Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, so I wanted to tell you about one of my favorite summer spots: Bay Head, NJ. This quaint Jersey Shore town, which bills itself as "a country village by the sea," is nothing like Seaside Heights, home to MTV's Jersey Shore. I'm partial to Bay Head because I had a terrific experience there for two summers following college. But there are tons of Jersey Shore towns — here's what I consider to be the five best.
1. Bay Head: Bay Head is known for being small, quaint and family-friendly, so it's somewhat ironic that my experience there was in a packed share-house above Mueller's Bakery (fantastic old-school bakery). Everything about Bay Head is picturesque, except for maybe the inside of that house. They don't even any bars in Bay Head, so most nights we would walk just past the town line to The Ark, a two-floor pub with good seafood and great cover bands. Bay Head's beach is very nice and clean, and in order to keep it that way they don't allow any food or drink other than bottled water.
2. Spring Lake: Spring Lake is closer to NYC than Bay Head and it has a well-earned reputation for being one of the nicest towns in all of Jersey. Like Bay Head, it has a quaint feel, but both the beach and the town are much larger so that gives it a different, ritzier vibe. It also boasts long, non-commercial boardwalk.
3.Beach Haven: Too bad that I made this a list of towns because I'd like to just put Long Beach Island as a whole on here. But since that's an 18-mile-long barrier island, I have to pick a town. So I'm going with the serene Beach Haven, which has great mini-golf. The beaches on Long Beach Island are incredible (pictured left) — practically Caribbean quality. I stayed at the Victoria Guest House when I was there, and found it to be cute and clean.
4. Long Branch: Long Branch is real success story — proof that redevelopment can work. Until the 1950s, Long Branch was one of the fanciest beach towns. But then it fell into disfavor and decay. A few years ago, Pier Village opened up with lots of restaurants, eateries and boutiques right by the beach. It also has condos. When I went to Long Branch as a day trip last summer, it started to rain about an hour after we got there so I was very thankful for the distractions of Pier Village while we attempted to wait out the bad weather.
5. Cape May: I'll confess that I haven't been to Cape May, which is why I put it as #5. I think if I had been there, it might have made it to #1 because everyone raves about Cape May. It's at the southern tip of the Jersey Shore, nearly a four-hour drive from New York. (It also attracts more of a Philly crowd.) The beaches are supposed to be fantastic and the Victorian architecture is supposed to be very charming. It's a real resort town with lots of B & Bs.
What are your favorite Jersey Shore towns?