With so many popular destinations along the Jersey Shore, it may seem like an impossible task to decide the top ten best beaches in New Jersey. There are a lot that we wanted to include, but after much thought, we were able to narrow it down to what we felt are the prime vacation and day trip picks out of all the beaches in New Jersey.
Some beach towns are geared towards a more rowdy crowd, some are best as a romantic spot for couples, and others make the perfect family getaway. Because the ideal beach town for one person might be someone else’s last pick, we compiled a variety in this list. No matter what kind of shore retreat you seek, you’ll be sure to find one of the best beaches in New Jersey for you or your family. Beaches are listed from North to South.
The Basics: Ocean Grove offers quiet beaches and an active town life, without the crowds and clamor of some other popular Jersey Shore destinations. So if you’re looking to spend the day re-energizing on the beach and bathing in the sun, this is a good, stress-free choice. Volleyball and tennis courts are located on the beach. After you’ve dried off, take a stroll downtown for a relaxing local shopping and dining experience. Make sure to snap a few photos of the charming Victorian architecture as well.
Fees: $8 Daily. $80 Season Badge. $45 Season Badge for elderly. Children under 12 free.
Hours: 9 A.M.-5:30 P.M. Lifeguards on duty.
Eats: Lots of wonderful ice cream shops and bakeries to try.
Best For: Couples looking for a romantic, peaceful setting and families.
While You’re in the Area: Catch a performance at The Great Auditorium, a well-known New Jersey entertainment venue.
The Basics: Welcome to Belmar – A quaint beach town with a clean, well-maintained beach and pristine ocean water. What more can you ask for? Belmar’s shoreline is only a little longer than a mile, but there are plenty of activities allowed for visitors. Different areas of the beach allow surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, fishing and volleyball. Jet-skiing and boating are also popular in the area.
Fees: $8 Daily. $55 Season Badge. 16 and under free. Military members and first responders are Free.
Hours: Always Open. 9 A.M.-6 P.M. Lifeguards on duty.
Eats: Pizza, fries, etc. on the boardwalk. Seafood and New American restaurants nearby.
Best For: Families or water sports enthusiasts. View online for specific locations for kayaking, boating, etc.
While You’re in the Area: Check out Main Street for chic art galleries and coffee houses.
The Basics: Spring Lake used to be a summer haven for wealthy entrepreneurs in the mid-19th century, and to this day the area still has the refined and luxurious air of a classic Victorian town. The two miles of beach in Spring Lake are perfectly clean and flawless. (Spring Lake beach is also handicapped accessible.) After enjoying some quiet time at the beach, go for a romantic walk along the town lake’s idyllic paths and gardens.
Fees: $10 Daily. $105 Season Badge/$65 Half Season. $75 Season Badge for elderly. Children under 12 free.
Hours: 9 A.M.-5 P.M. Lifeguards on duty.
Best For: One of the best New Jersey beaches for couples. The historic B&B’s in Spring Lake and the whole vibe of this town makes Spring Lake an ideal romantic choice.
While You’re in the Area: Check out the Spring Lake Community House to see theater performances of anything from Shakespeare to beloved musicals.
The Basics: Seaside’s cleaner, calmer neighbor. This tends to be more of a family beach and offers a peaceful refuge for folks looking to avoid the flock of summer tourists. That being said, there are still a lot of fun activities permitted. Surfing and kayaking are allowed at a few locations along the beach. Tennis, basketball and water skiing are also popular Lavallette activities. For kids, multiple playgrounds are located near the bay. Stop by Lavallette and discover this hidden gem.
Fees: $8 Daily. $45 Season Badge. $14 Season Badge for elderly, disabled or military members. 12 and under free.
Hours: 10 A.M.-5 P.M. Lifeguards on duty in most areas.
Eats: Stop by some local pizzerias and seafood joints.
Best For: Athletic types or families with small children.
While You’re in the Area: The Music Man Singing Ice Cream Shoppe is a must-see. This unique Ice Cream Parlor offers a nightly Broadway Cabaret for the whole family. Basically, the waiters sing and perform in front of you while you enjoy a sundae.
The Basics: Island Beach may be one of the most beautiful stretches of land in the state, but it’s also a living habitat that supports many critically endangered species. The barrier island is a protected area with thriving forests and marshes that are home to ospreys, foxes and other animals. Though the beach tends to draw a lot of visitors on weekends and holidays, the Spizzle Creek Bird Blind Trail and other hiking areas offer a welcome respite from the crowd. Much of the park is handicapped-accessible through a boardwalk trail. In addition, Island Beach offers many other recreational activities. On the beach itself, surfing is a favorite pastime. In other parts of the park, you can go scuba diving, bicycling, fishing and even horseback riding. If you want to experience what a New Jersey barrier island may have been like a few centuries ago, this looks like the place.
Fees: $6-20 Vehicle Fee. Walk-in/Bicycling Free.
Hours: 8 A.M.-8 P.M. Lifeguards on duty 10 P.M.-6 P.M.
Eats: Pack a sandwich and some trail bars. Or, head to Seaside for some quality seafood and Italian.
Best For: One of the best New Jersey beaches for bird and wildlife watching.
While You’re in the Area: Stop by the Nature Center in the park and learn about the geology and botany of the island.
The Basics: Long Beach Island, or LBI for short, is an 18-mile island home to some of the best white sandy shores out all of the beaches in New Jersey. Loveladies and Surf City in the north are some of the more relaxed areas of the island, while Ship Bottom and Beach Haven in the south are more active. For some family fun, check out Fantasy Island Amusement Park or Thundering Surf Water Park, both located in Beach Haven. The Long Beach Township Beach Patrol also holds a number of entertaining competitions in swimming, paddle boarding, rowing and more. Be sure to check out the sand sculpting contests at Barnegat Light.
Fees: $7 Daily. $40 Season Badge. $5 Season Badge for elderly. Free for veterans.
Hours: 10 A.M.-5 P.M. Lifeguards on duty in most areas.
Eats: For something new, try Bistro 14 in Beach Haven, featuring a raw bar and French cuisine.
Best For: Surfers. LBI is a popular surf spot in many areas. Families will also find plenty to do in Beach Haven.
While You’re in the Area: Check out Barnegat Lighthouse. This iconic red and white lighthouse was built in 1859 and is the second tallest in the United States.
The Basics: Perhaps New Jersey’s most famous beach, and rightly so. Atlantic City boasts plenty of shoreline, limitless attractions and a bustling boardwalk. The beach and surrounding area has something for everyone. Kayaking, fishing, surfing and wind surfing are available on many areas of the beach, so water sports enthusiasts will find AC an exciting destination. Couples or friends can enjoy the high-energy nightlife around the boardwalk and explore the casinos and bars. Finally, families can stop by Steel Pier nearby and ride kid-friendly coasters and other rides. With a fun beach crowd and endless attractions for vacationers of all ages, it’s easy to see why this is one of the top New Jersey beaches.
Hours: 10 A.M.–6 P.M. Lifeguards on duty.
Eats: Grab some quick fries and a hot dog at a concession stand, or explore AC’s wide range of dining options. Steakhouses, Asian Fusion, gourmet burgers, you name it, it’s all here.
Best For: Families, millennials.
While You’re in the Area: Spend a few hours at the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum. Show your AAA membership card at the time of purchase to receive a discount. Or make it a weekend – check out some of the top places to stay in Atlantic City.
The Basics: The Travel Channel called Ocean City “The #1 family beach community in the country,” and this pleasant town lives up to its title. Explore OC’s 8 miles of beautiful shoreline, all consistently maintained and groomed by staff. OC also offers 2 ½ miles of boardwalk with wonderful attractions like the OC Water Park and the Music Pier, and miniature golf. Parents might be glad to hear that Ocean City is actually a “dry town,” and no alcohol is permitted anywhere in its borders.
Fees: $5 Daily. $25 Season Badge. Free for veterans and military members. Children under 12 free.
Hours: 10 A.M.-5 P.M. Lifeguards on duty.
Best For: Families.
While You’re in the Area: Take a trip downtown and walk along Asbury Avenue to visit dozens of delightful shops and boutiques.
The Basics: Stone Harbor could be called the hidden gem of New Jersey beaches. Stone Harbor is the southern half of a barrier island known as Seven Mile Beach. Some would describe Stone Harbor Beach as the perfect beach; long, not excessively wide, immaculately clean, with a soft and sandy gradual walk into the waves. Swimming is allowed in most areas, but kayaking and surfing is more limited. Boating and fishing are also common in the area. Those seeking a slightly busier environment would do well to check out Stone Harbor’s northern neighbor, Avalon.
Fees: $6 Daily. $27 Season Badge. Free for veterans.
Hours: 10 A.M.–5 P.M. Lifeguards on duty.
Best For: Anyone who wants peace and quiet and a charming beach town.
The Basics: Cape May is known for its picturesque views and unspoiled beachfront. Although this town does get a lot of tourists in summer, there are some secluded areas where you can find some peace and quiet. Higbee Beach is state wildlife management area, but visitors can still go swimming at this totally wild and untouched spot. Beach goers should use caution, however, as no lifeguards are present. For a more common and busy beach experience, The Cove is a trendy shore in Cape May that is known as an essential surfing destination. And Sunset Beach, as the name implies, is a great place for families and couples to gaze at the beautiful sunset colors.
Fees: $6 Daily. $28 Season Badge. Free for veterans and military members.
Hours: 10 A.M.–5:30 P.M. Lifeguards on duty in most areas.
Eats: Grab some pizza, funnel cakes, etc. from a vendor near the beach. Or dine at a fine restaurant serving fresh caught local seafood.
Best For: Higbee Beach is the perfect secluded spot and one of the best New Jersey beaches for nature lovers and couples. The Cove and other spots are best for families and surfers.
Discover more beaches near you with our list of the best beaches in New England.
By Peter Vey