It’s nothing like what you’ve seen on TV.

By Sean Patrick Flynn
May 25, 2021
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What is it about the Jersey Shore that draws summer travelers back year after year? What was depicted as a raucous party getaway on MTV's Jersey Shore is actually much more than that. The 141-mile-long stretch of sandy beaches spans dozens of different towns, each with its own distinct vibe that has transformed drastically over the years. From the stunning Victorian mansions in Cape May to the lively boardwalk at Asbury Park, here's why people have been flocking to Jersey's beaches every summer for decades.

With 40 different towns lining the Jersey Shore, there's no shortage of different experiences to soak in. The coast has transitioned from sleepy beachside towns to tourist favorites over the years, with many upscale neighborhoods filled with single-family mansions for New York's elite making way for more approachable travel, allowing for each town to boom with tourism. So, whether you're looking for a relaxing weekend getaway with your friends or a spot that's filled with fun activities for the kids, we've got you covered on the best places to check out.

Atlantic City, probably the best-known boardwalk town with over 120 years of history, still draws in plenty of travelers every summer. Whether it's for gambling at any number of the local casinos, enjoying the sights and sounds of the boardwalk, or just enjoying some time on the beach, Atlantic City is a favorite for many types of travelers. The iconic Steel Pier, dating back to 1898, is a local icon and offers great views from its 1,000-foot expanse, plus a number of rides, a Ferris wheel, food and drink spots, and plenty of shops.

The Boardwalk And Old Time Hotels Are In The Background At Atlantic City circa 1940
Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images

But there are actually a number of towns lining the shore with equally impressive attractions. Towns like Asbury Park, Point Pleasant Beach, Wildwood, Seaside Heights, and Ocean City all have a storied history when it comes to their boardwalks. Lined with shops, restaurants, food stands, and apparel stores, these towns are great for any traveler who wants to do more than just soak in the sun.

Asbury Park, in particular, has seen a boom of interest in recent years thanks in part to new condo developments, a refurbished boardwalk, and an impressive public art scene with murals lining the boardwalk. Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant Beach are best known for their amusements, like mini golf courses, arcades, and amusement rides — many of which date back decades. And while most beaches on the Jersey Shore are great for kids, Ocean City prides itself on being one of the best vacation destinations for families. Between amusements, weekly live music sessions on the boardwalk, and the OC Waterpark with 35 family-friendly rides and miniature golf, this spot is ideal for families.  

Scenic beach in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Credit: DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

If you're looking to soak up some history, there's no shortage of quaint waterfront towns that cater to B&Bers and romantics. Ocean Grove and Cape May are famous for their stately and well-preserved Victorian homes lining the shore. Cape May is the country's oldest resort town and with horse-drawn carriages and trolleys lining the streets, it feels just like it did 100 years ago. And in Sandy Hook you'll find the oldest operating lighthouse in the U.S., plus plenty of outdoor activities like kayaking, biking trails, and campgrounds. The Seastreak ferry offers direct routes from Manhattan, making it a great spot for a quick visit.

Beach home in Ocean Grove, New Jersey
Credit: DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

And when it comes to nightlife, there are a number of spots that shouldn't be overlooked. Since Seaside Heights was the original home to Jersey Shore, you know there's plenty of action. Bars, restaurants, and clubs line the boardwalk and with a 4 a.m. closing time it's no wonder why it's such a popular nightlife spot. Atlantic City and Sea Bright are two other oceanfront spots that also draw in a crowd until the early hours of the morning. Sea Bright has a collection of both upscale lounges and sprawling resorts, and Atlantic City has the perfect combination of free beaches and 24-hour liquor licenses for casinos that make it a great nightlife destination.

Ticket booth on boardwalk at seaside heights, new jersey
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Amusement Pier Park entrance sign in Seaside Heights, NJ 1960's
Credit: R. Krubner/Classicstock/Getty Images

So, whether you're looking for a late-night party spot or a family-friendly location to post up with the kids for the day, the Jersey Shore has so many options to choose from. Between each of the dozens of towns that line the waterfront, you could spend your entire summer bouncing from one place to the next enjoying all the history, fun, activities, and sunshine that the Jersey Shore has to offer.