Forget what you may have seen on the popular MTV series, “Jersey Shore.” There are two wonderful family beaches on the real Jersey Shore in New Jersey where my family spent many a summer vacation. Whether you like the quiet of Island Beach State Park, the lively boardwalk scene at Seaside Heights, or would enjoy a combination of the two, the Jersey shoreline along the Atlantic is a great destination for a beach vacation. And despite the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the Shore is looking really good again.
Quiet Island Beach State Park
Island Beach State Park, located on the southern tip of the central shore area, between Seaside Park and Barnegat Inlet, is a 9-mile stretch of beach and one of the only areas of the New Jersey shore that remains mostly untouched by developers. The park is separated into three sections: the northern and southern parts are “natural areas” and the central part is the recreation area. A bird and wildlife sanctuary, as well as a great place for fishing (striped bass and bluefish), Island Beach State Park is perfect for the outdoor, nature-loving family.
Portions of the beach are designated for surfing, sail boarding and scuba diving, and there are eight self-guided nature trails, each under a mile in length and toddler friendly. Other activities include canoeing, horseback riding, a five-mile bike path, and a bird blind (a camouflaged bird-watching area) to observe the osprey.
Lifeguards watch over swimmers daily from early to dusk, and the beach’s amenities include modern bathhouses (with bathrooms and changing areas), outdoor showers and handicapped ramps on the beach. Keep in mind that while the beach is free, parking is not and during the summer season, expect to pay up to $10 per car, although biking to the beach is free. Also, be sure to bring a picnic, because Island Beach has no restaurants. This beach remains one of the most unspoiled, quiet, and secluded beaches for a restful vacation or day trip.
Lively Seaside Heights
If you want a little more action, Seaside Heights, a 10-minute drive north of Island Beach, provides countless attractions and plenty of noise. The fun-filled boardwalk, which has its width recently increased by 45 feet, offers a variety of rides and games sure to entertain kids of all ages. For the adventurous, a water park has twisting waterslides that travel at fast speeds, and there is a soft play area designed especially for toddlers.
The beach itself is always filled with visitors who come to catch the best surfing waves in New Jersey and families who come to play in the sun. Beach fees are $5 per person daily, though kids under 12 are free. Lifeguards are on duty daily from 9am until 5pm.
In Seaside, there are many dining options for families, from boardwalk fare to sit-down restaurants. Bobber’s Family Restaurant at 906 Boulevard (732/830-2086) is a favorite.
Every Thursday in July and August, Seaside Heights holds Family Fun Days in front of the Kearney Avenue Information Booth. From 1pm-3pm, children can participate in an arts and crafts program with Jenkinson’s Aquarium. On Wednesday nights there is a fireworks display at 9:30pm, and free kids’ movies are shown at the Hiering Avenue Ocean Front Stage on Thursday and Sundays in July and August.
Trip Planning Details for a Jersey Shore Vacation Beach Vacation
From either beach, if you decide to stay the night (and try the other one), the Seaside Colony Motel (732/830-2113) and the Sunburst Motel (732/793-2889) are frequently recommended, and the Charlroy Motel (732/793-0712) offers a family suite, which can accommodate seven or more people with two bedrooms, two full-bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchenette. The Reeds at Stone Harbor which opened in July of 2013 is said to be very nice . This luxury boutique hotel offers breathtaking seaside views and sunsets on the bay. No matter where you stay, you should also get beach passes to avoid the lines. Allow enough time to check out the latest along the shore. Among the many new restaurants, Chef Lou Smith of FireFly fame in Pt. Pleasant, will open Blend on Main this spring in Manasquan. Since a lot of piers were damaged by Sandy, a new amusement park, Casino Pier, is set to open in mid April, 2014.
Photos Courtesy of www.davestravelcorner.com and preptalk.hermits.com.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.