27 Best Sights in New Jersey Shore, New Jersey

Cape May Carriage Company

Fodor's choice

Park the car and see Cape May's historic district the way they did when these building were born—aboard an elegant horse-drawn buggy. A dispatcher at the edge of Washington Street mall can arrange thirty minute tours for couples group tours for up to eight adults and two children. A fixture on the scene for nearly 30 years, Cape May Carriage Company has a fleet of more than 20 horses that all live on the owners' nearby farm. There are also ghost tours and holiday lights tours.

Cape May County Park and Zoo

Fodor's choice

This small gem of a zoo houses 250 species, including lions, giraffes, lemurs, snow leopards, red pandas, crocodiles, and pink flamingos. Take a walking safari on the raised boardwalk bordering the African savanna habitat, and visit the aviary and reptile houses. A carousel and minature train will lure the littlest ones and the surrounding county park is filled with picnic areas, playgrounds, bike trails, and a pond for fishing.

Cape May Lighthouse

Fodor's choice

One of the oldest operating lighthouses in the United States, the 1859 beacon marks the southernmost tip of New Jersey and beams its light 24 mi out to sea. Climb up the winding stairs (199) to the top of the 157-foot-tall structure. From the watch gallery, under the reconstructed lantern, you have views of the Atlantic, Delaware Bay, and Cape May Point State Park. A small museum and gift shop are on-site.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Cape May Whale Watch

Fodor's choice

Board the 80-foot M/V American Star for up-close wildlife viewing with the Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center. An onboard naturalist identifies species of whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals. There are four tours daily in summer and autumn. Complimentary coffee and donuts come with the dolphin breakfast cruise; free pizza and hot dogs are served in the evening.

Historic District Trolley Tours

Fodor's choice

Take a 30-minute tour of the east, west, or beachfront area of Cape May aboard one of the MAC-sponsored red trolleys that ply town streets. Combination trolley/Physick Estate tours are offered, along with children's rides, Romantic Moonlight tours, and Stairway to the Stars, a trolley trip combined with a trek to the top of the Cape May Point Lighthouse to stargaze (remember to bring the mosquito repellent).

Nature Center of Cape May

Fodor's choice

Part of the New Jersey Audubon Society, the center has tours, art exhibits, aquaria, themed gardens, and a viewing deck and tower for spotting harriers, seabirds, and other winged creatures. Educational activities take place throughout Cape May and within the center's 18 acres of beach, meadow, and marsh habitat that border the man-made harbor.

Spring Lake Boardwalk

Fodor's choice

A 1½-mi boardwalk lines the town's Atlantic Ocean beach. Two large beach houses stand, one on each end, with 100-foot-long by 33-foot-wide saltwater pools inside. From June through August, you need a badge to access the beach and beach houses—but use of the saltwater pools themselves is limited to residents and their guests. A beach badge is usually provided by your lodging, or you can buy one at either beach house. Much of the boardwalk had to be rebuilt in 2011 after extensive damage caused by Hurricane Irene. Dogs are allowed on the beach in the off-season, but are never allowed on the boardwalk.

Absecon Lighthouse

The 1857 lighthouse was designed by George Meade, stands 171 feet tall, and is the oldest man-made tourist attraction on the Jersey shore. You can tour the adjacent lightkeeper's house and climb the 228 steps to the top for a great view of Atlantic City. In summer, kids are invited to Wacky Wednesday programs, moonlight climbs, and even sleepover adventures.

31 S. Rhode Island Ave., Atlantic City, NJ, 08401, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: $10 lighthouse; keeper\'s house and museum free, Closed Tues. and Wed. Sept.--June

Atlantic City Cruises

Ease into the morning with a skyline cruise, take the family on a quest for marine mammals with a lunchtime dolphin cruise, or toast the end of the day with a happy-hour cruise. In the summer, daily departures from Gardner's Basin aboard Cruisn 1 ply the coastal waters, granting up to 100 passengers a unique perspective on Atlantic City and is ocean and bay inhabitants.

Atlantic City Famous Boardwalk

Atlantic City Famous Boardwalk
Andrew F. Kazmierski / Shutterstock

Part thoroughfare, part three-ring circus, the Boardwalk is center stage for every imaginable oddity. Conceived in 1870 as a way to allow Victorian-era visitors to experience nature without getting sand in their shoes, the Boardwalk became the place to see or be seen. Named for Alexander Boardman, the promenade's inventor—and not as you might think, for its wooden boards—the 4-mi-long Boardwalk begins in Atlantic City's Inlet section (at Maine Avenue), and heads south into neighboring Ventnor, where it continues for another 1½ mi (to Jackson Avenue). Saltwater taffy was invented on the Boardwalk in 1883, as legend has it, when a storm flooded a candy dealer's wares. The Boardwalk's attractions include amusement piers, museums, arcades, bars, restaurants, carnival games, and miniature golf. The Steel Pier, which once hosted the best music acts of the day as well as the famed diving-horse show, is now home to rides and carnival games. On Schiff's Central Pier you can take a spin in go-carts or play the signature shore game: skeeball. Aside from strolling up and down the boards, the traditional way to experience the Boardwalk is to be pushed in a rolling chair. These wicker chairs evolved from the wheelchairs that infirm visitors used back when the city's promoters' claimed the salty ocean air could cure all diseases. Despite medical evidence to the contrary, after a long stroll on the Boardwalk, you might have to agree.

Boardwalk Hall

The 456-foot-long, 310-foot-wide, and 137-foot-tall architectural wonder was once the largest clear span space in the world. Opened in 1929, the main hall hosted the Miss America Pageant from 1940 to 2004 and is now the city's main venue to see championship boxing and stadium-style performances by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Cirque Du Soleil. After more than 80 years, it still holds at least one record. It houses the world's largest pipe organ.

Cape May Point State Park

The diverse mix of ocean shoreline, dunes, freshwater coastal marsh and ponds, islands, forests, and fields makes the 235-acre park at the southern end of the Cape May peninsula a mecca for sea and shore birds during the fall migration. Bird-watchers follow in droves and gather up-to-the-minute information from the Cape May Bird Observatory's Northwood Center. Attractions like surf-fishing, marked trails, observation platforms, the Cape May Lighthouse, picnic tables and shelters, a visitors center, and a museum also make the park ideal for year-round visits.

Lighthouse Ave., Cape May Point, NJ, 08212, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Daily dawn–dusk

Delaware Bay Lighthouse Adventures

The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities organizes monthly sightseeing cruises that visit all the viewable lighthouses in the Delaware Bay. Each trip takes seven hours and includes complimentary breakfast and buffet lunch, as well as a cash bar. Boats run by Cape May Whale Watcher leave from Miss Chris Fishing Center at the marina near the entrance to Cape May.

2nd Ave. and Wilson Dr., Cape May, NJ, 08204, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: $30-$85

Divine Park

Spring Lake, as the name suggests, is a spring-fed, ½-mi-long lake running northwest to southeast inside Divine Park. You can paddle along the calm water in a rented boat or kayak. By sidewalk, Divine Park's perimeter is approximately 1⅓ mi, but two picturesque wood bridges cut across the lake. The park is nicely landscaped all around, with a large, white gazebo at the far northwest end.

801 W Lake Dr., Spring Lake, NJ, 07762, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

More than 48,000 acres of coastal habitats—including nearly 5,000 acres of woodland—are protected in this refuge. Peregrine falcons and bald eagles are among the winged visitors. There are numerous trails to explore like the 8-mile self-guided wildlife drive; the 3-mile dog-friendly Bristow Trail, which is a great place to see migratory songbirds; or the Akers Woodland Trail, an easy ¼-mile jaunt that's wheelchair and kid-friendly. To get here from Atlantic City, head west on U.S. 30, then right on U.S. 9. After about 5 miles, make a right onto Great Creek Road.

Historic Cold Spring Village

Craftspeople in date-appropriate costumes demonstrate their trades using traditional tools, methods, and materials at this nonprofit, living-history site on 22 shady acres north of Cape May. The farming village is made up of more than 20 restored buildings originally built between 1691 and 1905, including a blacksmith shop, a bookbindery, and a schoolhouse.

Historic Gardner's Basin

Once home to pirates, privateers, and whalers, this neighborhood across the water from the Marina district is now a restored maritime village and waterfront park complete with Crafters Village, historic vessels, restaurants, and the Atlantic City Aquarium.

800 N. New Hampshire Ave., Atlantic City, NJ, 08401, USA

Historic Smithville

This enclave of restaurants and shops (or shoppes, as they prefer) is centered on the Historic Smithville Inn. Car shows, parades, drum and fife performances, and other special events descend upon the quaint brick streets throughout the year. To get here from Atlantic City, take the Atlantic City Expressway to northbound U.S. 9.

Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC)

Peer into the life of the Victorian elite during a 45-minute tour of the 18-room mansion built in 1879 for Emlen Physick, a nonpracticing physician (courtesy of a family inheritance) who lived with his mother and maiden aunt. The mansion's timber-outline exterior is in Stick Style, avant-garde for its day. Guides point out original furnishings and discuss period customs and clothing. Most tours can be combined with trolley rides through Cape May's Historic District and, on Fridays, tours have a family focus. Take time for afternoon tea or a light lunch at the Twining's Tearoom, in the estate's carriage house. Entrance to the adjacent Carriage House Gallery is included in the tour price.

1048 Washington St., Cape May, NJ, 08204, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: $10 adults, $5 children ages 3–12 (one child free with every adult admission for \"Family Friday\" tours), Mid-June–mid-Sept., daily 9:30–5; mid-Sept.–Dec., daily 11–4; Jan.–mid-Mar., weekends 10–3; mid-Mar.–Apr., Sun.–Fri. 11–3, Sat. 10–5; May–mid-June, daily 10:30–4:30

Noyes Arts Garage

Located in the city's Arts District and home to artist's studios, galleries, shops, and a café, the Garage hosts special events throughout the year. It's also home to 1,200 square feet of gallery space for The Noyes Museum of Art and the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey.

2200 Fairmount Ave., Atlantic City, NJ, 08401, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.--Tues.

Ocean Resort Casino

The wunderkind of the Boardwalk welcomes the well-heeled to its casino and sportsbook, where there are nearly 2,000 slot machines, more than 125 table games, a plush section for the high rollers, and the Gallery Bar, Book & Games with 140 feet of LED walls that line the venue and plenty of space to watch all the sports you want. Expansive views of the Atlantic during the day give way to a sultry nightclub vibe as the sun slips below the horizon, and there are a variety of live shows and a dozen restaurants to choose from including the steakhouse American Cut and Jose Garce's Amada. The 5,500-seat venue Ovation Hall hosts musicians, sporting events, and Broadway-style entertainment.

Sea Life Museum at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center

The non-profit Marine Mammal Stranding Center is on call to rescue stranded dolphins, seals, sea turtles, and whales that travel up this way and into New York Harbor. The Sea Life Museum is the only part of the center that's open to the public. Its exhibits relate to ocean life and showcase bones recovered from the beach and life-size replicas of fish and marine mammals. To get here from Atlantic City, cross the Brigantine Bridge to Atlantic-Brigantine Boulevard.

3625 Brigantine Blvd., Brigantine, NJ, 08203, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, $2 donation requested

Spring Lake Community House

Built in the early 1900s as a family mansion, the community house was donated to the town in 1923. Today it hosts civic events and houses the Spring Lake Theater Company and the Children's Theater Workshop and Dance School. On the northeast side is the town library, featuring a dark, European reading room with a huge fireplace to warm by in winter, and a book-lined gallery.

Spring Lake Theatre Company

The company produces six events (plays, musicals, or reviews) per year, staged from April to August, in December, and at sporadic times throughout the year. Shows ($25–$30) take place at the old, acoustically balanced, 350-seat Spring Lake Community House theater. The focus is on classic Broadway fare and family favorites.

St. Catharine Roman Catholic Church

This domed neoclassical church dominates the southwest side of Spring Lake. Inside look for the gilded vaults and the intricately painted rotunda depicting religious figures.

Storybook Land

The 20-acre theme park, about 10 miles west of Atlantic City, has 50 larger-than-life buildings and displays illustrating the tales of popular childhood stories—perfect for the under-8 set. There are also whimsical low-speed rides, gift shops, food stands, and a picnic area. The Easter Bunny visits in April, there's fall and Halloween fun in October and early November, and Santa arrives in mid-November.

Sunset Beach

Drive—or better yet—bicycle the 3 mi to the south end of Sunset Boulevard for the sunset flag ceremony held from May to September; listen as Kate Smith belts out "God Bless America" and the flag is lowered for the night. Cape May "diamonds" (pebbles of pure, rounded quartz) wash up on this privately owned beach not far from the Cape May Lighthouse. Just off shore, the hulking wreck of the concrete ship Atlantus pokes out from the water and creates a tideflow that causes the quartz diamonds to collect in such abundance. Find your own, or visit the gift shops where they sell them already cut down and mounted in jewelry. Then, stop into the on-site Sunset Beach Grille for homemade crab cakes.

End of Sunset Blvd., Cape May Point, NJ, 08212, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Daily 10–dusk