Hundreds of thousands of vacationers make it an annual family tradition to trek to the 130 mile-long coastline of New Jersey’s beach towns. It’s popular for families to rent a beach house for maximum comfort while exploring adjacent areas. Keep this list of insider tips on what to do during summer vacation in these major family-friendly Jersey Shore towns.
The town of Cape May feels like it’s in a time warp. It’s America’s oldest beach resort town and it still retains its old-fashioned charm. From horse-drawn carriages and trolleys to ghost tours and historic inns and homes, there’s much to do off the sand as there is to do at the town’s beaches. Visit Cape May Point, a small, quaint and mellow beach that feels remote and far away from civilization.
Made famous by rock legend Bruce Springsteen, Asbury Park is alive and more hip than ever. It still retains its nostalgic and iconic arcades along with its clubs featuring live bands. If your family is into music history, Asbury Park is the place to be on the Jersey Shore. For a change of pace, visit the town’s museum of paranormal oddities just blocks away from the boardwalk.
Kitchy and eclectic, Wildwood is home to all that is Doo Wop, the popular culture and colorful architecture and imagery of the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, the town has a Doo Wop Preservation League that keeps the brash, bold mid-century resort architecture style alive and well. Sight see the landmarks by bus, bike or car. Refresh yourself by the free beach and walk the Wildwood boardwalk and three piers filled with rides and attractions.
Just 60 miles away from New York City, Spring Lake is an elegant oasis for urban families looking for a beach getaway. The town, a renowned and fashionable resort for the wealthy and privileged in the 1900s, is still a picturesque vision of graceful turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture. The town is an ideal old-fashioned vacation spot for families looking to wind down and relax.
Long Beach Island
Known as LBI, this beach town has great waves for surfing. Buy a private or group lesson from a local surf pro who’ll teach you to ride the waves. For non-surfers, head to the local water park and the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park near Viking Village for nature walks and panoramic views of the shoreline.
Ocean City, New Jersey is the epitome of family-friendly. It’s as wholesome as you can get because it’s a dry town. Instead, it’s filled with kid-centric activities, rides and candy all around. Going to the boardwalk for a candy sugar high is about as wild and crazy as Ocean City gets.
Families flock to Point Pleasant for Jenkinson’s boardwalk filled with good old-fashioned amusement rides, arcade, mini-golf courses, aquarium and an iconic ice cream shop. Point Pleasant also has a vintage car museum and sightseeing cruises on the calm waters of Manasquan River, Point Pleasant Canal and Barnegat Bay.
Made famous by MTV’s iconic reality show, Seaside Heights is changing its image. After Hurricane Sandy, the boardwalk was rebuilt and created more of a family-friendly atmosphere filled with movie nights and concerts along with restricted smoking rules. Roller-coasters are still a big draw. For quieter beach time, head to nearby Island State Beach Park for pristine miles of sand.
Ocean Grove is Jersey Shore’s most eclectic beach town. Founded in the 1800s by a group of ministers, its mission is to be a family respite from the crowds. Peek in at the famed Tent City, a complex of camping/glamping tents that house families during the summer who are there to worship and retreat from daily life.
For a tranquil family escape, head to Stone Harbor/Avalon’s seven-mile beach. Activities here are quiet and wholesome, from kite flying, kayaking or biking. Take time off the sand for a bird-watching and wildlife eco-cruise on the bays of the harbor given by The Wetlands Institute during the summer, refreshments included.