Let me tell you about my favorite place… Long Beach Island (LBI) is a barrier island off the coast of central New Jersey. I won’t get into all of the history because you can read more about that here, but it is an island that’s only accessible by one bridge (or by boat!). It is 18 miles long and about a quarter mile wide, with the ocean on one side and a bay on the other. There’s a lighthouse at one end and a protected nature reserve on the other end. There are six towns (Barnegat Light, Beach Haven, Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom, and Surf City), and each one is recognizable by its large water tower. We live in Beach Haven which is why you’ll find most of my recommendations are located there.
It’s 18 miles of wide, soft white sand beaches. It’s casual, beachy, laid-back, and family friendly (no high rises to be found!). Our history with the island goes back probably 27-ish years ago, when my parents bought a beach house on 27th St in Beach Haven. Since then, we’ve moved to a new beach house in Beach Haven. I spent every summer of my life there—learning to sail and play tennis, and then working a variety of summer jobs. And it’s still where we find ourselves spending the whole summer (seriously I don’t miss a weekend), and we love it just as much as ever.
I’ve been meaning to put together a full LBI guide so I can share this little slice of island goodness. Below you’ll find my family’s tried-and-true favorites. Everything from hole in-the-wall clam bars to our favorite summer activities (ever heard of pickleball?!). Many of our friends either own or work at some of the below places (I worked at a few of them too!), so they’re extra special to our hearts, and I can make the recommendations knowing that you’re in good hands 😊.
Whether you’re a local, live here for the summer, or visit for a week or a long weekend, hopefully you can find something on this list that will make your stay extra-memorable! But first let’s get to a few definitions…
The Boulevard—This is the main street that runs down the whole island, with little side streets coming out of it.
The Mainland—The “main land” is the area that’s right off island—i.e. any land right before you get onto the island. The town right off of the island is called Manahawkin, which you may hear as well.
The Bay—This is the body of water that’s in between the island and the mainland. It’s much more calmer than the ocean, and is where all of the boating, sailing, tubing, etc. occurs. The bay is the BEST place to watch the sunset. Walk to the bay side of any street to catch it around 7:30 pm in the summertime.
Beach Haven—This is the town on LBI where I live, and is where many of the main stores, restaurants, and activities that I describe below are located. I share a lot of spots that are in Beach Haven, just because of it’s where I spend most of my time, but each town has SO many awesome restaurants and boutiques.
Bay Village—This is the main shopping center in the town of Beach Haven, where a lot of my favorite spots are (like Country Kettle Fudge, The Candy Store, The Gazebo, the Windmill… etc.)
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel LBI—This hotel just opened this summer. I’ve been twice to have drinks and dinner there and seriously cannot get over how absolutely gorgeous and NEW it is. It’s located immediately right when you get onto the island, in a pretty busy area. We thought that was going to bother us when we visited, but we honestly felt so relaxed the second we stepped into the hotel. The décor is very nautical-inspired and chic—there are multiple bars, a pool on the deck of one of the hotel levels, a large rooftop with games and another bar, etc. It’s family-friendly and so welcoming! The rooms look gorgeous as well (many of them have kitchenettes). I’ve heard that they have a shuttle that takes you to and from the beach too. I would stay there in a heartbeat! Their hanging flowers are also over-the-top gorgeous (which I thought was important to mention haha).
Daddy Os—I went to have drinks on Daddy O’s rooftop a few years ago when it first opened, and honestly have not been back since. This is definitely the recommendation that I know least about, but I wanted to added it in here nonetheless. I’ve heard good things about the property and know that it’s a popular choice for wedding guests when there are weddings on the island.
The Gables— This is a beautifully restored Victorian-style inn, that’s in the heart of Beach Haven. It looks like a perfect fit for a garden fairy, and is truly one of the prettiest and most romantic spots. We’ve been there for a few nice, celebratory dinners, which we’d recommend as well, especially if you’re celebrating something like an anniversary! The rooms look historic and stunning, and each one has a special backstory!
Williams Cottage Inn— This is an absolutely gorgeous inn located in Beach Haven. It was a house that was renovated a few years ago, so the accommodations are beautiful and new, without losing its Victorian-era charm. Don’t be turned off my its out-dated website, it truly is such a gem! It’s open all-year long as well, which is another perk!
Rent— I would say that the majority of those who visit LBI rent houses. There are a plethora of awesome homes that are available for rent each summer, and you can find one that fits all of your needs (closest to the beach, pool, number of bedrooms, etc.). We have good friends who rent out their homes when they’re not there, so feel free to reach out if you’d ever like me to send you a recommendation!
WHERE TO EAT
The Bagel Shack—Best bagel you will ever have. I do NOT say that lightly, but I believe it with my whole bagel-loving belly and have had many people try them too who agree. Get the everything bagel with cream cheese or pork roll, egg, and cheese AND the French toast bagel with cream cheese. You’re gong to want to try both. Then send me a DM after and let me know how much you loved them. My tip is to have someone volunteer to go early (around 8am) and pick up bagels before the line gets long. You can always call ahead as well!
Pearl Street Market— PSM is another local favorite, and the perfect spot to pick up a cup of coffee and a breakfast wrap. They have a great selection of made-to-order sandwiches that you can take out too. Our favorite things to get there are the Nitro cold brew iced coffee and the guacamole– it’s our favorite guac on the island!
Uncle Wills—This is our family’s favorite breakfast spot. The décor features all pigs, and you can ask to sit with a large ceramic pig at your table (it literally sits on a chair next to you). I grew up doing this, and it’s still one of our favorite summer traditions. We try to go every year on Mother’s Day as well. Order an omelet and a side of the pancakes!
The Chicken or the Egg— Located close by to Uncle Wills, the “Chegg” is a famous spot for all meals, but there’s always a wait at breakfast, so you know it’s good. 😉They’re known best for their wing selection– unreal. It’s open late-night too, and so much fun to visit then!
Shore Good Donuts—This donut shop has such fun and unique flavors—they’re perfect to scoop up and bring back to your house for breakfast if you have company staying over!
Playa Bowls—This has the largest selection of acai bowls I’ve ever seen! They’re freshly made and delicious for a healthier breakfast option. They also have really yummy poke bowls if you wonder by it during lunchtime. Such an easy meal to pick up and bring to the beach!
Dockside Diner—This is my dad’s favorite breakfast spot. It’s a diner-like restaurant that sits right alongside the bay. Their unique French toast options are so DELISH! They are also dog-friendly if you want to sit outside with your pup. 😊
Barry’s Do-Me-A-Flavor—A Beach Haven staple. This is our go-to spot for lunch, takeout, or the best big scoops of Arctic ice cream (it’s made in NJ and the cookies and cream ice cream is unbelievable!). You have to try the garlic knots. Get the chicken fingers, garlic knots, and a fountain soda diet coke. There, I just ordered for you.
Holiday Snack Bar—Don’t leave your stay in LBI without getting a Holiday Snack Bar burger, a milkshake, and old bay fries/onion rings. Oh! And a marshmallow-frosting cake. You sit at one big bar inside the tiny restaurant and it’s an iconic Beach Haven experience.
Country Kettle Chowda—This may be my boyfriend’s favorite meal on the island… there are many restaurants that serve chowder but this is by far our favorite. You just walk in (it’s the cutest little spot in Bay Village) and order a cup or bowl to go. If you really want to go all out (which you should), ask for it in a bread bowl!
Bay Village Pizza— There’s nothing like Bay Village Pizza by the slice. You’ll know you’ve found it when you see the line that usually forms outside of the windows where you order. The slices are bigger than your head and will hit the SPOT when you’re craving pizza (which for me is always).
The Sandbar—This is our go-to beach bar, which is located right behind the Engleside Hotel. Half of it is literally on the beach, which is part of why it’s so much fun. It’s as casual as it gets and there are palm trees, a bar, tables and chairs, and sometimes a live band. I would recommend getting the mozzarella sticks, shrimp tacos, and a painkiller! My little sister used to waitress here and we would go every weekend—it’s that good! Fun fact: I had swim lessons in the pool right next to the bar when I was growing up. 😊The Shell is another bar, located right across the street, and it’s also such a fun spot for drinks on the beach!
The Gazebo— This restaurant spot is located in Bay Village, on the upper level. It’s really casual and perfect for takeout. Everything from the sushi to the sweet potato fries are delish!
Biggy’s Beach Grill— This is another awesome takeout spot that has delicious seafood with a Caribbean flair (their wings are delish too!). They deliver as well– even to the beach!
Murphy’s Market— This is the main grocery store in Beach Haven. They have everything from a deli counter (where you can order the best subs), to a frozen section with pints of Arctic Ice Cream, which is locally made ice cream (which you can also get by the scoop at Barry’s Do-Me-A-Flavor!). It’s the perfect spot to pick up BBQ supplies or alcohol (there’s a whole wine + beer section as well!).
The Local—Local is located right when you get onto the island from the bridge. It’s the cutest little market where you can pick up fresh baked goods, order “TV dinners” from the deli counter (ask about them!), and get BBQ from their BBQ food truck that they have out a lot during the summer. It’s probably our favorite spot to pick up dinner!
The Goodness Cafe—This is the café located in the same area as the store Sur La Plage, right by Bay Village. It’s an adorable spot to pick up a cup of coffee and some cute macaroons. Very Instagram worthy!
Stewart’s Root Beer—This isn’t technically located on LBI, but occasionally we’ve gone by boat across the bay to Tuckerton, where Stewart’s is located. You can pull up to it from the bay and dock there, and enjoy a fresh root beer float! So yummy and such a classic, throwback restaurant.
The Buoy Bar— The restaurant Tucker’s just opened up a rooftop spot that I recently visited and LOVED. It has the cutest atmosphere of buoys, string lights, and wooden picnic tables. Go with your friends or fam and order a bunch of appetizers and the fun cocktails that come in jugs with spouts. The sesame tuna tacos are delish too!
Station No. 117— This is a new beer garden that just opened up next to Buckalew’s (which is an awesome dinner spot too. My dad loves their steamers!). They’re related restaurants, but Station No. 117 is outside and perfect for a seafood appetizer and a glass of wine or beer.
The Arlington— I’m writing this while sitting on the beach with my dad right now, and he suggested that I add in The Arlington as my top pick for beer selections. Take a look at the list of their draft beer selection if you’re a draft beer lover!
Hotel LBI Rooftop— I mentioned this above, but it’s worth noting twice! We’ve been to the rooftop of Hotel LBI a few times, and really is such a fun atmosphere for drinks. There’s a bar that looks out across the bay, and lots of games set up all around the roof (corn hole, life-sized checkers, etc.) My favorite cocktail to get is the Vanilla Paloma or the Bikini Martini!
Bistro 14—Bistro 14 is a BYOB spot located above the fudge shop in Bay Village. They have an oyster bar (which my dad and boyfriend love) and the best corn crab soup! It’s a fun spot to go with both girlfriends or your family. Ask to sit on the deck during sunset!
Parker’s Garage—I used to waitress here back when it was the Boathouse (omg does that make me sound old or what), and it’s still one of our family’s favorite spots. It’s a nicer option (but still very family-friendly) BYOB tapas-style restaurant with the best summer salads (try the Summer Tomato salad), macaroni and cheese, and seafood plates. Another phenomenal spot to watch the sunset on the bay!
Black Whale—One of the few non-BYOB places, the Black Whale is one of our favorites for drinks at the bar and then a yummy seafood dinner. I’d recommend getting the garden salad and then mixing both of their homemade salad dressings on top of it—they’re famous for that! Their crab cakes are also a hit as well (if I don’t fill up on their oyster crackers and horseradish beforehand ha).
The Clam Bar—This is a hole-in-the-wall spot in Beach Haven, which I think of as the seafood version of the Holiday Snack Bar. It has the BEST fried seafood and is as casual and beachy as it gets. This is one of my mom’s favorite places to eat! Say hi to Nell (the “Clam Diva”) for us!
Stefano’s—Another one of my mom’s absolute favorites. She gets the seafood risotto every time and is obsessed. This is definitely on the nicer scale when it comes to restaurants and is a fun place to go for a celebratory date night or birthday dinner. The food is divine!!
The Engleside—This is a nicer, indoor restaurant in Beach Haven that’s located on the same property as the Sandbar. They have yummy seafood offerings and a nice sushi menu. Tip: Bring a sweater—it’s always really air conditioned!
Bird & Betty’s—This restaurant just opened up next to Parker’s Garage is a fun spot to get a cocktail and an all-American type of dinner with anything from seafood to pizza to burgers.
Oyster Creek—This is another spot that we’ve gone to by boat before, so it’s not technically on the island. It has any seafood or sushi that you can dream of!
The Candy Store—This is my favorite (and the all around best) candy store you will come across. It’s owned by one of my best friend’s moms and is a Bay Village staple. There are so many things you have to try… but start by filling up a bag of candy (old-school style) and getting a whole chocolate-covered “elephant ear.” Once you’re inside you will know what I mean, you will smell it as you approach the store!
Country Kettle Fudge— Quite possibly the most decadent and delicious sweet treat you’ll ever have. My family loves it SO much that we give it as gifts and literally eat it all year round ourselves (you can order it online and ship it anywhere!). When my sister was studying abroad in Copenhagen this past spring, she asked my mom to bring over fudge to her. She missed it THAT much. This is also located in Bay Village—they have the best salt water taffy as well!
The Windmill—I worked here for many summers throughout my teens! They have the most delicious BIG scoops of Jack & Jill ice cream. Our family favorites are “Sweet & Salty” and the peanut butter hard yogurt. If you’re really feeling desert, then ask for a “Waffle with the Works” i.e. a fluffy Belgian waffle (they make them there!), powdered sugar, big scoops of ice cream, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream (hot fudge optional 😉.
The Showplace—This is also an iconic LBI spot. I grew up going to Showplace for my birthday, and then it shut down for a summer or two, but now it has reopened in all its glory. It’s a Broadway musical-inspired ice cream restaurant where you order your ice cream sundae from a menu and the waiters put on performances throughout the evening. It’s hysterical and adorable all at once, and the perfect spot to bring little kids for desert after a dinner or after seeing a play at The Surflight Theatre!
WHERE TO SHOP
Sur la Plage—Everything you need in one place. They carry all of your favorite brands (Free People, Parker, Kate Spade, Lilly Pulitzer, Sail to Sable, etc.) in both of the Sur la Plage boutique stores that are right next to each other. It’s beautifully curated so that there’s something you want literally everywhere you look. Whenever we have girlfriends stay with us, we always make sure to take them there for a shopping trip!
Island Gypsy—I worked at this boutique for a summer growing up and really love their selection of inexpensive and trendy clothing! They have everything from cozy sweaters to mini dresses.
How to Live— This is the cutest little home décor shop, full of rustic and beachy furniture, signs, accessories, etc. There are two locations, but the one next to Uncle Will’s is the original. Tip: put your name in at Uncle Will’s in the morning for breakfast, and then shop around How to Live as you wait!
Artifacts and Company— Think bohemian florals, rustic home décor, and coastal art. My mom and I both love Artifacts and all of the gems that are located inside. They also do flower arrangements and were the creatives behind the gorgeous flower centerpiece I had for my birthday beach picnic dinner!
Sink r Swim Men’s Shop— This is the ultimate in men’s clothing and swim. Seriously, this store has the most handsome and quality selection of men’s apparel. I can always find something for my dad or boyfriend when I pop in! Tip: shop around and then have lunch or dinner at The Boathouse right next door!
Breezin’ Up—If you’re looking for that cozy, lived-in type of sweatshirt to commemorate your love for LBI (believe me, I have many—one of which pictured in this post!), then you have to stop into Breezin’ Up. They have LBI-themed apparel for all ages, but it’s not too touristy at all!
Bay Village—Like I shared in the “LBI Definitions,” Bay Village is the most bustling and happening shopping part of the island. There are so many unique little boutiques that you can wander into, everything from book stores to toy stores.
WHAT TO DO
Go to the beach—You can walk to the beach from every point on the island, which is what makes it such a beachy place. The ocean is absolutely gorgeous. It’s known for sand bars at low tide, dolphin sightings right off the shore, and clear blue temperate waters. You can bring a beach chair and sit just about anywhere, but you have to swim in between the flags of a life guard stand while it’s in season in the summer months. I was on the beaches of LBI when I was literally one month old, and haven’t ever left them since!
Anything on the bay—On the opposite side of the beach, there’s the bay. That’s where all of the sailing, tubing, paddle boarding, etc. occurs. The bay is usually warmer than the ocean, and much calmer, so it’s perfect for watersports and cruising around. I’d recommend you take a sunset cruise on the Black Pearl pirate ship before dinner one night! (It docks right next to Parker’s Garage if you want to make dinner reservations there for afterwards!).
Rent bikes—We like to joke that if you can’t ride your bike somewhere, then it’s simply “too far.” 😂We bike ride everywhere on the island. Growing up I literally spent weeks without getting into a car, and that’s the best way to live in the summer! We usually rent bikes from AJ’s Bikes when we need extras for guests, but there are plenty of other spots throughout the island where you can rent bikes for a weekend or week.
Rent a golf cart—As of this summer, golf carts seem to be the new bikes on the island. You can drive them on the side streets and they are seriously such a fun way to get around! LBI Carts is renting them if you’re interested in having one for any part of your stay.
See a play at Surflight Theatre—There are so many classic plays that show at The Surflight Theatre throughout the summer. I’ve seen everything from Disney classics to Footloose there, and it never disappoints for a local theater!
Play pickleball— Pickleball is my family’s new addiction (and when I say family I mean my mom and boyfriend, who will literally play for hours on end in the mornings). There are public courts located on the skate rink at the Nelson Avenue Park at the end of Bay Avenue, where there are always people playing in rotations in the morning, and any level of play is welcome. You can literally show up in workout clothes and sneakers, and someone will hand you a paddle and put you on a court where everyone else is learning the game. It’s such a family-friendly and seriously addicting sport!
Play tennis—Before we discovered pickleball, we played a lot of tennis. There are public courts right next to the baseball field and ball park in Beach Haven, and you can find the locations of all of the courts on the island here.
Go on a few rides at Fantasy Island Amusement Park—Right next to Bay Village is this little amusement park, and it’s absolutely adorable. I just went a few weeks ago with Johnny (after we had dinner at Bistro 14) and we bought enough tokens to ride two rides (the Sea Dragon is my FAVE) and had the best time. It’s such a clean facility and one of the best family spots!
Spend a morning at Thundering Surf Water Park—This is the water park that’s located in Bay Village, right next to a mini golf course (it’s all connected). It’s a small and very clean park—with six waterslides, a lazy river, and a whole kid’s section. Tip: Go when it first opens and it will be less crowded. Also, slide #6 all the way on the left is the best one 😉.
Play a round of mini golf– My boyfriend is an avid golfer, so I’ve found myself playing mini golf more often the past few summers. 😉It’s such a fun family-oriented activity. We’d recommend Mr. Tee’s or Thundering Surf Adventure Golf for a round before dinner!
Take your dog to the Dog Beach—The Beach Haven dog beach is located on the bay right by Bay Village (at the end of Taylor Avenue) and is a fun spot to bring your pup to get into the bay. We don’t really bring Liberty because she’s a #diva and cannot get her hair wet frequently, but we know other dogs who go frequently and LOVE it.
Climb Barnegat Lighthouse—This lighthouse is probably the biggest landmark of the island, and is truly such a beautiful spot. It’s fun to climb and take photos by—truly a coastal gem. 😊
Enjoy a private boat cruise around Barnegat Bay— My girlfriends & I went on the LBI Luxury Charter’s ‘Relentless’ boat on an afternoon tour around Barnegat Bay and the Barnegat Lighthouse. It is truly the best way to see the lighthouse in all of its glory & enjoy a relaxing afternoon or evening on the water!
There are so many special places on Long Beach Island. We find new favorites every summer, so I’m sure I will be updating this guide as we do. Everyone who stays here or has visited has their go-to restaurants, shops, and beaches, and that’s what makes it such a fun spot. Send me your recommendations and favorite spots too!
I received a few questions about LBI, which I will answer in a Q&A format in a separate post soon, because this one has just gotten to darn long. 😂
If you end up trying out any of these spots because of my guide, please let me know how you liked them! I’d LOVE to hear and chat all things LBI with with you. xx