Founded in 1620, Cape May – the only place in the state where the sun both rises and sets over the water – is on the state's southern tip and is the country's oldest seashore resort. Its sweeping beaches get crowded in summer, but the stunning Victorian architecture is attractive year-round.
Perhaps the most famous and revered feature of New Jersey is its sparkling shore, stretching from Sandy Hook to Cape May and studded with resort towns from tacky to classy (www.visitthejerseyshore.com). You'll find as many mothers pushing strollers as throngs proudly clutching souvenir beer bongs.
Sandy Hook & Around
At the northernmost tip of the Jersey Shore is the Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area, a 7-mile-long sandy barrier beach at the entrance to New York Harbor. You can see the city skyline from your beach blanket on clear days, which only heightens the sense of pleasure and feeling of dislocation.
Bradley Beach to Spring Lake
Bradley Beach has row after row of adorable summer cottages and a beautiful stretch of shore. Belmar's beach is equally inviting and has a boardwalk with a few food shacks and a handful of restaurants and busy bars on the oceanfront road. The New Jersey Sandcastle Contest is held here in mid-July.
Ocean City & The Wildwoods
South of Atlantic City, Ocean City is an old-fashioned family holiday spot, home to dune-swept beaches and a number of child- centric arcades and themed playlands along its lively boardwalk. Motels are plentiful, relatively cheap and old-fashioned, as are the myriad crab shacks and seafood joints.
Long Branch, Asbury Park & Ocean Grove
Sanitized and slightly generic compared to other shore locations, Long Branch is the first major beach town south of the Highlands. A mall-like food-and-shopping complex by the ocean packs 'em in for every- thing from Greek dinners to swimwear shopping.
Locals call this region the Pinelands – and like to carry on the lore about the one million acres of pine forest being home to a mythical beast known as the 'Jersey Devil.' Containing several state parks and forests, the area is a haven for bird-watchers, hikers, campers, canoeists and all-round nature enthusiasts.