With 130 miles of sandy beaches stretching from Sandy Hook to Cape May, the ocean shoreline of New Jersey, called the “Jersey Shore”, offers much to explore – every beach has its own vibe and character. Most beaches are easily accessible by the NJ transit system, making it a cheap and easy getaway for anyone living in the Tri-state area. While you can have a fun beach day using public transit to and from most beaches, it is also worthwhile looking into booking a hotel room or Airbnb and staying for the weekend. To get you started, below is a list of the top 5 beaches I have visited so far, with a glimpse into what you can expect at each one.
#5 Bradley Beach
A pleasant and quiet beach just a mile long, with great moderately priced dining within walking distance of the beach. Most of the places to eat are conveniently located on Main street and close to the train station. The beach is a ten minute walk from there, straight to the shore. The atmosphere is relaxed, no music blaring or food on the beach, it felt serene even if crowded. A daily beach pass can be purchased at each entrance for $12.
If you get here in the morning, make a stop at The Buttered Biscuit for brunch. As the name might suggest, flakey buttery biscuits come with every order and the omelets are delicious. The service is friendly, and there is table-clothed seating indoors or café tables outside. If you need a snack while on the beach, you can grab a fish taco or some fries at the Hula Grill on the boardwalk. For dinner, on the way back to the train station stop by Del Ponte’s Coal Fired Pizza, which is said to have the best pizza in town. It gets packed, but it has a large space and people are seated quickly. Try a Napolitano pizza with an antipasto salad or one of their paninis. The Bolognese was also very good, with perfectly al dente linguine.
Riley Park is a small park by the train station, well landscaped with a bandstand which happened to have a local band playing to a small crowd the evening we were there. We hung out for awhile before catching our train, soaking in the late summer evening, small-town feel.
#4 Spring Lake
A quiet yet refined beach experience can be had at Spring Lake, which has an air of affluence to it, and an expansive stretch of sand. You won’t find a lot of activities here, and not too many dining options either on the boardwalk or nearby. This a place to nestle into a beach chair and doze the afternoon away, with gentle ocean breezes wafting over you.
If you walk down Passaic Avenue from the train station towards the beach, you can stop for coffee at Driftwood, a Coastal Coffee House. For both lunch and dinner we happened across The Breaker’s Hotel, a charming landmark fixture in this exclusive community and just steps from the beach. Sandwiches, burgers and wraps made for a reasonably priced lunch with an ocean view, and there is a large selection of entrees for dinner. In between meals, we napped underneath our beach umbrellas oceanside. Currently food and drinks are not permitted on the beach although food is permitted on the boardwalk and in the pavilions. Click here for current Covid-guidelines and how to purchase the $10 daily beach pass.
#3 Point Pleasant
The farthest point on our top five list, Point Pleasant has a bustling boardwalk and a high energy beach, with loads to do for family fun. The Jenkinson’s boardwalk on the north side of the beach is crammed with arcade games, bumper car rides, batting cages, fun slides and miniature golf. There is also the Jenkinson’s Aquarium, and admission is only $15. The carnival-like atmosphere makes this a fun beach to visit, with or without kids. For more on everything there is to do at the boardwalk, click here. On the south side of the beach you can engage in water sports or even charter a fishing boat.
If you are doing the beach for the day and get there early, a good place to catch breakfast or lunch is The Food Shack, open Thursday through Monday until 2pm serving your standard fare of eggs, pancakes, sandwiches, salads and burgers off the grill, and there is also a gift shop. After lounging around on the beach all afternoon watching people splash around in the ocean and listening to shrieks of laughter, we had dinner right in the middle of Jenkinson’s boardwalk at the Boardwalk Bar and Grill. It was packed and there was a long wait, but we lucked out with seating that had an ocean view. If you are looking for quieter ocean view dining, a good place farther south along the boardwalk is the Wharfside Restaurant, with a raw bar, lobster, fish fry and entrees like crab stuffed flounder.
There are moderately priced hotels scattered throughout the area, one of the largest being The White Sands Oceanfront Resort and Spa. The nearly two miles of beach is managed by a variety of agencies, each with its own rules with daily beach passes ranging for $6 to $10. For details, click here.
# 2 Long Branch
This is the closest beach of the five if you’re traveling from north of the coast, and with a renovated boardwalk and several hotel and dining options nearby, it comes the closest to feeling like a beach resort getaway. Along with a clean beach and 8.2 mile long boardwalk, Long Branch has a center called Pier Village (located at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Garfield Park). When you need a break from the beach you can grab a sandwich, get a coffee or saunter through the shops there. If you’re looking for a hotel, some good if pricey options are the nearby Ocean Place Resort and Spa, or the Wave Resort. We were quite comfortable at a nearby Airbnb, where our host Myra baked chocolate chip cookies for us in the afternoon, and happily picked us up from the beach and drove us back to her house if we called.
There are over 30 restaurants to try in the area. Our favorites for breakfast were Amy’s, a homey family restaurant with dozens of omelets to choose from along with other breakfast items, and the Turning Point of Long Branch located at Pier Village where you can get flavored coffees, cold pressed juices, avocado toasts and smoked salmon platters along with pancakes and eggs. For dinner try McLoone’s Pier House, a restaurant and event space with ocean front views. Their menu offers a raw bar and sushi, along with seafood, pasta, grilled chicken and steak.
The day we visited the beach it was early in the season. It was a little overcast and it felt chill for a beach day, around 70F degrees. I ended up cuddled in my bikini and a cardigan at The Corner Café and Bistro in Pier Village warming up with a cup of tea. However, we did enjoy taking our sandwiches that we grabbed to go and eating on the beach. It was a bit crowded with more of an out-of-towners feel to it rather than being a local hangout. Beach passes are $5 Monday-Friday and $7 weekends and holidays. They can be purchased at any beach entrance. Only single pole umbrellas are allowed on the beach, no tents or canopies. For a map of the beach, click here.
#1 Asbury Park
The beach at Asbury Park comes in at number one because of the historic nature of the place and how much there is to do here. It was the Jersey default summer destination during the early 20th century with grand hotels, an amusement park and the boardwalk to entertain visitors. When highway infrastructure and suburban development arrived after the war, bringing more choices for local summer fun, Asbury Park fell into decline, but there has been a strong revitalization effort for the past twenty years. Some of the grand hotels have been restored into swanky places to stay, like The Asbury Hotel (famous for its rooftop bar with ocean views), the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel and The Hotel Tides Restaurant and Spa. While the amusement park is gone, the town has turned into a mecca for live music, whether your tastes in music be Indie, R&B or folk rock. Iconic music clubs like The Stone Pony (which launched Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi), and the Wonder Bar host live music concerts and events throughout the year. Asbury Park has a unique and eccentric vibe, with funky spots and vintage shops, like those that can be found at the Silverball Retro Arcade that houses over 600 pinball and video game machines in rotation.
The beach itself is crowded and lively, with an atmosphere that is a little on the funky side. You can go on and off the beach, getting sweet lemonades and French fries from the board walk. Afterwards take a stroll on the boardwalk towards the renovated convention center. A stop for some ice cream from Betty’s Ice Box is a must. Bicycles, skateboards and scooters are not allowed on the boardwalk, which makes for an easy stroll. Daily beach passes are $6 Monday-Friday, and $9 on weekends and holidays, and can be purchased at the 7th avenue beach booth or on their Viply mobile ap. For a link of all there is to see and do on the boardwalk, click here.
Asbury Park also has a number of interesting dining spots that have cropped up. From the train station walk along Cookman Avenue to get brunch at the Toast City Diner, where you can get anything you crave until 3pm. For vegan options, try the Twisted Tree Café for gluten-free muffins, a tempeh wrap or a lentil burger. When you approach the beach, you will find Stella Marina, a high-end Italian restaurant. Try their burrata with heirloom tomatoes and clams with linguini off the lunch menu. A walk down the boardwalk will take you to two spots you might want to try for dinner. The legendary café Moonstruck, which was the Raspberry Café back in the eighties, now boasts entrees like roast duck with orange, honey and rosemary glaze, baked Icelandic cod, and a variety of cocktails. Farther down the boardwalk find the Iron Whale, known for its surf and turf items like plank salmon with grilled peaches or strip steak with truffle hash, which can be eaten at their outdoor dining spot with ocean views.
This list is really a starting point for exploring the 40 plus beaches of the Jersey Shore, but it’s a great starting point. Jump in!
Where to Eat
Iron Whale 1200 Ocean Avenue, (732) 361-5185
Moonstruck 517 Lake Avenue, (732) 988-0123
Stella Marina 800 Ocean Avenue, (732) 775-7776
Toast City Diner 516 Cookman Avenue, (732) 776-5900
Twisted Tree Cafe 609 Cookman Avenue, (732) 775-2633
The Buttered Biscuit Cafe 700 Main Street, (732) 807-4069
Del Ponte’s Coal Fired Pizza 600 Main Street, (732) 869-0070
Amy’s 444 Ocean Blvd N, (732)-222-1206
McLoone’s Pier House One Ocean Avenue, (732) 923-1006
The Corner Cafe and Bistro 10 Centennial Drive, (732) 759-8480
The Turning Point 92 Ocean Avenue, (732) 923-1104
Boardwalk Bar and Grill 401 Boardwalk, (732) 892-0600
The Food Shack 1000-1002 Ocean Avenue, (732) 714-7425
Wharfside Restaurant 101 Channel Drive, (732) 892-9100
The Breaker’s Hotel 1507 Ocean Avenue, (732) 449-7700
Driftwood Coffee House 1102 3rd Avenue, (732) 449-3806
Where to Stay