Why I Love the New Jersey Shore
If you were raised in New Jersey (as I was) then the Jersey Shore is gold. It’s the ultimate vacation spot. The place to go yearly, or more, with familiar and local spots (that are also locally owned) – bakeries, ice cream shops, surf shops, delis, beach stores, boardwalk rides and arcades. It’s all there for the taking and welcomes you back. I love this place so much, but I’m not sure if I love it because it’s got everything with such beach charm (walkable mom and pops everywhere) or because I grew up going there every summer. Probably both.
“Down the Shore” is how you would indicate that you were going to the beach/boardwalk area if you live in the northeast where the NJ Shore is your closest beach.
There are about 130 miles of shoreline in New Jersey. The particular area of the shore that I love is the Barnegat Peninsula; although, almost no one calls it that. See below.
The Barrier Island (or Barnegat Peninsula) *
*Note that most people just refer to it by the name of the community**, and each community is small (maybe 2-8 streets).
**Includes: Chadwick Beach, Ocean Beach, Normandy Beach, Lavallette, Ortley Beach and Seaside Heights
This seaside barrier island is perfect for those who love both the beauty of the ocean and the peacefulness of the bay, since you can easily walk from the ocean to the bay from almost any house on this “island.” When the main north/south road, Route 35, splits (just below Mantoloking) is where my heart lies. Here houses have traditionally been small “bungalows” where families jammed in for summer vacations from North Jersey and the surrounding areas.
After “Superstorm Sandy” in 2012, many of the homes were destroyed by flooding and many of the communities allowed larger homes to take their place. Most homeowners tore down their home or raised it, but there are still some bungalows to be found. Homes are jammed together down streets that connect the ocean to the bay and people are out and active – walking, riding bikes, flying kites, or on kayaks, surfboards or boats.
Where to Stay at the Jersey Shore
I love to stay in a home with the bay in the backyard (“on the lagoon”) so even mornings and evenings can be spent in the presence of water. Days are spent on the beach or in the many lagoons on rafts, paddle boards, kayaks or boats. Or crabbing right off the dock! Nights are spent at the Seaside Heights boardwalk, playing mini golf or out for ice cream!
Boat rentals at Aqua Rentz.
Many of the homes are rented through the community’s local real estate agency. Many do things the old fashioned way with paper contracts, checks and cash even. I do not recommend renting a house in Seaside Heights or Seaside Park even though the rentals are typically less expensive here – the atmosphere there changes throughout the day/night.
Local rental agencies:
Ocean Beach rentals: Ocean Beach Sales and Rentals
Chadwick Beach rentals: Chadwick Beach Real Estate
Ortley Beach rentals: Shore Summer Rentals
Other options: VRBO
Beach badges – beach badges are required to enjoy most NJ beaches. The badges are usually about $35 per week or $12 per day. Purchase the badges (typically cash only) when entering the beach.
My list of favorite beaches, in order, are: Ocean Beach, Chadwick Beach, Ortley Beach, Lavallette, Normandy Beach and Seaside Heights.
Below are some of my favorite spots:
Colonial Bakery – there are 2 Colonial bakeries and my favorite is the smaller one in Ocean Beach (3091 Route 35N). When you walk through the door, in the morning, you will be overwhelmed by the fantastic aroma of freshly baked deliciousness. Wonderful cannolis, cream puffs, eclairs and many Italian treats.
Lasolas Market/Deli – This is the epitome of the little Italian market with a beautiful, mouthwatering array of prepared Italian foods, the best cold and hot sub sandwiches, delicious entrees and much more including Italian bakery delights and even anything you’d need to cook Italian at your house. (One day I bought the chicken parmesan, stuffed artichokes, eggplant parmesan, and broccoli rabe.)
Ocean Hut Surf Shop – This surf shop is my absolute favorite shop at the shore. They have very nice casual clothing and accessories and they even have their own brand of surfboards – cream – with very cool matching apparel. The same owner since 1975!
Seaside Heights Boardwalk – I hope you have not watched Jersey shore. Seaside is so much more than those kids and their drama (sorry, NJS fans). The Seaside Heights/Park Boardwalk is a 2-mile long family friendly* boardwalk that’s action-packed from lively arcades (Lucky Leos and Casino Pier are my favorites) that include classics (skee ball!) and tons of games! There’s a large pier (Casino Pier) with loads of rides for everyone from “kiddie” to “thrill” rides. As you walk down the boards, there are games calling your name – frog bog, darts, water gun competitions, balloon busts and candy wheels. There are also wonderful delicious foods like Kohl’s ice cream, Midway’s Italian sandwiches (sausage, peppers and onions!), 3 Brothers pizza (gigantic slices), and funnel cakes!
*Now to end this paragraph on the Seaside Boardwalk – you’ll want to go during the day to the boardwalk (and not on the beach because it’s packed with people and a little crazy sometimes) and only stay until 9:00pm or so. Fireworks start at 9:00pm on Wednesday night – that’s a good time then leave soon afterward. After that the family atmosphere seems to diminish.
The Crab’s Claw – The best restaurant to go for crabs, clams, oysters, shrimp, flounder, etc. with a lovely and fun atmosphere and just a block from the beach.
Sunny Hunny By the Sea Pancake House – a beach tradition for delicious breakfasts, especially the pancakes
B&B – B&B in Lavallette has the best sidewalk sales on the weekends. It’s where I bought my swimsuits each summer plus they have the cutest beachwear and gifts.
Ben Franklin 5&10 Store – If you’ve forgotten anything needed for the beach then you can find it here at reasonable prices. I’ve been going to Ben Franklin for many years for kites to fly on the beach at sunset!
Z Line – Z Line has very reasonable shirts, sweatshirts, souvenirs and even hermit crabs (which we have unfortunately purchased various times throughout the years :] )
**Note that many of the local restaurant establishments only take cash!
What I Love about the New Jersey Shore
- Rolling down the windows over the bridge on Bridge Avenue, as you arrive at the shore, to smell the delightful salt air
- The cool breeze right when ascending the sand dunes at the beach
- Sand that’s perfect for building sand castles
- People walking or biking around in bathing suits with beach chairs strapped to their back
- Walking to the little ice cream shops and waiting in the long but fast moving lines.
- American flags waving in the wind
- Walking to local pizzerias, delis and sub shops
- The local bakeries!
- Families carrying blow up boats to the bay beach
- Flying kites at dusk in the summer breeze
- Houses crowded together – not a spot of land wasted
How to Get to the NJ Shore from the Newark Airport
From Newark (EWR) Airport terminals – take the AirTrain to the last stop. Follow signs to NJ Transit and NJ Coastal Line (NJCL). Get NJ Transit app and pay for the ticket to Bayhead (most likely you’ll have to change trains in Long Branch). At the Bay Head station take an Uber or a taxi to your rental property.