Locals casually refer to it as “down the shore”, but this vast strip of coastline spans an impressive 141 miles from Perth Amboy to the southern tip of Cape May. The vastly underrated Jersey Shore has so much more to offer than the thumping boardwalk scene depicted in the MTV reality show – from seaside concerts to award-winning restaurants, charming historical towns and festivals galore, this little slice of America is pure seaside Norman Rockwell.
Do yourself a favor and put the miles in to see magical Cape May – a National Historic Landmark lined with Victorian homes and cobblestone streets. Like Key West, it’s not unheard of to knock a cold one back before noon here; or while away an afternoon counting the steps up the historic Cape May Lighthouse before taking in the sunset on the soft sands of nearby Sunset Beach. Next door, Wildwood offers the widest beaches in the state, and family-friendly boardwalk amusements for the littles.
Making your way north, you’ll find each tiny town holds its own distinct personality: from the perfectly manicured, retro charms of Spring Lake, to the hip, bustling music scene of Asbury Park, or laid-back surf haven, Manasquan. In Lakewood, you can take in a BlueClaws minor league baseball game under the stars.
If you’re after shoreline of another sort, New Jersey’s Delaware River Region offers 150 miles along the Delaware Bay and Delaware River, making it a waterside camping (and glamping) paradise.
Bring your own kayak or rent one from a local vendor; or lazy tube down the river for an old school thrill. By day, you can hike your way through the Pine Barrens; poke around shops in adorable New Hope and Lambertville (named one of the top 15 prettiest towns in America); or get your foodie on at the killer Stockton Food Market, a year-round indoor farmer’s market with a well-curated food scene. Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton offers a memorable afternoon; as does the award-winning Coda Rossa Winery in Franklinville.
Skylands looks as good as it sounds: think rolling green hills tucked into the beautiful Kittatinny Mountains. Hikers can explore their way to the tippy-top of High Point State Park, which earns its moniker by offering sweeping panoramic views of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York; or pick up a piece of the 72 miles of the Appalachian Trail that stretch through this area. You can taste cheeses at Valley Shepherd Creamery, or pick up some of the best barbecue in the state at Pulled Fork BBQ in Long Valley.
Lake Hopatcong offer swimming, boating and fishing; and the Lakota Wolf Preserve is a unique stop in Columbia. Foilage can sneak into these mountains as early as late summer – enjoy the colors with a hike through Buttermilk Falls, followed by a cozy dinner with a view in the window-lined greenhouse room at the Walpack Inn.