Set on the southern end of Barnegat Peninsula between Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park and Island Beach State Park has been “Your Home for Family Fun Since 1913.” With 14 blocks of white sand beaches, family entertainment, fishing, and wildlife habitats, it’s easy to see why visitors of all ages have made this part of the Jersey Shore their summer destination year after year. If you’ve never been, or you’ve been going since you could walk, you’ll find our local guide to Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, and Island Beach State Park packs in all of the highlights for a visit.
Jersey Shore Local Guide to Seaside Heights
Even though the nation may have been introduced to Seaside Heights during the filming of MTV’s Jersey Shore in the summer of 2009, locals know that these shore towns are known for so much more. The population of Seaside Heights, normally 3,000 in the winter months, swells to as many as 65,000 each summer. Originally settled by the Lenape Native Americans and fishermen, the completion of the Toms River Bridge in 1914 along with the boardwalk and train access brought those looking to frolic in the surf and sun.
Our local guide to Seaside Heights wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the seashore town’s iconic features, the historic Dr. Floyd L. Moreland Historic Dentzel/Loof Carousel on the boardwalk. Celebrating its 105th birthday this year, it features hand carved figures of 58 animals and original paintings and has been delighting the young and the old for over a century.
Among the great sites of these shore towns is the 2-mile boardwalk. Add Casino Pier, extending over 300 feet into the ocean and you know this local guide to Seaside Heights is packing in the fun.
In October 2012, Funtown Pier suffered damage during Superstorm Sandy. Haunting images of the Jetstar roller coaster, originally at the tip of Casino Pier, peaking out of the waves of the Atlantic after Sandy has stayed with locals since then. Tragedy struck again for Funtown Pier in September 2013, less than a year after Superstorm Sandy, when a fire destroyed the remaining pier and the southern end of the boardwalk.
However, these towns have proven their resiliency, rebuilding a boardwalk that’s better than ever. No local guide to Seaside Heights would be complete without including a walk along the “boards” and a stop at concession stands (go for the funnel cake!), arcade games, and rides for kids (and kids at heart). From skee-ball to rollercoasters, there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy from ages 2 to 102! And if you’re feeling the heat, cool off at Breakwater Beach featuring one of the largest interactive play areas on the North Atlantic Coast.
The Sea Life and Seafood in Seaside Heights
This seaside paradise is also prized for its proximity to fish, crabs, clams and scallops. Spend a day on the bayside where younger children can enjoy a shallow swimming beach with the underwater locals like mussels, snails, and minnows. Watch as the boats pass through the channel or set up anchor for a chance to reel in the catch of the day. Crabbing and light tackle fishing are a favorite pastime at the north and south bayside docks, as is watching the sun set over the bay.
Since we love food, we’re adding some delicious stops to our local guide to Seaside Heights. Further south, try out some local seafood at iconic establishments like Bum Roger’s Crabhouse and Chef Mike’s ABG in South Seaside Park, where you can dine on oysters and locally caught fish served with flair at a table overlooking the Atlantic! If happy hour is what you’re looking for after a long day at the beach, head to Hemingway’s Café and Savor Lounge where locals and visitors unite in their quest for the perfect cocktail.
Just south of Seaside Heights is the quieter Seaside Park. Only a square mile, but featuring two miles of shoreline, this quaint seaside town is home to hotels and vacation homes. Keep heading south on Route 35 where you’ll drive right into New Jersey’s longest stretch of undeveloped coastline, Island Beach State Park.
Home to over 3,000 acres of undeveloped shoreline, this state park offers 10 miles of pristine beaches, dense maritime forests, tidal marshes, and an array of wildlife. On any given day during the summer, hop on a dune buggy or take your boat to the Tices Shoal on the bayside where boaters lower their anchor and gather together for a day of swimming. End the day with a ride to the southern tip of the island for a view of the Barnegat Lighthouse located just across the Barnegat Inlet, one of the best places to watch the day’s catch come in.
Whether you’re making a day trip out of it or staying for a week, there’s tons of summer fun in these Jersey Shore towns. From enjoying the beach and waves to riding the hundred-year-old carousel, and digging into delicious seafood specialties, it’s a Jersey Shore visit that will create everlasting memories for summers to come. And with our local guide to Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, and Island Beach State Park you’re sure to vacation like the locals do.
Each week, Jersey Shore in Motion will spotlight towns along the Jersey Shore sharing their history, local favorites, and unique attractions. Stay tuned for next week’s Local Guide to Red Bank.