11 Of The Best Beaches In NJ To Visit This Summer

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When it comes to the best beaches in NJ, it’s hard to pick just one. With a coastline extending over 130 miles from Sandy Hook to the tip of Cape May, heading to the shore is a summer ritual, and what’s great about the NJ shore is we have it all—from eco-friendly spots to quiet patches of sand to a fun-packed family boardwalk with plenty of rides and attractions. Ask any shore regular, and they’ll give you a rundown of their favorites, but to make it easier for daytrippers and vacationers, we compiled our own list of 11 of the best beaches in NJ (based on facilities, parking, entertainment, and easy access for families). Read on for what to know for a perfect day at the shore, and for info on all NJ beaches, find out how to get a beach badge this year and where to go for the best boardwalks on the shore. (featured photo credit: Istock/Diversity Studio)

11 of the best beaches in NJ

best beaches in NJ

You can’t go wrong with a sunset walk on Sandy Hook Bay in the Gateway National Recreation Area. Photo Credit: istock.com/andykazie

Sandy Hook
Known for its unique position between three eco-systems—salt marshes, wetlands, and holly forest—Sandy Hook is about 6 miles in length and sits near lower New York Harbor. Restrooms are located throughout the six beach centers, and while there are no facilities, you can find food trucks for a snack or quick bite. If you’re up for a little exercise, a 5-mile multi-use pathway is available for bikers, rollerbladers, runners, and more. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse, built in 1764 and the oldest working lighthouse in the U.S., is located nearby and gives kids a chance to see seafaring history. Tours are offered from April through November (check the schedule as the lighthouse is currently closed to visitors).
Parking: Once parking spaces are filled, the park closes until spaces open up. Tip: Arrive before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. on weekends or use mass transit.
Hartshorne Drive, Highlands

best beaches in NJ

Looking for an exclusive beach club? Sea Bright is your place. Photo Credit: @iloveredbank

Sea Bright
While this part of the Jersey Shore is known for its exclusive beach clubs, there’s a public Municipal Beach with lifeguards and facilities close by at the newly-renovated beach pavilion area (which also houses the town library). Once you have a badge, you’ll also have access to the public beach spots in front of the clubs, so if you’re hoping to get away from the crowds, this would be a good way to avoid them (although you’ll be far from restrooms). After a day on the sand, head to the nearby playground or go for a leisurely stroll on the short boardwalk behind the popular Woody’s Ocean Grille.
Parking: There is a public lot with limited spaces and metered parking, but if you’re lucky enough to snag a spot on a residential street, grab it for free. 
1099 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright

best beaches in NJ

Get those beach umbrellas ready for a day at one of the best beaches in NJ. Photo taken at Long Branch Beach

Long Branch
Stretching 8.2 miles long, this state park’s boardwalk allows for running, and jogging, and boasts the entertainment pavilion, Pier Village, which just steps off the sand. After a day on the beach, shower off and hit one of the chic restaurants like Avenue Le Club, offering live music with a St.Tropez vibe, take a spin around the Carousel, or take part in one of their many events throughout the season, like beachside yoga, family fun night, art exhibits, and a summer concert series.
Parking: There is metered parking and three public parking lots ($10 Monday–Thursday; $20 Friday–Sunday and holidays).
Ocean Avenue, Long Branch

best beaches in NJ

Asbury Park has history, a boardwalk, and lots of space, making it of the best beaches in NJ. Photo taken at the Asbury Park Beach 

Asbury Park
Steeped in music history, Asbury Park is having a moment, as a trendy spot on the shore, with a lively downtown scene. The 13-mile long beach has a boardwalk with places to grab a bite in between beach visits (showers and public restrooms are available at the beach entrances) and a splash park with mini golf for kids. Surfing is available between the jetties on Deal Lake Drive and Eighth Avenue. And if you don’t want to leave your furry friend at home, check out the Eighth Avenue Dog Beach, where dogs are allowed during listed hours.
Parking: Metered parking is available in all municipal parking lots.
Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park

best beaches in NJ

You may need a beach badge for the beach, but you don’t need a badge to play. Photo taken at Belmar Beach Playground

Belmar
At a short 1.5 miles, Belmar beach offers a great day trip for families. You’ll find beach playgrounds and several beach areas dedicated to surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, and volleyball. There is a boardwalk for walking and running, with restrooms every few blocks and there are Mobi-Mats available for easy wheelchair access. When you’ve had enough of the beach, head downtown to hit up the seafood restaurants and shopping.
Parking: Parking is free, except on the east side of Ocean Avenue, Silver Lake, North Boulevard, and in the parking lot at the Marina.
Ocean Avenue, Belmar

best beaches in NJ

Tropical vibes at Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant Beach. Photo taken at Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant Beach

Point Pleasant Beach
Starting at the Manasquan Inlet and heading south a mile, Point Pleasant Beach is 1-mile long and has a boardwalk with activities for the entire family including Jenkinson’s Aquarium. This beach town has made our list of the best beaches in NJ because of the family-friendly atmosphere for littles and bigs. There are beach rentals for chairs and umbrellas, as well as bathhouses with changing lockers and hot showers available for a fee. Some smaller beach areas include Martell’s (a tiki and beach bar on Jenkinson’s boardwalk), Bradshaw Beach, and Maryland Avenue Beach.
Parking: There are metered spots, pay-to-park lots, and a bit of a walking distance away, free parking.
Ocean Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach

best beaches in NJ

There is so much to do at the Seaside Heights Boardwalk and beaches. Photo Credit: Istock.com/jfbenning

Seaside Heights
The Seaside Heights beach stretches between two piers 2 miles apart and is popular with day trippers looking to have sandy action by day and plenty of thrills at Casino Pier at night. The boardwalk was recently rebuilt and now has new games, attractions, renovated restaurants, and more. This beach area can get crowded, so if want something lower key, follow down the beach to Seaside Park for a quiet stretch of sand without the bustle of the boardwalk. For a truly natural experience, a few miles away at the end of the island is Island Beach State Park, which charges entrance by the carload, has swimming within the central area, and can be reserved (though months in advance) for camping.
Parking: There is public parking in numbered spaces available, paid through nearby kiosks or parking app, as well as private parking lots for a fee.
Boardwalk, Seaside Heights

best beaches in NJ

A mermaid in the making at Long Beach Island. Photo Credit: @kateystanley

Long Beach Island
At 18 miles long, this barrier island known as LBI consists of six beach towns and has long stretches of sand that make it easy to find a quiet space away from the crowds. Heading to one of the centrally located beaches like Ship Bottom, Surf City, and Beach Haven is the best for families looking to make a day trip or even rent a house. While you won’t find a boardwalk offering a ton of concessions, you are allowed to bring food onto the beach, so pack a picnic for the day. After there’s lots of family fun on the island, including Fantasy Island Amusement Park in Beach Haven, mini-golf, and a few arcades—check out our guide to LBI for things to do on the sand and off.
Parking: Varies depending on the town. There are public lots and free street parking; make sure to read any parking street signs carefully.
Long Beach Boulevard, Long Beach Township

best beaches in NJ

Over 8 miles of beaches cover Ocean City. Photo Credit: istock.com/Vladone

Ocean City
The most popular area of this beach town is around the 2.5-mile strip that borders the boardwalk (although the entire beach is more than 8 miles long). The boardwalk area has plenty of eateries and shops, along with two amusement areas and a waterpark. South of the boardwalk, the beach is quieter and usually packed with summer residents. And good to know if you’re looking to imbibe: Ocean City is a “dry” town, so there’s no alcohol sold anywhere within town limits.
Parking: There are metered spots, pay-to-park lots, and a bit of a walking distance away, free parking.
Boardwalk, Ocean City

best beaches in NJ

Follow the beachballs to one of the best beaches in NJ. Photo taken at Wildwoods Beach

Wildwoods
Driving through the Wildwoods is like a blast from the past—you’ll see a bunch of retro-style motels and cool neon signs, some originally from the 50s. Besides the nostalgia, this is one of the few New Jersey beaches without a beach badge requirement, making it a popular spot. Wildwood runs 4.5 miles long and offers a jam-packed boardwalk with games, shops, dining, and Morey’s Piers, an amusement park and waterpark. Along the beach are places to boogie board, toss a volleyball, and even dedicated spots for dogs. One thing to note: The boardwalk is a distance from the ocean, so be prepared for a walk, especially if you’ve got a lot of gear.
Parking: There are metered spots, pay-to-park lots, and a bit of a walking distance away, free parking.
Ocean Avenue, Wildwood

best beaches in NJ

Cape May Beach has long been considered one of the best beaches in NJ. Photo Credit: Istock/Diversity Studio

Cape May
Located at the southern tip of New Jersey, the Cape May beach is approximately 2.5 miles long with places for surfing, playing volleyball, fishing, kayaking, and more. It’s good for a day trip since you can easily spot the restrooms and outdoor showers along the promenade. If you don’t want to haul your gear, you can rent a cabana or beach umbrella. Admire the Victorian architecture as you head to the pedestrian Washington Street Mall, spanning three blocks with shops and dining options steps from the beach. And don’t forget Cape May Point State Park (home of the Cape May Lighthouse), the wineries in the area, as well as the popular Cape May Zoo (it’s free!).
Parking: Metered parking and flat-rate parking is available at some businesses. Free parking is available on many side streets and offered in the Cape May Elementary School lot on Lafayette Street. All parking is free in West Cape May, a short walk away.
Beach Avenue, Cape May

We think these are among the best beaches in NJ, but let us know if we’re missing some. Share your favorite spot with us!

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About Author

Laura, born and raised in New Jersey, is a mom to a 4-year-old daughter, with a baby boy on the way in July. She has been a writer and editor for 18 years and currently works for The Elisabeth Morrow School, an independent day school in Englewood. She and her family enjoy spending summers in Ocean City, attending sporting events at MetLife Stadium and the Prudential Center, and visiting the amazing wineries in our wonderful Garden State. Laura also loves dancing around her house with her daughter and binging TV shows. Need a suggestion of something to watch? Just ask her.

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