Though it’s hard to pick just a handful, here’s a selection of some of our favorite beaches for a range of different tastes.
Hours: Lifeguards on duty daily from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. during beach season.
Perhaps the most famous of New Jersey beaches, Atlantic City boasts plenty of shoreline, tons of attractions and a bustling boardwalk. Kayaking, fishing, surfing and wind surfing are available on many areas of the beach, which will satisfy water sports enthusiasts. Couples or friends can enjoy the high-energy nightlife around the boardwalk and explore the casinos and bars. And families can stop by nearby Steel Pier for kid-friendly coasters and other rides. With so much to do, why not make it a weekend?
Fees: $8 daily / $90 for season / $45 for seniors / children under 12 free.
Hours: Lifeguards on duty daily from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. during beach season / 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday / noon-5:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Ocean Grove offers quiet beaches and an active town life without the crowds and clamor of some other New Jersey beaches. If you’re looking to spend the day re-energizing on the beach and bathing in the sun, this is a good, stress-free choice that’s great for couples and families. If you want to be a bit more active, volleyball and tennis courts are located on the beach. After you’ve dried off, take a stroll downtown for some relaxing shopping and dining. Make sure to snap a few photos of the charming Victorian architecture!
Fees: $9 daily / $70 season / $30 for seniors / 16 and under, military members and first responders are free.
Hours: Lifeguards on duty daily from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. during beach season.
Belmar is a quaint beach town with a clean, well-maintained coastline. What more could you ask for? Although the shoreline is only a little longer than a mile, there are plenty of activities available. Designated areas allow surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, fishing and volleyball. Jet-skiing and boating are also popular. While you’re in town, check out Main Street for chic art galleries and coffee houses.
Fees: $10 daily / $105 season / $65 half season / $75 for seniors / children under 12 free.
Hours: Lifeguards on duty daily from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. during beach season.
Spring Lake used to be a summer haven for wealthy entrepreneurs in the mid-19th century, and to this day the area still has the refined and luxurious air of a classic Victorian town. Between the historic B&Bs, the idyllic paths and gardens along the town’s lake and overall romantic vibe, it is a top choice for couples. Of course, in the summer months the beach is the star. Clean and pristine.
Fees: $10 daily / $30 weekly / $50 season / $15 season for seniors, veterans and disabled/ free for children 12 and under.
Hours: Lifeguards on duty weekdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. during beach season / 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
Lavallette Beach is the cleaner, calmer neighbor of Seaside Hights (of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” fame). This is more of a family beach and offers a peaceful refuge for folks looking to avoid the flock of summer tourists. Tennis, basketball and water-skiing are popular here, and surfing and kayaking are also allowed at a few locations along the beach. For kids, there are multiple playgrounds near the bay. While you are in the area, be sure to check out The Music Man Singing Ice Cream Shoppe, where you can enjoy a sundae while waiters sing and perform in front of you, vaudeville-style.
Fees: $6 daily / $12 three-day / $18 weekly/ $28 season / free for veterans, military members and children 11 and under.
Hours: Lifeguards on duty daily from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. during beach season.
Cape May is known for its picturesque views and unspoiled beachfront. Although the town gets a lot of tourists in summer, there are some secluded areas where you can find some peace and quiet. Higbee Beach is state wildlife management area, but visitors can still go swimming at this totally wild and untouched spot. Beach-goers should use caution, however, as no lifeguards are present. For a more common and busy beach experience, The Cove is a trendy shore in Cape May that is known as an essential surfing destination. And Sunset Beach, as the name implies, is a great place for families and couples to gaze at the beautiful sunset colors.
Fees: $6-20 parking fee depending on season and day of week. Check website for details.
Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. / 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
Island Beach may be one of the most beautiful New Jersey beaches, but it’s also a living habitat that supports many critically endangered species. The barrier island is a protected area with thriving forests and marshes that are home to ospreys, foxes and other animals. Though the beach tends to draw a lot of visitors on weekends and holidays, the Spizzle Creek Bird Blind Trail and other hiking areas offer a welcome respite from the crowd. On the beach itself, surfing is a favorite pastime. In other parts of the park, there’s scuba diving, bicycling, fishing and even horseback riding.
Fees: $7 daily / $20 weekly / $5 for seniors / $40 season / free for veterans and military.
Hours: Lifeguards on duty weekdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. during beach season.
Long Beach Island is an 18-mile island home to some of the best white sandy shores in New Jersey. It’s made up of several town beaches, including Beach Haven, Surf City, Barnegat Light and Ship Bottom, each of which offer their own unique experience, ranging from sleepy to active. For some family fun, check out Fantasy Island Amusement Park or Thundering Surf Water Park, both located in Beach Haven. And don’t forget to check out Barnegat Lighthouse. This iconic red and white lighthouse was built in 1859 and is the second tallest in the United States.
Fees: $5 daily /$25 season / free for veterans and military members / free for children 12 and under.
Hours: Lifeguards on duty 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays during beach season.
The Travel Channel called Ocean City “The No. 1 family beach community in the country,” and this pleasant town lives up to its title. Explore 8 miles of beautiful shoreline, all consistently maintained and groomed. Ocean City also offers 2½ miles of boardwalk with wonderful attractions like the OC Water Park, Music Pier and miniature golf. Parents might be glad to hear that Ocean City is a “dry town” and no alcohol is permitted anywhere in its borders. After the beach, take a trip downtown and walk along Asbury Avenue to visit dozens of delightful shops and boutiques.
Fees: $6 daily / $12 weekly/ $28 season / $23 season for children 12 and under /free for veterans.
Hours: Lifeguards on duty daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. during beach season.
Stone Harbor could be called the hidden gem of New Jersey beaches. Located in the southern half of a barrier island known as Seven Mile Beach, some would describe it as the perfect beach; long, not excessively wide, immaculately clean and with a soft and sandy gradual walk into the waves. Swimming is allowed in most areas, but kayaking and surfing is more limited. Boating and fishing are also common in the area. Those seeking a slightly busier environment should stop into Stone Harbor’s northern neighbor, Avalon.
What are your favorite New Jersey beaches? Tell us in the comments.
Find top beaches throughout the Northeast at AAA.com/BeachGuide.
This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.