New Jersey’s Barnegat Peninsula

The Jersey shore is a popular place in the summer. It offers visitors a place to cool off, swim and just kick back and relax. One stretch of vacation nirvana is found along the barrier island known as the Barnegat Peninsula. On the east side of the island is the nice sandy beach and the Atlantic Ocean while the west is bordered by Barnegat Bay. This sameness is just about the only thing that stays the same though as you travel from one end of the peninsula to the other. Each of the numerous boroughs found along the way has its own distinctive personality. Let’s take a look at some of these communities and check out what they offer.

The northernmost communities are just south of the Manasquan River and include two towns, Point Pleasant and Point Pleasant Beach. The latter is typical Jersey shore but with a family feel and its own commercial boardwalk. Here you can also find a small commercial fishery, complete with a seafood co-op and a number of nice little restaurants. There are also hotels, motels and like all the rest of the places on the peninsula, a lifeguard protected beach. To get on the beach, and support the lifeguards, you will need to buy beach badges. There are daily, weekly and seasonal rates. Point Pleasant is just west of Point Pleasant Beach and is more of a settled community than a summer vacation destination. There is an old downtown area (with a lot of antique stores) and some other very business districts.

Moving south, the next community is Mantoloking. Here there is a connection to the mainland, via a bridge that crosses the bay. Mantoloking is old time fancy. Many of the homes, especially along the beach, are very large and quite expensive. Tourism per say is not as important here, as there is little commercial activity in town, no boardwalk and few accommodations available to folks that do not own property here.

Further south will bring you to Normandy Beach, Chadwich Beach and Dover Beaches South. The look and feel of the homes here are in sharp contrast to what is found just north in Mantoloking. Some areas of these communities consist of rows of small bungalows that are accessed by narrow sand lanes. Along the bay though are many larger and fancier homes, many of which contain Barnegat Bay access and docks right outside the back door of each property.

Moving along, one next finds Lavallette and Ortley Beach. While these towns are distinctive enough, as a whole they are much more similar to one another in comparison to the other towns just mentioned. Here their once were mostly smaller beach bungalows, but over the years most of these have been replaced by larger homes. There are also a few hotels and motels, condos and plenty of rental homes. There are also some commercial areas along route 35 and more amenities.

Seaside Heights is the next stop and this is the busiest and wildest borough of them all. It has a large commercial boardwalk with two amusement piers and lots of arcades, games, places to eat and bars. A summer weekend in Seaside is like spring break in Florida. Lots of teenagers. Wild parties. And a packed beach during the day.

Next is Seaside Park. This is somewhere between Mantoloking and Lavallette/Ortley Beach in its feel. Some nice old and large homes, quieter and more family oriented than the more commercialized Seaside Heights and some small commercial areas with stores, shops and places to eat.

Finally the last ten miles of the Barnegat Peninsula is a different kind of wild. Island Beach State Park is undeveloped barrier island. Very unusual for NJ and a sharp contrast to the rest of the paved over peninsula. You can even find wild foxes living among the dunes and maritime forest in the park.

As you can see, this roughly 20 miles of coastal barrier island offers quite a variety of places to visit. In some ways it is all the same while you are lounging on the beach, but what you want do (or can) do off the beach during your summer vacation on the Barnegat Peninsula can have a lot to do with where you stay.