22 Best Jersey Shore Towns: Beaches, Boardwalks, Boutique Shops & More

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Looking to explore some of the best Jersey Shore towns?

Stretching approximately 130 miles, the Jersey Shore encompasses numerous towns and beach communities that draw in visitors from near and far.

Whether you’re looking to stroll along the iconic boardwalks of Seaside Heights, indulge in delectable seafood in Cape May, or enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of Sea Isle City, there’s something for everyone. 

If you’re the outdoorsy type, there are beautiful beaches, inviting sunbathers, surfers, and sandcastle enthusiasts to bask in the sun and embrace the refreshing ocean breeze. 

Lots of water activities can also be enjoyed as well- from swimming and kayaking to jet skiing and fishing.

Beyond the beaches, many of these towns boast a vibrant atmosphere, with charming boutiques, entertainment venues, historical landmarks, and museums- perfect if you want to take a break from your outside adventures.

So pack your sunscreen, grab your flip-flops, and get ready to discover what these amazing towns have to offer.

For those who love nature and the outdoors, read our guide to NJ state parks.

Or if you want to explore other towns in NJ, check our guides to Cherry Hill and Princeton.

Best Towns on the Jersey Shore

To make your journey even more delightful, we’ve arranged these towns from north to south, allowing for seamless travel planning. 

Our goal is to help you navigate and explore these diverse and picturesque coastal gems — especially if you don’t want to miss any of their attractions.

Highlands

The Highlands has the geographic claim to fame of being the first New Jersey shore town, terming itself “Where the Jersey Shore Begins,” though it does technically look out at Sandy Hook Bay.

This northern Jersey Shore town features plenty of stunning visual beauty, including the bay but also the New York City skyline to the north, a unique view for this town alone due to its north-facing beaches.

If you do make it to The Highlands, make sure you check out the Twin Lights Historic Site (2 LightHouse Road), a historical museum as well as an active lighthouse overlooking Sandy Hook.

Sea Bright

Located near the northern peak of New Jersey as it crests away from New York City, Sea Bright is often considered the state’s first oceanfront town.

With less than 1,500 local residents, Sea Bright is quaint and quiet, a welcome respite for many local New Yorkers.

If you do try out Sea Bright, make sure you try Gracie and the Dudes Ice Cream (1062 Ocean Ave N), with local favorite flavors such as Espresso and Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookie.

Asbury Park

Once a shining beacon of the late 1800s Gilded Age and later a shiny hub for the Roaring Twenties, Asbury Park has found a way to hold onto that historic original appeal and infuse it with a modern charm.

You can find hints of the special past at places like the Paramount Theater (1300 Ocean Ave N), the Casino Building (700 Ocean Ave N), and the Convention Hall (1300 Ocean Ave N), historic monuments that will guide visitors through their treasured shared history.

The boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey

Likewise, there are exciting hot spots still in operation, none more prominent than The Stone Pony (913 Ocean Ave N), a beloved local bar with a massive beachfront live-music venue that still hosts some of the biggest musicians in the world.

Read our Asbury Park guide for more things to do in the area.

Beautiful Asbury Park Beach in New Jersey

Bradley Beach

When you have had enough of the non-stop lights and sounds of Asbury Park, head a couple of blocks south and spend a day at Bradley Beach.

Everything about Bradley Beach is a welcoming change of pace from the louder neighboring towns, including its non-commercial boardwalk, its spacious restaurants, and its minimal population of around 5,000 people.

One of Bradley Beach’s biggest appeals is its dining, including brunch at The Buttered Biscuit (700 Main Street), dinner at Vic’s Italian Restaurant (60 Main Street), and dessert at Del Ponte’s Bakery (600 Main Street).

Belmar

Immediately south of Asbury Park, Belmar has a slightly more quiet atmosphere with all of the associated charm.

Belmar is home to many beloved local restaurants, including Beach Haus Brewery (801 Main Street) and Boathouse Bar & Grill (1309 Main Street).

While there might not be as much nightlife as in Asbury Park, D’Jais (1801 Ocean Ave) is a hotspot bar and club featuring music and dancing until the early morning.

Check out all the best things to do in Belmar for more fun ideas.

Marina at sunset in Belmar New Jersey

Spring Lake

Spring Lake is a relatively quiet town nestled immediately between Asbury Park and Point Pleasant, featuring the largest non-commercial boardwalk at the Jersey Shore.

While there are many restaurants and shops to adore at Spring Lake, the biggest attraction is the Spring Lake Theater (300 Madison Ave), a historic theater that still puts on popular Broadway-level productions throughout the summer and celebrated its 100th year of operation in 2023.

Manasquan

Manasquan is the quaint sister city to Point Pleasant, located immediately on the other side of the Manasquan River.

With lakes, creeks, and rivers flowing around and through the town, Manasquan feels like the Riviera of the Jersey Shore area.

The historic Algonquin Arts Theater (60 Abe Voorhees Drive) hosts excellent artistic performances, while Lubrano’s Trattoria (2439 NJ-34 South) is one of the most beloved fine-dining experiences in the area.

Boats in the Manasquan Inlet, in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey

Point Pleasant

Equal parts scenic and energetic, Point Pleasant is an excellent option for both relaxation and late-night partying.

Jenkinson’s Boardwalk (300 Ocean Ave N) is the flagship event space of Point Pleasant, a massive amusement park featuring rides, go-karts, an arcade, and mini-golf.

There is also Riverfront Park, a beautiful scenic park right along the Manasquan River.

We curated a comprehensive list of fun things to do in Point Pleasant that you might want to check out.

People and buildings on the beach in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey

Lavallette

The town is named after U.S. Navy Admiral Elie. A. F. LaVallette, a distinguished member of the US Navy in multiple wars, most notably being his service at the Battle of Lake Champlain in the War of 1812.

This quiet beach town has honored and preserved the history of Lavallette, not just in its name but also in its stature.

The most popular attraction at Lavallette is, fittingly, the old-school ice cream store known as The Music Man Singing Ice Cream Shoppe (2305 Grand Central Ave), where employees serve ice cream while also performing old musical show tunes.

Seaside Heights

While this shore town’s biggest claim to fame may be the popular reality TV show Jersey Shore, there is so much more hidden in this loud and proud town.

Seaside Heights is home to a lively boardwalk that lives up to the notorious hype of the TV show.

Check out bars and clubs like JR’s Ocean Bar & Grill (601 Boardwalk) and Captain Hooks Bar (1320 Boulevard) that stay open until the early morning.

There is also plenty of charm in Seaside Heights, with great small-town restaurants and historical museums that savor the long history of life by the Seaside.

Looking for more activities in this area? Check our full list of things to do in Seaside Heights.

Beach and classic pier at Seaside Heights New Jersey

Barnegat Light

Barnegat Light is the beacon at the northernmost point of Long Beach Island, hence the lighthouse of the same name that is widely considered to be New Jersey’s most famous lighthouse.

There is a refreshing assortment of things to do in Barnegat Light outside of visiting the historic attraction, including the incredibly-popular old-school diner Mustache Bill’s (W 8th Street).

You should also dedicate at least an hour or two to check out Viking Village (1801 Bayview Ave), an old fishing dock that has since been transformed into a delightful shopping strip with the look and feel of the original docking days. 

Barnegat Lighthouse at sunset

Surf City

Where Beach Haven is the commercial hotspot of Long Beach Island, Surf City is the laid-back old-school sister town.

Check out one of the local art galleries like M.T. Burton (1819 Long Beach Boulevard) and Firefly (15 Long Beach Boulevard), or go for a round of mini golf at Surf City Island Golf.

The quintessential Surf City attraction, though, is Surf City 5&10 (411 Long Beach Boulevard), an authentic department store that has been owned by three generations of the same family since 1952.

View of the beach at Surf City in LBI

Beach Haven

In terms of Long Beach Island, Beach Haven is the town for high-thrill adventure and dangerously-addictive shopping sprees.

With the island’s most prominent and active boardwalk, Beach Haven is home to the beloved Fantasy Island Amusement Park (750 N Bay Ave), as well as the New Jersey Maritime Museum (528 Dock Road).

If you are hungry, make sure you stop at the famous Chicken or the Egg (207 N Bay Ave) for classic American eats.

Brigantine

Brigantine is partially known for its specific geography: being immediately north of Atlantic City and being essentially the closest beach to Philadelphia.

There is so much more to Brigantine than the geography, though, most of all its small-town charm and quaint atmosphere.

Make sure you check out the Brigantine Farmers Market when you are in town, a wonderful local tradition filled with fresh produce, unique local vendors, and plenty of activities for the kids.

Atlantic City

Atlantic City is the Jersey Shore’s most famous city, at one point being the most popular casino town in all of America.

This beach town has gone through many evolutions since its original founding in 1854, serving as the summer retreat of the Jersey Shore region to tourists from New York and Philadelphia upon completion of the Camden-Atlantic rail line that connected the town to both major cities.

In the 1920s, Atlantic City hit its first heyday as a home to theatrical productions from Broadway and then became an infamous nightlife destination in the 1930s and 1940s.

After several decades of inactivity, Atlantic City has re-emerged as a combination of family-friendly activities and popular casino resorts such as Borgata (1 Borgata Way) and Hard Rock (1000 Boardwalk).

More activities and places to see in our guide to the best things to do in Atlantic City.

Steel Pier at Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Margate

Often considered the quiet southern off-shoot of Atlantic City, Margate has much more to offer than that distinction alone.

The beaches are notably clean and quiet, as much of the commotion and attention is paid to Atlantic City.

One of Margate’s biggest draws is its fine dining, the most famous being Steve & Cookie’s By the Bay (9700 Amherst Ave), a live jazz bar and restaurant featuring Italian dishes.

The most beloved attraction in Margate is, without a doubt, a six-story metal elephant known as Lucy.

Lucy the Elephant is an officially-designated National Historical Landmark.

First built in 1881 during the first years of rapid shore-town development, Lucy still serves as a historic beacon to tourists every summer.

Ocean City

The shore town of Ocean City calls itself “America’s Greatest Family Resort,” which may be an ambitious claim but it works hard to live up to that statement.

A dry town, Ocean City frames itself as an incredibly family-friendly place, with a bustling boardwalk filled with kid-centered activities such as mini-golf and two large amusement parks.

The large town boasts an impressive local population of over 11,000 people, with a passionate identity of cleanliness, order, and family fun.

There are countless activities held on the boardwalk, down West Avenue, and at Ocean City Music Pier (825 Boardwalk).

One of the most unique and beloved events — and a telling example of the Ocean City identity — is the Miss Crustacean Pageant, in which hermit crabs are dressed in tiny outfits and paraded down the boardwalk in tiny parade floats.

Red white and Blue flip flops on the sand

Sea Isle City

A fifth of the population of Ocean City and only several miles south, Sea Isle provides a smaller and more quiet atmosphere for locals and tourists alike.

There is no bustling boardwalk, but instead, a promenade featuring an arcade, an outdoor movie theater, some ice cream shops, and several other stores and restaurants.

While there are around sixty blocks of quiet residential housing, there is also a paradoxically-happening downtown strip with bars and clubs that stay open until the early morning.

This “paradox” can be explained by the simple fact that Ocean City is a dry town and Sea Isle is not, and so the thousands of tourists one town up often come down for the night-time festivities.

Read next: Things to do in Sea Isle City.

A heart and SIC on a beach railing in Sea Isle City New Jersey

Avalon

Avalon is immediately below Sea Isle, offering a quieter, more residential beach-town experience for locals and tourists.

Enjoy the rich history of Avalon and the Jersey Shore as a whole at the Avalon History Center (215 39th Street), and enjoy a round of golf at Pirate Island Mini Golf (2738 Dune Drive).

As with many shore towns, the biggest pastime in Avalon is fishing.

The most popular fishing experience is the Miss Avalon Fishing Charter, which provides opportunities for fishing as well as themed excursions for leisure and entertainment.

Stone Harbor

Stone Harbor provides a picturesque southern horn that blends into Seven Mile Point and Hereford Inlet, which is the waterway between Stone Harbor and Wildwood.

One of the biggest attractions in Stone Harbor is Stone Harbor Point, the southernmost end of Stone Harbor that provides a stunning panoramic view of Hereford Inlet, the Great Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Almost entirely residential, Stone Harbor is a quiet and beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of many other shore towns, notably Wildwood to the south and Sea Isle City to the north.

Many of the main attractions in Stone Harbor are natural lands, such as the Wetlands and Seven Mile Beach, but there are also several museums and shops to peruse while you’re in town.

Wildwood

Wildwood lives up to the “wild” in its name, with one of the loudest and most energetic boardwalks on the Jersey Shore.

This area is home to countless restaurants, ice cream shops, and activity centers like mini-golf and escape rooms.

The pinnacle of the Wildwood boardwalk is Morey’s Pier (3501 Boardwalk), featuring both a large amusement park and two separate water parks.

For a complete list of the awesome attractions and activities in Wildwood, read this guide.

Aerial city view from the seaside in Wildwood New Jersey

Cape May

In any list of the best Jersey Shore beach towns, Cape May is a required item.

Cape May is the beloved southern endpoint of the Jersey Shore, a must-see destination for both its natural beauty and incredible history.

Two Native American Lenni Lenape tribes called Cape May their summer homes for centuries, the Tuckahoes in the north along the Tuckahoe River and the Kechemehces, who resided in the southern Cape May Point.

In 1692, after nearly 70 years of informal settlement, Cape May County was officially created and by 1726, there were well over 600 people residing in the town permanently.

Cape May is by far the oldest Jersey Shore town, and celebrates its rich history with many notable museums including the Museum of Cape May, the Colonial House Museum, and the Cape May Lighthouse, among many others.

In addition to the treasured history, there is also plenty of adventure in the present, including the National Golf Club (834 Florence Ave), the Cape May Stage (405 Lafayette Street), and the Cape May Promenade.

Check out our collection of things to do in Cape May.

And don’t skip this destination after Labor Day; Cape May is one of our favorite fall getaways in NJ!

The Cape May Lighthouse from 1859 stands at the southernmost tip of New Jersey in the charming little resort of Cape May Point

Final Thoughts

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to the best Jersey Shore towns and that it has ignited your wanderlust for a sun-soaked adventure along the coast. 

If you have any favorite spots or additional recommendations, we would love to hear from you in the comments below. 

Here’s our map of NJ Shore towns for easy reference.

New Jersey Travel Guides

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