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When temperatures start to climb, New Yorkers flock to the Jersey Shore to take advantage of the cool ocean breeze and soft golden sands. But that’s not all the Garden State has to offer: Summertime fun down on the shore includes bustling boardwalks, charming small towns and tranquil escapes. So whether you’re traveling with children, friends, your significant other or your four-legged pal, there’s something for everyone in our pick of the best beaches in New Jersey.

One thing to remember: Many beaches in New Jersey charge for individual admission or charge admission by vehicle. Dubbed “beach tags,” these passes cost between $5 and $10, with weekly and seasonal tags available for a lower rate.

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1. CAPE MAY, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: birdwatching, fine dining, Victorian architecture
  • Getting There: 3 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Serenity by the Sea
As one of New Jersey’s most popular destinations, Cape May has an endless amount of activities to offer, no matter what type of trip you are looking for. Most of Cape May’s beaches are accessible via foot, bike or car and outdoor enthusiasts can swim, skim board, fish, kayak or play volleyball throughout the day. Head to Cape May Point State Park for birdwatching, nature walks and the Cape May Lighthouse or hop on a whale watching cruise. And when it comes to refueling after a day in the sun, you’ll find a wide array of options during your stay, from walk-up hotdog stands to fine dining. We’re fans of Harry’s Ocean Bar and Grille for American fare and the Mad Batter for seafood. For local wines and outdoor seating, stop by Willow Creek Winery or Cape May Winery and Vineyard to relax and unwind.

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2. SEA BRIGHT, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: family friendly, quiet, beach town vibes
  • Getting There: 2 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: A Great Escape
Those looking for a quick beach getaway should hop in the car and head to Sea Bright for one of New Jersey’s most family-friendly beaches. Located in the northern part of Monmouth County, Sea Bright offers a lifeguarded beach with six different access points. Travelers can take a reprieve from the sun and walk to Ocean Avenue where there are plenty of bars, restaurants and shops to visit. For dinner and happy hour on the beach, head to Donovan’s Reef or DRIFTHOUSE by David Burke if you’re looking for more of an upscale dining experience.

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3. AVON-BY-THE-SEA, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: surfing, fine dining, family friendly
  • Getting There: 2 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Ocean View Colonial
Avon-by-the-Sea is a hidden gem located in Monmouth County that is ideal for families. The public beach offers white sand beaches made for surfing, tanning and swimming, and the pavilion offers dining and beach amenities. There is no nightlife, but there are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from if you are looking to grab a meal or a few drinks. Stop by the Columns for ocean views, live music and seafood or swing by Bedrock Bistro for classic American fare in a comfortable setting.

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4. ISLAND BEACH STATE PARK IN BERKELEY, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: birdwatching, surfing, low-key
  • Getting There: 2 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Ocean Bay Island Beach
Located between the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay, Island Beach State Park is the place to be for nature lovers. The narrow barrier island is protected from development and home to several species of birds, foxes, ospreys and other wildlife. Visitors can swim, kayak, canoe, surf and fish in certain areas of the park while enjoying views of white sand beaches. If you are looking for a less crowded beach with a rugged feel, grab your beach bag and picnic blanket and spend the day at this beautiful natural oasis.

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5. LONG BRANCH, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: restaurants, boutiques, relaxation
  • Getting There: 1 hour via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Long Branch Home
If you’re looking for a trip that’s a quick drive from New York City, head to Long Branch. It’s about an hour drive without traffic and has everything you could ever want for a few days away from the city. Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park offers 38 acres of ocean beach where you can swim, boat, fish, surf and play beach volleyball. And you can’t visit Long Branch without exploring Pier Village, a trendy community and luxury beachside community where you’ll find the boardwalk, restaurants and boutique shops. Stop by Sirena Ristorante for upscale classic Italian recipes with views of the ocean or The Robinson Ale House for American fare such as burgers, steaks and flatbreads.

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6. ASBURY PARK, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: shopping, music, restaurants
  • Getting There: 2 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Asbury Park Beach Cottage
Year after year, Asbury Park continues to be one of New Jersey’s most popular beach destinations. Known for its strong LGBTQIA+ community, cool shops, great food and lively bars, this is the Jersey Shore spot for summertime fun. After a few hours soaking up the sun, head to the Asbury Park Boardwalk where you can shop, eat, visit a splash park, play mini-golf or catch a live performance. Music lovers will want to visit The Stone Pony and The Wonder Bar for live music and a possible sighting of Bruce Springsteen (yes, you read that correctly). But keep in mind that the beach can get very busy during the summer months, so make sure to get there early and find your spot in the sand.

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7. STONE HARBOR, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: small town charm, shopping, family friendly
  • Getting There: 3 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Beachfront Property
Stone Harbor is a seven-mile island in New Jersey that offers some of the state’s clearest water and soft sand beaches, with small town vibes to help visitors slow down and unwind. Head to the beach to participate in water sports such as fishing, sailing and jet skiing, or simply spend time with your toes in the sand. Check out the Wetlands Institute to learn about the creatures and marine life before spending a few hours strolling through the 96th Street shops where you’ll find local eateries and boutiques. For amazing sunset views (definitely Instagram-worthy), enjoy outdoor drinks and dinner at Water Star Grille at The Reeds.

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8. OCEAN CITY, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: family friendly, entertainment, quaint
  • Getting There: 3 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: The Seagate
With eight miles of sand, Ocean City is a picturesque spot for your next family vacation. The town boardwalk boasts endless amounts of entertainment with two amusement parks, go-karts, a water park, a miniature golf course, shopping, dining and the Music Pier where you’ll find concerts and live music. During the summertime, every Thursday is family night where free activities take place all throughout town. Note: Ocean City is a “dry” town meaning no alcohol is sold within its borders, so if you’re looking for a glass of wine to wind down during your trip, you’ll have to travel to surrounding areas.

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9. MANASQUAN, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: quiet, family friendly, low-key
  • Getting There: 2 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Awesome Beach Bungalow
Affectionately referred to as “squan” by the locals, Manasquan has some of the best beaches in Monmouth County. Spend the day catching some rays at the beach, taking a stroll on the one-mile long boardwalk or surf and fish at the south end of Manasquan Inlet. If you’re bringing along your furry friend, head to Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area where you’ll find a dog-friendly beach perfect for frolicking. About a mile from the beach is the downtown area with plenty of options for outdoor dining, live music and bars. For a quintessential beach bar and restaurant, stop by Reef & Barrel for inventive cocktails, juicy burgers and tasty tacos.

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10. SANDY HOOK, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: nature, easily accessible, outdoor activities
  • Getting There: 40-minute ferry ride from New York City
  • Where to Stay: A Great Escape
Want to take a day trip to one of the quaintest beaches in New Jersey? Look no further than Sandy Hook, a quick 40-minute ferry ride from New York City. Located on a thin peninsula in New York Harbor, The Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area is protected by the National Park Service. Bring your picnic blanket and spend a few hours at the beach swimming, wind surfing, scuba diving and fishing while taking in the quiet and natural allure of the area. Nature lovers will want to take advantage of the many bike paths, hiking trails, salt marshes and bird watching opportunities. And history buffs will want to check out the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States where you can take a tour and climb to the top while visiting the lighthouse keepers’ quarters.

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11. POINT PLEASANT BEACH, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: nightlife, kid friendly, entertainment
  • Getting There: 90 minutes via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Homey Cottage
If there’s one beach in New Jersey that has it all, it’s Point Pleasant Beach. Whether you are traveling with family, friends or your significant other, there are plenty of daytime and nighttime activities that will keep you busy throughout your stay. Situated right on the beach, Jenkinson’s Boardwalk is a must visit with an arcade, aquarium, miniature golf course, boardwalk games, batting cages, bars, restaurants and more. For a night of dancing, head to Jenk’s Nightclub (where the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore used to frequent) or Martell’s Tiki Bar.

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12. SEA GIRT, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: low-key, small town charm, quiet
  • Getting There: 2 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Peggy’s Beach Cottage
Sea Girt is an under-the-radar beach town located in Monmouth County that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and relaxed after your visit. Spend the day at the quiet beach where you’ll find the boardwalk that starts at the Historic Sea Girt Lighthouse (book a tour to learn all about the town’s history). If you’re a New Jersey native, you’ve heard of and most likely visited The Parker House for a night of drinking and dancing, while Rod’s Tavern or Harrigan’s Pub are great picks for pub food.

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13. BARNEGAT LIGHT, NJ

Located on the northern tip of Long Beach Island, Barnegat Light is a small Jersey Shore town that is the perfect location for a low-key getaway. The town’s most visited landmark is the Barnegat Lighthouse where you can see panoramic views of the area after climbing the 217 steps to the top. Birdwatchers and fisherman alike will love Barnegat Light where you will find multiple locations to fish and spot various bird species. Rent a boat to spend the day out on the water or simply bring a picnic to the beach and relax on the sand.

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14. THE WILDWOODS, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: free beaches, activities, kid friendly
  • Getting There: 4 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Clean Beach Condo
Free beaches? You heard that right. The Wildwoods offers five miles of pristine white beaches for no cost at all, so you can spend multiple days soaking up the sun without breaking the bank. Adventure seekers can also hit the water to surf, kayak, jet ski and parasail. The local boardwalk is 38 blocks long and has an endless amount of activities to do including miniature golf, a Ferris wheel, arcades, axe throwing, go karts, waterparks and an aquarium. You’ll definitely want to spend more than just a weekend at this fun-filled beach.

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15. BELMAR, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: surfing, nightlife, recreational activities
  • Getting There: 2 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: New Beach House
One of New Jersey’s most popular beach towns, Belmar has a little bit of everything. As one of the best places to surf on the East Coast, Belmar attracts surfers and beachgoers who want to enjoy the mile-long strip of beaches. The boardwalk is where you’ll find free events during the summer including live music, DJs and movies. For some adult fun, head to D’Jai’s for a night of dancing or Bar Anticipation for happy hour and outdoor drinks.

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16. SEA ISLE CITY, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: fishing, kid friendly, outdoor activities
  • Getting There: 3 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Luxury on the Beach
Sea Isle City is an inviting beach destination with plenty of entertainment options from restaurants and nightlife to outdoor and recreational activities. Although there’s no boardwalk here, the Sea Isle Promenade offers gift shops, boutiques, arcades, bars and restaurants with great views of the Atlantic Ocean. During the summer months, stop by the Band Shell for free outdoor entertainment including concerts, movies and family dance parties. Athletic types and nature lovers can indulge in fishing and birdwatching in the wetlands or parasailing, kayaking and surfing on the beach.

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17. SPRING LAKE, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: relaxing, fine dining, boutiques
  • Getting There: 2 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Spring Lake Waterfront
If you’re looking for a more exclusive and sophisticated vacation, Spring Lake, New Jersey is a small resort town catering to bougie types with clean beaches and upscale dining right at your fingertips. Grab a bike and ride through the charming town to experience all it has to offer including Victorian architecture, chichi boutiques, quaint cafes and fine dining restaurants. Stop by Bareli’s by the Sea for creative and authentic Italian dishes with ocean views then stop by Jean Louise Homemade Candies for a quick and decadent dessert.

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18. LONG BEACH ISLAND, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: small town vibes, surfing, family friendly
  • Getting There: 3 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: LBI Townhouse
Known as one of the most beloved summer colonies on the Jersey Shore, Long Beach Island (or LBI for short) is 18 miles long and filled with small shore towns and white sand beaches. Beach Haven is the entertainment source of the island with Thundering Surf Water Park & Adventure Golf, complete with eight giant water slides and two miniature golf courses. You’ll also find Fantasy Island Amusement Park with classic rides, arcades and a carousel. Bay Village is a waterfront village filled with shops and restaurants where you can take a leisurely stroll while window shopping and enjoying an ice cream cone from The Windmill Belgian Waffles & Ice Cream.

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19. BRIGANTINE, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: family friendly, quiet, casual
  • Getting There: 3 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Amazing Beach House
Brigantine is a small island right next to Atlantic City where you’ll find quaint and quiet beaches and a small town feel. Spend the day at Brigantine Beach where you can sail and kayak around the island or simply enjoy the warm weather by relaxing in the sand. Golfers will want to play a few holes at Brigantine Golf Links or practice their putting at the local miniature golf course. For authentic and fresh seafood, you’ll want to stop by The Crab Shack where the lobster roll is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Head to Laguna Grill & Rum Bar for panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, live music and classic American fare.

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20. SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ

  • Why We Recommend It: nightlife, family friendly, lively
  • Getting There: 2 hours via car from New York City
  • Where to Stay: Luxury Beach House
Seaside Heights is practically synonymous with the Jersey Shore. Although the area offers pristine and popular beaches, it’s mostly known for its celebrated and bustling boardwalk. Visit Casino Pier for amusement rides and games for kids of all ages and Breakwater Beach for fun waterpark activities to cool off in the heat. Hop on the Sky Ride where you can view the beach and surrounding areas from above the crowds. The nightlife is abundant in Seaside Heights with multiple fun bars and clubs to choose from including Beachcomber Bar & Grill, Aztec Bar and EJ’s Tap House.

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