Living on the New Jersey ShoreIyna Bort Caruso
For generations of Mid-Atlantic beach-goers, “down the shore” has meant only one thing: the Jersey Shore.
It is the 130-mile long ribbon of coastline that extends from Sandy Hook south to Cape May, a region legendary for its beaches, barrier islands and boardwalks.
Those boardwalks are the lifeblood of its seaside communities. Some boardwalks are hubs packed with amusement park rides, gift shops and food stands like Seaside Heights, Asbury Park and, most famously, the four-mile long pedestrian stretch of Atlantic City. Other boardwalks are calm, commercial-free zones for walking, jogging or quiet contemplation such as those of Spring Lake and Avon.
The dozens of waterfront towns that fall under the umbrella name of the Jersey Shore are a mix of summer resort spots and year-round residential communities, each one distinct. What they all have in common are clean and inviting sandy beaches. New Jersey is ranked an impressive 3rd out of 30 states in beach water quality, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Old money, young families, amusement park junkies, surfers, retirees and urban escapees all find a swathe of sand to call their own. And that’s the way it’s been in some communities for more than 100 years when wealthy visitors from New York City and Philadelphia first started arriving for their summer breaks.
Among the northerly towns is Asbury Park, synonymous with Bruce Springsteen and the place to hear the distinctive brand of rock n roll known as the Jersey Shore Sound. Next door, Ocean Grove is an elegant enclave, developed as a religious summer camp, and on the National Register of Historic Places for its huge collection of Victorian architecture. Spring Lake is one of the Shore’s most affluent communities with stately homes that enjoy the patina of resort elegance. Small-town charm is found in abundance in places like Avalon and Stone Harbor. Gingerbread homes of the Victorian era are the prevailing architectural style of Cape May, situated where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Delaware Bay and mile marker 0 on the Garden State Parkway. Billed as America’s oldest seaside resort, the entire city was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.