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There’s so much to enjoy along the 130 miles of the New Jersey shore’s white-sand coastline — spanning from Sandy Hook in the north to Cape May in the south. Ocean City and Wildwood have boardwalk entertainment ideal for family vacations, while Sunset Beach and Corson’s Inlet State Park offer quieter retreats, and the 3,000 acres of Island Beach State Park’s coastal dunes have remained untouched since Henry Hudson spotted it in 1609.
No matter which part of the shore you’re visiting, it’s within a tank of gas from Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City, and Washington D.C. The roads can get crowded on summer weekends — especially when the sun’s out — so get an early start. By air, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is generally the closest major airport, about a two-hour drive to Sandy Hook Beach or Cape May and an hour to Atlantic City. If you’re heading to the northern shores, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) may be closer (it’s about an hour to Sandy Hook). Bus and train services from New York City and Philly reach many of the shore towns, and can also provide transportation between them. Depending on the area, rideshare services may be available, but if you follow most people who get a Jersey Shore house, everything you need for a beach vacation will be in walking radius.
Like many East Coast beaches, prime Jersey Shore season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, when the sun’s (mostly) out and temperatures sit in the 60s to 80s Fahrenheit. Days can get humid, and the ocean breeze can carry a chill once the sun sets. It’s also worth keeping an eye on forecasts, as rain can be common, especially in August. If catching rays isn’t a priority, spring and autumn are temperate, with highs in the 50s to 70s (though lows can hit the 30s and 40s), to explore the region’s quieter side. Spots like Atlantic City can be visited year-round, but most shore life goes into hibernation from December through February, when temperatures are in the 20s to 40s.
There’s a reason a certain Long Branch rockstar named his 1973 debut album after this destination. He developed his sound here in the ’60s, playing at area venues including the boardwalk’s the Stone Pony, still considered one of the greatest rock clubs today. Also on site: a pinball machine museum, a psychic, and plenty of eateries.
Indulge in some serious animal antics at one of Jersey’s kitschiest sights, a 139-year-old six-story building — with a trunk! — located in Margate City, which also briefly had its moment as a unique stay on Airbnb.
The Jersey Shore’s largest city, lovingly dubbed “AC,” may best be known for its nine casinos, but also makes waves with fine spas, golfing, art galleries, and a lively boardwalk.
New Jerseyans often describe where they live by highway exit numbers — and Cape May is famously the Garden State Parkway’s “Exit 0.” Despite the moniker, the seaside town is filled with riches in the form of 600 well-maintained Victorian-era buildings. Also, climb the 199 steps to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse with views of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay.