Best Free Beaches on the Jersey Shore for Families

The Wildwoods boasts 5 miles of beautiful, free beaches. Photo courtesy of Wildwoods
The Wildwoods boasts 5 miles of beautiful, free beaches. Photo courtesy of Wildwoods
6/16/23 - By Laurie Rein

New Jersey is home to some amazing FREE beaches, which can come as a relief after seasonal sticker shock involving camps, vacations, and day trips. Luckily, the beaches we've listed below don't require an admission fee–though some do have parking fees. 

While some of these FREE beaches are found in popular vacation hotspots on the Jersey Shore, other quieter, unguarded ones are located by swimming lakes and bays. Read on for a baker's dozen of our favorite FREE New Jersey beaches.

Check out our mom-tested, kid-approved Jersey Shore itinerary, and more in our Ultimate New Jersey Kids Summer Vacation Guide.


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1. Cape May State Point Park

Explore the natural side of this popular vacation town at this quiet state park, which features freshwater meadows, the Cape May Lighthouse, and a FREE beach. Get fresh air and enjoy beach walks, birding, and fishing. There are no lifeguards on duty. If you're going down to Cape May, consider making a weekend of it and stopping by the Cape May Zoo, the Harriet Tubman Museum, the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum, or biking along old train tracks with Revolution Rail.

2. Highlands

This FREE beach on Sandy Hook Bay is less than an hour from New York City. The town has beautiful views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the city skyline and can be reached by car or ferry from Manhattan. Stay late to check out "Dock and Dine" options for dinner.

RELATED: Hidden Beach Gems Along the Jersey Shore

Wide view of the free beaches in Atlantic City, New Jersey
There are plenty of ways to spend money in Atlantic City, but a trip to the beach doesn't cost a dime. Photo by Shinya Suzuki/CC BY 2.0

3. Atlantic City

Bet your bottom dollar that AC offers excitement for both adults and kids. Take a stroll along the flashy, 4-mile boardwalk, lined with casinos, restaurants, Steel Pier rides, and outlet shops, then take a break from the action on AC’s spectacular, admission-free beaches. You’ll find plenty of other ways to spend that money while in town!

4. Jennifer Lane Bay Beach

This quiet beach on Manahawkin Bay is guarded from 10am-5pm during the summer and is admission-free. 

5. Leonardo and Ideal Beaches

Pack the sand toys and spend a peaceful day of play at Middletown’s low-key bay beaches. Without boardwalks and restaurants, these pet-friendly beaches are great spots for chilling out, building sandcastles, and strolling with the dog. Restrooms are open during the summer months.

RELATED: 100+ FREE Things To Do With Kids in New Jersey This Summer

Looking through the dunes at Keansburg's free beach
Gorgeous Keansburg Beach boasts a beautiful view of NYC. Photo courtesy of Keansburg, NJ

6. Keansburg

If you’re looking for beach and boardwalk fun without sitting in hours of traffic, check out Keansburg off the Parkway’s exit 117. Keansburg’s boardwalk has arcades, restaurants, snack bars, and plenty of children’s rides, along with the popular Runaway Rapids water park. Enjoy playtime in the sand and cool views of New York at Keansburg’s FREE beach. Note that there is no lifeguard on duty.

7. Ocean County Park

Take a day trip to Lakewood’s Ocean County Park, where you can spend an active summer day without spending money. The sprawling park houses a playground, dog park, sports fields, and hiking trails. Best of all: The park’s sandy, lakefront beach is FREE and guarded from Father’s Day through Labor Day.

8. Old Bridge Waterfront Park

There's plenty to do at this Middlesex County freebie, which houses newer playgrounds at both the Laurence Harbor and Cliffwood Beach entrances, a scenic 1.3-mile boardwalk, a shady gazebo, and plenty of FREE parking. The sand and water are a bit rougher than other Jersey Shore destinations, but the waterfront park as a whole provides a few hours of sunny fun away from typical beach crowds and traffic.

RELATED: Best NJ Swimming Pools with Day Passes for Families and Kids

View of the boardwalk from Wildwoods free beaches
When you're done at the free Wildwoods beaches, hit the bustling boardwalk. Photo courtesy of Wildwoods

9. The Wildwoods

My own family’s summer vacation spot, the Wildwoods consists of 5 miles of beautiful beaches, all with no entrance fee. Aside from the FREE admission, the beaches of Wildwood, North Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest host free events throughout the summer, such as concerts and fireworks. From the bustling boardwalk with rides and games to various hotels and restaurants, Wildwood is the ideal Jersey Shore getaway for spending time with the family without spending on beach fees.

10. Strathmere

You'll find this little-known FREE beach nestled between Ocean City and Sea Isle City in Cape May County's Upper Township. With no boardwalk, this quiet beach is a perfect spot to relax, play, and take in the scenic shoreline. There's a lifeguard station at Williams Avenue, and the beach is seasonally guarded between Seaview Avenue South and Nelson Avenue. The quaint beach town also features seaside restaurants and boat rentals. Just as a note, the only bathrooms that I know of at this beach are a few port-a-potties in the parking lot. 

11. Union Beach

This low, flat beach on Raritan Bay has calm waters and a small boardwalk. Parking is a mere $1 an hour, but be prepared to use port-a-potties.

12. William Morrow Beach

Located in Somers Point, the beach is open to the public on weekends from Memorial Day through mid-June, then open daily through Labor Day. The seaside experience includes lifeguards, restrooms, a playground, and FREE parking. Adding to the allure is the town's annual music festival (also free) each Friday night through September.

13. Sea Isle City on Wednesdays

With the exception of July 4th, Sea Isle City beaches are FREE on Wednesdays through the summer and are FREE every day for children under 12. Enjoy the boardwalk, which hosts free events throughout the summer. Driving into Sea Isle you will also see a giant playground on JFK Boulevard the kids will enjoy, though it does get hot when the sun is beating down. 

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