Pack your bags! In honor of life’s most delicious highways, we give you Hit the Road, Snack, our travel guide of things to eat, see, and do this summer, from coast to coast.
The scent of fried dough and cotton candy is all it takes to transport me back to the Jersey Shore. Jenkinson’s Boardwalk was just minutes from my childhood home in Point Pleasant Beach, and our summer trips consisted of that colorful, mile-long stretch of amusement park rides, arcade games, and food stalls. Just as sunburns and sandy feet were inevitable after a day at the beach, sticky fingers and blue cotton candy–stained lips were boardwalk badges of honor. My poor parents must have cursed the creators of boardwalk food. Saltwater taffy ended up in my sister’s hair, Kohr’s soft serve melted down our chins and stained our shirts, and my brother always managed to eat too much funnel cake ahead of a dizzying whirl on the “Himalaya” roller coaster.
As we got older, a visit to the boardwalk was our incentive for good behavior. My parents would reward A’s on our report cards with a round of putt-putt followed by a thin-crust pie from Joey Tomato's. When my grandma visited, she would spoil us with wristbands for unlimited rides and treats from Jenkinson’s Sweet Shop. A boardwalk staple since the 1900s, this candy store was like a Willy Wonka wonderland with glass display cases of M&M-coated chocolate pretzels, caramel-covered apples, and jumbo peanut butter cups. Nan would allow my brother and sister and me to fill an entire box with homemade fudge. Unlike my parents, who made us stick to chocolate or vanilla, Nan would let us get away with over-the-top flavors like “peanut butter explosion” and Oreo cheesecake. The pound of chocolate was meant to last a wee, but always seemed to vanish within a day or two of her visit.
In my teens, Jenkinson’s served as the backdrop for many a summer romance. Date nights revolved around Skee-Ball, spin-the-wheel games, and paper cones of salt-and-vinegar–doused boardwalk fries shared while watching the weekly fireworks.
Over the years, the foods of my youth have refreshingly remained unchanged. An orange-vanilla frozen custard from Kohr's may not cost a nickel (like it did in 1919), but it is still the same and as delicious as ever. Every summer I return home, thankful that boardwalk food at the Shore has evaded modern amendments and is instead a reminder of everything summer should be.
There may be a half-dozen or so other major New Jersey boardwalks, like Atlantic City, Asbury Park, and Seaside Heights. But Jenkinson's is mine. It's not the biggest or best-known, but it'll always be my favorite.
Tell anyone you’re from New Jersey and they’ll likely retort, “What exit?”—referring to the turn-offs along the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. From New York City, you’ll drive down the Garden State Parkway and take Exit 98 toward Point Pleasant Beach. (Be warned, bumper-to-bumper summer Shore traffic can easily add an hour to the normal 80-minute drive.) New Jersey Transit departs New York Penn Station and the North Jersey Coast Route hits nearly every Shore town, making it easy to hop on and off on your way to Point Pleasant Beach, the second-to-last stop.
Whether you take the train or drive, make a pit stop at Pier Village, a mixed-use Victorian-inspired beachfront community in Long Branch. Shop for beach essentials at Sundaze, play pinball at the arcade, then grab a bite at Avenue (23 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch; 732-759-2900), a French brasserie–inspired restaurant with an incredible raw bar and ocean views.
There's also Asbury Park along the way. The old convention hall where Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen once practiced has been renovated, and the boardwalk is now home to indie boutiques and locavore restaurants like Langosta Lounge (1000 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park; 732-455-3275). Music fans should catch a show at the legendary rock club, the Stone Pony, or the newly opened Asbury Lanes, a vintage bowling alley and music venue where Springsteen recently performed.
On the way back, stop for lunch at the Parker House (290 First Avenue, Sea Girt; 732-449-0442) in Sea Girt. Dating back to 1878, this green and white Victorian mansion sits one block from the beach and is known for its raucous house party–like atmosphere in the evenings. By day, the wraparound porch is a serene place for a Bloody Mary and a BLT or wedge salad.
Though many visitors to Jenkinson's opt to rent Airbnbs, this Shore town is lined with affordable, family-run beach motels and bed and breakfasts. Located three blocks from the beach, the Surfside Motel (101 Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-899-1109) provides complimentary beach badges and has a heated swimming pool. The Shore Point Motel (205 Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-892-7075) offers rooms as well as small apartments with kitchenettes and is a ten-minute walk from the beach. B&B lovers should check out The Tower Cottage (203 Forman Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 877-766-2693), set within a restored 1880s Queen Anne Victorian home a five-minute walk from Jenkinson’s Boardwalk and the beach.
Boutique hotels have yet to make their way to Point Pleasant Beach. But the White Sands, conveniently located across the street from the beach, is your best bet for comfy rooms and resort-style amenities, including a pool, spa, and fitness center. Its restaurant, Arugula, has an excellent Italian-influenced menu and a dining room with ocean views. The restaurant can also arrange gourmet lunch boxes for guests to take to the beach. 1205 Ocean Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 888-558-8958.
The rooftop deck at this downtown newcomer is always packed, especially at happy hour when drinks, sushi, and bar bites like crab melt tots and lobster sliders are a steal. Downstairs, a raw bar and sushi bar are complemented by a Mediterranean-inspired menu of wood-fired pizzas and shareable small and large plates. Bartenders know how to make a proper cocktail. Look for specials, like pomelo, blood orange, and club soda spiked with tequila. 709 Arnold Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-295-0709.
Watch fishermen unload the daily catch as you dine on boat-to-table dishes at this waterfront favorite. Sandy feet are welcome on the casual deck, which has its own menu of simple dishes like Jersey steamers and fish and chips. There are just 12 tables in the 1920s captain’s home-turned-restaurant. Reservations aren’t accepted, but the crabmeat-stuffed lobster tails and signature lobster bisque are worth the wait. 57 Inlet Drive, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-295-6622.
This no-frills, BYOB restaurant and fish market is located on one of the few remaining fishermen’s co-ops in New Jersey. 13 boats deliver just-caught flounder, tuna, and grouper daily. Buy seafood to go or stay and dine on fried flounder sandwiches, fisherman’s stew, and steamed lobster. 57 Channel Drive, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-899-0909.
For something more sit-down (and an alternative to the Shore’s beach shack–inspired seafood restaurants), Daniel’s is family-run and full of old-school charm right down to the white tablecloths and tableside desserts, like bananas Foster. The spicy duck meatballs, zuppa di clams, and osso bucco are menu staples. 115 Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach; 848-232-2544.
This organic, vegan-friendly breakfast and lunch spot is known for its creative juices and smoothies. Breakfast options range from goji, chia, and flax pancakes to French toast topped with strawberry compote. Salads and sandwiches can be ordered to go and make for a great beach picnic. 1805 Route 35, Point Pleasant Beach; 848-232-3451.
It’s not uncommon for the line to extend out the door at this iconic ice cream shop, where 40-some flavors like "Jersey Monkey" (banana ice cream with peanut butter swirls and chocolate chips) and coffee Oreo have been made on-site since 1976. 800 Richmond Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-892-0270.
Beer geeks flock to this speakeasy-inspired tavern, known for its rotating selection of 40 seasonal brews on tap and roughly 60 more in bottles and cans. Pub fare, such as habanero wings, German bierhaus pretzels, and the pork belly and fried egg–topped A21 burger, is just what you’ll need to soak up local and international suds. Don't miss the happy hour Mondays through Fridays, 4 to 7 p.m. 521 Arnold Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-295-9619.
Two surfers are behind this year-old nano brewery located in downtown Point Pleasant Beach. Picnic tables, couches, and surf art decorate the laid-back tasting room, which is only open Thursdays through Sundays. You’ll find about a dozen beers on tap, all with surf-inspired names such as A-Frame Wheat IPA and Dawn Patrol Gose. Food can be brought in and growlers can be ordered to go. 601 Bay Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-903-5278.
Tucked away at the north end of the boardwalk near the jetty, this beach bar is a low-key alternative to touristy Martell’s Tiki Bar. Locals head here at sunset to sip craft beers with their toes in the sand. 3 Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-899-0569.
If you were to create a Pinterest board for your dream beach cottage, it would be full of the Shore-inspired furnishings and homewares found at Stella e Luna. New Jersey-shaped wood cutting boards, tea towels printed with Shore town coordinates, and pillows painted with beach tags pay homage to the Garden State. You’ll also find great gifts, like charm bracelets and necklaces filled with local sand. Co-owner and artist Jim Inzero showcases his seascapes in the upstairs gallery. 500 Bay Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-714-2221.
Two sisters run Sunshine Daydream, a locally loved jewelry and accessories boutique. The affordably-priced collection changes regularly and is always on trend. Styles range from Bohemian tassel earrings and woven beaded bracelets to beach chic, sea glass–inspired necklaces and straw cosmetic bags embroidered with pineapples and coconuts. 513 Bay Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-701-9400
Point Pleasant Antiques Emporium, a 10,000-square-foot institution showcases finds from more than 40 dealers. Bargain hunters patiently sift through floors of collectibles in hopes of finding one-of-a-kind treasures that might include vintage kitchen items, vinyl records, collectible baseball cards, and mid-century modern furnishings. 622 Trenton Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-892-2222.
Brave New World, a sprawling, two-floor surf shop, stocks everything you need for summer from Havaianas to Ray Bans. Downstairs you’ll find men’s and women’s apparel, footwear, beachy home furnishings, and an entire room dedicated to swimwear. Head upstairs to shop one of the area’s largest selections of surfboards. 1208 Richmond Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-899-8220.
Local surfer Craig Gordon opened Gordon’s Surf Shop in 2015 and quickly earned a loyal following for his well-curated selection of boards including Haydenshapes, 7S, and Walden, Body Glove wetsuits, and cool apparel brands like Birdwell Beach Britches and Banks. When the surf is up, you may find a “Gone Surfing” sign on the door, but most days Craig is on-site to help customers with ding repairs and custom orders, and to chat about all things surf. 527 Bay Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-475-7984.
Speaking of surfing, a strong surf culture is at the heart of the Shore community. Local surfers jokingly refer to the East Coast as the “Right Coast” when it comes to wave riding. Summertime Surf (1620 Beacon Lane, Point Pleasant Beach; 732- 599-2700) offers surf and SUP lessons for kids, adults, families and women. Shore local and pro surfer Sam Hammer (732-966-6430), who recently starred in Chris Burkhard’s film Under an Arctic Sky, offers private lessons and advanced coaching for experienced watermen who want to take their surfing to the next level.
The community of Point Pleasant Beach is still deeply rooted in the sea. Fishermen from around the state come to cast off the local charter and party boats. One of the oldest, the Norma K (30 Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-496-5383), has been offering party boat fishing since 1957. Back then, a half-day trip cost just $3.50. Today, you’ll pay $47 for a half day of fluke fishing aboard the upgraded Norma-K III. Every Thursday night throughout the summer, the Queen Mary (415 Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach; 732-899-3766), a deep sea charter that fishes for striped bass, bluefish, albacore, and bonito, offers family-friendly fishing trips followed by a fireworks finale out on the water.
Since 1975, locals have gathered downtown to celebrate the end of summer with live music and hundreds of food and craft vendors. The day-long fair kicks off with a 5K run before the streets flood with festival goers. Come hungry. Nearly all of the area’s restaurants have stands (don’t miss the paella from Europa South). The Elk’s Lodge transforms their grounds into a beer garden lined with grills serving sausage and peppers and burgers. September 15, 2018; Arnold & Bay Avenues, Point Pleasant Beach.
Do you have a favorite boardwalk? Let us know in the comments below.