Best Jersey Shore Beaches for Families: Sandy Hook to Cape May

Best Jersey Shore Beaches for Families: Sandy Hook to Cape May

Make your New Jersey kid a beach baby and go down the Shore. New Jersey has 130 miles of shoreline and some of the prettiest beaches anywhere. Whether your family is looking for a busy boardwalk with children’s rides, a beachside water park, a thrilling amusement park or something a bit quieter, the Jersey Shore has it.

We’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite Jersey beaches, from a national park on the northern shore down to the busier southern beaches of Cape May and Atlantic City. So pack the car with the best beach gear for a day trip or a long weekend.

The Jersey Shore season officially opens Saturday, May 28. Be sure to check with your local beach for beach tag information and capacity limits before heading out.

1. Sandy Hook National Seashore

Sandy Hook is a 7-mile stretch of beach and a national park all in one. Spend the day fishing, swimming, bird-watching, or simply laying out in the sun—all while taking in a great view of the Manhattan skyline. It’s easy to access from NYC: Take a 30-minute ride on the Seastreak ferry; there’s also a shuttle bus service that will take you from the ferry dock to the beach. Access to the beach is FREE, and parking is $20 per day. A word of caution: Space is limited, and when Sandy Hook reaches capacity for the day (which it often does on weekends in the summer), the gates are closed, so get there early. While visiting Sandy Hook, grab some seafood in Atlantic Highlands, where there are some fantastic restaurants. Or try out the food trucks that set up shop in the parking lots near the beach.

2. Long Branch

Long Branch is one of the largest towns on the Jersey Shore. It has expansive beaches, and its waterfront had a big facelift a few years ago. Enjoy the boardwalk, great restaurants, shopping, and much more. One of the recent developments on the boardwalk is Pier Village, home to more than 30 shops and restaurants, including favorites like McLoone’s Pier House and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. There are multiple entry points to the beach, including at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park. This is a low-key section of the beach with a playground, new skateplex, clean bathrooms, showers, decent concessions, and no amusement rides—something I try to avoid if I’m just looking to hit the sand. One important note: Tents and canopies are not permitted on the beach, only single pole umbrellas. Check out more of Monmouth County’s best beaches, forests, and play spaces.

3. Asbury Park

Asbury Park has gone through a lot of changes over the past several years, but it has definitely cemented its cool cred with events like the Sea.Hear.Now music festival, which returns September 17-18. The boardwalk has gotten so popular that it has its own website. Check out family-friendly activities like the Asbury Splash ParkAsbury Eighteen mini-golf, and the Silverball Museum Arcade (filled with playable pinball machines), or get creative with the kids and take them to the Jersey Shore’s first public-access hot glass studio, Hot Sand. If you get hungry, the boardwalk is peppered with great eats like The Crepe ShopLangosta Lounge, and Pop’s Garage, as well as funky food trucks. And, good news: Kids 12 and under are always FREE on the beach.

4. Point Pleasant Beach

Between the beaches of Monmouth County and the craziness of Seaside Heights lies a nice little stretch of beach in Point Pleasant. There are several major beaches that comprise the area, and Jenkinson’s is probably the most famous of the bunch, as well as the biggest. Not only are there beaches to explore, but the boardwalk area is host to many other kid-friendly amusements. Among the draws are Jenkinson’s Aquarium, an arcade, amusement rides, and a ropes course.

You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas right on the beach at Jenkinson’s. You’ll find four paid parking lots located nearby on Ocean Avenue between Broadway and Arnold Avenue and a large metered lot on Arnold Avenue, but parking is going to cost you. Arrive early to snag the very limited on-street parking in the neighborhoods off Ocean Avenue, but make sure you are parking in a legitimate spot; the cops in Point Pleasant beach hand out a lot of parking tickets during the summer. Other beaches include Martell’s, Risden’s, Maryland Avenue, and Bradshaw’s. Read more about Point Pleasant beaches.

5. Island Beach State Park

Island Beach State Park, located at the end of Route 35 just past Seaside Park, is a preserved barrier island that offers both bay and ocean beaches. This state park is perfect for day trips, as you can bring a grill onto the beach and camp out all day long. Bathrooms are located at the main beach areas, and there are some by beach entrances. Keep in mind that if you park at one of the quieter beaches further down the island, you will have to haul your things (and kids) onto the beach from where you park—and it can be a bit of a walk, trust me! But it is worth it once you are able to let the little ones roam free and relax. Lifeguards are on the station from mid-June through Labor Day.

Check out the wildlife on IBSP, including foxes and osprey. Popular activities include biking, surf fishing, swimming, scuba, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and more. Leashed dogs are allowed in the park, but not on the main swimming beaches. Lifeguards are only present at the main swimming beaches. The gates open at 8am and close at dusk. The park fills up quickly in the summer, and the gates are shut when capacity is reached, so be sure to get there early.

6. Long Beach Island

This 18-mile-long barrier island offers beautiful white-sand beaches that are ready for your family to explore. There are five boroughs and 17 towns that make up LBI, and it can only be accessed by driving over the Barnegat Bay Causeway. Barnegat Lighthouse, or “Old Barney,” is located at the north end of LBI. This 150-year-old lighthouse offers panoramic views of Island Beach, Barnegat Bay, and LBI but is currently closed for renovations. Only one town on the island has an amusement area, and there is no boardwalk, but your kids will find plenty to keep them amused, like the Victorian-themed Fantasy Island Amusement Park in Beach Haven. Rides open on weekends starting Saturday, May 21. Plus, there are family-friendly events all summer long, from free concerts to children’s movies at the local library on rainy days. There are several different beach areas to pick from; see pricing and details here.

7. Atlantic City

Atlantic City truly has something for everyone in the family, including casinos, spas, concerts, great restaurants, the ocean, a 7-mile boardwalk, golf, water sports, and shopping. The 5-mile-long beach is FREE and offers restrooms, changing rooms, outdoor showers, and lifeguards from 10am-6pm. For those looking for all the amenities and plenty of entertainment, AC is the spot. It has one of the largest Fourth of July fireworks displays in the country, and the fun doesn’t stop there. We enjoyed a long weekend with the kids here and hit up the Bally’s Beach, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and the double-decker carousel and kiddie rides at Steel Pier.

Parking is metered, and the limit is three hours, so you may need to move the car unless you stay at one of the hotels on the boardwalk. Those visiting from the Philadelphia area and parts of South Jersey have access to a quick, direct train ride via NJ Transit.

8. Ocean City

Just south of Atlantic City lies picturesque Ocean City, with 8 miles of wide, soft, sandy beaches with ocean and bay shorefronts; a boardwalk that’s bicycle-friendly; and plenty of amusement park rides and more family fun. There’s a reason it’s known as “America’s Greatest Family Resort.” Check out Gillian’s Wonderland Pier for amusement park rides and mini-golf, Playland’s Castaway Cove, or the OC Waterpark for cool water slides and some non-saltwater splashing. Wind down your busy beach day with the Ocean City Pops at the majestic, 1920s-built Ocean City Music Pier. It is important to note that Ocean City is a “dry” town, meaning no alcohol is served or sold here, which keeps it extra family-oriented. (Those in the know head to nearby Strathmere or Marmoa to pick up booze.)

9. Wildwoods

The Wildwoods, a short drive north of Cape May, is generally less expensive and packs in a lot of boardwalk entertainment, making it popular among families from New Jersey, nearby Philly, and elsewhere. It’s made up of three towns: Wildwood, North Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest. You’ll find terrific beaches, all of which are FREE to enter (a rarity in Jersey), as well as Morey’s Piers, which offers distinct, mini amusement parks at each of its piers—like kiddie rides at Surfside Pier and thrill rides at Adventure Pier—plus two beachside water parks: Raging Waters and Ocean Oasis. The area hosts cool family festivals year-round, including a Fourth of July fete, a sand-sculpting contest, and a Fall Beach Jam, which is an overnight camping event for families. The atmosphere here is pure fun in the key of Americana, from riding the boardwalk tram to staying at one of the colorful hotels that dot the towns.

10. Cape May

Cape May is the last stop on the Jersey Shore, and boy, does it end with a bang. The historic Victorians, numerous B&Bs, serene beaches, and stunning wildlife make this area perfect for families or a parents’ getaway. You can choose from a number of beaches, oceanside or bayside, including the popular Cove or Decatur Street. Poverty Beach is a favorite with locals and tourists alike, as is Broadway. You’ll find bathrooms, restaurants, and shops all along the beaches adjacent to Beach Avenue. There are plenty of non-beach activities, too. Watch the sunset over the Delaware Bay, grab the ferry, whale-watch or bird-watch, climb to the top of the lighthouse, or just pedal around town. Kids will enjoy the FREE Cape May County Zoo, a picnic at the Cape May State Point Park (also FREE), or the Cape May-Lewes Ferry to Lewes, Delaware. Enjoy the state’s biggest annual strawberry festival in June and other seasonal entertainment all summer long. You’ll find shopping, arcades, mini-golf, and casual and upscale dining—but head to Wildwoods if the kids are hungry for amusement rides.

Know Before You Go

  • One unfortunate aspect of most NJ beaches is that you have to pay. Check with individual beaches for information about day and season badges. Kids are generally FREE, but the age range varies. (Read about favorite FREE NJ beaches.)
  • Remember parking. You have to pay for parking at some beaches, so be sure to check ahead. Check to see what the meters take or if there are lots or even street parking.
  • Some NJ beaches allow food and beverages, but some do not. Most beaches do not allow glass containers, so be sure to bring reusable water bottles.
  • Dogs are generally not allowed on NJ beaches (although there are some areas, like a dog beach in Sandy Hook, that allows them), so leave the fur babies at home.
  • Most Jersey Shore beaches have lifeguards, but some do not. If there is not a lifeguard, it should be posted before the beach entrance. You’ll need to stay within the lifeguard-appointed swimming zones if you want to be in the water. Watch where they have the flags posted.

This article, first published in 2011, is updated annually.

This post was originally published here at

Best Jersey Shore Beaches by The Travel Channel

Best Jersey Shore Beaches by The Travel Channel

Going down the Shore is a popular summer tradition with pleasant towns, festive boardwalks, cozy beach houses and miles of family-friendly beaches.

Bigquestionmarks, Flickr

Going down to the Jersey Shore is a popular summer tradition with mid-Atlantic residents from New York, Philadelphia and, of course, New Jersey. Busy city dwellers trade a subway for a beach cruiser and embrace a vacation of boogie-boarding, beachcombing and cruising the boardwalk. While basic hotel accommodations are available all along the Shore, most visitors choose to get comfortable in a rented house, ranging from simple condos to beachfront mansions. Here’s our selection of the best Jersey Shore beach towns, from north to south.
Spring Lake 
Spring Lake is one of the more refined spots on the Jersey Shore with stately homes, quiet beaches and a non-commercial boardwalk. And then there’s the namesake lake situated in the middle of town, lined with weeping willows and quiet nooks, perfect for a serene evening stroll. The Breakers Hotel has undergone some name changes and lots of renovations since it first opened in the late 1800s. With its wraparound porch, it is a majestic presence on the beach and the only beachside hotel in town. Spring Lake is just 60 miles from downtown New York and is accessible by train from the city, making it a popular day-trip or quick weekend getaway for New Yorkers.
Island Beach State Park 
Island Beach State Park is a protected barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay. This 10-mile stretch of unspoiled beach is far removed from the frantic pace and nonstop activity at nearby Seaside Heights. Little has changed here since the Native Americans and early explorers enjoyed the shore hundreds of years ago. The beach’s rolling dunes and dense forests are home to red foxes, osprey and a variety of shore birds. Unlike other NJ beaches that charge per person, here you pay a flat fee for your vehicle. Plan to arrive early on weekends and summer holidays as staff closes the beach to new guests once the parking lot is full.
Long Beach Island
Long Beach Island, or LBI as it’s known to the regulars, has 18 miles of fine silky sand and some of the best breaks along the Shore. With its boozy nightlife and busy beach scene, Beach Haven is popular with the young crowd spending weekends at the Shore. Ship Bottom is a popular family spot with a playground and calm bay beach away from the ocean’s currents at 15th Street. Surfing is permitted at 19 spots along some of the area’s best beaches, including Barnegat Light, Harvey Cedars, Surf City and Ship Bottom. Whether you’re a diehard surfer or just watch from the beach, you’ll want to check out the original Ron Jon shop in Ship Bottom. The first Ron Jon surf shop opened here in 1961, and today this 4-story surfing emporium sells everything from boards to board shorts for those who just want to look the part.
Ocean City 
Known as the America’s Greatest Family Resort, Ocean City is often voted the best beach in New Jersey. There are 8 miles of shore for swimming, boogie-boarding and sandcastles. A wooden boardwalk lines 2-1/2 miles of these beaches, entertaining visitors with rides, mini-golf, carnival games and a water park. A spin on the Ferris wheel followed by some free fudge samples is the pinnacle of nightlife in this dry town, making it a popular spot for families who appreciate old-fashioned fun. The boardwalk scene is even more festive on Thursday nights in July and August with free entertainment including musicians, magicians and karaoke.
Stone Harbor/Avalon
Together, the neighboring towns of Stone Harbor and Avalon form 7 Mile Beach, a wide stretch of shore known for its cool ocean breezes. Bring a kite to the beach in Avalon and watch it soar over the dunes or simply lounge on the sand. Then head to Stone Harbor for the shopping along 96th Street and Third Avenue where surf shops selling the season’s best flip-flops sit next to boutiques peddling art, jewelry and quirky souvenirs. No visit is complete without some homemade ice cream from Springer’s, which has been scooping the Shore’s best for over 8 decades. If you need a break from the beach, head inland to the Wetlands Institute for a kayak tour through the marshland and possible turtle-sightings.
Wildwood occupies a unique spot in pop-culture history as the center of Doo Wop in the 1950s and 1960s with colorful motels, bright diners and flashy neon signs. Young people flocked to nightclubs like the Rainbow Club where Chubby Checker first introduced the world to the Twist in 1960. Today, the Doo Wop Preservation League works hard to preserve the space-age architecture and keeps the kitschy spirit alive with historic tours. Today’s beach scene may be different from the beach blanket bingo days of old. The twisting and turning is more likely to be experienced at one of the boardwalk’s 6 bone-rattling roller coasters or 3 water parks. However, with free admission and a busy boardwalk scene, countless families and groups of friends still stake their spot in the sand amidst a sea of colorful umbrellas.
Cape May
You know you’ve arrived when you reach the mile marker “0” on the Garden State Parkway. As the farthest point south on the Shore, Cape May is the crown jewel of the region with gorgeous beaches and a quaint town center filled with gingerbread Victorians and colorful bed and breakfasts. Bring your binoculars to the beach to spy the playful dolphins jumping in the wake. Just before sundown, head to Sunset Beach to catch the daily lowering of the US flag accompanied by Taps. Then head to town for a cocktail at the hip Brown Room at the stately Congress Hall hotel. Other dinner choices range from the casual seaside ambience at the Lobster House to formal dining at Union Park or the Ebbitt Room. After dinner, peruse the shops in Washington Square, climb aboard a trolley for a slow tour of town or learn about the area’s long-term residents on a spooky ghost tour.This article was originally published here: