If your summer bucket list includes camp, vacation, and trips to our beloved Jersey Shore, summertime can be a season of major spending. Jersey Shore excursions are a must for summer fun, but prices of beach badges and passes can really add up. Luckily, New Jersey is home to some free beaches—that's right, no admission fees required (though some do have parking fees). While some of these free beaches are found in popular vacation hotspots, other quieter and unguarded ones are located by swimming lakes and bays. Read on for 10 of our favorites.
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There are plenty of ways to spend money in Atlantic City, but a trip to the beach isn't one of them. Photo by Shinya Suzuki/CC BY 2.0
Bet your bottom dollar that AC offers excitement for both adults and kids. Take a stroll along the flashy, four-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.
This free beach on Sandy Hook Bay is less than an hour from New York City. The town boasts beautiful views of both the Atlantic Ocean and city skyline and can be reached by car or ferry from Manhattan. Stay late to check out "dock and dine" options for dinner.
Jennifer Lane Bay Beach – Manahawkin
This quiet beach on the Manahawkin Bay is guarded from 10 am to 5 pm during the summer.
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Gorgeous Keansburg Beach boasts a beautiful view of NYC. Photo courtesy of Keansburg, NJ
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 boasts arcades, restaurants, snack bars, and plenty of children’s rides, along with the popular Runaway Rapids water park. Stop over for some playtime in the sand, and cool views of New York, at Keansburg’s free beach. Note that there is no lifeguard on duty.
Leonardo and Ideal Beaches – Middletown
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 a great spot for chilling out, building sandcastles, and strolling with the dog. Restrooms are open during summer months.
Ocean County Park – Lakewood
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, sport fields, and hiking trails. Best of all is the park’s sandy, lakefront beach, which is free and guarded from Father’s Day through Labor Day.
Strathmere – Upper Township
Just south of Ocean City and north of Sea Isle City in Cape May County lies this little-known free beach, away from the hustle and bustle of the busier resort areas. 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.
This low, flat beach on the Raritan Bay has calm waters and a small boardwalk. Parking is a mere $1 an hour, but be prepared to use port-a-potties.
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The Wildwoods boasts five miles of free beaches, as well as a bustling boardwalk. Photo courtesy of Wildwoods
My own family’s summer vacation spot, the Wildwoods consists of five 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 the variety of hotels and restaurants, Wildwood is the ideal Jersey Shore get-away for spending time with the family without spending on beach fees.
William Morrow Beach – Somers Point
The beach is open to the public on weekends from Memorial Day through June 22, then open daily through Labor Day. The seaside experience includes lifeguards, restrooms, and free parking. Better yet is the town's annual music festival (also free) each Friday night at 7pm, June 9 through Labor Day.