With 130 miles of sandy beaches stretching from Sandy Hook to Cape May, the New Jersey shoreline offers much to explore, and 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 if you live in the 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.
Below is a list of the top 5 beaches, with a glimpse into what you can expect at each one.
#5 Bradley Beach – Pleasant and quiet, with great nearby dining options.
Bradley beach is about a mile long, and 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 feels serene, even when crowded. Riley Park and the surrounding village give the area a small town feel.
Dining: Start the day off right with a stop at The Buttered Biscuit for brunch. As the name suggests, flakey buttery biscuits come with every order and the omelets are delicious. 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.
#4 Spring Lake – Refined, clean and expansive.
A quiet yet refined beach experience can be had at Spring Lake, which has an expansive stretch of sand and an air of affluence to it. You won’t find a lot of activities here. This a place to nestle into a beach chair and doze the afternoon away, while gentle ocean breezes waft over you.
Dining: 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, you can stop at the The Breaker’s Hotel, a charming landmark fixture in this exclusive community and just steps from the beach. Sandwiches, burgers and wraps make for a reasonably priced lunch with an ocean view, and there is a large selection of entrees for dinner.
#3 Point Pleasant – Bustling boardwalk, energetic beach and lots of family fun activities.
There is plenty to do here other than spend time on the sand. 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, 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.
Dining: A good place to catch breakfast or lunch is The Food Shack, 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, get dinner right in the middle of Jenkinson’s boardwalk at the Boardwalk Bar and Grill. There might be a wait to get in, but with any luck you will get a seat with 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.
#2 Long Branch – Beachside resort-like.
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 Pier Village, good for a break from the beach where you can grab a sandwich, get a coffee or saunter through the shops. 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.
Dining: 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.
#1 Asbury Park – Historic, musical and fun.
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 a little on the funky side. You can go on and off the beach, getting sweet lemonades and French fries from the board walk. After some fun on the beach, 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.
Dining: 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. Try the Twisted Tree Café for vegan options like gluten-free muffins 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 that dot the New Jersey Shore, but it’s a great starting point. Jump in!