1. Where to Stay
Sleep steps from the beach at the Breakers on the Ocean (from $220), the sole beachfront hotel among Ocean Avenue’s tony residential mansions. It’s also one of the few places in town with a liquor license, so order a cocktail on the wraparound porch.
Request the Turret room at the Spring Lake Inn (from $199) to get a Jacuzzi tub and sprawling ocean views.
Lounge among ten-foot-high canopy beds and decorative parlor chairs at the historic Normandy Inn (from $159), a B&B adorned in ornate Victorian-style décor. Complimentary beach passes (forgoing the $8 cover charge) and ten free loaner bikes are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
2. Where to Eat
Pick up some wine at Egan’s (516 Warren Avenue; 732-449-7090) and BYO to Whispers (200 Monmouth Avenue; 732-974-9755), a dimly lit, fourteen-table eatery serving seafood from the New Fulton Fish Market and locally sourced produce.
Delve into fresh pastas, hefty panini, and made-to-order Tuscan-style salads at the family-run Café Artiste (306 Morris Avenue; 732-974-3433), where the menu changes daily. Leave room for the tiramisu, served from a ceramic pan inherited from the owner’s nonna.
Order turkey-salad slugger sandwiches at Who’s on Third (1300 Third Avenue; 732-449-4233), a baseball-themed, fifties-era luncheonette. The restaurant roasts several 40-pound turkeys a day and bakes its own rye bread.
3. What to Do
Snag one-of-a-kind bikinis at Waterlily (1203 Third Avenue; 732-223-1008), where owners Abbey Holloway and Catherine Devine handpick hard-to-find specialty lines like Bantu from Colombia and Maaji from Ethiopia, featuring vibrant African prints. All swimwear is half-off during the annual sidewalk sale August 21 to 22.
Admire hand-shaped surfboards from small manufacturers at Barewires Surf & Skate (219A Morris Avenue; 732-359-7780), which opened last May. Get a private lesson ($45 an hour) on beginner-friendly soft boards; avoid the $8 beach fee by going out before 9 a.m.
Watch the Marbleheaders model yacht club hold remote-controlled mini-regattas at the town’s spring-fed namesake lake (Saturdays at 2:30 p.m.; Sundays at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.).
Coast the waves on a body board from the 3rd Ave. Surf Shop ($35 per day to rent; from $40 to buy), a beach and skateboarding store a block from Divine Park. The best spot for beginners to catch a wake is on the south side of the jetty at North End Surfing Beach.
4. Insider’s Tip
While most day-trippers flock to the North End and South End pavilions for easy access to food, find a secluded strip of shore on Essex Avenue Beach. You’re within ogling distance of the surfers at Monmouth Avenue Beach, without any of the ‘tude.
5. Oddball Day
Take New Jersey transit three stops north to Asbury Park—a place immortalized by the title of Bruce Springsteen’s inaugural 1973 album—for the true Jersey Shore experience. The gentrifying, diverse town is home to a slew of beachfront bars, newly renovated restaurants, and live-music venues. Start your day with spicy pork-and-egg Cuban breakfast sandwiches from La Plaza Cubana’s new breakfast menu, introduced in April. Then stake out a spot on the beach with the orange-hued throngs near the buzzing mile-long boardwalk, renovated last year. Take a break from the sun midday for enchiladas and chilaquiles at Langosta Lounge, a seaside spot that becomes a party hub at night. (Animal lovers should check out the dog-friendly Wonder Bar a few blocks north). Then stroll along the boardwalk to the Silverball Pinball Museum, where you can play unlimited games on over 200 pinball machines from the fifties to the present ($10 per hour). Afterward, browse Ouiji boards and esoteric books at Paranormal Books and Curiosities, owned by Kathy Kelly, who also heads up Haunted New Jersey ghost tours along the shore. Unwind with dinner at Stella Marina, an upscale Italian joint known for its fig-topped pizza and affordable wine selection—bottles are grouped by price: $25, $35, or $45. Then head over to Asbury Lanes, a bowling alley and concert venue where acts ranging from punk rockers to burlesque dancers perform five nights a week on a stage surrounded by active lanes. End with a nightcap at Watermark, a swanky, ocean-view lounge known for its specialty cocktails. Try one of the house-infused liquors—Bartlett pear vodka, jalapeño tequila, pineapple rum—mixed with small-batch ginger beer for $9.
Browse local restaurants, shops, and attractions at VisitSpringLake.com.
Plot a walking tour of historic homes through the Spring Lake Historical Society.
Check out the schedule for movies on the beach at the Spring Lake Recreation Center site.
View train and bus schedules here.