Since the summer is in full swing and Philadelphia families flock to the Jersey Shore to cool off, I figured now would be a good time to write about my favorite beach in South Jersey. I haven't been to all the beach towns, in fact only a few, but for a quick day trip to a quiet beach that doesn't break the bank, I don't need to look any further than Atlantic City.
Atlantic City!? What?! Yep! I follow a few local online parenting groups where people often ask: what is the best beach for a quick day trip? Ocean City is usually the clear winner. OC is great, there's tons to do and it's very family oriented, but it will most likely take you 1 h 30 minute to get to. When you arrive you have to pay for parking and the beach itself which is usually packed. Cape May, Wildwood and LBI have their own charm but they are even further away.
Anyway back to why I love Atlantic City for an easy family day at the beach. First it's the quickest spot to the shore from Philly, which is why AC was built there to begin with. One hour and five minutes from Center City when there's no traffic and you have the EZ pass. And I gotta tell you, when you fly by the 7S exit that leads to the southern beach points, and you see the parking lot that it is, right there and then you know you made the right choice skipping this mess and heading to Atlantic City. By the time these people have merged on the parkway, you'll be lying on the beach in AC.
When I say Atlantic City, I'm talking about the most northern point of the City. Not where all the casinos and outlets are. North of the ghost ship that is the Revel, north of the now completely empty "Taj Mahal", where the boardwalk was just redone. Right there, it's quiet, it's free (both the beach and parking), it's clean, and you can park right next to the boardwalk. Cross over and there's the beach, supervised by life guards.
There are outside showers to get rid of the sand and small public restrooms. The rides on the Steel Pier are too far away for my kids to notice and obsess over (like they do in OC), so they happily end up playing in the sand.
What if you want to do more than just lay in the sand and play in the water?
Well there's actually quite a few things to do.
Boardwalk? Check, albeit ghost like. In the morning you can ride your bike on the boardwalk without ever having to shout "on your left" or ring your bell because no one's there. It's actually kind of eerie, but I like it.
Hungry? There's the amazing Tony Boloney's pizzeria just a block down the road, some of the best pizza I've ever had with really unique toppings.
Want to get out of the heat? Head to the Absecon Lighthouse. Both my kids, 3 and 6 years old, walked up all of the 228 steps to the top and had a great 360 degree view of the area.
If you don't feel like exercising, there's also an aquarium near by. It's small and pricey for what it is, but your kids will love petting and feeding the rays.
You'd rather fish than look at fish through glass? There's a jetty at the very northern part of the beach that people fish from. It's easy to access and not busy.
Would I stay there a week? Nope, but if you are looking for a nearby beach to escape the busy-ness of the city, and want to enjoy it without spending a dime other than on tolls and gas, then you'll hit the jackpot with this Atlantic City beach (pun intended...I couldn't help myself).
Below is a Google map showing all the locations I mentioned above. I wouldn't walk all the way to the aquarium with kids though, it's not that far, but it's not the most exciting walk either.
200 boardwalk is where you enter the beach and boardwalk.
PS: the pictures here are from several trips taken over the past year. Right now there is some construction on parts of the beach so it's not as wide as it would otherwise be, and slightly more crowded. By the second time we went there this summer they had already re-opened a section of the beach so I can't imagine it will be there much longer.