New Jersey beaches are nothing if they’re not diverse. Some line the Atlantic Ocean, while others are tucked away on bays and inlets. Some of these beaches are big and bustling, packed with fun things to do and big crowds. If you’re more of the type who likes quiet little corners of sand and surf, you’ll find them along the coast of the Garden State. While most of the state’s beaches are accessible all year, summertime is by far the most popular time to head for the shore.
Perhaps none of the New Jersey beaches are as famous as the ones along the boardwalk in Atlantic City. The city—and its casinos—are located on Absecon Island, meaning there’s plenty of shoreline to enjoy. When you’re not catching a concert or exploring the casinos, you can take a trip down the boardwalk, traveling by foot, bicycle, or surf chair, stopping to sample the saltwater taffy or play one of the games. The beaches, which are free to access, truly offer something for everyone—whether you want to go surfing, kayaking, or just lounge in the sun.
Forming the southern tip of New Jersey, Cape May has an abundance of beaches along the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay. The city beaches, some of the best Jersey shore beaches, are located along the Atlantic shore. These beaches are busy in the summer, but never so crowded that you won’t find your own space to pull up a chair or go for a swim. The beaches along the bay feel more secluded. Higbee Beach is now a wildlife preserve, while Poverty Beach is more known for its surfing than beach chairs.
Another island destination, the Wildwoods has been a family-friendly destination for generations. The fun continues today with 40 blocks of beaches where you can go for a swim, try kayaking, or stroll on the beach at sunset. Just steps away from the beach, the list of things to do is as long as it is fun. Along the piers and boardwalks, the island feels like a traditional East Coast getaway reminiscent of Coney Island, complete with rides and sweet shops. In the 1950s, the island was the center of the doo wop universe, and even today, live music and guided tours keep this rich heritage alive.
Consistently appearing at the top of the list of the best Jersey shore beaches, Belmar Beach has a long shoreline lined by patches of dune grass. Like many of the New Jersey beaches, Belmar Beach requires entry badges during the summer season. A small fee is worth it to help support upkeep of the beach and its public amenities. Beyond swimming and sunbathing, this beach in Monmouth County is a starting point for all types of adventures; deep-sea fishing charters and party boats are especially popular in the summertime.
Most of the best Jersey shore beaches are managed by cities, but the beaches on the Sandy Hook Peninsula are part of a national park. The Gateway National Recreation Area also has units throughout New York City, but most beach-goers flock to the shores in the Garden State. These beaches offer excellent views of the Manhattan skyline, but feel a million miles away. Gateway is also a top destination for birdwatching and bicycling. You’ll also have the chance to tour a lighthouse and visit a fort from the Revolutionary War at this outdoor wonderland. The collection of Sandy Hook beaches also includes the only beach in the state where nude sunbathing is allowed—Gunnison Beach.