Going down to the Jersey Shore is a popular summer tradition with mid-Atlantic residents from New York, Philadelphia and, of course, New Jersey. Busy city dwellers trade a subway for a beach cruiser and embrace a vacation of boogie-boarding, beachcombing and cruising the boardwalk. While basic hotel accommodations are available all along the Shore, most visitors choose to get comfortable in a rented house, ranging from simple condos to beachfront mansions. Here's our selection of the best Jersey Shore beach towns, from north to south.
Spring Lake is one of the more refined spots on the Jersey Shore with stately homes, quiet beaches and a non-commercial boardwalk. And then there's the namesake lake situated in the middle of town, lined with weeping willows and quiet nooks, perfect for a serene evening stroll. The Breakers Hotel has undergone some name changes and lots of renovations since it first opened in the late 1800s. With its wraparound porch, it is a majestic presence on the beach and the only beachside hotel in town. Spring Lake is just 60 miles from downtown New York and is accessible by train from the city, making it a popular day-trip or quick weekend getaway for New Yorkers.
Island Beach State Park
Island Beach State Park is a protected barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay. This 10-mile stretch of unspoiled beach is far removed from the frantic pace and nonstop activity at nearby Seaside Heights. Little has changed here since the Native Americans and early explorers enjoyed the shore hundreds of years ago. The beach's rolling dunes and dense forests are home to red foxes, osprey and a variety of shore birds. Unlike other NJ beaches that charge per person, here you pay a flat fee for your vehicle. Plan to arrive early on weekends and summer holidays as staff closes the beach to new guests once the parking lot is full.
Long Beach Island
Long Beach Island, or LBI as it's known to the regulars, has 18 miles of fine silky sand and some of the best breaks along the Shore. With its boozy nightlife and busy beach scene, Beach Haven is popular with the young crowd spending weekends at the Shore. Ship Bottom is a popular family spot with a playground and calm bay beach away from the ocean's currents at 15th Street. Surfing is permitted at 19 spots along some of the area's best beaches, including Barnegat Light, Harvey Cedars, Surf City and Ship Bottom. Whether you're a diehard surfer or just watch from the beach, you'll want to check out the original Ron Jon shop in Ship Bottom. The first Ron Jon surf shop opened here in 1961, and today this 4-story surfing emporium sells everything from boards to board shorts for those who just want to look the part.