Last week, the kids and I strolled on boardwalks in balmy sea air, examined jellyfish stranded by the waves, collected seashells and rocks for collages, and dug endless sandcastles. All under the shade of enormous palm trees.
Where were we? Less than an hour from Hoboken at the Jersey Shore.
I have lived in the NYC area for my entire life, but I was stunned to discover that the Jersey Shore has everything from public beaches teeming with boardwalk stalls and and crab shacks all the way to a high-end luxury hotel where our every need was taken care of before we even anticipated it.
Our week began with a business trip to Ocean Place in Long Branch, NJ. With huge palm trees and valets materializing to unload our car the instant we parked, the place made me think I was in Palm Springs rather than New Jersey. For this work-at-home mother of two toddlers, our trip was a welcome respite from my grueling everyday routine.
Ample, delicious and healthy buffet-style meals were served every day in the dining room and outdoor courtyard. The well-appointed locker room dispensed towels from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. steps from a private beach with complimentary umbrellas and chaises put out every day by hotel staff (retrieval starts at 5 p.m. due to city of Long Branch ordinance). With indoor and outdoor pools, my kids were happily occupied during every waking moment and crashed as soon as we got back to the hotel room at night. At $209 per night via our group rate (typical midweek AAA rate is $279), it was worth every penny. The kids also made a lot of friends both young and old as they careered around the hotel common areas; people were greeting them by name by the end of our stay.
And then, on the last day of our stay, my husband lost his wedding ring swimming in the surf.
We never expected to see it again, but he posted a Craigslist ad that bore results beyond our wildest expectations. A good Samaritan responded within 12 hours and went out to the Long Branch beach in the middle of the night with a metal detector; he found the ring in chest-high water during low tide and did not ask for a reward when he gave us the ring (we insisted he take one).
That is how I wound up making a second trip to the Jersey Shore 24 hours after my first. And at $7 for a Belmar beach day pass (kids under 16 are free) we will definitely be coming back. The beach is much narrower than the ones in Brooklyn and Queens, which makes bathroom trips a breeze. I hear Point Pleasant has a very toddler-friendly boardwalk, so that is on our day trip list for next summer.
Summer isn't over yet, there is still time to try and get down to the beach. And feel free to tell us if you find an even quicker way to get there.