Much like a terrible string of blackjack hands, this winter seemed like it would NEVER end. But it finally did, and now it’s time to emerge from the dark comfort of restaurants and bars and work on your tan at the best beaches around Atlantic City.
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Just about a 45-minute drive south of AC, this beach is a relaxing retreat from the frenetic boardwalk.
A friend and lifelong visitor describes Stone Harbor as “not a crazy party town,” but still replete with fun bars and a beautiful beach. Make like the locals and stop by the “always seedy, slightly divey Fred’s Tavern” for live music, $2 Bud Lights, and Taco Tuesdays.
For some sexy socially progressive sand and surf, hit New Jersey’s only legal nude beach at the northern tip of Sandy Hook. Gunnison is on federally controlled land, meaning you’ll be liberated from pesky local open container ordinances and free to imbibe. (We don’t know why the cops want you to get drunk and naked, just keep it in a plastic container and enjoy.)
Access is free, but $10 daily parking is a modest de facto fee. Photographing nude bathers is frowned upon -- for obvious reasons -- so maybe keep this trip Insta-free. And, although you don't have to strip, no one wants to be a stick in the mud.
Another beachgoing friend -- I swear, I have at least two -- suggested this chill spot, a 15-minute drive south of Asbury Park. Admission is $10 and bans on smoking, food, and dogs keeps the shore clean. If you're looking to party, you’ll find upscalish oceanside dining, and cabana nightclub vibes nearby. There are also several quaint bed and breakfasts, for a more romantic weekend getaway.
Speaking of partying near Asbury Park, you could always just start there. The formative creative home of Bruce Springsteen has revitalized its boardwalk since The Boss slummed it by the sea. Weekend badges are $7, and the boardwalk boasts Korean taco joints, vegan ice cream shops, vibrant murals, and Brooklyn-lite shops. Legendary music clubs like the Stone Pony still thrive among newer watering holes like the Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten.
Perched on Jersey's southern tip, Cape May is famous for its beautiful Victorian homes, some of which sit right on the beach. The area is rich with elegant spots made for lazy afternoons sipping mint juleps on the porch. (“Well behaved children” only, please.) This entire city is a National Historic Landmark and it hosts events like winter’s West Cape May Christmas Parade and fall’s restaurant week year-round. In spite of Cape May’s unrelenting class, daily beach tags are only $6.
A third friend (!) recommends this centrally located beach, which features a mile-long boardwalk, clean, wide beaches, and plenty of space to set up camp -- all open year ‘round. It is also a popular spot to hit the waves. More kid-friendly than Cape May, the beaches here are dotted with playgrounds every couple of blocks. The $8 daily beach badges get you close to boogie boarding, kayaking, and volleyball.
Your $6 daily badge will be cross-honored at Stone Harbor beaches, and vice-versa. Miles of white sand make for uncrowded lounging, and surf chairs are free to rent (reservation recommended). The area skews a little bougie -- take a stroll to the Princeton Bar and Grill to drink and dance among a throng of popped collars.
Townies brag that this was one of country's original seaside resorts -- with spots including Seven Presidents Park, named for former beachgoers like Woodrow Wilson. Today, the park is appointed with showers, abundant picnic areas, volleyball courts, and a skateplex, just as ol’ Woody would’ve wanted. This year's free summer concert series includes a mix of blues, soul, country, reggae, funk, rock and Latin artists. Daily weekend badges are $7.
A little north of Seaside Heights you'll find this much more laid-back ocean town. Spend the day relaxing by the smaller waves on the beach or bay, grab some fresh seafood at The Crab's Claw Inn, then head south for clubbing after dark. Daily badges are $6, and parking is a bargain at free dollars, so be sure to get there early for a spot.
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