There's a reason New Jersey is commonly hailed as the top destination for beach-goers all along the East Coast. During the height of the summer season, millions of people flock to the Garden State, stretching out on pristine beaches, eating at scenic restaurants, and strolling along the Jersey Shore's famous boardwalk piers.
The Best Beaches in New Jersey You Must Visit
While New Jersey may be relatively small compared to other coastal states, plenty of fantastic beaches can appeal to each vacationer's wants and interests. From bustling communities with plenty of boardwalk attractions to quieter towns where you can relax and unwind, here are some of the best beaches in New Jersey.
No beach on the Jersey Shore surpasses the beauty and opulence of Cape May. Between its magnificent beaches, independent shops, gingerbread houses, and sprawling promenade, it's easily among the best towns in New Jersey.
While Cape May is lacking the exciting boardwalk games and attractions found in Atlantic City or Wildwood, there are plenty of things to do around town. Whether you're interested in staying at a cozy, family-owned bed and breakfast or whiling away a few hours at the Washington Street Mall, Cape May is a town capable of holding the interest of any prospective visitor.
Local food options: Fins Bar & Grille (seafood), The Lobster House (seafood market), Icara Italian Bistro (Italian)
Hidden between Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights, Lavallette is a sleepy little town that is a quiet alternative to its busier coastal neighbors. The beaches are all private, ensuring you have a more peaceful, clean place to bask in the sun, with far more locals around town than there are tourists.
If you're looking for an even quieter place to swim, you can also venture to a variety of serene bays on the other side of the Barnegat Peninsula.
Local food options: Crab's Claw Inn (seafood), Ohana Grill (Asian fusion), The Music Man Singing Ice Cream Shoppe (an ice cream parlor with a twist)
Home to one of the best boardwalks on the East Coast (Jenkinson's Boardwalk), Point Pleasant is the perfect place if you're looking for a town with plenty of entertainment options. Along with classic theme park attractions like bumper cars and roller coasters, there's mini golf, a massive funhouse, and even a small aquarium that houses sharks, seals, and penguins, among other aquatic species.
Local food options: Ark Pub & Eatery (casual dining), The Poached Pear (fine dining), Hoffman's Ice Cream (homemade ice cream parlor)
Save for Atlantic City, it's hard to think of a town more synonymous with the Jersey Shore than Asbury Park. With a sprawling boardwalk roughly 4 miles in length, there's plenty to do in Asbury Park, whether you're a traveler interested in a more peaceful vacation or someone looking for entertainment to keep your interest peaked throughout your stay.
Make sure you look at what concerts are playing at the Stone Pony ahead of time, taking in premiere shows at the same historic venue that gave N.J. native Bruce Springsteen his first major spotlight.
Local food options: Porta Asbury Park (pizza), The Bonney Read (seafood), Toast Asbury Park (breakfast and brunch)
Given its emphasis on casinos and gambling, most people might think Atlantic City is a vacation spot ideally geared towards adults rather than families. While it is true that A.C. is a great place for older vacationers, it's also worth pointing out the dozens of other activities you can enjoy with the whole family.
Most notably, Atlantic City is the site of the world's first and longest boardwalk pier, stretching for 5 miles across the length of the city. You'll find classic carnival games, theme park rides, delicious restaurants, and even a few marketplaces and shopping areas along the way.
Local food options: Knife and Fork Inn (fine dining), Kelsey's Atlantic City (traditional Southern food), and James' Original Salt Water Taffy (candy store)
Lavallette's adjoining beachside community, Seaside Heights, typically receives far larger crowds of tourists than its neighbor – mainly owing to its boardwalk pier and proliferation of bars. That being said, if you're looking for a town with more active nightlife and things to do during the day, you'll probably find a welcome vacation spot at Seaside Heights.
Local food options: Klee's Bar & Grill (casual dining), The Sawmill (pizza), Jimmy's Breakfast (breakfast)
Not to be confused with the similarly tourist-heavy Ocean City in Maryland, New Jersey's Ocean City is another shore town brimming with things to do. Uniquely divided between turn-of-the-century houses and buzzing boardwalk attractions, Ocean City has the best of both worlds in a more peaceful atmosphere and exciting entertainment options.
Local food options: Island Grill Seafood & Steakhouse (seafood), Hula Restaurant and Sauce Co. (Hawaiian), Piccini (pizza)
As impressive as most other boardwalks are along the New Jersey shoreline, nothing comes close to matching the carnival landscape of Wildwood. An N.J. landmark for any travelers looking for a vast amount of carnival games, amusement rides, and other boardwalk novelties, Wildwood's massive beaches also ensure that you have plenty of space and privacy throughout your day in the sun.
Local food options: Boathouse Restaurant (seafood), Little Italy (Italian), Dogtooth Bar & Grill (casual dining)
Are you interested in a beach within shouting distance of New York City? If that's the case, Sea Bright is the place for you. For tourists or New York inhabitants looking for a scenic summer getaway, Sea Bright offers several convenient seaside options, ranging from seven free-to-visit beaches to exclusive beach clubs with various standout amenities.
Local food options: Donovan's Reef (casual dining), The Rum Runner (seafood), Woody's Ocean Grille (casual dining)
Sandy Hook's beaches are not only gorgeous and peaceful – they also provide some stunning views of New York City, located almost directly across the bay. The town's beaches may be viewed as a tad small, but that just ensures a more intimate beach-going experience, spread out along the peninsula that reaches out towards New York's Lower Bay.
Local food options: Bahrs Landing Famous Seafood Restaurant & Marina (seafood), Proving Ground Waterfront Dining (seafood), Off the Hook Restaurant and Bar (American)
A favorite vacation spot for seven different U.S. presidents, Long Branch has retained the unique Victorian-age glamor that made it the thriving beach haven it was in the late 19th century. In addition to having some fantastic, clean beaches, Long Branch also has a number of things to do around town. In particular, guests can spend a huge chunk of time wandering Pier Village, a hub of restaurants and shops located in the heart of the city.
Local food options: Sirena Ristorante (Italian), Rooney's Oceanfront Restaurant (seafood), McLoone's Pier House (American)
On the surface, Spring Lake doesn't tout nearly as many recreational activities as its fellow N.J. beaches on this list. Far from being a bad thing, however, it's the lack of activities that make Spring Lake worth visiting – existing as a quieter choice for any vacationer looking for an idyllic beachfront for rest and relaxation as opposed to nonstop action and entertainment.
Local food options: Amelia's By the Sea (Italian), St. Stephen's Green Publick House (Irish pub), Marigold Market & Cafe (breakfast and brunch)