It’s not all funnel cakes and beach body beefcakes. The Jersey shore has experienced a renaissance in all dimensions the past few years, giving us 10 reasons to love the Jersey Shore all over again.
As you enter this posh community, you’re reminded that Avalon is “cooler by a mile”. While some may take that to mean there’s a good amount of hipster culture to be found here, what it really means is a bit more literal. Look at a map and you’ll see a part that juts out further than any other point along the coast of the Jersey Shore. That’s Avalon. Avalon is as much as a mile further out to sea than any other town along this part of the state.
But yes, there is also hipster culture to be found here — in droves, actually. Check out The Princeton for dancing ‘til dawn and The Diving Horse for farm-to-table fare (check out their cool logo: yes, it’s a diving horse). Decor: exquisite, traditional, beach casual with elements of farmhouse worked in. Philadelphia Magazine named this joint the “Best Shore Hot Spot”.
But this isn’t necessarily a restaurant guide. It’s meant to give a taste of what Avalon really is: special. The Diving Horse is just a spot that captures the essence of Avalon because it’s located on Dune Drive.
Dune Drive is “hipster central” with cocktail bars, restaurants, nightlife and more. For a bit of solitude and perhaps some ocean reflection, you can stroll out to the end of the Avalon fishing pier. All summer long, Dune Drive is host to outdoor concerts. So if you want to live on the Jersey Shore but you want to retain some urban sophistication in your life, Dune Drive in Avalon is a good place to start.
2. Stone Harbor
Three miles of beach town that includes the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary. What more could you ask for in your neighborhood? The town has also recently renovated its theater: the Harbor Square Theatre, complete with a burger bar.
Birders will absolutely love Stone Harbor. Birding resources and activities are reason enough to move here. Every May there’s the Spring Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival.
In addition, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of The Wetlands Institute. This is a non-profit dedicated to protecting wetlands and doing research on the coastal ecosystem. If you’d like to develop your birding hobby or dig into becoming a steward of the coastal area, start here. It’s a great boon to the community of Stone Harbor to have this organization within its borders. For folks who are moving to the Jersey Shore and who want to meet like-minded people, this is a good place to start if you care about birds and the coastal environment.
As for the cost of living in Stone Harbor, it’s slightly above the national average in most areas but below statewide averages for things like transportation, utilities, health care, and services. Housing is the one exception, raising the total cost of living index for Stone Harbor far above even the rest of the state. Housing is, as can imagine, sought-after, precious, and priced accordingly with an average median home value of nearly $1.2 million. But as you can see, you get what you pay for and Stone Harbor is one precious Jersey Shore gem. Schools are top level, with an impressive student-to-teacher ration of eight to one. Year-over-year crime rates are down (although the only crimes reported are theft and property crime.
Housing here can be a little high-end, with NYC second homeowners setting up expansive estates right on the beach, resembling The Bush Family estate in Maine! But you do get what you pay for and many of the homes for sale in Stone Harbor are truly spectacular, one-of-a-kind, and worth every dime in the pleasure they bring over the decades of ownership people enjoy in them. Stone Harbor is known to have family-friendly beaches, another reason people are willing to pay competitive prices for property here. You won’t feel the high-energy buzz of other Shore towns tub you will get the beaches, the sun, and incredible sunsets.
3. Sea Isle City
This enclave boasts a lower median home value than Stone Harbor and even better schools. Rent is slightly cheaper and unemployment is four percent lower than the national average. Located just across the Townsends Inlet Bridge from Avalon, Sea Isle City is a whisp of a strip of land facing the Atlantic Ocean just over 20 miles north of Cape May.
Head inland and you’ll be at the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge. Keep going and the Belleplain State Forest awaits. Head up the Garden State Parkway and you’re an hour and a half from Philadelphia International Airport. Location doesn’t really get any better!
Locals appreciate their town, celebrating its oceanside culture with events like the “Sara the Turtle Festival” and the annual Polar bear plunge. No longer a host to amusement parks but the township began a multi-million dollar makeover initiative in 2011, which has resulted in a public corridor from the bay to the ocean. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the public lands now. The city is also proud to use LED streetlights, putting on the forefront of smart city design, as they are powered only by solar energy and wind power.
All in all, Sea Isle City is less tony than many of the neighboring townships and people are down-to-earth. You can still get a haircut here for around thirteen bucks— almost 18 percent cheaper than the national average!
4. Ocean City
The good times are rolling again in Ocean City — literally, with the Ferris wheel! There’s the boardwalk, food stalls, the Ocean City Pops Orchestra and yes, you guessed it: funnel cakes. You can see Atlantic City from here but rather than gambling, Ocean City is all about boardwalks, live bands, food stalls, and enjoying life.
Visit in early July and hear the Pops Orchestra’s Star Spangle Spectacular. They give concerts all summer long and into Fall. Those looking to relocate to an oceanside retreat and who have a musical background can consider joining. If you’re retiring, what better way to meet people, find your niche, and keep your lifelong passion stoked with regular practice and a busy summertime concert schedule.
Plus, there’s plenty of opportunity in Ocean City, as its population has declined at a pretty steep rate over the past decade. From 2010 to 2018, the population decreased by 4.8 percent, which is even larger than that of Flint, Michigan.
How does moving into a stately old Victorian house sound? There are some beauties in Ocean City (one was recently featured in Architectural Digest article entitled, “8 Historic Victorian Homes That are for Sale Right Now”. Just to give you a taste: it was built in 1882, operated as a bed and breakfast, and has seven bedrooms and seven baths!
5. Good Old Americana at Its Best
From the Silverball Pinball Museum in Asbury Park to the beachfront water parks that made America love the Jersey Shore the first time around, this is where you’ll find Americana at its best. Only here, in the USA, will you find roller coasters, funnel cakes, lobster rolls (and pork rolls too), homemade taffy, and fudge. Come for the fun and return for the nostalgia. Visit for the unique charm and live here for the proximity to endless uniquely American entertainment options that await.
Think the Jersey Shore sounds great? So does hundreds of thousands of others, too. In the summertime, you can find yourself mobbed with weekenders heading “down the shore”. But come Fall, the difference is striking and you can virtually find yourself alone on the beach or crossing the barrier island bridges with ease.
Of course, you have the beaches. And while we’re on the subject, these beaches truly are special. Where else can you see the NYC skyline from the beach, other than the beaches along the upper portions of the Jersey Shore?
But in case you need to rev up your city vibes, you’ll be glad to know that you’re also a stone’s throw from several major metropolitan areas. Day trip options include:
- New York City, which is only an hour away from the North Jersey Coast (or up to two hours, depending on which town you start from).
- Philadelphia, which is also only an hour away from the North Jersey Coast (or two hours, depending on where you live).
- Wilmington, Delaware, which is approximately two hours away by car
Plus, if you can get yourself to the New Jersey Transit light rail station in Atlantic City, you’re a train ride away from Philadelphia with tons of stops in between. There, you can catch Amtrak and head north or south for all kinds of train-based travel adventures. The South Jersey Shore isn’t served by the NJT light rail but NJT buses do run regularly all the way from Cape May at the southern tip of the Jersey Shore to Philly and NYC.
Yes, New Jersey is known for its incredible pizza. But there’s something about pizza when it’s devoured amidst ocean breezes, far from the crowds and traffic that permeate much of northern Jersey… even more delicious. Plus, if you live on the Jersey Shore, there are always endless boardwalks where you can walk off those extra calories.
9. Civic Involvement
If you are civic-minded and have an interest in the complex web of local politics and personalities, places like Ocean City are good places to get involved. Want to have a say in the way your city taxes are spent? Have an opinion about property values? Interested in forming a bike path in your area? The smaller towns that dot the South Jersey Shore are tiny hotbeds of political action and full of people who care deeply about their communities. You’ll never get the feeling that “nobody cares” in these coastal towns!
10. Hiking & Mountain Biking
The Jersey Shore isn’t all about the shore.
There’s also hiking within a short drive anywhere along the southern shore areas we’ve been focusing on here. From Sea Isle City, for example, you can drive one hour north and find yourself in an incredibly unique natural phenomenon known as “Pine Barrens”.
This is a vast stretch of thick Pine forest named for its poor soil (where only Pine trees would grow). What is lacks in crop potential, it more than makes up for in biking trails. There’s the Penn Branch Mountain Biking Trail, which is eighteen miles of twisty, forested, gorgeous narrow bike trails winding their way through Pine Barrens and Wharton State Forest. There’s an entire network of trails, actually, that connect to the Penn Branch, and they all start in the Historic Batsto Village.
You can also do some hiking in the Pine Barrens. While you’re in Batsto, check out the Batsto Lake Trail for hiking, which also loops through the Pine Barrens and along the lake. The Belle Plain State Forest, mentioned earlier, is also great for hiking. Try starting at Lake Nummy.
The Edward G Bevan Fish and Wildlife Management Area has trails, too. Nearly 19 square miles of land with hardwood forests, meadows, marshes and a pond, all with a network of roads and trails throughout. There are trails along the Maurice River — keep an eye out for a large variety of bird species. It’s all only a half-hour’s drive from places like Avalon.
There’s Even More on the Jersey Shore
We’ve covered a lot of ground here but we still haven’t managed to capture the real essence of what it’s like to live on the Jersey Shore. As home to America’s first coastline resort, this magic stretch of seaside enclaves even has a bit of history to explore. If you’re planning a move, plan an extended stay to check out all the rest of what this region has to explore. It’s a great place to visit and even a better place to call home.