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!)
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
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
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
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
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!)
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!)
Ocean City Boardwalk: Stroll, snack on french fries, and take in the family-friendly activities that happen almost every night, including magicians and music.
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!”)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Double Dippers, Rehoboth Beach
Vanderwende’s Farm Creamery, Dewey Beach
Beach Arcade Central, Rehoboth Beach
Funland, Rehoboth Beach
Photographs by Abbe Foreman.