Right along the Atlantic Ocean, New Jersey has dozens of beaches for residents and visitors to enjoy. Many of these beaches require paid beach tags to visit starting Memorial Day weekend, and prices vary by county and visitor age. But if you want to take in the sand and waves without breaking the bank, you’re in luck. Several free beaches in the state offer beautiful ocean views and plenty of sand to relax on. With plenty of sunshine and sandy shores, these beaches are perfect for a budget-friendly daycation. So grab your sunhat and sunscreen and get ready to relax at the shore.
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Keansburg Beach is a popular spot for residents and visitors to New Jersey’s Monmouth County. The beach is located on Raritan Bay, offering stunning views of the New York City skyline. In addition to the beautiful scenery and boardwalk, Keansburg Beach also features a 2,000-foot-long fishing pier, though anglers will have to pay a small fee to use it. There are pole and net rentals available, along with places to buy tackle and bait.
For those who can’t get enough of the water, the Runaway Rapids Waterpark is located right next to the boardwalk. Visitors can spend $37 for a full three hours of fun. The waterpark is especially popular with families, as it offers numerous slides, a lazy river, and water features.
The Keansburg Amusement Park is also located nearby, offering a great day out for families and children of all ages. While it’s not free either, rides are only $1.25 with discounts for buying in bulk. It offers thrill rides like Pharoh’s Fury and the Sea Serpent Roller Coaster, boardwalk games like darts and basketball, rides for kids, and food and arcades. Don’t forget the go-karts.
Back at the beach, swimming is permitted until 7 p.m. or dusk, though there aren’t any lifeguards. Whether you’re looking to relax in the sun or enjoy some adrenaline-pumping fun, Keansburg Beach has something to offer everyone.
The Wildwood beaches are located in Wildwood Crest, Wildwood, and North Wildwood in the south portion of Cape May County. They add up to over five miles along the Atlantic Ocean and offer plenty of excitement despite being known for their cleanliness. You can often find beachgoers enjoying activities like kayaking, surfing, and sailing. Every year, the Wildwood beaches host several events, including a kite festival and various sports tournaments.
If the beaches and events weren’t enough, there are plenty of other activities thanks to the boardwalk that stretches for over a mile and a half. It offers visitors a chance to take in the sights and sounds of the beach while enjoying some of the best shopping, dining, and entertainment in the area. Taking visitors past a variety of shops, restaurants, and amusement parks, there’s always something fun to do along the boardwalk. How about even more water at one of the waterparks, or taking in the views from a 156-foot tall Ferris wheel?
Between the beaches themselves, boardwalk, and other entertainment, it’s hard to believe that the beaches have no admission fee. The amusement parks will need tickets, but thankfully there’s plenty to do for free if you don’t want to spend any money.
North of Wildwood, still along the Atlantic Ocean in Cape May County, are the beaches of Strathmere. Strathmere’s beaches are a great place to relax and enjoy the ocean. The beaches cover about a mile and a half, and there are many activities to enjoy. Surfing and fishing are allowed in specific spots, though lifeguards may open up protected parts of the beach in some situations. Surfing is permitted north of Sherman and south of Tecumseh, while fishing is allowed north of Seacliff and south of Prescott. Visitors are welcome to enjoy rafts and boogie boards on all parts of the beach, conditions permitting.
Most beaches in Strathmere have a lifeguard on duty during the day, though hours may vary depending on the beach. The beaches use a flag warning system to keep visitors posted on the conditions of the water. Even if you’re not in the mood for swimming that day, it’s easy to settle into the sand for a relaxing day—these beaches tend to be less crowded than others in the state. Have a great time at Strathmere’s beaches.
Aptly named for its location on the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City is in the southern Jersey shore. Atlantic City’s beach is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. Anglers can try their luck at fishing, while kayakers can explore the coastline. Windsurfers can enjoy the waves, and sunbathers can relax on the sand. Lifeguards are usually present during the daytime, and there are plenty of restaurants and cafes nearby to grab a bite.
For a unique view of the beach, visitors can take a helicopter tour out of Steel Pier, starting at just over $68. The tour provides stunning coastline views, making it a great way to experience the beauty of Atlantic City‘s beach.
Atlantic City’s boardwalk is one of the city’s most iconic features. It was built in 1870, and today offers a variety of stores and restaurants. In addition, it provides visitors with a great view of the water and takes them past several amenities like a casino and the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, a multi-purpose arena. Plus, there’s the shopping experience at The Playground and the fun at the Central Pier Arcade and Steel Pier. As such, the boardwalk is an essential part of Atlantic City’s history and its identity—and offers plenty of fun to go along with it.
Gateway National Recreation Area
Located in Highlands and Sandy Hook, the Gateway National Recreation Area features tourist attractions from the Sandy Hook lighthouse to numerous beaches. There is a fee for parking during the beach season (funds used by the National Park Service to improve and maintain the facilities), but the area doesn’t have an admission fee. Sandy Hook itself is a spit of land that extends six miles into the water.
There are seven named beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side of the spit, including North Beach, Gunnison Beach, and the Southern Beaches (named A through E). Each beach has its own unique character and offers a variety of activities. North Beach is the least crowded of the beaches, so it’s great if you want some quiet time on the sand. The beach is expansive, meaning there’s plenty of space to spread out, though it’s a bit of a walk to get to the shore. It also has picnic tables and an observation deck. Gunnison Beach is similar to North Beach in that it’s a long walk from the parking lot to the shore, but its main difference is that it’s a clothing-optional beach.
Like the beaches up north, the Southern Beaches do require a walk to the shore. The Southern Beaches generally offer amenities like the occasional food truck, bathhouses, picnic tables, and more. This series of beaches is also a popular place for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking. The Southern Beaches in particular are popular with fishers and birdwatchers.
On the west side, Sandy Hook also has several miles of trails that wind through the dunes and provide sweeping ocean views. This area is especially popular for activities like kite surfing.
William Morrow Beach
Also known as Somers Point Beach, William Morrow Beach may be small, but it still packs plenty to do. Visitors can enjoy viewing and wading or swimming in the waters of Great Egg Harbor Bay along with spreading out on the sand. The beach features lifeguards, a fishing pier, and a playground, making it a perfect place to spend a day with family or friends.
The beach also hosts several concerts a week during the season, making it an excellent spot for a night out. Music ranges from Grammy-nominated artists to tribute bands and original groups. The shows are always free and start at around 7 p.m., so visitors enjoy the last minutes of the sun while appreciating some great music. The beach is known for its beautiful sunsets, so be sure not to get so caught up in the concert that you miss the view.
Corson’s Inlet State Park
While there are fees for aspects like boat launching and boat storage, admission to the 341-acre Corson’s Inlet State Park is free. It was established in 1969 to preserve the land from development. The park is located in Ocean City, against the Atlantic Ocean. People enjoy hiking, sunbathing, crabbing, and fishing for species like striped bass and bluefish; however, no swimming is allowed. The beaches tend not to have too many people, so the park is a great destination for anyone who wants to enjoy the beach with a bit less noise.
The park features a boat ramp, guided tours of the area, and numerous hiking and biking trails, making it a great place to get outdoors and explore the natural beauty of the area. Plus, there are plenty of spots throughout the park where visitors can view wildlife—especially birds, as the park has protected nesting sites in the dunes—in their natural habitat. When you’re ready for a relaxing day in nature or on the sand, Coron’s Inlet State Park has something to offer everyone.
Old Bridge Waterfront Park
Old Bridge Waterfront Park is a popular destination for both residents and visitors. It’s located in Old Bridge Township, right along Raritan Bay, and has three main beaches: Paul’s Beach, Laurence Harbor, and Pirate’s Cove at Cliffwood Beach. Each beach has its own unique features, making it a perfect spot for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, or simply relaxing. Paul’s Beach and Laurence Harbor are connected by a 1.3-mile boardwalk, which is a great way to exercise while enjoying the scenery. Pirate’s Cove also has its own boardwalk, but it is shorter and is mainly used for wildlife viewing.
In addition to the beaches, the park also has two playgrounds, two gazebos, easy access to stores and restaurants, and canoe and kayaking opportunities. It plays host to Old Bridge’s Salt Water Day, an event that features kid-friendly activities, vendors, music, and food—even a hot air balloon. Whether you’re looking for a day of fun in the sun or a place to relax and unwind, Old Bridge Waterfront Park is definitely worth a visit.
Free Beach Days
In addition to the beaches that are free year-round, several of the beaches that require beach tags have days where they’re free. For example, Sea Isle City Beach allows free visits on Wednesdays.
It’s also important to note that while many beaches charge for visits between Memorial Day and Labor Day, visitors generally don’t have to pay to visit in the off-season. This means free opportunities to fish, play in the sand, or just walk along the shoreline. The off-season is free, however, because there likely won’t be any lifeguards during this time, so swimming would be risky.
All of these schedules and fees are subject to change, so check the city’s website before heading out. Just because a beach is free one year doesn’t mean it’ll be the next—and vice versa.
Enjoy New Jersey’s Beaches for Free
If you’re looking for a beach to spend your day, New Jersey has plenty of great options, including ones that don’t require a beach tag. From Keansburg to Cape May, there are beaches that offer something for everyone. Many also provide easy access to larger, non-free amenities if you want to do something a little extra. Visitors can find everyday activities like swimming and sunbathing, but there are plenty of boardwalks, fishing piers, arcades, events, and more. And the best part is, the beaches in this article are free to visit. Get out and enjoy the sand and sun at one of New Jersey’s beautiful beaches today.
Bio: With an economics and finance degree from Rutgers University, Robert Dekanski leads the The Robert Dekanski Team, the Wall Street Journal-named #1 real estate team in New Jersey.