Welcome the symbols of summer: beaches, boardwalks and lighthouses!

Whether you’re into surfing or sandcastle architecture, skee-ball or frozen custard, seafaring history or spectacular ocean views, the Jersey Shore captures the carefree spirit of summer. Along New Jersey’s 130 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, discover the classic trio of the season: beaches, boardwalks and lighthouses.

Hit the boards for nostalgia, thrills and funnel cakes

Do you prefer a peaceful stroll by the ocean or a walk on the wild side? Whatever your style, there’s a Jersey Shore boardwalk for you. For a relaxed promenade, consider Spring Lake, the longest non-commercial boardwalk. Belmar’s boardwalk attracts walkers and runners, while Avalon’s 10-block stretch, bordered by dunes and thick vegetation, feels much like a nature walk. Another natural boardwalk setting is the newly opened Fisherman’s Walkway at Island Beach State Park, which winds through bayberry and beach plum and offers beach access for both bluefish anglers and people in wheelchairs.

Thrill-seekers will want to venture out to Seaside Heights’ wooden boardwalk, which was rebuilt in 2013. Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach Water park added a go-kart track expansion, Double-shot drop tower ride, wave pool and two slide to the water park and a new 36-hole multi-level mountain miniature golf course in 2015. Two favorites for families are Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach (don’t miss the Swing Ride) and Ocean City’s boardwalk, with two-and-a-half miles of boardwalk featuring a full eight blocks of family amusements and the Shore’s only boardwalk movie theater. Looking for super sized boardwalk fun? Atlantic City’s four-mile length offers something for everyone, from saltwater taffy to luxury boutiques, casino gaming to glow-in-the-dark mini golf, and rolling chairs to concerts at Boardwalk Hall. Take a walking tour of the nation’s first and longest boardwalk! 

Step on up (and up) for the best views by the Shore

A symbol of protection, guidance and hope, the lighthouse is one of America’s most beloved icons. If you’re looking for a day trip or weekend jaunt, check out the 11 lighthouses open to the public in New Jersey. Start with the venerable Sandy Hook Lighthouse, a National Historic Landmark, which was lit for the first time in 1764, making it the nation’s oldest standing lighthouse. In the appropriately named Highlands, visit the Twin Lights of Navesink, open daily through the summer season, for incredible NYC views and an interpretative exhibit.

The next stop on the lighthouse trail is Sea Girt, the last “live in” lighthouse in the nation, offering tours on most summer Sundays. Atop “Beaming Barney” at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park on Long Beach Island, you’ll see why this lighthouse was a crucial “change of course” point for coastal vessels. And your reward for climbing the 228 steps of Absecon, the state’s tallest lighthouse, is an expansive view of Atlantic City. Like what you see? Visit all of New Jersey’s lighthouses and support lighthouse preservation at the Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey in October.

Find your beach personality—from serene to sporting

Nothing says summer like a day at the beach. Offering more than 60 designated beaches, each with its own personality, New Jersey makes it easy to find the beach that expresses your sand-and-surf character. Want the local angle on fishing? Try Island Beach State Park or Brigantine. Like natural settings? Visit the miles of beach at Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area, which also features hiking trails, bike paths, salt marshes, a spectacular holly forest and more than 300 species of birds. Family in tow? Long Beach IslandOcean City and The Wildwoods are just your speed. Looking for some well-deserved peace and quiet? Escape to Avon-by-the-Sea or Avalon. You can also get a head start on the fall surfing season with trips to Belmar and Seaside Heights