The lure of the Jersey Shore

Family dinner at home, traditional lunch at holiday and toast during video call. Happy adult husband and wife hold glasses with white wine and take selfie on smartphone in modern kitchen interior


About 10 years in the past, I bought to fly over the Jersey Shore in a blimp for a writing project. The photographer and I climbed aboard the airship one sunny afternoon in late summer time and donned headsets to muffle the blimp’s loud engines because the captain steered us towards the coast.  

We cruised slowly above Sandy Hook, with the quiet Bay Shore seashores off to the north, then took a proper to head south. Urgent near the window, I may see the waves of the Atlantic Ocean rolling towards the lengthy stretch of seashores and clusters of tiny umbrellas making claims within the sand 1,000 ft under.  

An aerial view of the central Ocean County shoreline wanting from Berkeley Township north into Seaside Park and Seaside Heights. Photograph courtesy of NJ Advance Media

To have a chicken’s eye view is to know precisely what brings guests to this place from as distant as Quebec, yr after yr. And whereas from up above, it’s simply seashore and ocean so far as the attention can see, you must get again on land and put your ft within the sand to get a really feel for the way every seashore city, and its distinct vibe, may sweep you off your ft. 

Whereas the flight I took that summer time day solely went as far south as Level Nice earlier than heading inland towards the airport, I can solely think about what we might have seen had we saved slowly making our approach down the coast. Boardwalks and lighthouses. Inlets bringing pleasure cruisers and fishermen in from the Atlantic. The lengthy bridge connecting Lengthy Seaside Island with the mainland and thriving wildlife preserves. And as we bought to essentially the most southern level, we’d spy Atlantic Metropolis’s famed boardwalk and sleepy stretches of Avalon and Sea Isle Metropolis, Wildwood’s splashy amusement rides and, lastly, Cape Could’s grand previous Victorian dames standing guard alongside its seashores.  

That’s the true great thing about the Jersey Shore and what brings individuals again time and time once more: the sheer range of its choices. Whether or not your vibe is funky hipster (assume Asbury Park), foodie (strive Cape Could) or household with younger children (get to Ocean Metropolis), the Shore has absolutely bought you lined.  

Morey’s Piers in Wildwood is a six-block beachfront amusement park that includes 100-plus rides and sights. Photograph courtesy of New Jersey Journey and Tourism

The Lure of the Jersey Shore 

“Each seashore has a unique persona,” stated Jeffrey Vasser, New Jersey Journey and Tourism government director. “That’s the fantastic thing about the Jersey Shore.” 

From Seaside’s honky-tonk bars and pier to Bay Head’s posh enclave, and all the pieces in between, it’s the selection of New Jersey’s seashores that has attracted individuals to the Shore for many years.  

“It’s a multigenerational factor,” stated Vasser, who spent his summers rising up as an Atlantic Metropolis lifeguard. “Lots of people who’re visiting now come as a result of their mother and father or grandparents introduced them, and so they have fond recollections of the Jersey Shore. Sometime, they’ll include their children and proceed the cycle.” 

Seaside Heights’ vitality is a quintessential expertise alongside New Jersey’s shoreline. Photograph by Christopher Smith

Though, as we speak, the Jersey Shore is kind of straightforward to get to — summer time weekend site visitors however — when European settlers started to reach, it was only a distant stretch of seashore that solely the “hearty pioneer varieties” would enterprise east to discover, in response to historian Rick Geffken. “It took a very long time for folk to acknowledge now we have this nice useful resource alongside the Atlantic Ocean that was for extra than simply fishing.”  

It wasn’t till early entrepreneurs put up resorts in Shore cities, like Lengthy Department and Atlantic Metropolis, and commenced touting the advantages of sea air that guests started to see the coast as a vacation spot. Amusement parks up and down the Shore additionally have been a draw within the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which introduced in vacationers by steamboat. The arrival of the auto and development of the Backyard State Parkway within the Fifties opened up entry to the coast to of us from throughout, Geffken stated.  

Now, guests come from all over the place — New York, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Quebec, to not point out from all throughout the state.  

Sandy Hook is surrounded by wealthy wildlife and navy historical past on the tip of the Jersey Shore. Photograph courtesy of NJ Advance Media

From the High  

Let’s hop again into that blimp in our imaginations for a minute to take a sluggish journey down the coast, beginning at its most northern level, to essentially respect simply how various the cities are alongside the Shore. 

Monmouth County has 16 ocean and bay seashores, every with their very own persona, stated Amanda Stone, director of tourism for Monmouth County. “You actually could make the holiday that you simply’re searching for right here,” she stated, whether or not you desire a quiet seashore or a little bit extra motion or leisure. “We’ve a little bit little bit of all the pieces.” 

Guests to Monmouth County’s seashores typically come from the tristate space — like northern New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania — which might be a few three-hour drive or journey on NJ Transit, in response to Stone. “We undoubtedly see individuals from throughout coming for a lot of causes, however the high one is households coming again to share their childhood experiences.”   

For those who’re searching for one thing a little bit extra on the energetic facet, Stone stated you’ll be able to’t beat Asbury Park, whose seashore and boardwalk is inside strolling distance to a vibrant downtown space. Beachgoers can come off the sand and sit down at close by eating places and bars, get in some retail remedy or hit up one of many metropolis’s artwork galleries. “You may get the downtown and seashore vibe all in the identical day,” she stated. 

Lengthy Department has an abundance of eating places and purchasing institutions close to its seashores. Photograph courtesy of Monmouth County Authorities

Lengthy Department additionally has eating places and purchasing shut by to its seashores on the newly expanded Pier Village. Belmar is a extra household oriented vacation spot with playgrounds on the seashore and a boardwalk with eating places.  

For a extra low-key expertise, Avon-by-the-Sea and Spring Lake provide “quiet and quaint” choices, and Manasquan has small, household pleasant actions, like seashore playgrounds and an arcade.  

“Final yr, individuals have been actually craving the outside and nature and recent air and the protection of going to the seashores,” stated Stone, including that total seashore income was up about 5% in 2020 over 2019.  

We requested Stone to level us within the course of a hidden gem for a customer who will get shut out of Sandy Hook or any of the county’s different public seashores, which stuffed up shortly on weekends final summer time. “Try the Bayshore seashores, just like the Highlands and Keyport,” she stated, including there are nice eating places as nicely. The Bayshore Waterfront Park is one other distinctive spot that affords a view of New York Metropolis from its seashore.  

On the high of Lengthy Seaside Island, Barnegat Mild is a ‘true nautical fishing city’ that includes the enduring lighthouse. Photograph courtesy of Getty Photographs

Welcome to LBI  

Lengthy Seaside Island is sort of a microcosm of the Jersey Shore, with six municipalities operating north to south alongside the 18 miles of this barrier island, and with just one entry level through a causeway connecting it to the mainland, in response to Lori Pepenella, CEO at Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce. “Every city has its personal particular person taste.” 

What does their vacationer demographic seem like? “Numerous it has to do with household patterns,” she stated. Within the early a part of the twentieth century, individuals with summer time properties would keep the complete eight weeks, and people homes stayed within the household for generations, even after Hurricane Sandy. “It was a ritual to them,” she stated. 

Beginning on the high of the island, Barnegat Mild is a “true nautical fishing city” with a museum highlighting the city’s lengthy ties to fishing and iconic lighthouse. With broad seashores, constitution boats and purchasing, there’s a lot for everybody to do. “You actually can really feel the heritage of the world,” Pepenella stated. 

Surf Metropolis is what you consider if you think about the everyday Jersey Shore seashore expertise, with mini golf, purchasing and eating places — and throw in some nice browsing seashores to remain busy. 

There’s extra household enjoyable to be present in Seaside Haven, residence to Fantasy Island Amusement Park, Thundering Surf Waterpark, stand-up paddleboard leases and charming, Victorian-style bed-and-breakfasts. 

“There’s loads of time to refill a day in the summertime,” she stated. Households can go to the bay and crab, lease bikes to discover city, take a surf lesson or simply laze the day away on the seashore. “You’ll be able to go from nautical and historic to household leisure facilities and all the pieces in between,” she stated.  

Stone Harbor is a sleepy, beachside city that shouldn’t be missed in Cape Could County. Photograph courtesy of NJ Advance Media

Extra than simply Atlantic Metropolis and Cape Could  

Earlier than World Struggle II, most of the southern Shore cities in Cape Could County, like Stone Harbor and Avalon, have been nonetheless simply small fishing villages, stated Diane Wieland, the county’s public data official. Then, like the remainder of the Jersey Shore, the proliferation of automobiles, a prepare line and the Backyard State Parkway gave extra individuals entry to the state’s seashores. “It allowed extra individuals to get away and benefit from the Shore,” she stated. 

Whereas guests to the county’s seashores have been historically from extra of the Philadelphia space, Wieland stated that Hurricane Sandy modified all that as extra individuals from the New York space made their approach down searching for seashores that hadn’t been destroyed within the storm.  

As we speak, the county’s inhabitants swells from just below 95,000 individuals in the course of the winter months to just about 700,000, and 47% of the dwellings in Cape Could County are thought of second or trip properties, in response to Wieland. In different phrases, summer time guests are an essential a part of the financial system — the county was the second highest income generator within the state in 2019 behind Atlantic County — and there are many issues to do. 

Not solely are there the standard Shore city actions of purchasing, artwork galleries and seashore enjoyable, however many guests are beginning to come for the county’s wineries, breweries and burgeoning meals scene. Willow Creek Vineyard in Cape Could affords charming cottages for lease surrounded by its winery, or the close by Southern Mansion is a boutique lodge that includes a five-minute stroll to the seashore. The Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor is a luxurious resort inside strolling distance to the seashore, and its Salt Spa is an alternative choice for visitors to unwind. 

For a extra low-key expertise, guests are likely to favor smaller cities resembling Manasquan due to its household pleasant vibe. Photograph courtesy of Monmouth County Authorities

Down the Shore All the pieces’s Alright 

Right here’s the factor in regards to the Jersey Shore: you actually can’t go fallacious. There’s a seashore city to go well with no matter you’re searching for, and the enjoyable half is that, simply if you assume you’ve seen all of it, you uncover one other gem within the sand.  

So, get on the market and discover the Shore. You by no means know what you’re going to seek out subsequent, and also you don’t even want a blimp to get there. 

A contract author with greater than 20 years of expertise in digital and print media, Amy Byrnes’ writing has appeared in The Washington Submit and Household Circle journal, amongst different publications.

This text initially appeared within the Summer time 2021 problem of Jersey’s Finest. Subscribe right here for in-depth entry to all the pieces that makes the Backyard State nice.


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