Occupying New Jersey’s northeasternmost shoulder, Highlands provides spectacular views in most directions: to the east, the Atlantic Ocean; and to the north, Sandy Hook Bay and the southern tip of Brooklyn; veering west, Staten Island and the Verrazzano Bridge. The Monmouth County borough is just 1.39 square miles, and almost half of that is water. But within its confines, you’ll find an eclectic mix of residential neighborhoods tucked into the cliffs that give the town its name, and downtown restaurants and shops that make for a pleasant day of browsing.
With high-speed ferries to New York City, the historic waterfront community is popular with day-trippers as well as those who live here (the population is 4,620) and commute to the city. Highlands is also the jumping-off point to Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area, with its pristine ocean beach just a short causeway ride away.
WHAT TO DO
Along Bay Avenue, you’ll find fun cafés, bakeries, restaurants and a seafood market called Lusty Lobster, while Hartshorne Woods Park provides a nature respite. A visit to the Twin Lights Historic Lighthouse is a must, where you can climb the twin lighthouse towers and learn about the national-landmark site that dates back to 1862. And plan to spend a beach day at Sandy Hook, which has its own 250-year-old lighthouse.
WHERE TO EAT
The popular waterfront Bahrs Landing seafood restaurant has been serving the public its fresh fish and more since 1917, and gained some new fans after providing the setting for a Sopranos-themed Chevy commercial during the 2022 Super Bowl. Porcini is an Italian trattoria and BYO spot.
WHERE TO STAY
SeaScape Manor is a pet-friendly bed and breakfast, where rooms go for about $150-250 a night. For an oceanfront experience, there’s BeachWalk at Sea Bright, a hotel and pool across the street from the ocean in Sea Bright, where rooms go for about $250-$450 a night.
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Lusty Lobster, 88 Bay Avenue; Hartshorne Woods Park, 1402 Portland Road; Twin Lights Historic Lighthouse, 2 Lighthouse Road; Bahrs Landing, 2 Bay Avenue; Porcini, 168 Bay Avenue; SeaScape Manor, 3 Grand Tour; BeachWalk at Sea Bright, 344 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright