Summer is over, but we barely had a chance to enjoy the warm weather or the freedom it brings. Haven’t had the chance to get some sand between your toes or walk along the boardwalk yet? While New Jersey beaches are generally open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, that doesn’t mean all classic “beach day” activities are out of the question out of season. Here are some easy ways to fill a day with some of your favorite summer pastimes throughout the year, whether you want to hit the coast or stay a little closer to home.
To go swimming
The first thing on a list of classic beach day activities is swimming in the ocean, and the off-season has two main differences – cold weather and no lifeguards. Although no lifeguard means swimming at your own risk. Some people just can’t let the recent hot days slip through their fingers.
However, once it gets colder we will have to resort to some interior options and luckily there are a few. You can always stay in a Hotel on the beach, many of which have reopened and are taking extra precautions to keep their guests safe during the pandemic. That you are rather Cape May or one Atlantic City type, there are a lot of different hotels to choose from with indoor pools and even access to their own private beach.
Of course, if all you want to experience the mock summer is to do a few laps in the pool, you might find it easier and cheaper to just sign up for your local YMCA or JCC.
Hit the beach
The big plus of going down to shore after Labor Day is that the beach gets a bit quieter and you might actually find a spot on the sand to leave your towel. The sand will always mold into a perfectly fine castle no matter the season. Cold weather might just mean you’ll want to wear a jacket.
The quiet of the low season also creates the perfect atmosphere to relax on the beach with a good book. Not to mention the cooler weather which makes lazing in the sun a little more comfortable, or better yet, a good game of beach volleyball more bearable. One thing is for sure, just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t always go out with your friends, have a good time. picnic, make sand in unusual places, and enjoy the beauty of the beach. Each coastal town has its own unique atmosphere, even in the Winter, so be sure to browse the local shops and restaurants while you’re at it.
Play on the promenade
While the walk is without a doubt an iconic part of any summer day at the beach, there’s no reason not to visit one of New Jersey’s best piers in the off-season. Many promenade arcades are open all year round on weekends and some piers have rides open until October. Boardwalks like Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant and Morey’s Pier in Wildwood have rides for everyone and all of the best arcade games.
Even after the very last pier is closed, the NJ still has Six Flags, Funplex, and the new American Dream Mall to meet all of the theme park’s needs in the dead of winter. American Dream also has a indoor water park, which is open year round for an added touch of summer fun. It’s kept at a tropical temperature daily and has areas for lounging, so even in winter this classic beach day is just a short drive away.
There are also numerous arcades reappearing all over the state. It’s not just on the promenade that you can find these game havens anymore. Some places, like the new Alumni, are designed to play on nostalgia and revolve specifically around as many vintage gaming machines as they can get their hands on. Other local arcades offer a mix of pinball machines, classic games, modern video games, skeeball and billiards. You can even win tickets and cheap prizes to fully complete this arcade experience.
To take up surfing
A lot of classic beach activities can be seasonal, but it seems like surfing is a bit less weather dependent. Many surf schools in NJ book private and group lessons throughout the year, even during the winter months. Winter may in fact be the best time to surf, but experience matters. Winter brings bigger and more intense waves, stronger winds and freezing temperatures which are very exciting, but only if you are prepared for it. Fortunately, these surf schools put safety first and won’t put new surfers in situations they aren’t ready for.
Consistent practice is how you go from beginner to pro. If surfing is something you are really thinking of getting into, you can opt for a multi-lesson package that will get you back to the beach week after week. Some of these schools also offer longboard and stand-up paddleboarding lessons. Most schools offer or offer rental options for surfboards, ankle leashes, and other necessary equipment.
Go on a boat
Whether it’s fishing, whale watching, or just getting out on the water for the day, jettisoning from the shore provides a sense of freedom and adventure that simply cannot be replicated. The wind on your face, the smell of water in the air, and the ability to leave everything on earth for awhile are all essential ingredients for a great day on the water.
If you have a boating license, the season just doesn’t have to end. Marinas and yacht clubs statewide will rent boats to anyone with a valid license year-round. If you are not an experienced boater but still want to get out on the water, there are many places that offer rental boats in one of the state’s many bays. Most charters are specific to activities such as a small fishing trip or a Lighthouse to visit.
For many, the beach is about relaxation, so a boat trip along the Jersey Shore with a nice dinner to watch the sunset or fall foliage is a perfect off-season activity. You can also charter private yachts for special occasions and sail up the Hudson River to see the city lit up. Whale watching tours are a bit more difficult to find during the winter months, but you can get to the Cape May Whale Watcher where they still leave the boats in early December with the guarantee that customers will be able to see at least a few whales, dolphins or other aquatic mammals.
What’s your favorite way to recreate an off-season New Jersey beach day? Let us know in the comments!
Main photo by Katie Manning