The first day of summer is a little more than a month away, and with the school year coming to a close, beach trips are on the horizon.
With warming weather and easing COVID restrictions, families may be looking for safe and distanced ways to get outside with children, and the Asbury Park Press, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, has them covered when it comes to New Jersey beaches.
Dozens of beaches line the Jersey Shore, but not all are great for families and energetic little ones who want more than a day on the sand. These five New Jersey beach towns have all you need for a great family day.
The barrier island of Long Beach Island is 18 miles long, so there are plenty of beaches from which to chose. But to be close to the action, turn right off the causeway and head south to Beach Haven, where there is always something happening – especially for families.
Thundering Surf Waterpark (300 Taylor Ave.) has water slides and a lazy river, Black Pearl Pirate Adventures (100 Northwest Ave.) offers interactive cruises, and Farias Surf and Sport (823 N Bay Ave.) rents bicycles, surfboards, boogie boards, and stand-up paddleboards by the hour.
If you’re heading to the beach, badges cost $10 (children 12 and younger are admitted free) and can be purchased on the beach or via the VIPLY app.
When it’s time to eat – or if you need souvenirs – head to the shops at Bay Village and Schooner Wharf, where Mom and Dad can sip craft beer at Ship Bottom Brewery (830 North Bay Ave.) while the kids play on the grass at the Taylor Avenue Waterfront.
Go: 609-492-0111, beachhaven-nj.gov.
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While many southern Jersey Shore beaches beckon families – the Wildwoods, Sea Isle, Cape May – none more so than Ocean City, with its boardwalk amusements, abundant Shore rentals, walkable downtown and family-friendly entertainment options.
It’s no wonder this city has won dozens of awards as a great destination for kids and their parents.
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The beachfront is 8 miles long and the surf is ideal for boogie boarding, bodysurfing or just jumping in the waves.
From the last week of June through Labor Day, lifeguards are stationed at regular intervals on the beach to protect swimmers of all sizes. Ocean City offers plenty of kid-approved dining options, and you can always find great pizza, ice cream and other treats (even vegan treats!) on its legendary boardwalk.
After sunning and swimming, the fun really gets started, as families will find favorite rides at two amusement parks, as well as mini-golf, gift shops, and arcades to help them create memories to last a lifetime.
Festivals take place throughout the season (be aware that COVID may alter the offerings this year), and the 1828 Ocean City Music Pier is legendary for bringing in world-known acts as well as offering daily concerts by the municipal orchestra and shows by Ocean City Pops.
Beach badges are required for everyone 12 and older through Sept. 6. They cost $25 seasonally. Weekly tags are $10 and are available at booths on the boardwalk and tag inspectors on the beach. Daily tags ($5) are available from inspectors on the beach.
Go: store.ocnj.us for beach information; oceancityvacation.com.
Point Pleasant Beach
This beachfront borough has long been a favorite of families seeking a fun day at the beach, thanks to attractions like Jenkinson’s Aquarium (300 Ocean Ave.) – make sure to visit during penguin-feeding hours – and an abundance of arcades, games of chance, rides and sweet shops.
There’s a ropes course that rewards climbers with a bird’s eye view of the ocean, a miniature golf course that winds through a pirate’s ship, candy shops with ice cream and fudge in dozens of flavors, and pizzerias serving family-sized pies.
Beach badges can be purchased at any beach gate; daily rates range from $3 to $12, with children younger than 5 admitted free.
Beach chairs, lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent ($10 to $15), and bathhouses are nearby ($3 to $10).
Go: 732-892-0600, jenkinsons.com.
With 2 miles of boardwalk, a sky ride soaring above the sand, a pier full of rides – including a 131-foot-tall Ferris wheel – and plenty of treats and sweets, Seaside Heights has enough family fun to fill a summer day.
Casino Pier Arcade (800 Ocean Terrace) has Ski-Ball and pinball games aplenty, and Breakwater Beach water park across the street is great for cooling off ($19.95 to $39.95, children younger than 2 admitted free of charge).
When hunger strikes, Maruca’s Tomato Pies (601 Ocean Terrace) is a favorite for pizza, and Lucky Leo’s Sweet Shop (217 Boardwalk) has rows of candy and fudge. For ice cream, stop at the iconic Kohr’s Frozen Custard: The Original for an orange cream cone.
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Need the beach? Badges can be purchased at beach gates; the daily rate is $9; children 11 and younger and active and retired military personnel are admitted free of charge.
Go: 732-793-9100, seaside-heightsnj.org.
The Wildwoods are jam-packed with amusements, making it a kid’s paradise.
To start, Morey’s Piers – three piers full of rides, including a water park – has been providing thrills since 1969 (3501 Boardwalk, Wildwood).
Have a kid who loves to skate? Take them to the Albert I. Allen Memorial Park, which includes a skate park and hockey rink (2200 Delaware Ave., North Wildwood).
Gamers in the family? Bobby Dee’s Arcade on the boardwalk should keep them occupied (3600 Boardwalk, Wildwood). Plus, there’s no shortage of mini-golf courses and go-kart racing.
The beach is free – no tags required.
Go: 800-992-9732, wildwoodsnj.com.