he’d closed state parks and beaches during the July 4th holiday weekend due to a state-government shutdown. —J. Mroz
2401 Central Avenue

WANT MORE? Stop by Betty & Nick’s Bait & Tackle, which is part luncheonette and part full-service tackle shop with rods, reels, rigs and a famous fishing report.

Barnegat Light (LBI)

Barnegat Lighthouse

The beauty and tranquility of nature are the draw for this Long Beach Island town’s big attraction. Nicknamed Old Barney, the 19th-century lighthouse was designed by George Meade, the Union general who won the Battle of Gettysburg. Though not in operation today, visitors can enjoy the lighthouse’s majesty and learn about the history and ecology of the surrounding area at the adjacent Barnegat Lighthouse Center against the backdrop of rolling surf, sandy shores and ocean breezes. —CC
208 Broadway, 609-494-2016

WANT MORE? Explore Viking Village, a commercial fishing port with great eateries and shops; tours available.

Harvey Cedars (LBI)

Sunset Park

With fantastic facilities for the LBI day tripper, including ample parking, this three-block-wide public park sits on Barnegat Bay just a block from the beach. It offers a playground and ball fields, as well as a launch for kayaks and paddleboards, plus the all-important bathroom with showers. Wednesday night concerts are a tradition here. —JC
1 West Salem Avenue

Surf City (LBI)  

Surf City 5 & 10

For many LBI vacationers, no trip is complete without at least one visit to the Surf City 5 & 10. The fourth-generation, family-owned shop stocks a smorgasbord of vacation essentials—from beach gear and apparel, to souvenirs and jewelry, to housewares and barbecue supplies. Grab a handful of saltwater taffy for good measure. —JF
411 North Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-1872

Long Beach Township (LBI)

Loveladies and North Beach

North Beach and Loveladies have some of the most exclusive real estate in New Jersey. The beaches are public, while vehicle access to them is mostly private. But anyone with an LBT beach badge and a little initiative can park in Surf City, Harvey Cedars or Barnegat Light and walk onto the same secluded beaches enjoyed by the elite. —JC

Beach Haven (LBI) 

Fantasy Island Amusement Park

For an afternoon or evening of nostalgic family fun, head to Fantasy Island Amusement Park, celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer. If you can handle heights, a spin on the Ferris wheel is a must for its striking bird’s-eye view of the island. In addition to rides ranging from the peaceful carousel to the towering Lighthouse Launch, there are games, an arcade and food. Trust us: Order the fried Oreos. —JF
750 North Bay Avenue, 609-492-4000

WANT MORE? Click here for our guide to LBI.

ATLANTIC COUNTY

Brigantine

Sea Life Museum at Marine Mammal Stranding Center

This free museum has educational displays about sea life, artifacts such as a sperm whale’s jawbone, an interactive exhibit for kids, and a “bone garden.” Though the stranding center isn’t open to the public, a live feed of staff caring for the seals can sometimes be viewed inside the museum. Check hours at mmsc.org before you visit. —J. Martin
3625 Atlantic Brigantine Boulevard

Atlantic City

Boogie Nights

In a town with a storied history of nightlife (stretching back to the Frank Sinatra days and, before that, the Prohibition era), Atlantic City still has numerous concerts, clubs and drinking establishments that draw visitors in droves. A favorite club right now is the retro Boogie Nights at Tropicana Resort & Casino. Disco the night away on the colorful dance floor to hits from the 1970s through early 2000s. The club often has performers, impersonators and themes. —EM
2831 Boardwalk, 888-940-7080

WANT MORE? Stroll the Boardwalk, the country’s first; visit Island Waterpark at Showboat hotel; take in stunning ocean views from the decks at Ocean Casino Resort. Click here for our guide to the best restaurants in Atlantic City. 

Ventnor

Ventnor City Fishing Pier

Love to fish? Love to watch people fish? Just want to take a stroll 1,000 feet out from the beach on the longest fishing pier in New Jersey? You’ve come to the right place. This impressive municipal pier attracts pros and novices alike, and you can stop by Ventnor’s fishing store, Ship Shop, just down the road to get all the bait and tackle you can handle. —Victor Fiorillo
South Cambridge Avenue and the Boardwalk

Margate

Lucy the Elephant

Seeing a six-story-high elephant isn’t a typical activity at the Shore—unless you’re in Margate. Lucy the Elephant is America’s oldest roadside attraction, built in 1881, and she is quite the sight to see. Lucy underwent her latest round of renovations in recent years to the tune of $2 million. Visitors can tour the interior, take photos of the exterior, and witness a slice of New Jersey roadside history. —JG
9200 Atlantic Avenue, 609-823-6473

WANT MORE? Eat dinner at Tomatoe’s.

Longport

Ozzie’s

Of all the sleepy Jersey Shore beach towns, Longport is one of the sleepiest. But one place that always seems to be hustling and bustling with locals and shoobies alike is this iconic luncheonette, which serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week. For the early risers, the banana-nut pancakes are all the rage. And at lunchtime, we find it hard to resist the towering turkey-bacon-avocado club sandwich and the hearty salads. —VF
2401 Atlantic Avenue, 609-487-0575

CAPE MAY COUNTY

Ocean City 

Asbury Avenue

In this dry town (and family favorite), spend some time shopping along Asbury Avenue, where unique shops include Sun Rose Words and Music (an indie book, music and art supply store), White Lotus (a chic, metaphysical boutique), Ashore Fit (a new fitness and athleisure shop), and Mia’s Christmas Gallery (a store that is filled with beachy Christmas-themed items galore.) —EM

WANT MORE? Cool off with Polish Water Ice on the boardwalk; indulge in crispy goodness at Jilly’s French Fry Factory; go on the rides and be prepared for thrilling fun at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier.

Strathmere

The Deauville Inn

This historic Shore restaurant has been on the Strathmere bayside in one form or another since the 1800s. As such, it has a loyal crowd whose families have been coming for generations. The restaurant underwent a massive renovation and rebranding in recent years, and the results are nothing short of spectacular. The food and drinks are good, but the sunset views are even better. You’ve got to show up early if you want the best seats, which are on the deck. —VF
201 Willard Road, 609-263-2080

WANT MORE? Hit the sand and surf; it’s one of NJM’s favorite hidden beaches.

Sea Isle City

LaCosta Lounge & Deck Bar

If you’re staying in Sea Isle City and wondering what all that noise is at 11 pm, it’s undoubtedly this long-standing bar, whose booming outdoor summer dance parties are the stuff of legend. People travel from miles around (hopefully, via rideshare) to take in what is most certainly a scene, imbibe maybe a little more than they should, and bump and grind well into the night. If you’re single and looking to mingle, this is the spot. —VF
4000 Landis Avenue, 609-263-3611

WANT MORE? Visit Fish Alley for seafood eateries and markets (faves include Mike’s Seafood and Marie’s Lobster House).

Avalon

Pirate Island Golf

Hitting the mini greens is always fun, and Pirate Island makes for a lively night out in this Shore town that is low on bustle and high on chic residents and guests. The 18-hole course is peppered with challenges and theme-park-style waterfalls, pirate ships and bridges. Pirate Island also has locations in Sea Isle and Ocean City. —DPC
2738 Dune Drive, 609-368-8344

Stone Harbor

Salt Spa

Get away on your getaway by booking a treatment in the Turkish Bath at the Salt Spa in Stone Harbor. When you step into the retreat room, floor-to-ceiling tiles sparkle in dim light while Swarovski crystals on the ceiling mimic stars. Steamy and dreamy, there is relaxing music playing and a mood-enhancing play of lights designed to lift your spirits. Options include a detox mud treatment or the body-nourishing, fruit-based scrub. —DPC
9628 Third Avenue, 609-961-3009

WANT MORE? Visit the retro-look Harbor Square movie theater.

The Wildwoods

The Beach

People at beach in Wildwood

Beach access in the Wildwoods is free. Photo: Courtesy of Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement & Development Authority/Chris Lo Bue

Clearly, going to the beach is a huge part of going down the Shore. In most Shore towns, beach badges cost anywhere from $6 and up, daily. But in the Wildwoods, access is always free. Also of note: The Wildwoods have the widest beaches at the Shore, 1,500 feet in some spots, so you can get your steps in before chilling on the sand. —JG

WANT MORE? Splash around at Morey’s Piers water parks, Raging Waters and Ocean Oasis; visit the Doo Wop Experience Museum (one of NJM’s must-visit Jersey museums) and take a local tour of retro Doo Wop architecture run by the establishment; get a hoagie at the retro Wawa on Rio Grande.

Cape May 

Golf Carts

While it may be true that nothing beats a stroll, wheels cover more ground, and tootling around in a rented golf cart may count as a compromise. At a max speed of 15 mph, the wonderful variety of Victorian colors and architecture on the famed strip of Painted Ladies on Gurney and other streets, is more than just a blur from the car window. Choose a two- or four-seater; either will fit into tight parking. And don’t forget the sensation of whizzing down Beach Avenue with the sun just over your shoulder—it’s worth the price of admission. —DPC

WANT MORE? Click here for our guide to Cape May and click here for our guide to the best restaurants in Cape May.


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