The Best Day-Trip Beaches in NJ
Our favorite spots on the shore... that don't require spending half the day on the Garden State Parkway.
502 Sunset Blvd., Cape May Point
Play a round of mini-golf on the boardwalk or scour the beach for “Cape May diamonds” (beautiful rocks made of quartz), after soaking up some sun at this family vacation spot. When the crowds get overwhelming, escape to the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area just a few miles away. Surrounded by wild dunes and plant life, it’s a great place to bring the dog or walk on the beach at sunset.
The Details: Daily passes are $6, three-day tags are $12 and a weekly pass is $18. Parking is free.
95th St., Stone Harbor
Stone Harbor has a little bit of everything. If you’re looking for serenity, head to a seven-mile stretch of sand as quiet and calm as they come. And if you want a night on the town without the kids, Wildwood’s bustling boardwalk is just 15 minutes away. There’s also tons to do for families beyond sticking your toes in the sand. The younger set can stay busy playing basketball or volleyball on one of many beachfront courts. Plus, Monday is Family Night, where your clan can indulge in magic shows, puppet theatre, story-telling and animal adventures (all for free!).
The Details: Tags are $6 daily, $12 weekly and $27 for the season. Metered parking is available.
Ocean Ave., Sea Girt
Just a 10-minute drive from the crowds at Point Pleasant Beach, this quaint borough is a breath of fresh air right off Parkway exit 98. The shoreline isn’t as packed, so it’s easy to keep an eye on the kiddos. When it’s time to take a break, check out one of the local restaurants, take a stroll on the boardwalk or visit the historic lighthouse.
The Details: Daily badges are $10; children under 12 get in for free. Metered parking is available.
1306 Grand Central Ave., Lavallette
Just north of Seaside Heights, Lavallette provides a serene escape from the town’s bustling boardwalk. Nestled between the beach and Barnegat Bay, its location makes for a great beach day. Kids can swim, surf, boogie board, snorkel, build sandcastles and fly kites. On the bay side, there are spots for fishing, crabbing, kayaking, and swimming, plus four different playgrounds (yes, four!). And the nearby Bay Front Sports Park is a can’t-miss spot with tennis and basketball courts. For the cyclists, Lavallette also has a three-mile boardwalk, perfect for a run to get the blood flowing before a relaxing day of sunbathing.
The Details: Daily badges are $8, and children under 12 are free. Metered parking is available.
Ocean Ave., Asbury Park
Whether you’re looking for a fun day walking one of the state’s trendiest boardwalks, or just want to lounge on a small (but lovely) stretch of sand, Asbury Park has tons to do. Build sandcastles next to the legendary Stone Pony (where Bruce Springsteen found fame), and stay late to hear tunes from its acclaimed summer stage. Plus, there are dozens of restaurants and ice cream parlors—along with the Silver and Ball Museum, home to arcade games, and a good option if there are thunderstorms in the forecast.
The Details: $5 Monday to Friday and $7 on weekends. Metered parking is available.
South Hartshorne Dr., Highlands
Just over the Driscoll Bridge, Sandy Hook is a great choice for North Jerseyans who want to spend a day “down the shore”—without all the traffic. The NJ section of this National Recreation Area (which crosses over into NY), with the Manhattan skyline in view, is a seven-mile swath that provides plenty of great spots to set up the umbrella and a picnic for the afternoon. With miles of paved trails, it’s a nice place to bird-watch or ride a bike. Be sure to catch a park rangers’ hiking tour to the abandoned “Nine-Gun Battery,” part of former military Fort Hancock.
The Details: Admission is free and parking is $15 per car.
Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park
221 Ocean Ave., North Long Branch
Located off exit 105, this quiet stretch is perfect for a day trip. Besides swimming and surfing, there are loads of other things to do at the 38-acre oceanfront park— like games, a boat launch, fishing (for registered fishers 16 and up), a playground, sand volleyball and a snack bar.
The Details: Weekly admission is $8 for those 18 and older. Weekend admission is $8 for kids 13 to 18. Parking passes are $8 daily.