New Jersey is still dealing with the fallout from a popular TV show's notoriety - you might have heard of it? It's called Jersey Shore. As in:
While this was true for a beach day in 2008/9, it quickly became famous due to the wild lifestyles the Jersey Shore cast portrayed on the beach. They had a number of Italian-Americans from New Jersey and New York with outlandish personalities. Surprisingly, only two of the entire cast were born and raised in New Jersey: Samantha Giancola and Sammi Deena Nicole Cortese. When I tell people I'm from New Jersey, I have to defend the state and say, "It's not like that anymore!" However, the poofs, GTL, and drama truly defined and revolutionized that era - so I can't blame them.
From Cape May in the south to Sandy Hook in the north, New Jersey's Atlantic Ocean coastline spans 130 miles and boasts 44 beaches.
Classic NJ boardwalk
Each family has its own 'go-to' spot, but here's my very biased opinion on the best beaches in Jersey:
44. Seaside Heights, Ocean County
This is a tourist trap, but I'll tell you what... it's a lot of fun for a day! On a boardwalk facing the ocean, where else can you find a ski lift, rollercoaster, and waterpark? BUT, it's where the high school kids go after prom - enough said. It's one of those places you have to try once. The Jersey Shore show has given it a poor name and it's since become a garbage ground.
43. Brigantine, Atlantic County
Hmm, sitting on the beach north of Atlantic City, you can see a skyscraper, and it just doesn't feel right - for Jersey. Having skyscrapers staring at you while at the beach just defeats the purpose. It's simply not worth the drive unless you live close, due to restricted parking and a relatively flat beach. If you're looking for something to do on the beach on 38th, there's a volleyball court that seems like fun!
42. Wildwood, Cape May County
Every year, I used to go, and it's fantastic for kids! However, if you've grown tired of bumping into tens of thousands of people on your way to rest on a beach, it might not be for you. It's always packed in Wildwood. A boardwalk with rollercoasters, water slides, and go-karts is available. So, come for the boardwalk fun, but not for the beach.
41. Seaside Park, Ocean County
This seaside hamlet, located south of Seaside Heights, is comparable to Seaside Heights but less chaotic. The beach is still not the greatest I've seen in Jersey, which is why it's ranked so low in comparison to its beach neighbor.
40. Margate City, Atlantic County
Jersey is known for its oddities, and one of them is located on this coastline. Lucy, a 6-story skyscraper, built in 1881, is a gigantic elephant. There are excursions around town and views available from inside the state historical marker. When it comes to beaches, it isn't the cleanest, and parking is few.
39. North Wildwood, Cape May CountyIt is located north of Wildwood, as stated in the title, so if that sounds like your cup of tea, go for it! It's still rather busy and congested, but the beach's upkeep has pushed it to the bottom of the list.
38. Ventnor City, Atlantic County
Let's just say that anything in close proximity to Atlantic City should be sanitized and avoided at all costs. Ventnor, located south of Atlantic City, offers a big beach. It's not a 'WOW!' moment, but if you want to escape the 'mini Las Vegas,' this is the place to go.
37. Bay Head, Ocean County
It's more of a town you pass through on your way to Seaside or Point Pleasant than a beach town. Parking is scarce, as it is in most coastal communities, and access to the beach is difficult for visitors. I believe it tells it all when the Bay Head Harbor is more popular than the sea.
36. Mantoloking, Ocean County
It's very much the same and south of Bay Head. The houses that overlook the water own a portion of the beaches. While I don't mind people watching on the beach, it bothers me when I feel like I'm sunbathing on someone's lawn.
35. Deal, Monmouth County
A beach that is (kind of) accessible to the general public? Deal wins if it's "create your own rules" day! We discovered that each beach has its own set of rules after driving around. For example, Hathaway Avenue charges a fee to enter the beach, but Darlington Avenue does not, but Darlington does not allow swimming. No swimming at the beach? Strange one. It would have scored lower in any case, but the beach was nice, and the large beach homes swayed the decision as it was fun to drive around.
34. Allenhurst, Monmouth County
This beach town, located south of Deal, offers private beaches that are kept clean. The are beautiful, but the $10/day beach admission, which does not include access to the cabana, brings it down a notch.
33. Sea Girt, Monmouth County
The population of this coastal town is less than 2000 persons, according to the 2010 census. That means lovely beaches with less foot traffic! The Sea Girt Lighthouse is a must-see; the lighthouse is really linked to a house, so it almost fits in with the rest of the beach houses.
32. Sea Bright, Monmouth County
This is a tough one because it offers beautiful vistas and a nice beach, but there's nothing to do in town. This small beach town would be difficult to like because it runs along Route 36, and everything is on the other side of town (approximately 4 miles/6km). You can see the Manhattan skyline in the distance from the beach if you like that but that's not particularly our cup of tea.
31. Loch Arbour, Monmouth County
Umm.. you missed Loch Arbour… you missed the turn again - that’s okay it happens all the time! It's made up of eight streets! It had a population of 194 people in 2010 and was the third smallest municipality in terms of area. As a result, the beaches are tiny and less crowded.
30. Monmouth Beach, Monmouth County
Imagine this: you've been traveling all morning to have a full relaxing day at the beach, and you've finally arrived at your destination. Cars whizzing by are the next thing you hear! This beach is separated from the rest of the beach by a rock wall that follows Route 36. The beach is hidden behind a few condos, but it is clean and large, so you won't have to share your beach area with anyone.
29. Spring Lake, Monmouth County
Let's just say that in tiny towns, when there's nothing else to do, the beaches are properly maintained. Pavilions with snacks and great clubs are available nearby. What's more, there's a local lake, pond, and golf course.
28. Sea Isle City, Cape May County
I like to think I'm 'one with nature,' but this beach was just too bug-infested for me. The beach, on the other hand, is huge and boasts a beautiful blue sea! There's a skate park nearby, and marshlands on the other side of town aid with biodiversity and offer character to the seaside town.
27. Longport, Atlantic County
The sea is deep and the beach is big, so you can enjoy some water sports here. It's like a small, peaceful hamlet that's ideal for a leisurely beach day. Although the town is small, do you recall Lucy the Elephant from before? She's just up the road!
26. Long Beach Township, Ocean County
Are you ready to be mystified? Long Beach Township (LBT) is made up of various portions strewn around Long Beach Island (LBI). Because LBI references the entire island, LBT counts as a part of LBI. LBT and LBI make up the 18-mile-long island (29 km). LBT contains lesser-known towns, making it more suitable for shopping and living than for beach days and because LBI is amazing and nearly identical, it has risen to the top of the list.
25. Wildwood Crest, Cape May County
There is more of Wildwood? Yes, there is another beach south of Wildwood that is less crowded and cleaner. What makes it unique is how wide it is, and how the sandbars allow you to go out far without being too shallow to boogie board. You could go to Wildwood for a few hours and then escape to the nicer beach. There isn't much to do in town, which is why Wildwood is right next door.
24. Ocean City, Cape May County
There has to be something for everyone in this huge coastal town! State parks, boardwalk mayhem, big beaches, and a pleasant town ambiance are all available. This is a pleasant beach for people of all ages, with plenty to do on a daily basis.
23. Lavallette, Ocean County
For the number of people who visit, this beach is a bit small. It's clean and well-kept, although finding some space appears to be difficult. The town has wonderful restaurants, but it appears to be a place where you would rent for a week. If you're searching for a relaxing weekend getaway, Lavalette is the place to go.
22. Manasquan, Monmouth County
For Jerseyans in the north, this is the go-to weekend retreat. It is further north, but where the beaches begin to resemble the classic New Jersey beauty. It features large beaches and jetties where you can walk around. However, there is no boardwalk, which might help with the high foot traffic.
21. Cape May Point, Cape May County
Cape May Point is actually quite modest, but the bunker on the beach close is what sets it apart. The harbor defense battery, Battery 223, was completed in 1943. On June 25, 2008, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you have time, a former military tower a little further inland honors World War II soldiers, and you can even lookout like they did. The beach is wide open and gorgeous at sunset, but there are no strong waves for water sports.
20. Bradley Beach, Monmouth County
Bradley Beach, located south of Asbury Park and with a boardwalk and a pleasant village, is unquestionably a family beach. Although this beach is frequently crowded, the reasonable parking makes it nearly worth it. The beach town is only 11 blocks long, making it ideal for a day vacation or weekend, but anything longer may become tedious.
19. Sandy Hook, Monmouth County
This is probably the farthest north you'll be able to find a good beach. It's almost an island unto itself, but it's connected to Sea Bright. It's a bit of a trek to get there, but it's a pleasant day excursion. The entire beach town is essentially a national park, with 6 miles (10 kilometers) of sandy beach to enjoy. As you go away from the beach, you'll come across animal trails, camping places, and historic sites. To your left, you can see the Manhattan skyline! Bouns: If you're looking for a nude beach, Gunnison Beach at the Sandy Hook is your place.
18. Strathmere, Cape May County
The beach is broad and clean, and the tide goes out quite far. This is the spot to go if you want to have a relaxing day! Most of the excitement takes place on the bay side; it's a great area to bring the jet skis and visit Twisties Tavern on the Bay!
17. Avalon, Cape May County
This is yet another fun coastal town, complete with a beach, natural trails, and bird observatories! The beach is so large that getting to the sea is almost a trek. It's a lively town with nice food and enough to do. It would be a wonderful place to spend the summer!
16. Atlantic City, Atlantic County
"You gave AC so much grief, and it's just number 16 on the list?" To give you some reassurance, I forgot about it and will have to find a place for it! Give me a break, there are 44 beaches! So allow me to defend it. Atlantic City is the kind of place you want to despise but can't. It's so packed that you'd assume everyone goes to gamble (which is probably true), yet it's something you absolutely must do in AC. Even though going to the beach isn't even on the top of the list of things to do, it's still a great environment. You might know that the first boardwalk in America was created here, that Monopoly features properties inspired by AC, that soldiers prepared for D-Day here, that salt water taffy from here is unmatched, and that we have to give it credit for all of its history. It's a truly historic city, and its famed boardwalks have elevated it above the rest.
15. Island Beach State Park, Ocean County
So you thought Sandy Hook was difficult to reach? To get to Island Beach State Park from Seaside Heights/Thomas A. Mathis Bridge, you'll have to drive 10 miles (16 kilometers) in traffic. It's also more of a nature park than a beach, yet with all of the biodiversity and creatures that pass through, the beach is incredibly serene. This is the place to go if you want to get away from it all.
14. Ortley Beach, Ocean County
What more could you want than a wide, spacious beach with clear blue water? It's a charming town with numerous restaurants, but remember that Seaside Heights and Lavalette are nearby. It's an odd hybrid that combines the finest of both cities.
13. Belmar, Monmouth County
Belmar is located between Spring Lake and Avon-by-the-Sea. It's well-kept, and there's a pleasant town vibe around. It's the ideal day trip for families because there's always something going on in town. Surfing, strolling along the boardwalk, or simply relaxing on the big open beach are all things that come to me when I think of the Jersey Shore.
12. Stone Harbor, Cape May Harbor
Except for the fact that the beaches are immaculate, there isn't much to say about Stone Harbor. It's so pleasant, that even when it's busy, you don't notice. More wetlands may be found near the southernmost tip, where you can go bird watching in the morning.
11. Ocean Grove, Atlantic Ocean
The beach screams Jersey beach town once you get past the initial shock of seeing The Great Auditorium and Victorian mansions. You can tell it's popular when lodging takes up over half of the town!
10. Long Branch, Monmouth County
The mixed groups of persons who visit this beach add to its appeal. People of all ages will be there, and the pleasant town surrounding the beach provides for a pleasant day out. It does get quite busy, very quickly as summer approaches, but you can't blame them for all of the delicious food!
9. Avon-by-the-Sea, Monmouth County
This beach, located north of Belmar, is large enough to accommodate all of the city-loving visitors. For the volume of traffic that passes through, it is nicely maintained. The boardwalk is not overrun with tourist traps, but it is a pleasant location to stroll and unwind. This spot has waves that are suitable for boogy boarding and surfing.
8. Harvey Cedars, Ocean County
This is a peaceful town located between Surf City and Long Beach. Because it is part of Long Beach Island, it automatically ranks in the top ten for having clean beaches and good island life. It's essentially a rest stop, but the surrounding towns have far more to offer.
7. Point Pleasant Beach, Ocean County
To be honest, I may exaggerate Point Pleasant, but it is one of the most enjoyable beach towns in Jersey. Jenkinson's Boardwalk is a more upscale version of the Wildwood/Atlantic City boardwalk. It's well-kept and crowded, but it's very friendly. While I find an aquarium so close to the sea to be inhumane, the beach is clean and spacious.
6. Surf City, Ocean County
This was going to be my number one, but I had to be honest: there are better beaches in Jersey, believe it or not. It is difficult to compare the best of the best! Surf City is the center of Long Beach Island (LBI) and the first city you see as you approach the island. It's a nightmare getting through traffic here, and the beaches are always crowded, but you can't help but love it! It's difficult to criticize any of the LBI beaches.
5. Asbury Park, Monmouth County
This is similar to our Brooklyn (USA), San Francisco (USA), Brighton and Hove (UK), and Lisbon (Portugal) - I'm not sure how many other references I have... but it's trendy! Another great boardwalk, but this one is full of art and interesting architecture. It's no surprise that the town hosts numerous music concerts! The accountability of parking gets a big bonus point.
4. Barnegat Light, Ocean County
This would have been number one, but even if this is a biased list, it must be somewhat truthful. Barnegat has beautiful beaches and is a great place to go cycling. Unless you're going to another town, there's no need for a car. You can even walk everywhere if you have the time. With only 217 steps, the lighthouse has to be the best part. I used to time myself to see how fast I could make it up! Even at a slower pace, it's enjoyable to walk up and see the entire island and park below.
3. Ship Bottom, Ocean County
I know I'll be up against a lot of Jerseyans on this one, but bear with me! This is the town on LBI that you see as you exit the causeway. The beach is just as large and beautiful as the others, and it isn't too far away. The town has everything you need, making it both convenient and lovely! If you need water sport equipment, stop by Ron Jon Surf Shop and you'll fit in with all the other summer visitors.
2. Beach Haven, Ocean County
Okay, this town has Bay Village, one of the best shopping centers on the island. It was built in 1965 and has over 20 shops to choose from. This is a great family day trip because the shopping village includes a waterpark, amusement park, and mini-golf. The beach is on Long Beach Island, and it is clean, safe, and enjoyable for everyone.
1. Cape May, Cape May County
You are extremely fortunate to be able to spend your summer in Cape May! The beach is large and clean, and there is plenty of parking. The town is rich in historical references, as evidenced by the Victorian homes that line the streets. Around the beach, there are good eats as well, and it should be a must-see if you're planning a beach trip to Jersey!
So, that's all 44 of them ranked by me; I know we love to debate in Jersey, so I'm sure there will be some who disagree! So, leave your thoughts in the comments!