Point Pleasant Beach: An Autumn Idyll on the Jersey Shore
October 3, 2012

Point Pleasant Beach: An Autumn Idyll on the Jersey Shore

“It rained hard last night so the ocean is nice and full,” an angler told us as we passed him along the surf at Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. We were deeply engaged playing “chase” and “tag” with the Atlantic Ocean—the waves were “it” and we were trying to run from them as they washed ashore—so it took us a minute to get the angler’s joke. Once it clicked, we all cracked up, started chatting with him, forgot about the waves, and subsequently got drenched from the knees down.

That was all Halina, age 6, needed to change the rules of the game, to where she was chasing the waves rather than avoiding them and getting completely soaked in the process.  She was a sight to behold and we will forever regret not having the camera with us! 

A Full Day of Activity

Fall has always been our favorite time of year to go to the beach. The ocean water is generally still warm enough for your toes to tolerate, there’s practically no one there, and on this particular Saturday morning, there was more sun than clouds in the sky. Thus the fact that Halina ended up drenched was not a problem, and from her perspective, it was terrific fun. Riley, for his part, enjoyed himself repatriating shells to the sea.

Prior to the unplanned swim, we had walked the length of the boardwalk—one mile end-to-end—which still has many of its original boards. No matter the season, the boardwalk is a popular pedestrian destination on any day that isn’t rainy or snowy. At the northern end, it overlooks the Manasquan Inlet, which is a wonderful place to watch boats, seagulls, and people. Throughout the year, depending on the weather, a selection of pubs, restaurants, arcades, beach shops, and candy stores may be open along the way, and others are reliably open in town.  If you’re lucky, on an unseasonably nice day, some rides in at the Jenkinson's amusement area along the boardwalk may run on weekend afternoons as well.

A Great Time to be a Benny

Despite longstanding family ties to the town (Cheryl’s mother, aka Nana Merle, has lived there most of her life), we are always viewed as “bennies” when we visit. There are various theories on the origin of that name, but according to Nana Merle, benny is a riff on “benefit” and describes a visitor from the north who comes to the Shore to benefit from the area’s beauty and recreational offerings. The term is used with warmth whenever we hear it.

And who wouldn’t want to benefit from this place?  Television depictions notwithstanding, the Jersey Shore is very much a family-friendly place and one that we go to as often as we can. It is an easy day trip from New York City—especially during the off season—and Point Pleasant Beach in particular is the quintessence of small-town America. It is also an urban hiker’s dream: The downtown area features wide sidewalks, a nice variety of eclectic, independent shops, and a decent selection of cafes and restaurants. Best of all, it is an easy four-block walk from the New Jersey Transit station to the beach.

Getting There

Point Pleasant Beach is about a 1.5-hour drive from New York City. Take the Garden State Parkway South to Exit 98. From there take Route 34 South to Arnold Avenue and turn left. The Atlantic will be straight ahead. In the off season, there is parking along Arnold Avenue, most side streets, and Ocean Avenue, which runs parallel to the beach. The metered lots also offer a lot of spots in the off season.

Or reduce your carbon footprint and take New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coastline train to the penultimate stop, Point Pleasant Beach. You will exit the train on the downtown side of the tracks. To get to the ocean, turn left onto Arnold Avenue, cross over the tracks, then walk about two-tenths of a mile “till your hat floats,” as a local might say. If you want to stay the night, motels and guest houses have vacancies during the off season.

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