GREATER WILDWOODS TOURISM IMPROVEMENT & DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

NJ’s beaches will be open with safety measures in place this summer and we’re so ready to catch a wave. We love a trip to the Shore, whether that means boardwalks and fried foods or relaxing on the sand and playing in the surf. With more than 130 miles of beaches, the Jersey Shore is the place to be. Here are our favorite family-friendly beaches to visit.

Asbury Park
This city is known for its vibrant music, arts and food scene. A record number of beach badges were sold last summer despite having to maintain social distancing. The good news: City officials don’t anticipate limiting the number of beach badges this summer. During your visit, make sure to grab a ridiculously over-the-top scoop from Coney Waffle, bring the kids to the playground on the sand, take a pinball break indoors at the Silverball Museum and have dinner at one of many restaurants with ocean views like Robinson Ale House or Langosta Lounge. Daily rates for beach access: $6 weekdays, $9 weekends and holidays. $70/season for adults, kids 12 and under are free.

Bradley Beach
This family-friendly beach town with free parking is just a short walk from the ocean. “The beach and Atlantic Ocean have kept kids entertained for ages,” says Amy Hall, Bradley Beach’s director of tourism. “Build a sandcastle, collect some shells or head up to the spacious boardwalk for a game of mini golf and play on our brand-new beach front playground.” Afterwards grab a bite at the laid back family-friendly spot The Elbow Room. Badges are $12 daily. Season passes are $80 for adults and $30 for juniors (13-15) and seniors (65+).

Island Beach State Park
Put this quiet spot on your must-visit list for the summer. At press time, the plan was to continue with reduced parking to allow visitors to maintain social distancing. Be aware that the beach may close earlier, more often and for longer than usual. Swimming is only allowed when lifeguards are on duty at the one mile stretch of beach known as Swimming Area 1 and 2. You can surf or windsurf just south of the swimming beaches, or walk the 10 miles of white sand non-swimming beaches. If you like birdwatching or want to teach the kids about the environment, there are plenty of nature activities and viewing spots around the park. Visit from 10 am to 6 pm. Weekday entrance fees are $6 for NJ residents, $12 non-resident, weekends and holidays $10 NJ residents, $20 non-residents.

Ocean City
This NJ shore spot is a dry town, which is ideal for families looking to avoid college crowds. The beach and boardwalk are open, and public restrooms are sanitized throughout the day. Hand sanitization stations have been installed all along the boardwalk. Gillian’s Wonderland Pier has indoor and outdoor rides for all ages. If you’re brave, try the 130’ Drop Tower for amazing aerial views of the shore before you drop at 47 miles per hour. Or visit the bay side of Ocean City, where you can try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Beach tags are required for anyone 12 and older and are $5/daily, $10/weekly and $25/season. Active military and their families and veterans are free. There is limited free street parking and pay-to-park lots.

Point Pleasant
This popular family-friendly beach is known for Jenkinson’s Boardwalk and fun rides. A limited number of beach badges were sold last year, but that’s expected to change this summer. The kids will love the new 7D Dark Ride and Adventure Lookout Ropes Course at Jenkinson’s Amusement Park, which has roller coasters, carousels and rides for toddlers to teens. There’s also an aquarium, games, arcades and multiple mini golf courses. Plan ahead for beach fees and limited street parking. $11 weekdays, $12 weekends & holidays. Children 5-11, $3 weekdays, $4 weekends & holidays under 5, free. Season, $110; seniors 65+, $80; children 5-11, $55; under 5, free.

Sandy Hook
Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area that spans NY and NJ, this spot in Highlands is great for fishing and windsurfing at Lot C, hunting for seashells on North Beach and swimming in lifeguarded waters at Beach Area A-E. Bring your bikes and catch the ocean breeze on a post-swim ride. “Our parking lots do sometimes fill up, so we recommend visiting earlier or later in the day,” says Daphne Yun, a supervisory park ranger for the National Park Service. The parking fee is $20 per day or $100 per season.

The Wildwoods
These sparkling clean beaches stretch for five miles across the shores of North Wildwood, Wildwood and Wildwood Crest and the beaches are completely free! The Wildwoods opened last summer with a “Mask Up!” and social distancing campaign. Morey’s Piers will reopen this summer with three piers of amusement rides and water park action. Don’t miss noshing on Curley’s Fries while watching out for tram cars that pass by, or kick back at Wilhelm’s Bier Garten while the kids soar on coasters. Staying over? We love the stunning Pan American Hotel in Wildwood Crest for its retro glam feel.

Want to go to the beach without spending a ton? Here are New Jersey’s free beaches.