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Surf, Sand, and Sippy Cups: The 2018 Family Guide to the Jersey Shore (and Beyond)

Headed for the beach? Take our list of great family-friendly spots with you.

You wait for it all year: that moment when you can escape to the beach. Maybe it’s just a day trip, maybe it’s for the whole season, but family time at the Shore is precious, full of memorable moments, big and small.


We want to help you make the most of the time you do have. That’s why we put together this list of must-do activities — a pail list, of sorts — that’s full of fun places. We combed through our staff’s favorites, and suggestions from our readers, to pick out the very best stops along the shore, from Barnegat Light to Bethany Beach.


So when you pack up, take our list with you. And don’t forget the sunscreen.


Eating is a huge part of vacation. If you’ve rented a house, you’ll eat more often at home, but if not, having a variety of restaurants is key. Clip this list and you’ll never go hungry!


Viking Fresh Off the Hook, Barnegat Light

Manco & Manco, Ocean City and Somers Point

DeNunzio’s Brick Oven Pizza and Grille, Sea Isle City

Carmen’s Seafood Restaurant, Sea Isle City (reader report: it has a sandbox full of toys to keep the kids busy!)

Windrift, Avalon

Chill, Stone Harbor (staff tip: it’s BYOB.)

Quahog’s Seafood Shack, Stone Harbor

Smitty’s Clam Bar, Somers Point

Shoobies, Sea Isle City

Baia, Somers Point (reader report: it’s right on the water and has a reggae band on Sunday nights!)

Great for a Date Night

Black Eyed Susans, Harvey Cedars

McLoone’s Pier House, Long Branch

The Crab Trap, Somers Point

The Reeds at Shelter Haven, Stone Harbor

The Diving Horse, Avalon

Buckets Margarita Bar, Stone Harbor (staff tip: for casual drinks and tacos on the bay.)

Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House, Sea Isle City

Steve and Cookie’s, Margate

Quahog’s Seafood Shack, Stone Harbor

The Foodies Dinner Club (reader report: it’s one of the few BYOB restaurants in the area, and costs $5 to join!)

Buddakan, Atlantic City

Yellowfin, Surf City

Ice Cream

The Big Dipper, Surf City

Johnny B. Goode, Ocean City

Marita’s Homemade Ice Cream, Sea Isle City

Springers, Stone Harbor (a big reader favorite. Says a staff member: “There is no other option for scooped ice cream. The end. The best.”)

Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard, multiple locations

Two Cents Plain, Margate

Yum Yums, Sea Isle City (reader report: there’s a surprise at the bottom of your cone!)


Oves Beach Grill, Ocean City

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, multiple locations

The Bread and Cheese Cupboard, Stone Harbor (staff tip: “for the best sticky buns and other baked goods in the world. Often a line before they open!”)

Junior’s Donuts & Dogs, Margate City

Hannah-G’s, Ventnor

Ozzie’s Luncheonette, Longport

Shoobies, Sea Isle City (reader report: check out the character breakfast!)

Mustache Bill’s Diner, Barnegat Light

Breakfast Club of Margate, Margate

Starfish Cafe, Ocean City

Keeping Busy

Sure, you’re at the beach. But sometimes you want to do something else — especially if it’s raining. And if you’re down the Shore for a longer period, your kids might enjoy a camp or other drop-off activity. Read on for our recommendations.

Where to Spend a Rainy Day

Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, Long Beach

Jilly’s Arcade, Ocean City

Atlantic City Aquarium, Atlantic City (reader report: “a rainy day lifesaver for us!”)

RiGi’s Amusement Center, Stone Harbor

Encounters, Ocean City

SwellColors Glass Studio & Gallery, Surf City (staff tip: I had so much fun with my daughter and mother-in-law creating a custom turtle mosaic!)

Outdoor Fun Off the Beach

Cape May County Park & Zoo, Cape May Court House

Island Water Sports, Stone Harbor

OC Waterpark, Ocean City (staff tip: “not for a rainy day, but fun!”)

Playland’s Castaway Cove, Ocean City

Camps and Educational Activities

Wetlands Institute, Stone Harbor

Cape May County Library, Stone Harbor Branch 

Nature Center of Cape May, Cape May (reader report: “At the lighthouse on Saturdays there is a presentation on animals and the kids get to touch all the animals!”)

Camp By the Sea, Margate

Sea Isle City Recreation Camp, Sea Isle City

Stone Harbor Recreation, Stone Harbor (staff tip: there’s a huge variety of camps for kids of all ages, from surfing to crafts, plus weekly family fun nights!)

Kitchen Wizards, multiple locations (staff tip: check out these morning and evening cooking workshops through the Margate, Avalon, Sea Isle City, and north Wildwood recreation departments, as well as the Cape May Court House Library!)

Mini Golf

Flamingo Miniature Golf Course, Ship Bottom

Pirate Island Miniature Golf, Avalon, Sea Isle City, Ocean City

Congo Falls Adventure Golf, Ocean City

Haunted Golf, Ocean City (staff tip: this course is indoors, air-conditioned — and creepy!)

Evening Activities

Ocean City Boardwalk: Stroll, snack on french fries, and take in the family-friendly activities that happen almost every night, including magicians and music.

Outdoor Events: Check the websites of Avalon, Stone Harbor, and Sea Isle City for their schedules of concerts, movies, and more.

Souvenirs/Beach Gear

Faria’s Surf and Sport, multiple locations

Hoys 5 & 10, Ocean City, Avalon, Stone Harbor (staff tip: this throwback is a Shore stalwart, and they really do have everything!)

7th Street Surf Shop, Ocean City

Suncatcher, Stone Harbor

Heritage Surf and Sport, multiple locations

Sands Department Store, Sea Isle City (one reader swears, “If they don’t have it, you don’t need it!”)

All-Star Services

Especially if you’re on a longer trip, getting help with some of the comforts of home can be a huge boon. Here are some ways to ease the stress of travel — and maybe keep you from having to come home for fresh supplies.

Relax Concierge

232 West Ave., Ocean City

Serving Margate, Ocean City, Strathmere, Sea Isle, Avalon and Stone Harbor, this company will rent you (and deliver to your house) essentials like beach wagons, chairs, clean linens, cribs, and even games for the kids. Want groceries when you arrive? Consider it done.

LBI Dream Makers

802 Central Ave., Barnegat Light 

You can get groceries, linens, chairs, and other supplies here. Or you can splurge a bit more and rent a hot tub or book a personal chef.

Guardian Angels Sitting Service

Want to try out one of our date night restaurants, but don’t have a sitter? This branch of a national network will send a sitter with CPR certification and state and local clearances, so you’re not spending the appetizer course worrying.

Model Cleaners and Launderers

411 N. Route 9, Cape May Court House 

One of the biggest beach vacation bummers is spending your sunny days in the laundromat. Skip that step and just drop off your dirty clothes, then pick them up once they’re washed and folded! You’ll wish you had this service at home.

Points South

Do you love Delaware? The First State is home to some great family-friendly beach towns, and several have developed a reputation for being especially welcoming to LGBTQ families. Here are some highlights from Rehoboth, Dewey, and Bethany.

Kid-Friendly Restaurants

Grotto Pizza, multiple locations

Pie, Bethany Beach

Date Night Restaurants

Dogfish Head, Rehoboth Beach

Purple Parrot, Rehoboth Beach

The Lighthouse, Dewey Beach

Rusty Rudder, Dewey Beach

Ice Cream

Double Dippers, Rehoboth Beach

Vanderwende’s Farm Creamery, Dewey Beach

Beach Alternative

Beach Arcade Central, Rehoboth Beach

Funland, Rehoboth Beach



Photographs by Abbe Foreman. 





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