South Jersey Shore Beach Guide

The southern New Jersey coastline, which stretches from Long Beach Island to Cape May Point, is home to some of the best and most famous beaches in the United States. Each summer hundreds of thousands of visitors from the Philadelphia area, New York, Maryland, and Virginia choose to vacation along the world-famous Jersey Shore.

While some of these beaches offer all the ammenities—including showers, restaurants, and sometimes even bars on the beach itself—others don't even have a lifeguard on duty most of the time. Before you plan your trip to the southern shores of New Jersey, make sure you know what to expect when you arrive.

Although some beaches open for Memorial Day, the summer beach season in New Jersey officially starts on June 16. However, it's important to keep in mind that some of these beaches may open later, have certain food restrictions, and charge a fee for accessing the coastline. 

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Brigantine Beach
Bookfan / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Brigantine is a coastal town just north of Atlantic City on an island bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Brigantine Inlet, Absecon Inlet, and inland waterways. Located on the south shore of the island near the residential community, Brigantine Beach provides free access to the pristine sands. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer, but you can expect relatively smaller crowds than other places near Atlantic City.

The island and its surrounding waterways include 10,000 square miles of land and water, including the Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge, a 46,000-acre national park. Brigantine Beach is just minutes away from Atlantic City, and there's also plenty of nearby family-friendly entertainment and dining options during the daytime.

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Atlantic City

Atlantic City
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Known as a resort city, Atlantic City was established with its pristine coastline at the forefront of development planning. As a result, you now get access to all sorts of amenities when you visit one of the city's many beaches.

During the summer, the coast is guarded by the country's first lifeguard organization, and the beach is always free to access. Nearby (and at certain spots along the coastline), there are a number of great bars and restaurants. You can also check out the city's casinos, which host some of the biggest music acts that play in the state or take a stroll down the city's iconic boardwalk for a ride on the Ferris wheel.

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Ventnor City

Ventnor City
Lisa J. Goodman / Getty Images

Ventnor is right next door to the shopping, gaming, and nightlife found in Atlantic City, but also offers many family recreational activities, unique shops, restaurants, and Bed and Breakfast Inns away from the crowds the resort town.
Ventnor was also established at the end of the Victorian era, at the turn of the 19th century and has many beautiful Victorian homes and large oceanfront houses built over 100 years ago. Ventnor City has large, well-maintained beaches that are almost always less crowded than their Atlantic City neighbors but still offer visitors and residents the same soft, white sand and great opportunities for swimming, surfing, kayaking, and sail boating.

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Margate City

Lucy the Elephant
jimcintosh / Pixabay

Margate is a popular Jersey Shore destination, especially during the summer. Margate City is the home of Lucy the Elephant, a six-story historic landmark that's the "largest elephant in the world." Marven Gardens, of Monopoly board game fame despite the different spelling, is also located there.

Margate beaches are narrower than beaches at many other places at the Jersey Shore. There are a few dunes and those that do exist were created to protect beaches from nor'easters and hurricanes. Most beachfront houses are right against the bulkhead with nothing between them and the ocean.

There are plenty of restaurants—including the popular beachfront Ventura's Greenhouse next to Lucy the Elephant—ice cream parlors, classic beach stores, coffee houses, and other shops along Ventnor and Atlantic Avenues in Margate City.

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Longport new jersey
Lisa J. Goodman / Getty Images

Longport is a small town located at the southern tip of Absecon Island, just south of Ventnor and Margate, about six miles from Atlantic City. Longport is known as a quiet and peaceful beach community, less hectic than any of the towns to the north, yet still within easy driving distance of the Atlantic City nightlife.

If you have a four-legged friend with you, this is one of the only beaches near Atlantic City that allows dogs—but you don't have to bring one to come here. The beach at Longport is small but impeccably clean with opportunities for sunbathing, kayaking, and surfing. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer.

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Avalon new jersey
Marc Cappelletti / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Avalon is a South Jersey seashore resort whose motto is "Cooler by a Mile," which refers to the fact that it juts out into the Atlantic Ocean about a mile farther than other barrier island resorts.

Avalon beaches were voted by The Washingtonian as the safest for swimming as well as the "best beach in New Jersey." With its gentle surf, natural dunes, a wide beach, and good lifeguards as well as a small yet well-maintained boardwalk Avalon is a great place to avoid the crowds for an uninterrupted day of soaking up the South Jersey sun.

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Stone Harbor

Stone Harbor, NJ
Robert D. Barnes / Getty Images

Stone Harbor and its northern neighbor Avalon share a barrier island that is commonly referred to as "Seven Mile Island," which is about a mile further windward than the other barrier islands, allowing for nicer sea breezes. The island is also known for its high sand dunes, but be aware that they are home to numerous protected plants and animals and walking on the dunes can result in a fine.

The beaches of Stone Harbor are usually quiet and uncrowded and have been ranked among the areas best in the past.

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Cape May

Cape May beach at sunset

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Best known for its numerous authentic Victorian homes and bed and breakfast inns, the City of Cape May is a National Historic Landmark and the nation's oldest seaside resort.

As early as 1766, visitors encouraged by their physicians to take in the good sea air came to Cape May from Philadelphia by horse-drawn wagons, stagecoaches, sloops, and schooners. At the turn of the century, advertisements in the Philadelphia papers described "the beautiful situation of Cape May, the sea-bathing, and the fish, oysters, and crabs to eat and enjoy."

Cape May has been ranked among the best beaches in New Jersey in the past, but the city itself is an attraction worth exploring for the history alone.

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Cape May Point

Cape May New Jersey
Saurav Pandey Photography / Getty Images

Located at the southwest tip of New Jersey where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Delaware Bay, the Borough of Cape May Point is easily accessed from the north via the Garden State Parkway or Route 55 South. If you're a fan of outdoor sports and nature, Cape May Point is well worth a visit if you are in nearby Cape May; it's known for its good fishing and bird watching as well as its beaches.

The borough's two beaches, Cape May Point Borough Beach and Sunset Beach, are sparsely populated. Sunset Beach is known for the wreckage of the Concrete Ship "Atlantis," which has sat just off the shoreline for over 80 years.

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Ocean City

Ocean City Boardwalk
Jon Lovette / Getty Images

Ocean City calls itself "America's Greatest Family Resort." It is a world-famous seashore community located in the heart of the Jersey Shore on a barrier island that lies between Great Egg Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

Ocean City was named one of the favorite destination vacation spots within 300 miles of Billy Penn's statue by readers of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Ocean City offers eight miles of white sand beaches, which are among the best-rated beaches in the area.

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Wildwood City Beaches

Wildwood City, NJ
Philippe TURPIN / Getty Images

With so many choices for the entire family, the fun never stops in Wildwood. No other resort community in America offers the array of attractions, shopping venues, restaurants, historic sights, and outdoor fun. Day or night, on the expansive beach, the electrifying boardwalk, the neon-lit boulevards, or surrounding area, there’s always something to see and do on the island.
Wildwood's beaches have areas that grow every year. They are some of the widest beaches in the world, in some places over 1,000 feet wide. The Wildwoods' beaches also host a number of events throughout the season, including championship volleyball tournaments, monster truck rallies, concerts, movies on the beach, and the Wildwoods International Kite Festival.

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Wildwood Crest Beaches

Wildwood Crest NJ
jcapaldi / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Borough of Wildwood Crest is a small shore resort community located at the extreme southern end of New Jersey immediately south of the City of Wildwood and is part of what is known as The Wildwoods.

Wildwood Crest's magnificent free and extremely wide beach is among the most beautiful in the world. Thousands of hotel and motel rooms, as well as family-owned cottages and summer rentals, are available for your accommodation.