Head to the Jersey Shore for the beaches, stay for the music and good times

Long Branch Beach retro artwork. Photo. Robyn Sunderland

New York City is surrounded by 520 miles of coastline (longer than Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco combined!), but that doesn’t make hunting down your go-to beach towns for a swim or short-stay any easier.

While I can highly recommend day trips to Robert Moses, Jones Beach, Jacobs Riis and Fort Tilden, or staying for a week out in gorgeous Montauk if the budget permits (read AWNY’s handy AUS-to-local-beach comparison guide here) — when the summer temps rise and I’m looking for some fresh sea air and a place to cool off — my favorite beach destination is often not in New York at all, it’s the Jersey Shore.

Golden Hour in Asbury Park. Photo. Robyn Sunderland

My go-to’s on the Shore often depend on the time I have available, the mode of transport I’m in the mood for, and budget. If a change is as good as a holiday, who doesn’t love to have options? Whether it’s hopping on the Seastreak Ferry at the Financial District terminal for a day of swimming and bike riding at Sandy Hook (a cold drink from the bar on the ferry ride home is perfection), taking NJ Transit from Penn Station to Asbury Park/Ocean Grove, driving from Brooklyn across the iconic and often misspelled Verrazzano Bridge to take the Garden State Parkway for a stay in Long Branch or further down to Long Beach Island (a.k.a. mini-golf heaven), it’s all good!

Beach Rentals at Pier Village, Long Branch. Photo. Robyn Sunderland
Future fan at The Stone Pony.
Photo. Robyn Sunderland

My first visit to the Shore was in the back of a friend’s Honda Civic coupe almost 20 years ago on a date (which must have gone well because she’s now my wife), and I can still recall the jokes, hotdog shacks, and fun times we had making our way to Asbury Park’s legendary music venue, The Stone Pony. I don’t recall who was on the bill that night (wife-to-be was music editor at TimeOut NY back then and we saw a LOT of bands), but I can vividly remember buying a round of beers and where we stood to watch. The venue is still rocking and has been a fixture on the landscape since 1974 — it’s well known for launching the careers of New Jersey-born rock stars Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.

Robyn and her wife Elisabeth Vincentelli at Ocean Grove. Photo. Robyn Sunderland

At all the beaches I’ve visited between Long Branch and Long Beach Island, lifeguards, beach umbrella and chair rentals, restrooms, outdoor showers and snack stations are plenty, which cuts down on carting gear or coolers. Unlike our beaches back home in Australia, you’ll need to purchase a pass to access the golden sands here, which you can either buy from the entrance to the beach or from this friendly beach pass app.

Line for DAYS Ice cream, Ocean Grove. Photo. Robyn Sunderland

After you’ve boogie-boarded yourself silly, splashed around in the healthy sized waves or read a good book, you’ll be ready to dry off and have some fun exploring the towns dotted along the coastline. Ocean Grove’s streets are lined with beautiful Victorian homes, miles of boardwalk connect the adjoining towns, there’s a fun pinball arcade in Asbury Park (for those rainy days), a carousel in Long Branch, and bicycle and motorized scooter rentals are popping up everywhere.

Victorian homes in Ocean Grove. Photo. Robyn Sunderland
Carousel in Long Branch. Photo. Robyn Sunderland

High- and low-end restaurants are in good supply with something to suit everyone’s tastebuds. Here are some recommendations to get you started: Days Ice Cream in Ocean Grove (Rum n’ Raisin or Moose Tracks are personal favs), for pizza and cocktails there’s Porta in Asbury Park (try their to-die-for Carbonara Pizza and mountainous Three Trees salad), or try Talula’s on Cookman Avenue (the farm salad is great!). Stop by Long Branch’s Playa Bowls or Hummus Republic at Pier Village for healthy treats.

Healthy snacks, Pier Village in Long Branch. Photo. Robyn Sunderland

If hotdogs are your bag, try Max’s Bar & Grill, also in Long Branch — it was founded in 1928 and their grilled footlongs are a thing of local legend. This photo of a photo of Bruce Springsteen sitting at the counter is proof he agrees! 😉

Bruce Springsteen a.k.a. ”The Boss” with a classic footlong at Max’s Bar & Grill in Long Branch.

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Author: Robyn Sunderland

Robyn moved to New York over twenty years ago and has been an AWNY volunteer since 2019. She has worked in politics, diplomacy, strategic marketing and theatrical general management. She is currently a theatrical booking and promotions manager, and hails from Melbourne (by way of rural Victoria). Find her on Instagram: @rjsunders

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