Live in Philadelphia? These are the best NJ beaches closest to you
The Liberty Bell. The Franklin Institute. Independence Hall. These are all wonderful, historical, educational landmarks to visit in Philadelphia, for sure.
But on a hot, summer day, you might want to think about packing up the family and getting the heck out of dodge toward the Jersey Shore to relax on a beach and take a cool swim in the ocean.
Here are seven beaches in New Jersey closest to Philadelphia.
Cape May beaches
Cape May, known for its pristine family-friendly beaches and boardwalk, is called "America's original beach town." It's 2 miles of beach, part of a charming, historic Victorian-era town.
Beach tags are required for those 12 and older from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Seasonal tags are $30 ($25 if ordered by April. Weekly tags/Saturday and Sunday tags are $20, three day beach tags cost $15 and a daily beach tag is $8. The beaches are free to active military and veterans and their families.
As far as parking is concerned, beachfront meters are in effect every day from May 1 to Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Cape May beaches include: The Cove, Broadway, Grant Street, Windsor, Congress Street (4th of July fireworks are here), Steger Beach (Jackson St.), Decatur Street, Jefferson Street, Queens Street, Madison, Philadelphia, Reading, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Brooklyn, and Poverty Street (Wilmington Street).
Chairs, umbrellas, cabanas, sundries are available from licensed vendors stationed at most beaches. There are unique shops and boutiques, restaurants galore, and bed and breakfasts in the whimsical Victorian town.
Beach boxes can be rented which are perfect for storing umbrellas, beach chairs and surfboards that you don't want to lug back and forth from your rental place. That costs $495 for the season.
Seasonal cabana rental: $795
Seasonal umbrella rental: $395
Seasonal beach chair rental: $250
Want to get away from the crowds? Higbee Beach at Higbee Wildlife Management Area is the place to hang out. It's not for swimming as there are no lifeguards but it's a good place to relax.
Sunset Beach is known for? You guessed it — its beautiful sunsets. Park the car and watch the sun goes down. Then enjoy dinner nearby at the Sunset Beach Grill.
The Cape May Lighthouse at Cape May Point State Park is a big attraction. Bird watchers will enjoy the William and Jain Blair Bird Refuge. Don't forget binoculars. There are so many bird species to watch and tons of hiking trails.
Whale and dolphin cruises are a big hit in Cape May. There are plenty of cruises to book. A day on the water looking for majestic sea creatures could be just what the doctor ordered for a little R&R.
How to get to Cape May beaches from Philadelphia?
Driving is always best. It's about 1 hour 34 minutes from Philly to North Cape May Beach.
Public Transportation: It takes about 4 hours 20 minutes because travel involves both a train and a bus. Take the Atlantic City Rail line train from the William H. Gray III 30th Street Station toward Atlantic City. Then it's about a seven-minute walk to Gate #2 inside the AC Bus Terminal. Arrive at Bayshore Road at Town Bank Road. It's then a 25-minute walk (you may want to consider a rideshare here) to North Cape May Beach.
The distance between Philadelphia and Cape May-Lewes Ferry is 75 miles. It takes approximately 4 hours 4 minutes to travel from Philadelphia to Cape May-Lewes Ferry, including transfers.
The Wildwoods Beaches
The big draw to the 5-mile stretch of the Wildwoods' beaches is that they are clean, pristine and completely FREE.
Beach badges are not required for Wildwood, North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest beaches.
Parking is available on the street with meters. Seasonal parking permits in Wildwood will increase this summer from $175 to $300. Paid parking meters will also be added for all parts of Ocean and Surf Avenues that currently do not have them.
"Watch the tram car, please." That famous phrase has been heard from Wildwoods' tram car service since 1949. Trams will begin operating on the boardwalk beginning in May from 16th Street in North Wildwood to Cresse Avenue at the Wildwood/Wildwood Crest border. Tram service usually runs daily beginning at 11 a.m. A one-way ride takes about 30 minutes and costs $4 per person. Discount tickets are also available.
Another big attraction in Wildwood is Morey's Piers amusement park and water park. Purchase 4-8 individual admissions for $52 per ticket (regularly $59) or 10 or more individual admissions for $47.50 per ticket. Individual vouchers are great for splitting up and the best part? They never expire. Discounted ride tickets that include 75 tickets cost $70, 150 tickets for $120, or 255 tickets for $165.
Mariner's Pier will open April 29. Surfside Pier will also see a change its opening date. Normally Surfside Pier opens on Mothers' Day weekend. But, instead, it will open on May 21.
Adventure Pier opens May 27, the start of Memorial Day Weekend. Raging Waters opens June 9 with Ocean Oasis opening June 18.
How to get to the Wildwoods from Philadelphia?
Driving is always best. It's about a 1-hour-30-minute ride.
It takes 3 hours 17 minutes to take the Greyhound bus toward Atlantic City. Arrive at Gate #8 inside the AC bus terminal. Then go to Gate #2 and take the bus toward Cape May. Arrive at Wildwood Bus Terminal. It's about an 11-minute walk to the Wildwood Boardwalk.
The train is about 3 hours 26 minutes. Take the Atlantic City Rail Line toward A-C from William H. Gray III at 30th Street Station. Walk 7 minutes to Gate #2 inside AC Bus Terminal. Take the bus to Wildwood Bus Terminal. It's about an 11-minute walk to the Wildwood Beach Ball sign on the boardwalk.
Ocean City beach
"We take pride in being known as America's Greatest Family Resort," according to the town's website.
Going to Ocean City beach can be as simple as a day trip or as lengthy as a week-long family vacation. There are plenty of activities to do from hanging out on the beach, swimming in the ocean, exploring the boardwalk, taking a boat ride or fishing in teh bay.
Beach tags are required for all beachgoers ages 12 and older and will be in effect June 4 through Labor Day.
Seasonal tags cost $25 ($20 if purchased before May 31). Weekly tags cost $10 and will be available at booths on the boardwalk and from tag inspectors on the beach. Daily tags are $5 each. Beach badges are free to all military veterans, active members and their families.
The boardwalk is a fun place for those who love visiting the shops, stores, souvenir vendors, and restaurants. Rides, water parks, miniature golf courses and even live music venues can really pack in a full day of fun.
Don't forget to pick up some salt water taffy. The Ocean City boardwalk is famous for its taffy!.
Shriver's is the oldest business on the boardwalk in Ocean City, famous for its homemade taffy and fudge! According to the shop's website, William Shriver founded Shriver's in 1898 as a restaurant, ice cream and candy store. Then in 1959, four brothers who owned Dairy Maid Confectionery Company purchased Shriver's. Today, it is owned and operated by the same family, three generations later.
How to get to Ocean City Beach from Philadelphia?
Driving is always best. It takes about 1 hour and 9 minutes from Philadelphia to Ocean City.
You can also take the Greyhound bus from the Philly bus station toward Atlantic City (Tropicana Casino). Take a two-minute walk. Hop on an NJ Transit bus at Atlantic Avenue and Morris Avenue to Ocean City. This takes about three hours.
You can take the Atlantic City Rail Line towards AC from William H. Gray III 30th Street Station. Walk 5 minutes to Shore Road at Church Street bus station. Hop on 559 towards AC (Jersey Ave at Main St.) Then take another bus, the 509 towards Somers Point Ocean City Black Horse Pike (Atlantic Ave at Moorlyn Terrace). It's then a 4-minute walk to Ocean City. Again, this is about a three-hour trip.
Train: Start at William H Gray III 30th Street station. Take Atlantic City Rail Line toward Atlantic City. Then it's a seven-minute walk to Gate #3 inside the AC Bus station. Take 319 toward Wildwood via Ocean Drive. Arrive in Ocean City. It's a lengthy trip; about 4 hours.
Atlantic City beaches
When you think of the Atlantic City beaches, sun, sand, casinos, resorts and a busy boardwalk all come to mind.
What sets the Atlantic City beaches apart from others is that everything you want to do is within walking distance, including restaurants, shops, hotels, casinos, attractions and even entertainment.
Located at Kennedy Plaza, across from Boardwalk Hall, there is Atlantic City Miniature Golf.
Central Pier Arcade and Speedway offers a variety of arcade games, as well as go-carts and paintball.
In the mood for unusual and bizarre exhibits, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum is the place to visit.
At Steel Pier, Atlantic City's oldest amusement park, kids can ride the carousel or bumper cars. Big kids can slingshot through the air at 100 miles per hour. Don't forget to take the whole family on the observation wheel. Way up high, you can see the entire gambling resort city!
You can also find some phenomenal 4th of July fireworks on Atlantic City beaches and don't forget the Thunder Over the Boardwalk air show on Aug 24.
Some of the best beaches in AC include:
1. Atlantic City Beach
This beach is a bit low-key from the main beachgoing scene. Here, you can enjoy calm waves, great for swimming and kayaking. It's also known as Caspian Beach. The area overlooks the Absecon inlet and you'll catch beautiful views of Brigantine Beach as well.
Admission is free. Beach badges are not required. There is no free parking but paid parking is available at lots or casinos.
2. Brigantine Beach
This beautiful stretch of the Jersey Shore sits next to the Absecon Wildlife Management Area. It offers a great alternate escape for those wanting a change of scenery from the more common beaches and it's only a 12-minute drive from the city center.
Beach tags are required to access Brigantine beach, as well as permits if you have 4x4s and jet skis. There is no boardwalk, but there are trails for cyclists.
A seasonal badge costs $20 ($25 starting in June). Daily badges cost $10, weekly is $15 and there is free parking available on the side streets.
3. Margate Beach
Margate Beach has a beautiful boardwalk that people like to walk all year round. Between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., the boards are open to bike riders. Bikes can be rented on the boardwalk at both Iowa and North Carolina Avenues.
Hanging on the beach? You'll need a badge. Pre-season badges cost $10 for 12 years old and up and seniors cost $3.50. Starting June 1, all badges are $20 for the season.
One of the most famous attractions in Margate is Lucy, the Elephant, a 65-ft-tall wooden elephant structure built back in 1881. She is located along the beach in Josephine Harron Park. Lucy is currently under construction for a major restoration project that will replace her entire metal exterior. Tours should resume, however, Memorial Day Weekend.
How to get to Atlantic City beaches from Philadelphia?
Driving is always best. It is about a 1 hour 12-minute ride from Philly to Atlantic City beach. By bus, it takes about 2 hours 15 minutes. Get on the Greyhound and arrive at AC Bus Terminal. Walk across Atlantic Avenue at Ohio Avenue toward New Hampshire Avenue and Parkside Avenue. It's then another 2-minute walk to Atlantic City beach. The PATCO train leaves 12 and 13th Street at Locust Street to Lindenwold and then on to A-C. The train takes 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Long Beach Island
"LBI" as it's affectionately called, is known for some of the greatest beaches on the East Coat. It's also home to a landscape filled with dunes, pine, beach plum and bayberry plants.
There are six LBI beaches of choice and there's something for everyone, whether it's to swim, surf or just seek some peaceful down time.
LBI is about 18 miles long and includes three miles of nature preserve. Street parking is free but each town has its own beach badge requirement.
The six beaches include:
1. Long Beach Island (of course)
At its widest, Long Beach Island is just a half-mile wide!
Daily and seasonal beach badges can be purchased at the Beach Badge Hut on 68th Street in Brant Beach. Seasonal badges cost $35 before June 15. After that date, the cost jumps to $45. Seniors seasonal badge costs $5. Weekly beach badges (Saturday through Friday) are just $20. Daily badges are $10 and the beach is free to veterans, active military members and their families.
2. Barnegat Light
Badges can be purchased via the Viply app. Pre-season beach pass price is $30 through June 5. It increases to $40 after that date. Weekly badges are $22 (Saturday through Friday). Daily passes cost $5 and seniors, 65 and older only pay $12.
Barnegat Light offers a beach wheelchair to anyone with a disability. There is no charge for these chairs but they are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The Beach Tram is for beach patrons only between 4th St and 9th St. The tram picks up beachgoers on each street end, on the beach, and takes them to the area between 9th and 10th Streets. It operates 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's free for passengers 11 and older with a beach badge.
Barnegat Light's most famous landmark is "Old Barney," the red and white-banded Barnegat Lighthouse, situated at the northern tip of Long Beach Island. The 172-foot tall structure, designed by Gen. George Meade and commissioned Jan. 1, 1859, is the second tallest lighthouse in the nation.
However, the state Department of Environmental Protection has just announced that Barnegat Lighthouse will be closed to visitors starting March 14 for seven months, as it embarks on a $1.3 million restoration of the historic lighthouse.
DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette announced construction work through October will involve a complete exterior restoration of the lighthouse, masonry recoating and repairs to the brick facade, interior steel platform repairs, roof repairs and the installation of new windows.
However, Barnegat Lighthouse State Park will remain open for fishing, hiking, birding and picnicking.
Don't forget to visit Historic Viking Village in Barnegat Light. Quickly you'll be taken back in time to the early days of a quaint fishing village. According to its website, the tiny fishing shacks have all been turned into shops with something special for everyone.
3. Harvey Cedars Beach
Beach badges can be purchased through the Viply app. Regular pre-season badges will become available sometime this spring. They cost $35 each. After June 15, the price jumps to $45. Daily badges cost $7. Weekly is $20.
Harvey Cedars' Sunset Park is known for its amazing sunset and sunrise views. Don't miss the perfect ending....or the perfect beginning to a perfect beach day!
4. Surf City Beach
Surf City is one of the best beaches in New Jersey for quiet relaxation. It's only a quarter-mile wide so visitors are close to both the beach and the bay.
Beach badges can be purchased behind Borough Hall on 8th Street. Valid beach badges are required for anyone ages 12 to 64 years old. Daily badges cost $10 at Surf City beach. Weekly badges cost $20. Seasonal badges are $45.
Chairs can be rented for a week at a time by anyone staying in Surf City. Fishing beaches during guarded areas are located between North 23rd Street to North 25th Street.
While there is no boardwalk, Surf City has hundreds of boutiques and restaurants in its "Boulevard" section.
5. Ship Bottom Beach
Known as the "Gateway to Long Beach Island" because of its convenient location at the foot of the only bridge on the island, Ship Bottom still requires beach badges to access its sand and surf through the peak summer season.
Beach badges can be purchased through the Viply app. Badges cost $35 until May 31. After that date, the cost jumps to $45. Daily badges cost $10. Weekly is $25 for ages 13 and up.
Waterfront Park and Crabbing and Fishing Pier is a key spot for anglers. Don't forget to take the family to Hartland Golf and Arcade too.
6. Beach Haven
Beach badges can be purchased through Viply app. Wednesdays are free in Beach Haven, meaning no beach badges are required. Seasonal passes cost $30 until May 31st. The price increases another $10 after that date. Weekly passes cost $20. Daily is $10 and a Seniors Lifetime Pass is only $10. Veterans and active military and their families are always free.
Public parking within the borough of Beach Haven is free.
Beach Haven is home to multiple attractions, including the only amusement park on the island: Fantasy Island!
Don't forget to visit the Bay Village Shopping Center, the Long Beach Island Museum, Surflight Theater, The Boardwalk LBI in Beach Haven, Black Pearl Pirate Adventures.
Beach Haven is also home to Thundering Surf Water Park and Adventure Golf, which features eight giant waterslides, super soaker water guns, giant tipping buckets and much more.
How to get to Long Beach Island from Philadelphia?
Driving is always best. It takes about 1 hour 29 minutes to get to LBI from Philly.
By bus, grab the Greyhound at 10th St. and Filbert St. Take it AC Bus Terminal to Ocean Acres. This takes roughly 3 hours 36 minutes.
By train/bus: Take Patco at 12-13 St. and Locust St. to Lindenwold. Then take Atlantic City Rail Line to Gate 3 AC Bus Terminal. The bus will drop you off at Ocean Acres. This is a bit longer: 3 hours 48 minutes.
Island Beach State Park
Another Ocean County beach that gets extremely crowded during the summer is Island Beach State Park.
The swimming beach has lifeguards, bathhouse pavilions and concessions. Surfers are welcome at the south end of the beach area.
The main gate of IBSP opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. But during the summer weekends and holidays, the park opens at 7 a.m.
The park charges in-season entrance fees per vehicle. From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, it costs $6 weekdays and $10 on weekends for residents. It costs $12 on weekdays and $20 on weekends for non-residents. It also costs $5 for motorcycles for Jersey residents and $7 for motorcycles for non-residents.
Pedestrians and bicyclists are admitted free at the main gate.
At Fisherman's Walkway, there is a $3 fee for everyone. There are no umbrella rentals on the beach but there are many shops nearby to buy beach paraphernalia.
Back for 2022 -- Weekday Only Mobile Sportfishing Vehicle Permits at Island Beach State Park! This is available starting April 1 at $150 for NJ residents and $175 for non-residents. Permits can be purchased at https://yourpassnow.com/ParkPass/nj.
Weekday-only permits allow anglers to drive their 4x4 or all-wheel drive vehicles on the beach just to fish between 6 a.m. on Mondays through 8 p.m. on Fridays.
How to get to Island Beach State Park from Philadelphia?
Driving is always best. It takes about 1 hour 52 minutes to get to IBSP from Philly.
The fastest bus route takes 3 hours 30 minutes. Take the bus from Market St. at 10th St. Arrive inside the AC Bus Terminal. Change/transfer busses at Gate #3 inside AC Bus Terminal. Take bus to Toms River Park and Ride. It's then a 22-minute taxi ride (or any rideshare service) to IBSP.
Taking the train requires two trains and it's a 4 hour 39 minute trip. Take Acela train out of Philly towards Newark. Change trains at Newark Penn Station. Take train to Long Branch, then Bay Head. It's then a 27-minute tax ride to IBSP.
Seaside Heights Beach
Another popular beach for residents and tourists is Seaside Heights Beach, where many like to swim, sunbathe and surf.
Besides the beach, the Seaside Heights boardwalk is a huge attraction, filled with shops, restaurants, rides, arcade games and so much more.
Daily beach passes cost $9 for the ocean beaches and $5 for the bay beach on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. The weekly fee for Seaside Heights beach tags is $35.
Seasonal badges are $45 each if purchased before May 15. The price jumps to $60 the day after.
Children 11 and under, veterans and active-duty military are free.
One of the biggest attractions on the Seaside Heights boardwalk is Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach Waterpark, an amusement park and a state-of-the-art water park with a large interactive play area.
Some of the main attractions at Casino Pier include the Centrifuge, Crazy Crabs, Hydrus Roller Coaster, Shore Shot, Skycoaster, Super Slide, and other thrilling rides. At Breakwater Beach, visitors can indulge in The Harbor, Revere's Wild Ride, Patriot's Plunge, The Perfect Storm and many more water rides. There is something for everyone, young and old, to enjoy.
Other attractions near the famous Seaside Heights Boardwalk include Retrocade Classic Video Arcade, EJ's Tap House, and Van Holten's Chocolates and Sweet Shop.
How to get to Seaside Heights Beach from Philadelphia?
Driving is always best. It takes about 1 hour 34 minutes to drive from Philadelphia to Seaside Heights beach.
If public transportation is the only option, there is a double bus route that takes 3 hours 20 minutes. Take the bus from Market St. at 10th St. Arrive inside Atlantic City Bus Terminal. Change/transfer buses at Gate #3 inside AC Bus Terminal. Take the bus to Toms River Park and Ride. It's then a 12-minute taxi ride (or any other rideshare) to Seaside Heights.
The fastest train ride from Philly to Seaside Heights beach is 4 hours 28 minutes. Leave Philly on Acela (the train leaves every 30 minutes). Arrive at Newark Penn Station. Take the North Jersey Coast Line to Long Branch and then to Bay Head. It's then a 16-minute taxi ride (or any other rideshare) to Seaside Heights.
Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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