The Shark Park It’s the best playground at the Jersey Shore. In Brigantine. (Another option: The Longport playground is simpler, but excellently maintained and almost never busy.) (The Shark Park 26th Street and Brigantine Avenue, Brigantine, brigantinebeachnj.com/tourism_attractions.html).
Surf Camp Parents rave over Matt Keenan’s Elation Surf Camp in Avalon and O.C.: Pick a one-, three- or five-day package for between $100 and $375, and say aloha to your little surfers from 9 a.m. to noon. Then watch ’em catch a wave! (Elation Surf Camp 16th Street and the beach, Ocean City, 609-271-8146 or
The Wetlands Institute This fun education center outside Stone Harbor offers short hikes, mini-lectures (starfish: not actually fish!), the chance to hold a turtle, and time to hang out in its petite aquarium. (The Wetlands Institute 1075 Stone
Harbor Boulevard, Stone Harbor, 609-368-1211, wetlandsinstitute.org).
Portraits on the beach Okay, so this one is for you. Because before you know it, they’re out of their Swimmies and into bikinis. Try Jessica Walker, who specializes in snapping kids on the beach. (Jessica Walker Photography 609-675-6592, jessicawalkerphotography.com).
Lucy the Elephant It’s a one-trick pony (er, elephant?) for sure, but little ones always dig climbing up inside Margate’s six-story pachyderm. (Lucy the Elephant 9200 Atlantic Avenue, Margate, 609-823-6473, lucytheelephant.com).
The lighthouses Take the older ones to climb hundreds of spiral steps for a bird’s-eye view of the Atlantic Ocean that they’ll never forget. Try the Cape May Lighthouse (199 steps) or LBI’s biggie, Barnegat Lighthouse (217 steps), the second-tallest lighthouse in the U.S. (Cape May Lighthouse 215 Lighthouse Avenue, Cape May Point, 609-884-8656; Barnegat Lighthouse 609-494-2016).
Pirate voyages Aboard the Sea Dragon pirate ship in Ocean City, buccaneers will paint your swashbucklers’ faces, tell them maritime tales, and help them decode a map to find underwater treasure — and defend the ship with water cannons. (Sea Dragon Pirate Voyages 10th Street and Palen Avenue, Ocean City, 609-398-7555, piratevoyages.com).
Marine Mammals Stranding Center This Brigantine nonprofit rescues washed-up critters — whales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles — rehabilitates them, and eventually returns them to the sea. The place is like the Please Touch Museum, Adventure Aquarium and Greenpeace, all rolled up into one tiny package. (Marine Mammals Stranding Center 3625 Atlantic-Brigantine Boulevard, Brigantine, 609-266-0538, marinemammalstrandingcenter.org).
Avalon Boardwalk Send your moody ’tweens to work out some angst playing Dance Dance Revolution with other moody ’tweens at this small stretch near 29th Street. There’s also a skate park, Skee-Ball, water ice, pizza and ice cream, so maybe they’ll come back smiling. Maybe.