Jersey Shore, no more. Thanks to the recent, multi-million dollar revamp of many of the state's beaches and famed boardwalks, New Jersey just might land a spot at the top of your must-visit destination list this summer.
New Jersey may not be the first place most tourists think of when it comes to beaches, but locals know that the Garden State is, in fact, home to some of the East Coast’s best beaches. Most of New Jersey’s sandy shores offer boardwalks—many of which have been renovated or reconstructed since 2012’s Hurricane Sandy—with both fine and casual dining options, as well as shopping, arcades, ice cream shops and more. Whether you’re a fist-pumping EDM worshipper or a family of five, we’ve got the right beach for you—so read on to find out which New Jersey beach you should be visiting this summer.
Higbee Beach & Poverty Beach, Cape May
Famous for its colorful Victorian mansions that line the seashore, Cape May’s two connected beaches are rare East Coast places where the sun sets right over the water. Other highlights? The town’s pedestrian-only Washington Street, lined with picturesque, locally run shops, and the famous Cape May Lighthouse (pictured above).
Ocean Grove Beach
Locals love to tout Ocean Grove as New Jersey’s best beach—Asbury Park’s quieter, less frequented counterpart. While you may not find hawker stalls and craft biergartens here, you will find a much less crowded, clean stretch of white sand. Attentive lifeguards and a lack of music-blasting day drinkers makes this beach the perfect pick for families. Don’t forget to explore the town—only a few blocks off the boardwalk—which gives off a charming, Hamptons-esque vibe, or take a drive through the quaint streets lined with Victorian mansions. At the end of the day, head to Nagle’s Apothecary Café—reminiscent of an old-school soda shop—for delicious homemade ice cream, traditional American fare, and more.
Spring Lake Beach
While this beach is undoubtedly gorgeous—picture royal blue waters and tan stretches of sand—it’s not the best fit for families with young kids, as there are no lifeguards on duty. But older children and adults looking for tranquility will love this pristine Jersey pick, which is often called the Shore’s cleanest beach. The no-coolers-on-the-beach rule keeps partygoers (and pesky seagulls) away, leaving ample room for sun worshippers and swimmers to enjoy the magical sunsets and unpolluted waters.
Point Pleasant Beach
Another excellent option for families, Point Pleasant has a boardwalk with ice cream shops, food stalls, rides, and arcade games. The beach itself is unique in the fact that there are palm trees—yes, palm trees in New Jersey—but it’s also known for its beachfront tiki bar, Martell’s, which is great for live music and dancing.
At Belmar Beach—which is technically made up of many linked beaches—you’ll find plenty of colorful umbrellas shielding the masses who flock to this well-known hotspot. Belmar has activities for all ages—volleyball, surfing, and kayaking, to name a few, with playgrounds scattered throughout for the little ones. Aside from the beach, Belmar’s boardwalk, which was completely renovated in 2013 after Hurricane Sandy, is consistently rated one of the best in New Jersey
Asbury Park Beach
In Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., he describes this beach town—which was named one of our best places to travel in 2016—quite differently from what it’s become today (the song My City of Ruins, depicts a city of, well, ruins). Asbury Park’s famous boardwalk has managed to bounce back from the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. Since then, the seaside hotspot has thrived, thanks to the LGBT-friendly culture and vibrant music scene. Wander a few blocks off the boardwalk, however, and you’ll find that the town’s infamously gritty vibe from the Springsteen era still very much exists. When you’re not sunbathing or sipping cold beers on the beach, head to old-school music haunts like the Wonder Bar and the Stone Pony. Looking for something a little bit more upscale? Nearby restaurant Pascal & Sabine serves up top-notch cocktails and French comfort food.