The Best Beaches in New Jersey

Imagine old-timey boardwalks, no-party zones, and space to sprawl out on the sand.

An empty beach on Cape May
Photo: Getty Images

New Jersey may not be the first place you think of for a beach vacation — in fact, it most definitely isn't — but locals know the Garden State is home to some of the East Coast’s best beaches. Most of New Jersey’s sandy shores are blanketed by lively boardwalks, many renovated or reconstructed after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, hosting diverse dining options, shopping, arcades, ice cream shops, and more.

Whether you’re a fist-pumping EDM enthusiast or a family of five, there's probably a New Jersey beach to suit your style. Read on to find out which is the best one for you.

New Jersey Beach Tags, Badges, and Passes

Visitors will need what's called a beach tag, badge, pass, or token to visit most beaches in New Jersey. Though the name of it varies from beach to beach, it's ultimately an admission pass that helps the state regulate the number of visitors to each beach and to raise funds for their maintenance and lifeguard staffing. The beach tag system sometimes restricts tourists from beaches that locals frequent, but there are still plenty of options for non-New Jerseyans — and the passes (available for the day, week, or season) are pretty easy to obtain through the mobile app Viply or from the respective beach fee offices (online or over the phone).

Higbee Beach & Poverty Beach, Cape May

Lighthouse on Higbee Beach, Cape May
Getty Images

Known 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 thanks to their westward orientation. Other highlights? The town’s pedestrian-only Washington Street, lined with the most photogenically nostalgic local shops, and the famous Cape May Lighthouse, built in the mid-1800s and still in use today.

Higbee Beach stretches a mile and a half and is home to the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area, where birds and other wildlife abound. Poverty Beach is a quieter option for those looking to get away from the crowds.

Ocean Grove Beach

View of Ocean Grove Beach from boardwalk on cloudy day

Mary Catherine Messner/EyeEm/Getty Images

Locals love to tout Ocean Grove — Asbury Park’s quieter, less-frequented counterpart — as New Jersey’s best beach. While you may not find hawker stalls and craft biergartens here, you will find a much quieter, clean stretch of white sand. Attentive lifeguards and a lack of music-blasting day drinkers makes this beach perfect 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, get your fill of seafood at SeaGrass Restaurant, a popular BYOB haunt with on-theme nautical decor.

Spring Lake Beach

Foggy morning on Spring Lake Boardwalk

jfbenning/Getty Images

If you like a peaceful beach vibe, you'll 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 to enjoy two miles of magical sunset-viewing spots and unpolluted waters. Lifeguards are on duty daily from June through Labor Day, which also means safe swimming. If you venture into the resort town, you'll find historic inns and fine dining establishments catering to the sophisticated beach-going bunch.

Point Pleasant Beach

Seagull on empty Point Pleasant Beach

Jill Zdunczyk/EyeEm/Getty Images

Another excellent option for families, Point Pleasant has a nostalgic boardwalk with ice cream shops, food stalls, rides, and arcade games. Kids of any age can indulge in a game of miniature golf or take on the challenge of a ropes course steps from the sand. The beach itself is unique in 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.

Belmar Beach

Cute houses along Belmar Beach

DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

Belmar Beach is a tourist hotspot that's worth visiting for all-ages activities like volleyball, surfing, kayaking, and playgrounds scattered throughout for the little ones. Along the mile-long stretch of sand, you're likely to see fellow tourists lounging under colorful umbrellas and surfers attempting to ride some of the East Coast's most prized waves. The beach aside, though, Belmar’s boardwalk is consistently rated one of the best in New Jersey.

Asbury Park Beach

Asbury Park boardwalk at golden hour

DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

Asbury Park’s famous boardwalk thrives partially thanks to the city's LGBTQ-friendly culture and vibrant music scene. Wander a few blocks off the boardwalk, however, and you’ll experience some of the town’s infamously gritty vibe. 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.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles