From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
The Jersey Shore: it’s way more than a so-so reality show and a summertime destination for New Yorkers. Whether you’ve called it home for a lifetime or are just getting familiar, here are our favorite things to see, do, and experience all along the Jersey Shore.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
As beautiful as the white sand beaches and undulating dunes are, there are all sorts of outdoor recreational areas within an easy reach of the Jersey Shore. Here are some of the best state and national parks and preserves in the Jersey Shore, NJ area.
Its name may call to mind a shaking block of cheddar, but the reality is much better (and less stinky): Cheesequake State Park occupies a unique transitional zone between two very different ecosystems, allowing visitors to wander from salt and freshwater marshes to white cedar swamps, hardwood forests and more. With five designated trails set aside for hikers, runners, and mountain bikers, this spot is a great pick for those looking to get outside and stretch their legs in a diverse and ever-changing landscape.
A one-of-a-kind barrier island tucked just south of Seaside Park, Island Beach State Park offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy not just one, but two incredible waterfronts: the seemingly endless Atlantic Ocean and, on the west side, Barnegat Bay. Enjoy sunrise on one and sunset on the other, and during the hours in between, splash and play in the waves or sit back and get some much-needed rays of sun.
Technically over the border in Pennsylvania, Neshaminy State Park is still less than an hour and a half away from Atlantic City, encompassing more than 300 acres of forested countryside along the Delaware. Taking its name from a creek that flows into the river within its boundaries, this park is popular for boating and picnicking and also includes a swimming pool and children’s spray park.
Preserving more than 2,000 acres of historically significant New Jersey countryside, Parvin State Park has seen a lot in its time. Once a camp for displaced Japanese Americans and POWs as well as home to the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, this park is popular amongst hikers and bikers as well as those looking to get out on the water. Parvin Lake offers all kinds of opportunities for swimming, boating, and even fishing, and the area is known for its enormous diversity of birds!
You may be miles away from the nearest mountain range, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some incredible hiking on the Jersey Shore and in the nearby forests. Here are some of the best hiking trails for those looking to get their boots on the ground in this area.
Cape May is a must see for anyone on the Jersey Shore, particularly those toward the south end, and the Cape May Point Trail is a great way to get familiar with the park. The loop runs just less than two miles altogether and sees almost nothing in the way of elevation gain, making it a relaxed amble along both lake and seashore, and featuring many of the historical attractions that make this area so special.
A loop running about two and a half miles outside of the Toms River community, Cattus Island Butterfly Bogs Trail is one of the best-loved outdoor options in the area, featuring many four- and five-star ratings. Tucked into Cattus Island County Park, this trail is known for its beautiful wildflowers (hence the butterflies) and the unique, marshy landscape that characterizes this part of New Jersey. It’s an easy one, too!
Near the small town of Neptune, the Cedar, River’s Edge, Hidden Creep and Pine Hills Loop Trail network offers hikers the opportunity to meander a total of just over four miles, and sees a little more than 230 feet in elevation gain along that time. As its name suggests, this trek is known for its beautiful woodland views, featuring a creek and a few elevated wooden walkways through the low-lying forest. Dogs are also welcome, but must be kept on-leash at all times.
A four-mile loop tucked into the woods near Cream Ridge, New Jersey, Doctor’s Creek and Old Forge Trail is a good venture for those looking for a moderately difficult challenge that takes them away from the oceanside vistas of the shore and into the dense forests that characterize central New Jersey. Seeing about 350 feet in elevation gain along the way, this trail offers some fun hills for you to break a sweat on, but nothing that will leave you feeling overwhelmed and over it.
As its name suggests, the Sandy Hook Multi-Use Trail is a favorite by outdoor goers of many stripes in the Jersey Shore area, offering more than eight total miles of waterside views, beautiful wildflowers, and enough paved portions to make it wheelchair, stroller, and bicycle friendly. Seeing negligible elevation gain, this trail is also a good one for bringing the family along to get used to the idea of hiking, and there are many good fishing spots along the way as well if you want to bring your reel!
From must-have Jersey classics like seafood and Italian to Mexican, Indian, and other cuisines, there are all sorts of incredible eateries up and down the Jersey shore. Here are some to add to your itinerary.
A name synonymous with seafood, Rooney’s Oceanfront Restaurant has been operating for more than two decades, and has always been known for its incredible eats paired with unforgettable views. With a menu full of fresh offerings spearheaded by a team of dedicated chefs, this spot is one of the best restaurants anywhere on the Jersey Shore, not just in the city of Long Branch.
A New-York-style Italian joint nestled into the community of Bradley Beach, Mangiare Tu is considered by some to be one of the best-kept secrets on the Jersey Shore… and considered by just about everyone who visits to be one of the best places to eat in the entire state. With offerings ranging from aged steaks to a variety of shellfish to classics like chicken parmesan, there’s something here for everybody, including fantastic hand-mixed cocktails and to-die-for desserts.
Part restaurant, part entertainment venue, Kaya’s Kitchen is a standout in the Jersey Shore crowd: it specifically caters to the plant-based set, offering vegetarian and vegan fare that’s comforting and satisfying enough to please even the most dedicated carnivore. With locations in Belmar, Asbury Park, and also Princeton, each Kaya’s Kitchen features its own bespoke menu, but you can always count on delicious and fresh eats served up with a smile!
Asbury Park is a far cry from the Mexican border, but you can still enjoy some authentic eats from our neighbors to the south in town. Barrio Costero is known up and down the shore as a gathering place perfect for those in the mood for some spice, which is implied by its name, which literally translates to “coastal neighborhood.” Along with favorites ranging from nachos and tamales to tacos and more, this spot is known for its delicious cocktails, many of which are — of course — tequila-based.
A beloved stop for Indian cuisine located in Toms River, Aamantran is known for its broad, yet curated, menu of eastern delights ranging from vindaloo to tikka dishes to aloo gobi and more, not to mention the excellent samosas available as an appetizer and dosas to accompany your meal. Whether you order from the a la carte menu or take advantage of the lunch buffet, you definitely won’t leave hungry!
Once you’ve put your feet in the sand (or dirt, as it were) and enjoyed some delicious pasta and pizza, there are still so many more things to see, do, and experience all along the Jersey Shore. Here are some must-visits.
While wholesomeness might not be the very first thing that comes to mind when you think the words Jersey Shore, there are plenty of fun things to do with the kiddos! Here are some options.
Boats launched from Cape May and other coastal communities offer families the opportunity to get a gander at the local wildlife, including both whales and dolphins. There are many different tour boats to choose from, each covering their own unique section of the Atlantic and offering their own spin on this once-in-a-lifetime local venture.
Known as the oldest theme park in Atlantic City, Steel Pier is the perfect place to spend a day in town with the kids… before you leave them with the sitter and settle in for some adult nighttime fun. With rides ranging from the classic carousel to more thrilling ventures like the Freedom Flyer, this is a can’t-miss opportunity for family fun and, of course, some greasy-but-delicious fair food.
Nightlife on the Jersey Shore means many different things, but no matter what you’re into, you’re not going to be bored! Here are some of the best things to do once daytime is done all along the Jersey Shoreline.
Even folks who’ve never even been to Jersey know of Atlantic City’s legendary nightlife scene. Whether you’re looking to gamble, drink, be entertained, or some indulgent combination of all three, you’ll find plenty to hold your interest in this, the closest thing to Las Vegas east of the Mississippi River.
Looking for a different kind of after-dark to-do? The Harold E. Taylor Observatory, located in the small town of Galloway, New Jersey (just a few miles west of Atlantic City), offers the public a unique opportunity to enjoy a closer look at the heavens above. Named after the applied physics professor who constructed it, this observatory was dormant for decades before its main telescope was recently refurbished.
While you can take out a second mortgage to enjoy yourself out on the town on the Jersey Shore, you don’t have to. Here are some of our favorite low-cost options to consider.
Since the 19th century, the Asbury Park Boardwalk has stood as a bastion of local color, brightness, and family fun, offering delicious restaurants, fun local shops, and all sorts of other things to get into. Visit this historical landmark (but take heart: it’s been restored!) and meander and people-watch to your heart’s content. Although you’re certainly likely to find something you want to spend money on, it’s possible to get away with the whole trip completely free!
We can think of few better ways to while away a weekend afternoon than by meandering around a farmers market. The Point Pleasant Beach Farmers Market is one of the best-loved on the shore, offering not just fresh, local produce but also premade food items, local arts and crafts, and a festive community atmosphere unrivaled by any other regular event.
If even “cheap” is too expensive right now, take heart: there are some wonderful free things to do on the Jersey Shore as well. Here are a few of our favorite options.
Originally put into operation all the way back in 1896, the Sea Girt Lighthouse beacon could be seen from 15 miles away at sea, and helped sailors find the true course home. Today, the lighthouse is a piece of living history and also a gathering space for local nonprofit organizations and community groups, and is open and free for the public to visit.
Hey, it’s the shore — so when in doubt, beach it out! With more than 140 miles of coastline, the Jersey Shore is known for, well, its shores, many of which are public beaches that are free and open to the public. While each beach is slightly different and known for its specific characteristics, each offers the opportunity to splash in the waves and enjoy the sunshine, and it’s hard to do better than that without paying!
There’s no better place than the Jersey Shore to enjoy some resting, relaxation and beautifying. Here are the best day spas and salons around, whether you’re looking for a massage, facial, or new ‘do.
Located in the seaside town of Surf City, Spa Beach House, as its name suggests, is a unique oasis tucked into a beautiful waterfront setting, offering you the healing power of natural salt air as well as professional therapeutic touch and skin care. Along with massage in a wide range of modalities and skin care treatments, this day spa also offers salon services such as haircare, lash extensions, professional makeup and waxing.
If you find yourself on the southern tip of the shore and in need of a little R&R, be sure to visit Cape May Day Spa, a charming location that offers a full range of services from facials to body treatments to hand and foot nail care. It’s all done in a relaxing and indulgent atmosphere that will leave you looking and feeling wonderful — and ready to tackle the rest of what the shore has to offer.
Working out is about so much more than ensuring you have a “beach body.” It’s about how those sweat sessions can improve your mental and physical health. Here are the best gyms and yoga studios on the Jersey Shore for keeping up with your self care.
Tucked into the town of Manasquan, JSA Gym is known as one of the best on the shore in no small part thanks to its understanding that fitness is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Offering a full range of personal training and fitness class options, including CrossFit, as well as the equipment and motivation you need to get the work done, this place isn’t just a gym: it’s a community.
Yoga? Awesome. Yoga on the beach? Even awesomer. NJ Beach Yoga offers just that: a diversity of approachable yet challenging classes that, in many cases, are held right on the sand for the whole family to enjoy. This community studio also offers yoga parties and personal training for those looking to kick it up a notch. Get started on your own yoga journey today!
While the Jersey Shore itself is full of fun opportunities, there are also some incredible day trips available within a very achievable driving day. Here are some of our faves!
New York CIty is great and all, but it’s Philadelphia that holds the title of first U.S. capital — not to mention the incredible diversity of cultural attractions and good eats available in town. Grab a cheesesteak and wave hello to the liberty bell, all with the knowledge that you could easily be home in time for dinner if you wanted to.
They don’t call it “The City” for nothing. A lodestar among American communities, New York City is almost its own dimension… and luckily for those on the Jersey Shore, it’s easy to access without having to commit to staying for weeks, months, or years in its expensive, overcrowded, and hard-to-live-in streets. Enjoy your day trip and be done with it! Check out our Brooklyn guide before you go!
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Jersey Shore that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Jersey Shore? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.