The 15 Best Beaches in New Jersey

Cape May Beach Ave
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With dozens of beach towns lining New Jersey's 130 miles of coastline, there's something for everyone here. From classic boardwalks with sweet treats and carnival rides to nature preserves with wildlife and flora, this state has it all.

Before we dive in, let's get this out of the way: you'll probably have to pay to get onto the beach (although there is one beach on this list with free access). It's a Jersey thing—but trust us, these spots are worth the badge fee.

Whether you're looking for a bustling boardwalk or a quiet stretch of sand to lay out and read, you'll find it at one of the state's many beaches. Check out our guide to the 15 best beaches in New Jersey to learn why these shores are some of the most beautiful in the country.

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Asbury Park

Bench on boardwalk
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Asbury Park has a mile-long stretch of beachfront open to sunbathers, surfers, and anglers, but the real draw here is its vibrant music scene.

Music lovers flock to The Stone Pony, a renowned music venue right off of the beach (known for launching Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi's careers), House of Independents in the heart of town, or Asbury Lanes, a bowling alley slash music venue with a killer diner for late-night eats. Don't miss the Sea.Hear.Now Music Festival, which takes place on the beach and draws crowds of 30,000 each September.

Boutique shops line the main street and fill the restored Convention Center space. Restaurants offer wood-fired pizza, small-plate French fare, and artisanal donuts, providing a respite from traditional greasy boardwalk fare.

Pro Tip: For throwback fun, head to the Silverball Museum, a pinball museum with hundreds of pinball and video machines, plus skeeball and air hockey. (PS: it's BYOB).

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Atlantic City

The View Is Wheel
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Are you feeling lucky? With nine casinos in Atlantic City, high rollers can seamlessly head from a day at the beach to nights at the blackjack table.

Take a break from the slots with a stroll down the historic boardwalk—it's the oldest in America and, at over 4 miles from end to end, the longest in the world. Saltwater taffy originated here and can still be found in several shops dotting the boardwalk.

At night, the city comes alive. Top musicians and comedians regularly swing through town to play shows at the city's many event venues. If nightlife is more your scene, DJs from around the world spin nightly at clubs and after-dark pool parties.

Pro Tip: Swing by the White House Sub Shop before heading to the beach – or on the way home to combat a killer hangover. Regulars suggest getting a Philly cheesesteak to eat in-house and a "regular" Italian sub to go for later. Keep in mind a full-size sub is about 2 feet long, so come hungry!

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Sunrise in Avalon, NJ
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Avalon's 4-mile stretch of beach offers water activities galore, including rafting, sailing, surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, and swimming. The beach is part of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail and has some of the highest sand dunes on the Jersey Shore.

The beach is located on a barrier island that juts out about a mile further into the Atlantic Ocean than neighboring beaches, giving it the motto "Cooler by a Mile" due to the cool breezes that roll in off the ocean.

At night, head to Dune Drive to find restaurants (some BYOB), bars offering drink specials, and live music.

Pro tip: Avalon offers a complimentary Surf Chair program to help with beach access for physically-challenged visitors. These specially-designed chairs have wide wheels to roll over the sand easily and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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Bay Head

Bay Head sits on the same peninsula stretch as Point Pleasant (further down on the list), but its subdued, elegant vibe starkly contrasts Point Pleasant's blinking lights and flurry of activity.

The town's Improvement Association meticulously maintains the beach, and beachcombers report regularly finding sea glass and unusual shells.

The town has been designated a national historic district thanks to its collection of architecturally significant buildings and homes built in classic Shingle Style and Queen Anne fashion. You won't be able to miss The Grenville, a bubblegum-pink hotel emblematic of the Victorian architectural style.

Pro Tip: Bay Head is a bike-friendly town with plentiful bike lanes. It's quite safe, so most folks don't even bother locking up their bikes while out and about.

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View Of Pier Over Sea Against Sky During Sunset
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Clean and safe is the name of the game in Belmar. The town takes pride in offering the most immaculate beach in New Jersey, with regular environmental testing and daily beach grooming. Combine that with a busy boardwalk and a vibrant nightlife scene, and you've got a popular destination for visitors of all ages.

Several tour companies in Belmar offer whale watch tours, with peak season running from June through October. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins leaping amongst the waves.

Belmar is also a top surf destination. There is an annual surf camp for children, and the town also hosts a yearly pro surfing competition that draws surfers from around the world.

Pro Tip: There is a salt-water-accessible dive platform in MacLearie Park for scuba divers. Lock boxes are available for valuables like car keys, but you'll need to bring your own padlock.

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Cape May

Sunset over Cape May Beach
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Colorful Victorian architecture. Nearly 3 miles of beachfront. Natural wonders galore. Cape May, officially known as America's oldest seaside resort, is a charming town that has enthralled visitors since the 1700s.

Although this town technically has 16 named beaches, they all connect to the same beachfront strip. Swimming, skimboarding, volleyball, surfing, kayaking, and fishing are all permitted, though some activities are restricted to specific access points.

Cape May Point State Park, perched at the southernmost tip of the state, is home to the Cape May Lighthouse. Climb the top of the spiral staircase for sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. After a day in the sun, stroll down the Washington Street Mall, a pedestrian-only plaza with nearly 100 locally-owned shops and restaurants.

Pro Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for Cape May "diamonds" or quartz pieces that wash up on the beach and are cut and polished to resemble diamonds. They're found primarily at the Higbee and Sunset beaches or can be found in many souvenir shops in town.

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Long Beach Island

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Long Beach Island, or LBI, is New Jersey's longest continuous stretch of beach, boasting 18 miles of beachfront extending down a barrier island off the coast. Though they're all connected, LBI consists of six distinctive beach boroughs, each with its own personality.

Those looking for a more peaceful, natural escape should head north towards Barnegat Bay at the top of the island. This is also where the classic Barnegat Lighthouse—known lovingly as "Old Barney"—is perched, though it's currently being renovated.

Head south towards Beach Haven to find plentiful restaurants, amusements, and shopping. LBI has a great nightlife scene, and Nardi's Tavern offers a signature "pink bus" that can be seen picking up and dropping off revelers up and down the island every night.

Chowder enthusiasts flock to the island in the fall for Chowderfest, a clam chowder festival in its 33rd year running.

Pro Tip: Each beach borough along the island has its own requirements for badge access during lifeguard hours, so check the guidelines before hitting the sand.

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Manasquan Beach, New Jersey
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While the 'Squan does have a pathway dotted with shops and restaurants that runs along the beach, the beachfront here is more residential. Manasquan's beach is less hectic without a traditional boardwalk to draw large crowds, making it a good option for families or beachgoers seeking a tranquil beach day.

Furry friends can splash in the waves at the Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area, which has a dog-friendly beach. Cyclists will enjoy the Edgar Felix Memorial Bikeway, a 5.5-mile path that winds past historic farmland and golf courses before ending at Allaire State Park in nearby Farmingdale.

The town also offers a beach concert series on Thursdays throughout the summer, featuring a rotating lineup of bands.

Pro Tip: The Manasquan Inlet is known as one of the best surf spots in New Jersey. To get there, head to the end of 1st Avenue, where it intersects with Riverside Drive, and look for the jetty extending into the ocean.

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Point Pleasant

People with umbrellas sunning on white sand beach, Atlantic Ocean, Point Pleasant, NJ
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Point Pleasant is one of the closest Jersey Shore beaches to Manhattan and North Jersey, so it's a popular destination for day-tripping visitors, though that can mean big crowds.

The boardwalk here, dubbed Jenkinson's, has an array of classic arcade games and rides, plus an aquarium with penguins, seals, sharks, a touch tank, and a daily mermaid show. Yes, we said mermaids.

There's fun to be found off the boardwalk, too. Head to Uncle Vinnie's Comedy Club to catch a set from top area comics, or swing by the Point Pavilion Antique Centre to discover antique treasures from 40-plus vendors.

Finish the day with a frozen drink and live music at Martell's Tiki Bar, located on the sand, with palm trees setting a tropical tone. The party often goes on late into the night at this hotspot.

Pro Tip: The surf here can be rough with larger waves, so swimmers should not venture into the water when flags are up or without lifeguards present.

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Sandy Hook

Scenic View Of Beach Against Sky
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Gateway National Recreation Area is a national park that sprawls over 27,000 acres across Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and New Jersey. The New Jersey section is known as Sandy Hook.

The North Beach area of Sandy Hook is popular—on clear days, you can see the New York City skyline from the beach. Those visiting with children will want to steer clear of the clothing-optional Gunnison Beach area, the only authorized clothing-optional beach in the state.

Wildlife abounds here, and seals can often be spotted sunning themselves on the sand bar at Skeleton Island. Sandy Hook is also home to Fort Hancock, a former military base with the oldest still-operating lighthouse in the United States. Sandy Hook offers overnight tent camping if a one-day visit isn't enough. It's worth staying over to catch the sunrise over the water.

Pro Tip: Daytrippers can take a Seastreak ferry direct from Manhattan to Sandy Hook, skipping over the infamous Jersey Shore traffic.

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Sea Girt

Sea Girt Beach, New Jersey
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Low key. Serene. Relaxed. This hidden gem features rolling dunes and soft sand without large crowds, but some strict rules are enforced to keep it quiet and clean. Beachgoers cannot bring food, alcoholic beverages, or tents onto the beach.

The 3/4-mile-long synthetic boardwalk is excellent for a stroll or rollerblading while checking out the beautiful homes lining the beach. There are restroom facilities and a snack shop at the Pavilion on the eastern end of Beacon Boulevard.

In town, check out the historic Sea Girt Lighthouse, the last live-in lighthouse built on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

Pro tip: Children aged 11 and under don't need a badge to get on the beach.

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Sea Isle City

Unlike most other spots on this list, Sea Isle City has a promenade instead of a boardwalk. This 28-block path stretches through the town and is perfect for running, rollerblading, or strolling along the shore.

It's a beach sports haven with specific beaches that allow catamaran and sailboat launches, kayaking, kiteboarding, rafting, stand-up paddle boarding, and volleyball. The Sea Isle City Environmental Commission also offers educational beachcombing sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m.—stop by to learn about local shells, flora, and fauna.

After a day in the sand and sun, enjoy live entertainment and drink specials at the legendary post-beach "No Shower Happy Hour" on Saturdays at The Ocean Drive or The OD as it's known to locals.

Pro Tip: Sea Isle is a fisherman's haven, with crabbing and fishing permitted off the public fishing pier on 59th Street, on the Sea Isle Blvd causeway, or in the bay.

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Seaside Heights

New Jersey Shore Coastline
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MTV's "Jersey Shore" thrust Seaside into the world's spotlight—and you can still stroll by the house where it all started, tucked right off the boardwalk. But there's so much more to Seaside than fist-pumping (though there are plenty of nightclubs for you to channel your inner Pauly D).

Spend the day at Island Beach State Park, a state park with 10 miles of pristine barrier island beach. This natural reserve is home to the state's largest Osprey colony and offers excellent bird-watching and wildlife viewing, plus uncrowded beach access, due to the park's limited capacity. Get there early, as the parking lots tend to fill up quickly.

At night, head to the Boardwalk for arcade games, amusement rides, and classic boardwalk eats like fried Oreos and soft-serve ice cream. Board the Sky Ride chairlift for a sky-high vantage point of the boardwalk and beach, or catch fireworks weekly on Wednesday evenings.

Pro Tip: Don't skip the crumb cake at Park Bakery—there's usually a line, but the pastries are worth the wait.

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Ocean City

An Evening in Ocean City
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One of the more family-friendly destinations on the list. Ocean City is a dry town, and public drinking isn't permitted, so the scene here doesn't play host to the same raucous parties as some other Jersey Shore spots.

However, there's plenty to do, with a boardwalk chock full of amusement park rides, carnival games, and classic boardwalk eats stretched along 8 miles of beachfront. Ocean City was ranked the no. 4 surf town in America in 2017, and it's a great spot to catch some waves.

It's also a breakfast lover's paradise—start the day at one of two Uncle Bill's Pancake House locations for classic pancakes done right, or head to Augie's Omelette & Waffle for stacks of fluffy waffles and unique omelet offerings. Hawaiian omelet, anyone?

Pro Tip: Looking for a break from the beach? Tee it up instead! Ocean City has a 12-hole public golf course (or play a quick game at one of several mini-golf courses on the boardwalk).

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Shore Birds
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"Watch the tram car, please." These famous words ring in the head of anyone who has ever strolled down the boardwalk of Wildwood, a bustling vacation hotspot with 5 miles of white sand beachfront and a 38-block long promenade packed with shops, restaurants, and entertainment galore.

The bright yellow Sightseer tram cars have transported visitors up and down the boardwalk for 74 years, warning visitors on the busy boardwalk to steer clear of the tram car tracks. Thrillseekers will love the 100-plus rides at the amusement park, plus three beachfront water parks.

Step onto the free beach (a rarity in New Jersey, the land of beach badges) to surf, boogie board, or simply soak up the sun. Thanks to its vast beach, measuring 500 yards from the boardwalk to the waves at certain points, Wildwood also hosts an array of quirky events right on the beach, including monster truck races, the National Marbles Championship, sand sculpting competitions, and the International Kite Festival.

Pro Tip: Kick off the weekend with fireworks on the beach every Friday at 10 p.m. from late June through early September.