New Jersey’s best beach? Why I had to pick 13
A national magazine, US News & World Report, is asking its readers for the best beach in New Jersey. That's almost like asking which one of your kids do you love the most. It depends on what you want. This isn't Delaware, Maryland or Connecticut, where there are a handful of beaches and beach towns and not a whole lot of difference.
New Jersey has 141 miles of coastline if you count the Raritan bay and about 120 miles of oceanfront beaches. That includes about 50 beach towns, each with their own distinct character. What do you want? Do you want the best beach to swim? Do you want the most picturesque beach? Do you want quiet seaside village? Do you want miles of historic, scenic, lively boardwalk? Do you want incredible nightlife? Do you want a great fishing beach? Do you want a quaint, historic beach resort? Say what you will about the Jersey Shore, but tell me you don't like it and why, and I'll take you to a town that you will absolutely love "down the shore".
Even natives get stuck in a rut when it comes to "their shore town". It is so diverse, the variety is astounding. I could blind-fold you and take you to a different shore town every weekday of the summer and you would think we visited the entire East Coast of the U.S. So let's break it down for you in the "best" category, although it's only the best if it has what you want out of your Jersey Shore experience.
BEST BEACH - Wildwood Crest
There's plenty enough room to not be surrounded by people. The sand is powdery soft and the gentle slope of surf allows you to go out 50 yards before you're up to your chest. Great for the kids and body surfing the waves. There is a beach bar on the beach with REAL palm trees.And the beach is free!
BEST MUSIC SCENE & COOL VIBE - Asbury Park
The town, especially the beach, boardwalk and Cookman Ave. have gone through a great revival in the past decade. The new Asbury Hotel, the Stone Pony, Convention Hall and Wonder Bar. Great restaurants on the boardwalk and Cookman Ave. It doesn't get much cooler or more Jersey Shore than that.
BEST IDYLLIC SEASIDE TOWN - Ocean Grove
A former religious retreat town, it still has a slightly Christian feel. The Great Auditorium, the "tent houses", the quaint quiet Norman Rockwell streets and houses, the old fashioned shopping district on Main Ave. and the simple boardwalk. If you've never been, just go!
BEST VICTORIAN BEACH RESORT - Cape May
First class seafood restaurants and seaside pubs and taverns. A huge marina with a variety of options for boating or fishing. An awe inspiring collection of Victorian homes and Bed and Breakfast Inns. Hotels large and small. The Washington Street Mall, a traffic-free blocks long promenade of shops and restaurants. Great beaches, a lighthouse.
BEST FAMILY BEACH TOWN - Ocean City
Nice boardwalk with just enough rides and arcades. It's a dry town, so no bars or liquor stores. They even voted down BYOB in restaurants a few years ago. If you want a squeaky clean family resort, OC is the place to be. Narrow beach and a little too packed nears the heart of the action, but a really nice Jersey Shore town.
BEST BEACH RESORT PARTY AND NIGHTLIFE - Atlantic City
Where can you see A list stars performing in top notch venues, gamble and drink all night long and dine at the best restaurants on the East Coast? It's still AC. It's got the longest boardwalk in the country and Steel Pier just opened one of the largest observation wheels in the country. It's got history, funk, soul and an international people watching scene that rivals NYC.
BEST BOARDWALK - PT. PLEASANT-SEASIDE HEIGHTS-WILDWOOD
Yes, it's a three-way tie. It just depends where you are geographically and if you want a drink on the boardwalk. Wildwood's amusement piers jut way out on the beach and it's the longest of the three. Pt. Pleasant has the iconic Jenkinson's and the Tiki Bar and has a great inlet for fishing or boat watching. Seaside Heights is the most centrally located and has water parks Casino Pier and more Jersey Shore lore than any other town on the coast.
BEST SECLUDED BEACH VILLAGE - Loveladies - Barnegat Light
Again we have a tie. These two towns on the northern end of LBI are quiet towns with wide open beaches. There is limited parking in Loveladies and almost no businesses. It's expensive homes that sometimes rented for the week or season. Barnegat Light has a small business hub near the lighthouse and nearly empty beaches.
BEST FISHING BEACH. Island Beach State Park
You just can't find 10 miles of undeveloped, natural coastline in New Jersey. Unless you go here. You can drive on the beach(for fishing purposes only). It offers some of the best beach fishing on the east coast. And the bay side and Barnegat Inlet on the southern tip are great too for fishing, crabbing and kayaking.
BEST SURFING BEACH TOWN - Manasquan
Right across from Pt. Pleasant Beach on the other side of the Manasquan River, with a great surfing scene and reputation. It also has great bars, restaurants, quaint downtown and it's off the beaten path.
BEST ALL-AMERICAN BEACH TOWN - Beach Haven
There's an amusement park in the middle of town, Fantasy Island. Two ocean front hotels with drinking, food and a pool. An idyllic shopping district and town square public park. And some of the cleanest Jersey Shore ocean water I have ever seen. Ride a bike through town and down to the end of the island at Holgate.
BEST COLLEGE BEACH TOWN - Belmar
Go anytime this summer and you'll find someone from a college you went to. There are bars and restaurants and more college flags hanging from balcony railings that you can count.
BEST REVIVED HISTORIC BEACH TOWN - Long Branch
From Seven President's Beach to the jewel of smart new Oceanside beach development, Pier Village, Long Branch is hot. Diverse crowd, more great Italian restaurants, great ocean front dining, great rebuilt boardwalk. If you've never been or it's been a while, it's time to check out Long Branch.
I could go on with different sub-categories for anything your heart desires in a shore town, but you get the idea. How can you pick the best beach at the Jersey Shore? You've just got to go and check out all 50 this summer and let me know what YOU think.
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