Where else can you start your day at the Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island for a tour of these great historical monuments. Travel down the highway for about 45 minutes, grab a great lunch in Highlands or Belmar, NJ. Visit the beaches in Sandy Hook, play some games in Point Pleasant Beach, drive further down to Atlantic City and catch a show or try your luck with the slots, watch the sunset over the water (without any land interrupting it), then spend the night in a cozy bread and breakfast in Cape May?
The New Jersey shore.
I've been living on or near the Jersey shore for 3 years now. 1 1/2 in Highlands, right on the beach, and the last 1 1/2 years in Brick Township on the Point Pleasant line, and I've loved every day of it. (I guess the local song is true, "There's something in the water that keeps me happy. Something in the water, down at the shore".
Starting in the north, off of exit 14 from the New Jersey Turnpike is Liberty State Park. You can catch a quick ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Both are wonderful to see, and Ellis Island is very educational. In the same area is Liberty Science Center. Kinda like a small museum of science. I've never been in it, but I've heard its great.
Moving further south, you hit a lot of not so touristy areas like Orange, Newark, Jersey City. Youreally won['t hit any tourist areas until you get past Middletown off of Exit 117 from the Garden State Parkway, and about 10 miles down route 36. You hit Atlantic Highlands, Highlands, Sandy Hook, Sea Bright, and Monmouth Beach. This is a great area to visit the beaches. Highlands and Atlantic Highlands are protected from large waves from Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook is a barrier island, about 6 miles long and at the end is Fort Hancock, an old retired army base, but part of it is still used by the coast guard. You can go into the houses there, and see the old battle mounts. Again, fun and educational. There are also some great resturants in Highlands.
Further south, around exit 98-88 (or the eastern end of I-195, southern end of Route 18) on the Garden State Parkway, you hit the Wall township, Point Pleasant area where there is a very nice boardwalk on the beach. Food, games (ones you rarely win, but have a great time trying). This area can get very crowded in the summer, I'd recommend the off season if you're not going there to swim.
Hopping back on the parkway, then exiting off to the Atlantic City expressway east, you hit Atlantic City. Casinos and shows. Yes, you'll lose money, probably more then you lost in Point Pleasant, but you'll have fun. Have a quick snack at the buffets, and maybe catch a show.
If you skipped Atlantic City, stay on the Parkway south, or had to Atlantic City and take the "Shore Drive" (follow the gull!) down to Cape May. Cape May is a small tourist area, there is a zoo (guilt fee a.k.a. donations for admittance), shops, bread and breakfasts, etc.
In this area, there is the Cape May Courthouse Zoo. One of the best 'donation' zoos I've ever been to. We loved it and have been there twice in the past year. We found it very impressive for a zoo of that style.
There is also Pearl Beach. The only place on the eastern seaboard of the US that you can watch a sunset over water, uninterrupted by land. There are also 'mother of pearls' everywhere. Kids love these. They're the inside of clam shells, buffed and sanded by the ocean water and sand to a shiny and soft shell. Check out the concrete battleship while you're there two.
In Cape May itself, there are dozens of shops, resturants, and bed & breakfasts. Last time I was there was later in the season, October, and prices for souvineres wern't too bad. Resturant prices aren't too bad either, and the food is great.
For this review, I'm supposed to give some details below. Type of travel, best time, size, etc. I couldn't. The Jersey shore can be a day trip to a full week vacation. Cost? Spend as much as you want! We have a motel here in Brick as inexpensive as $50 a night, and I'm sure some of the nice B&B's down in Cape May go a lot more than that. Size of group? Again, any size! Best time to visit? If you're willing to brave the traffic and crowds, come in the summer. If not, hit in the spring before memorial day, or in the fall after labor day. Its cooler, not as much might be open all the time, but still makes a great trip. Best suited for? Again, everyone! Families, Couples, Students, Seniors. There is something for everyone at every budget at the Jersey shore!
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