Among northern shore towns, Asbury Park is by far the best known because of (1) a certain Jersey rock god and (2) its disintegration and revival. Meanwhile, literally five minutes’ walk down the boardwalk, Ocean Grove is small-scale Victoriana, barely changed in a century. Its land is almost all owned by a Methodist association—there’s a huge auditorium just off the boardwalk, built for church meetings—and it remains dry. That said, “it definitely has become more of a resort town,” says Mike Mennie of Diane Turton Realtors, adding that calls about rentals are up 15 percent over the last three years. Still, “we’re off the beaten path,” says Lois Hetfield of the local Chamber of Commerce. “Other towns you can just drive through … [but] unless you’re searching for us, we’re overlooked.” Maybe not for long.
Local artists are selling their wares at just-opened Joleen’s. For your pup, the Ocean Grove Pet Boutique has doggie frozen yogurts.
A gut-renovated five-bedroom, four-bath Victorian. (pictured above).
Cost: July–August: $20,000
Pluses: Ocean views from every floor and two decks.
Minuses: No garage, and parking is tight.
Agent: Jack Green (jackgreenrealty.idxre.com).
A circa-1885 three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath house.
Cost: Late June–August: $1,850
Pluses: It’s been updated with wireless Internet; includes two beach badges. The dining room seats twelve.
Minuses: It’s not on a beach block; no central air.
Agent: Via homeaway.com; listing No. 240143.
A Perfect Day
Start with pancakes at the Starving Artist restaurant, on the covered deck. Centennial Cottage, a living-history museum that shows off period rooms in the so-called historic square park, is a must. So are the original tents raised by the Methodists who helped establish Ocean Grove (the Historical Society offers tours on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays). Nagle’s Apothecary Café has excellent sandwiches; then the beach beckons in the afternoon. Dinner is at SeaGrass on Main Avenue, right before a show at the Great Auditorium, where everyone from presidents to preachers to Tony Bennett has appeared onstage. Diana Krall arrives in July.