beaches

The Big Shore Index: Ranking six nearby beaches by nightlife, shopping, boardwalks and more

Rejoice! The unofficial start of summer is upon us and hopefully you’ll be scooting sprinting out of work on Friday to head somewhere beachy. If not, you’ve got plenty of warm weather left to head down the shore for a weekend.

Figure out which beach might be best for you, and then scroll down for details about each beach. Here are some of the side-by-side comparisons of six beaches within just a few hours drive:

Bars

While Ocean City, Maryland has by far the most bars, when you look at it by the number of bars per square mile in the general area of the beach, Rehoboth Beach and the Wildwoods have a far higher density.

 

Restaurants

It’s a similar story when it comes to restaurants. OCMD has by far the most, but other beaches have a higher concentration in a small area.  

Hotels/ motels

Sea Isle’s known as a resort town, and that’s clear with the number of hotels, motels and resorts available there.

 

Shopping

Shopaholic? Rehoboth is ya place.  

Mini golf courses

This is the most important part about visiting any beach. Here’s how many miniature golf courses are at each one:  

Transportation tips

Whether you’re going down the shore this weekend or Memorial Day or any other weekend throughout the summer, you’re going to hit traffic on your way down. Period. AAA Travel projects 37.2 million Americans will travel 50 or more miles during Memorial Day weekend, which represents a 4.7 percent increase over last year and the highest travel volume for the holiday in 10 years.

The good news is that New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland Departments of Transportation know the volume is coming, and often suspend planned construction projects on major roadways during crazy traffic times.

The major tip is to travel during off-peak times. Transportation authorities often consider those times on holiday weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day to be:

Thursday – before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m.

Friday – before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m.

Saturday – before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m.

Sunday – before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m.

Labor Day Monday – before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m.

The Beaches

Ocean City, Maryland

At a glance: You have hit the motherload. Ocean City, Maryland is kind of a partiers’ dream, with bars, a massive boardwalk and young people all over the place. The beaches get pretty crowded in July, so be sure to snag a spot early. But this beach has something for everyone and some of the best prices in the area because of the sheer number of hotel rooms and condos available.

Time it takes to drive there – 2 hours, 45 minutes without traffic.

Best restaurants and bars to visit

Seacrets – Visit this massive bar on a Saturday, and it’s like Spring Break got picked up and moved to Maryland. With 19 outdoor bars, this place is like Disney World for adults in bathing suits that get drunk. 117 49th St

Phillip’s Seafood – Go for the ridiculously tasty seafood buffet. 14101 Coastal Hwy

J/R’s Ribs – This rib joint is a must-visit, not because it’s all that great, but just because it’s an Ocean City Maryland rib/ corn bread/ cole slaw. institution. 13101 Coastal Hwy

Fractured Prune – This beachy donut shop has several locations in Maryland and Delaware, but there’s one in Ocean City, and you have to carve out time one morning to stop by. They boast warm donuts just out the oven and hand-dipped every morning. People in Philly would kill me if I said they were better than Federal, but… 81st St Coastal Hwy.

What to do while you’re there

Hit up the Tanger Outlets on a rainy day for some shopping – 12741 Ocean Gateway

Walk or bike the long boardwalk that spans almost 30 blocks by the ocean, from 27th Street down to 1st Street.

Go parasailing with Ocean City’s OG parasailing company – Bayside (Inlet – 27th)

Have kids with you? Check out the Jolly Roger theme park – 2901 Philadelphia Ave.

Price to be on the beach – Free

Boardwalk – Yes

Where to find out more

Ocean City, Maryland official website

Ocean City Vacation Guide

Ocean City Chamber of Commerce

Ocean City – Trip Advisor

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

At a glance: Once a place almost exclusively for families, Rehoboth Beach has exploded with shopping, restaurants and bars in the last decade. It also boasts a great watersports scene and a boardwalk along the ocean. Dewey Beach, which has some of the best bars in Delaware, is just a short drive or taxi ride away.

Time it takes to drive there – 2 hours, 15 minutes without traffic

Best restaurants and bars to visit

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery – This microbrewery based in Milton, DE first opened as a brewpub in Rehoboth and is now, well, Dogfish Head. Check out the brewery and snag some eats at the location on Rehoboth Ave. 320 Rehoboth Ave.

Big Fish Grill – Get great fish and seafood specials and a beachy dinner here. 20298 Coastal Hwy

Jake’s Seafood House – Swing by for one the best crab cakes you’ll pretty much ever have. 19178 Coastal Hwy

Purple Parrot – Check out this bar for fun drinks, food, karaoke and weekly drag shows. 134 Rehoboth Ave.

What to do while you’re there

Go shopping at the Tanger Outlets – 36470 Seaside Outlet Drive

Check out the kayaking scene at Coastal Kayaks – 36840 Coastal Highway

Have kids? Take them to Jungle Jim’s theme park – 36944 Country Club Road

Price to be on the beach – Free

Boardwalk – Yes

Where to find out more

Official City of Rehoboth Beach website

Rehoboth Beach – Dewey Beach vacation guide

Rehoboth Beach Trip Advisor

Wildwoods, NJ

At a glance: This popular summer resort destination has beaches, a large boardwalk and an array of attractions, shopping venues, restaurants and historic sights. It’s home to more than 200 motels built in the 1950s and 60s, and the term “The Wildwoods” encompasses the Borough of Wildwood Crest, City of Wildwood, Borough of West Wildwood and the City of North Wildwood.

Time it takes to drive there – 1 hour, 30 minutes without traffic

Best restaurants and bars to visit

Hooked Up Seafood – Get clams, crabs and fish and sit at the picnic tables for a super beachy dinner experience. 1044 W Rio Grande Ave

Jersey Girl Bar and Restaurant – This place that’s close to the boardwalk has a laid-back, casual atmosphere and boasts some of the best crab cakes in the area. 3601 Atlantic Ave

Cattle ‘N Clover – Check out this Irish/ sports bar for a night out. 3817 Pacific Ave

What to do while you’re there

Take the kids to Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Waterparks at 3501 Boardwalk

Visit the cool Doo Wop Preservation League Museum at 4500 Ocean Avenue

Take a bike tour with Zippy’s Bikes at 3900 Pacific Ave.

Price to be on the beach – Free

Boardwalk – yes

Where to find out more

Official Wildwood NJ site

Wildwood Tourism Trip Advisor

Sea Isle City, NJ

At a glance: This beach has a loyal following of families that return year after year, and the area is in the process of millions of dollars worth of renovations and enhancements as it continues to recover from losses during Hurricane Sandy. It has clean and inviting beaches and a 1.5-mile long oceanfront “Promenade.”

Time it takes to drive there – 1 hour, 20 minutes without traffic

Best restaurants and bars to visit

Mako’s Grill – Check out this BYOB for some of the best breakfast in the area. Also boats well-liked fish and other seafood for lunch and dinner. 4914 Landis Ave

Basilicos – Swing by this Italian restaurant and pizza place for dishes like lobster mac ‘n cheese and a house dressing that’s to die for. 27 43rd St

Dead Dog Saloon – Find live entertainment and a solid beer and cocktail list. 3815 Landis Ave

What to do while you’re there

They have free concerts under the stars every Saturday in the summer at Excursion Park

Rent a bike from SIC Cruisers at 6300 Landis Ave.

Price to be on the beachBuy now and preseason beach tags for all New Jersey beaches are $20 for the season. They’ll soon rise to $25 for seasonal passes.

Boardwalk – yes

Where to find out more

Official visit Sea Isle website

Sea Isle City Guide

Sea Isle City Trip Advisor

Ocean City, NJ

At a glance: This family-oriented beach hasn’t allowed the sale of alcohol within its limits since it was founded in the 1800s. It has a boardwalk that’s one of the beach’s most recognizable features.

Time it takes to drive there – 1 hour, 10 minutes without traffic

Best restaurants to visit

Trattoria Vittorio’s – Check out this Italian restaurant in Ocean City (and order the crab fries with parmesean cream sauce). 1018 Asbury Ave

Hula Grill – Go here for beachy seafood dishes and tropical flavors. 940 Boardwalk

What to do while you’re there

Take a tour on a 70-foot speedboat – 308 Bay Ave.

Take the kids to Playland’s Castaway Cove for rides and games – 1020 Boardwalk

Price to be on the beachBuy now and preseason beach tags for all New Jersey beaches are $20 for the season. They’ll soon rise to $25 for seasonal passes.

Boardwalk – yes

Where to find out more

Official Ocean City NJ website

Ocean City New Jersey Trip Advisor

Avalon, NJ

At a glance: Avalon (and nearby Stone Harbor) is a seven-mile beach in New Jersey that has a small-town feel, an abundance of water sports and opportunities for relaxing walks and shopping. It also has a pretty active nightlife scene.

Time it takes to drive there – 1 hour, 20 minutes without traffic

Best restaurants and bars to visit

Cafe Loren – Up for a nice dinner? Head to this BYOB for lobster and scallops. 23rd & Dune Dr

Princeton Bar and Grill – One of the most popular bars in the area and on the Jersey Shore. 2008 Dune Dr

Circle Tavern – Hit this place up for lunch on the patio or drinks at night. 21st St

What to do while you’re there

Pirate Island Golf is the highest-rated mini golf in town at 2738 Dune Dr.

Head out fishing on a chartered boat with Miss Avalon Fishing – 1400 Ocean Dr.

Price to be on the beachBuy now and preseason beach tags for all New Jersey beaches are $20 for the season. They’ll soon rise to $25 for seasonal passes.

Boardwalk – yes

Where to find out more

Visit Avalon NJ website

Avalon NJ Trip Advisor

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