While the rest of the shore is known for partying, a la the MTV show, Ocean Grove is a community of tranquil Victorian homes. Asbury Park is (quite a bit) more hip. Bradley Beach is a quiet family town that still has plenty of stuff to do.

The heart of Asbury Park is Cookman Ave, which is lined with restaurants, boutiques, and bars. It’s spread out from there. And, of course, along the boardwalk between Convention Hall and the Casino. Asbury Park has long been the center of NJ’s gay community. Lots of couples split their time between Asbury and Manhattan — or retired to the Jersey Shore.

Ocean Grove‘s Ocean Pathway runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Auditorium, the shore’s premier worship center. The street itself is lined with beautiful inns and private homes. The Auditorium is surrounded by canvas tents, where worshipers spend each summer. This two lane road has a wide pedestrian mall running down the center, hosting everything from sunrise services to car shows and craft fairs.

Curious about Ocean Grove’s strange history? Learn about the queen of religious resorts.

Bradley Beach has a classic main street: the train station, cafes, a bakery, and everything you need. All three towns have charming architecture and a unique history.

This is a great car-free weekend getaway. You can take the train from New York and walk everywhere you need to go.

If you’re not on Ocean Pathway, you’re on Ocean Grove’s Main Street or Asbury Park’s Cookman Ave. Or you’re out on the sand. You’re probably here for the beach, after all.

What to do

I hate games, but even I like the Silverball Pinball Museum.

Check the schedule for the Asbury Park Convention Hall and the Stone Pony. Smaller venues include the Asbury Park Yacht Club, the Saint, and Wonderbar.

If you’re a fan of the oldies, see what’s going on at the Great Auditorium.

Casey makes me go to the Bradley Bowl every time we’re in town.

If you’re looking for the gay scene, it’s basically the whole area, but Paradise and Georgie’s are the headquarters. One time there were kittens at Georgie’s and now I’m forever disappointed when it’s just a bunch of middle aged lesbians and people I went to school with.

Where to work

If you’re in need of coffee, wifi, and outlets, head to Cafe Volan (the most Brooklyn, both good and bad), Twisted Tree (the most hippie dippie), or the Perfect Perk (quiet, friendly, tell Paul I say hi).

ocean grove flea marketswan boats on wesley lakeocean grove tents

cafe volan on bangs ave in asbury parkocean grove tent life

Where to eat

Brunch

Cardinal Provisions might be my new favorite brunch place. Toast and Brickwall are solid choices for a classic American brunch.

If you walk south to Bradley Beach, I’m a fan of the Buttered Biscuit. They’re (local) famous for their brunch, but their meatloaf is to die for.

If you want a legit NJ Taylor ham sandwich, check out the tiny Wall Street Delight. Stop in on a nice day so you can eat on the boardwalk.

Lunch and Dinner

Talula’s is my favorite spot for artisanal pizza on the shore. If it’s nice, Porta wins for their fantastic yard, although their service is hit or miss.

SeaGrass is a family favorite. They’re there every Monday for the half-priced entrees. Remember it’s BYOB.

I’ve always loved Moonstruck, especially when I’m lucky enough to snag a table on the balcony overlooking the lake.

If it’s just Casey and I, we end up eating lunch at Nagle’s more often than not. This is one place where you want to sit inside, since it’s a restored apothecary. When we’re sick of Nagle’s (is that possible?) the Starving Artist is another great pick.

I’m not sure if Frank’s is the best ever or if you have to be a local to appreciate it, but anyone from around here is sort of obsessed.

Dessert

The line for ice cream at Nagle’s and Day’s will often be around the block. I haven’t been to Cookman Creamery yet, so please tell me how it is.

If you have no patience for lines, go to Lola’s for gelato.

If you like your desserts to be made of pure, unadulterated sugar with a weird rockstar theme, check out Confections of a Rockstar.

20140906_164849ocean grove's great auditorium

asbury park convention hall craft fairinterior of the great auditoriuminside an ocean grove tent

Where to drink

Johnny Mac’s is usually my first stop in Asbury, since it’s awesome and right across from the train station. If you want a snack, be sure to ask for a pizza ticket.

On nice days, I drink my beers in the sun with dogs at Wonder Bar’s yappy hour.

Everyone loves the Asbury Festhalle. My German family approves of their food.

If it’s a weekend, avoid the folks who look like they’re from the Jersey Shore and enjoy a quiet bar at Cross and Orange.

If you want to drink with the locals, head to Clancy’s. If there’s a game on, it gets loud, but other than that it’s a quiet pub. This is also the spot to buy beer if you’re staying in Ocean Grove.

Where to shop

I’m not much for shopping, but then there’s cheese. Stop by Burbelmaiers for all of your cheese and snacking needs.

If you’re going to BYOB, stop at Lush in Asbury Park for a curated (but not overpriced) selection of beer, wine, and spirits.

ocean grove's victorian houses as seen from ocean pathwayasbury park casinoocean grove tent kitchen

looking onto the porch of a tentpeering into an ocean grove tent kitchen

Where to stay

Unfortunately, you can’t rent out those cool tents in Ocean Grove. They’re rented only for the entire season and there’s generally a significant waiting list.

It’s not uncommon for every place in town to be booked during high season. If you’re planning on going for a holiday weekend, you’ll need to book well in advance.

There are a ton of B&Bs in Ocean Grove. There are apartment rentals on AirBnB and FlipKey. When I stay in Ocean Grove, I stay at either the Pearl or the Gem.

The Asbury Hotel is basically the lovechild of the Ace Hotel and a hostel. They have an on-site beer garden with food trucks. Need I say more?

The Empress Hotel is the Asbury Park classic. It has an on-site nightclub, Paradise.

If you want a more traditional boutique hotel, the Hotel Tides is in the lovely residential side of Asbury Park, but still walking distance to everything.

If you’re looking for budget accommodations for a quiet weekend or a place for a group, Grove Hall now rents out individual rooms. Most have shared bathrooms and there’s no drinking allowed in the retreat center.

Getting there

NJ Transit will get you from New York City’s Penn Station or the Hoboken Terminal to Asbury Park or Bradley Beach on the North Jersey Coast Line.

jersey shore njasbury park ocean grove bradley beach nj

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