New Jersey, that great state I call home, suffers a less than stellar reputation. When I’m out of state, whether at Northwestern or traveling, I find I spend a lot of time defending its largely unwarranted notoriety. (“Where else can you live that you’re one hour from New York City, one hour from Philadelphia and 40 minutes from the beach?!” I always say.)
The stereotypes were already bad enough, I thought, when this little show called “Jersey Shore” debuted. Forget that only two members of the cast hail from the Garden State — it still cemented and created new stereotypes about my beloved NJ. But the truth is, one of our main reputation saboteurs is also one our top attractors.
People from up and down the East Coast flock to the Jersey shore coastline every summer from states as far south as Virginia. “Jersey Shore” features Seaside, one of the grittier beach towns we boast, but there is a reason people choose to make the Jersey shore their lovely summer home year after year. The following beaches, which are some of top in NJ, are all reasons why.
Before I start, a caveat: Don’t go here solely for the beach, because it’s definitely not our nicest. Still, Atlantic City is like Las Vegas on the ocean. Get your night started early with a walk on the boardwalk, or detox post-gambling on the beach. There’s even a cultural draw here, which Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame mentioned in a recent Budget Travel article.
Cape May, which is in the south of the state, is undoubtedly the most charming of New Jersey’s shore havens. The architecture is Victorian, and the beaches picturesque. Cape May also claims Avalon, a hamlet with a slew of private beaches and some of the most expensive real estate on the East Coast.
Belmar is a favorite day-trip spot and the beach I have frequented most, so I feel obligated to include it. Belmar is one of the more accessible NJ beaches for a day trip, and you might lay your towel next to a sweet family or a gaggle of gossiping tweens. Hang around 16th street and you’ll see a watered-down, daytime version of what MTV exploited in “Jersey Shore.” There’s no obnoxious boardwalk, though, and only a subdued nightlife so things stay pretty low-key.
Island Beach State Park
The near 10 miles of beach on this barrier island are close to nature; they’re populated with ospreys and more than 400 types of plants. The shore is sheltered and serene, and on a walk you’ll find marshes and well-preserved sand dunes.
Apparently, Spring Lake morphed into a prime destination for the high society folk of neighboring New York and Philly during the Gilded Age, leaving some lasting architecture. I remember Spring Lake as one of the most serene beaches I’ve ever visited. Many of the beaches are reserved for people who own homes shoreside, but swaths are accessible to day trippers.
–Karina for TKGO