A few months ago, I wrote a post about five fantastic Jersey Shore towns that are nothing like Seaside Heights, the boozy boardwalk where MTV’s first season of Jersey Shore took place. While those five towns are good choices for a guido-free weekend at the beach, one of them is my clear favorite: Bay Head, NJ. Two weekends ago, my husband and I went to Bay Head to relax on the beach and to visit some of our old haunts (we did a summer share there for two summers in 2002 and 2003).
I always think of Bay Head as a little piece of New England in New Jersey. It’s a quaint little place that’s subtly upscale — those classic seaside-style houses that fill the town start at $1 million. Aside from the price point, the town feels like it’s trapped in time.
Bay Head is a small town, so there aren’t a lot of accommodation choices. We opted to spend Saturday night at the well-located Grenville Hotel (pictured right) despite the negative reviews on Tripadvisor. I’ve stayed at hotels that are nothing special on the outside, but well-appointed on the inside because the owners are trying to up the game. This would be the opposite.
The Grenville was fine — our room was clean and service was friendly. We could walk to and from the train station, which was great. (Bay Head is the last stop of the NJ Coastal line from NYC-Penn Station, a two-and-a-half-hour ride on NJ Transit.) It’s just one block from the beach, and the hotel had chairs and umbrellas available for our use. They also gave us beach passes for the first day we were there, saving us $7 apiece and a trip to the little municipal office where they’re sold. Even though the beach on the Jersey Shore are public, they charge and they’re very strict about checking your beach badge.
On Saturday, we had lunch near the beach at Curtis Market — they have the best sandwiches. You’re not allowed bring any food onto Bay Head’s beach, and you can’t bring any drink except for water. Sounds crazy, but at least it keeps the beach clean. It’s very rare to see even one piece of trash there. People really follow the rules there, but it makes a tranquil atmosphere. We had a great day at the beach, running frequently into the waves to cool down from the 98F weather.
That night, we walked to The Ark, which is actually in the next town to the north, Point Pleasant Beach. We had fun even though the food had gone downhill. The atmosphere was still fun and we enjoyed the live music. As we walked back to the Grenville, we looked into Marlins, which is also a restaurant/bar that has live music. They had a bigger crowd and a bigger band. The Ark used to be the more popular destination, but it looked like Marlins has taken over.
The next morning, we grabbed breakfast from Mueller’s Bakery (pictured above) and were pleased to see that this old-school institution had remained blissfully unchanged. We purchased our beach passes and headed to the beach for a few hours.
Soon it was time for lunch, which meant yet another food favorite: crab cakes and lobster rolls at Shore Fresh. Like the day before, it was incredibly hot (almost 100F) so we decided to call Briggs Taxi and have them take us to Shore Fresh since it was a full mile away and a hike from the beach even in decent weather. The taxi only cost $5 each way and the food was just as good as we had remembered.
After a few more hours at the beautiful beach, it was time to catch the train back to New York. Till next time, Bay Head!