I've been a regular visitor to the lovely strip of sand and surf known as Long Beach Island, New Jersey for 29 summers now...and I've enjoyed every minute. My great-grandfather and his 4 sons built a house there that at the time (1948) was the largest on the island, and it was only a block from the beach. It was a part of my family's traditions to go there each summer, and I have such strong feelings about the place that I don't know where to start!
Shopping - there are places to please many budgets and interests, mostly small cozy shops with that beach feel to them. There's the small, ever-changing Pier 18 Mall, and the shopping center known as Bay Village. There are stores on many corners on the main strip (Long Beach Blvd) and plenty of places to pick up some cute souvenirs.
Dining - with all those terrific spots to eat, I could never choose just one favorite. For dessert though, look for a pink building called Honey Bubbles...you'll have a blast! There are pizza places, sandwich shops, delicatessens, and fancier restaurants everywhere you look. There are even several pancake houses. Yummy!!
Sightseeing - Barnegat Lighthouse- gorgeous and historical. If you want to learn more about the history of the island, there is the Long Beach Island Museum. Tons more, but you get the idea.
Swimming - well of course I couldn't leave that out! You have the choice of the ocean with its very rough waves, or the bay with the tiniest of ripples. There are also fantastic lifeguard teams in both locations. If you love to surf, this is your place...the waves are rougher ever since Hurricane Hugo hit in the 80's I believe it was.
Nightlife - you'd be surprised at the number of clubs there are to enjoy there, with many live bands and some talented DJ's too. Most of the bands are from the New York and Philly areas, and both regions are brimming with homegrown talent. My recommendation- The Tide.
Recreation - Mini golf is everywhere, there are more places than you can shake a stick (or a putter) at! They are all fun, but I recommend Flamingo Golf or Settler's Mill.
All in all, the only drawback for some people is that there is no boardwalk. Personally, I find them a waste of money and way too crowded/dangerous...but I was raised as an LBI lover :) This is a lovely must-see locale and I wouldn't trade it for the world.