Monmouth County’s 27 miles of shoreline stretch from Sandy Hook in the north to the Manasquan inlet, on the border of Ocean County. The atmosphere varies greatly, from the iconic landmarks and music history of Asbury Park, to the hopping crowds and greasy pizza of Belmar, to the low-key, upscale beaches of Spring Lake. There are more than a dozen of NJ best beaches, which are kid-friendly, including these reader favorites.
New Jersey's Best Beaches in Monmouth County
Because it has both ocean beaches and calmer bay beaches, Sandy Hook is unique, and perfect for swimming with little ones. Families love Sandy Hook for its cleanliness, for shell collecting, and for its remote feel. There are terrific bike paths, so consider arriving on two wheels to save money on parking. Bird watching is also fantastic here.
Long Branch Beach and Seven Presidents Beach are both in Long Branch, but the latter is part of the Monmouth County Park System. It’s a bit more expensive for a badge, but worth it. Seven Presidents has its own parking lot, a super-cool new beachfront playground called Tony’s Place, and a skateplex that’s ideal for school-age kids and teens.
Illustration by Bridgette Blanton.
Asbury Park (shown left)
There’s a funky, diverse crowd here, and Asbury Park is like no other beach town in New Jersey. Beachgoers are colorful, and the shops are full of character. There’s a small splash park for cooling off, and you’ll find great kid-friendly dining right on the beach (real food, not typical boardwalk fare). Whale sightings aren’t uncommon.
This one might be off your radar if you’re not a frequent visitor to the Shore. It’s small but sweet. Readers love the gated playground on the boardwalk and summer weekend concerts under a gazebo. Parking is free on the west side of Ocean Ave.
With its quaint Victorian feel, this area is popular with families for its quiet beach (great for shell and sea-glass collecting) and its mellow boardwalk, perfect for people-watching and stroller-pushing. The beach borders Shark River Inlet, a popular spot for kids to watch the drawbridge and boats coming and going. Parking is free.
Belmar (shown right)
The beaches in Belmar are busy all summer. It’s a family favorite for its bustling boardwalk (great for strollers and jogging) and accessible bathrooms. There are playgrounds every few blocks (parents of toddlers: try the one off the beach on 8th Ave.), and kid-friendly movies on the beach on Sunday nights. Also check out the kids’ surf camp at 3rd Ave. beach, and the rollerblading lane.
Spring Lake is known as the jewel of the shore for a reason. You won’t find Snooki here! Readers love the quiet boardwalk, which stretches two miles along an immaculate beach (sadly, some of the southern portion is still unrepaired after damage from hurricane Irene). There’s a wonderful shaded park with tennis courts on 3rd Avenue.
Beaches here are popular with families because of the friendly boardwalk, clean bathrooms, and great boogie boarding and skim boarding. Manasquan’s Inlet Beach is one of the most popular surfing beaches on the east coast. Get badges on Main Street and stop at the awesome jungle gym across the street.
Summer Things to Do When You're at the Beach
Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest existing lighthouse in America (first lit in 1764); and it’s still operational. It’s located in the Gateway National Recreation Area, where kids can learn about the region’s natural history and unique ecosystems and roam around the remains of Fort Hancock military fort.
At the NJ Museum of Transportation at Allaire State Park, take a train ride on the Pine Creek Railroad. Weather permitting, train departs every half hour from noon to 4 pm weekdays (4:30 weekends) through August.
A party boat by night, the Manasquan Water Taxi is a decorated pirate ship during the day. Kids dress up like pirates and sail (with parents) to Treasure Island for a guided tour. Boats leave from Brielle Yacht Club, reservations required.
Jersey Shore Skim Camp (shown left)Belmar Municipal Beach, 20th and Ocean Aves.;
Sea Bright Municipal Beach behind Borough Hall, 1167 Ocean Ave.
Kids can learn how to skimboard or improve their technique at Jersey Shore Skim Camp in two beach locations; rates vary for half-hour private lessons, or daily or weekly camp (2 hours per day).
Silverball Museum Arcade (shown right)1000 Ocean Ave., Asbury Park
Strictly “old school,” this combination museum and arcade has 200 pinball machines ready for play on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. Machines date from the 1930s to the 1980s.
Carrie Calzaretta is the founding editor of Family Vacation Critic and has been a published travel writer for almost 20 years. She and her family live in Brielle.
Belmar Beach photo by Stephen Lacko Photography.