The beaches we have come to love and frequent: Hilton Head, Ocean City, Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, et. al. All dot the eastern seaboard and have become vacation destinations that are worthy of the title "mecca". All are inundated with visitors during the warmer seasons and have more to do than most find the time for. What makes the Jersey Shore different? What gives the Jersey Shore a quality that is lacking in many of our other favorite beaches?
The Jersey Shore that I will epinionate on will be the one that forms the southern half of the state- essentially Atlantic City and south. To me, this is the Jersey Shore.
The Jersey Shore has a special quality that is missing from many of favorite beaches in other areas- a small town feel. I know that some of you are reading this and thinking that I have fallen out of my canoe and the cold water has gotten to my brain, but I can assure you that compared to many of the other beaches that are popular, the Jersey Shore retains a special feel.
In my opinion, the feeling partially comes from the lack of hotels and motels. I know, sounds simple and too easy. However, I recently went down for an evening with my girlfriend and realized that I had forgotten how few hotel type accomodations were available. Basically, I looked in AAA Tourist Guide and found about 30 listings for the areas south of Atlantic City. What a contrast compared to the high rise Hotels of Ocean City, MD and other areas. Another nice fact is that none of the hotels tower over the beach. In other words, they have been there for many decades and are a long way from being considered "skyscrapers". A nice touch by the zoning board.
I also feel that the area retains the small town feel from the residents and the tourists. HUH? Yes, the residents are kind and say "hello" when you walk by. Additionally, the tourists are the same people who have been coming for years upon years. The lure of the Jersey Shore keeps pulling the same people back and that contributes to the small town feel that is such a nice change.
So, what about the beaches themselves? How about a quick rundown on some of the more popular ones:
OCEAN CITY: A dry town, excellent for families, nice boardwalk, wide beaches, very quiet and peaceful.
ATLANTIC CITY: Gambling mecca, commercial, loud, dirty, fun, not good for families, smallish beach, crowded boardwalk.
AVALON: Small boardwalk, nice homes, more for the younger set, wide beaches, college and post- college hangout.
STONE HARBOR: New England feel, more for the younger crowd, lots of students and recent grads, louder, still family oriented, nice homes.
CAPE MAY: Beautiful, large beaches, tourist activities along with cultural activities, more hotel and B&B's, nice restaurants.
If you are looking for a fun and slightly wild time I would suggest Stone Harbor or Avalon- especially if you are younger and/or can hang with the young crowd. Both beaches retain a small town feel, but they also become populated with younger individuals renting homes for the summer and working around the various attractions. Both beaches also offer more in the way of nightlife for those interested.
Atlantic City is the place to go for wild and crazy times. You will find about 20 casinos and all the fun and trouble that goes along with the scene. Drinking, strip joints, and, obviously, gambling abound. I would not suggest this area for the beach or for anything other than a fun night on the town. Be careful: Crime can be a problem once you are off of the casino strip and can also occur on the boardwalk.
If you are looking for a family oriented vacation I would head for Ocean City. The big beaches and the fact that the town is dry tend to drive away some of the occurances that can disrupt a family vacation. Additionally, the kids will love the spacious boardwalk and the amusement parks that appear every few blocks. I recently stayed at the Biscayne Suites and would suggest it to anyone looking for a nice hotel. We were on the top floor (the fourth floor) and basically had a view of everything since we were about the tallest building around.
A FEW QUICK POINTS:
1. Traffic can be a pain just like anywhere else.
2. Remember your change. Tolls are frequent and run from $.35- .50.
3. The police closely watch the borders of Ocean City for inebriated drivers. be careful if yu have had too much. better yet, do not drive if you have had too much.
4. Pickpockets frequent Atlantic City and I would suggest not leaving the gambling strip.
5. For a fun daytrip take the Cape May- Lewes ferry and spend a day on the water while frequenting historic beach towns.
6. Be wary of graduation periods. High school students make there way to the beaches in droves.
7. The shoulder seasons can be great. The weather can be very nice and prices are much cheaper. However, the water can be freezing.
In summary, the Jersey Shore has a little bit of everything for everyone. Yes, the state does have a horrible reputation, but it is not because of the beaches and the surrounding communities.