Why You Should Book a Shore Weekend in Long Branch

Shore towns rarely change, but thanks to dramatic developments and fresh investments in the arts, this one feels almost entirely new.

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Le Club Avenue at Pier Village in Long Branch. Photograph by Marc Steiner

This summer, as the tide of Philly vacationers breaks toward South Jersey, consider driving north. Long Branch in Monmouth County — formerly a getaway for seven different U.S. presidents, from Grant to Wilson — got a boost in the 2000s with the multimillion-dollar buildout of the Pier Village oceanfront retail complex. Now it’s got new owners (you’ve maybe heard of the Kushners?) who are continuing to shape this once-sleepy Shore town into a lively destination.

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A room at Bungalow boutique hotel in Long Branch. Photograph courtesy Bungalow.

Where to Stay

Nowadays, choice options abound. Bungalow, a stylish and eclectic 24-room boutique in Pier Village, was redesigned and expanded in 2018, so there’s a second bar and space for live music, poetry readings and art exhibitions (from $350 per night). For all-the-amenities (think: luxury spa, salon, five restaurants, killer oceanfront views), book at Wave Resort, opening this month (from $425 per night). All 67 glass-walled rooms lend themselves to gazing out onto the beach, and the large oceanfront pool and outdoor bar offer more of the same.

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French toast at Turning Point Café in Long Branch. Photograph courtesy Turning Point Café.

The Eating and Drinking Sitch

Since you can’t do a Shore weekend without pancakes, head to locally grown chain Turning Point Café, which serves syrup-slathered stacks and eggs Benedict all day. For eats on the water, try Le Club Avenue, a chic beachfront hang outfitted by star designer David Collins. New this month, you can shop at Brooklyn transplant Winz Market, a gourmet food purveyor and cafe. And once Wave opens, you can dine at one of the hotel’s restaurants — though with those views, you’d be forgiven for staying in to order room service.

What to Do

For shopping and culture, check out the storied downtown offerings in nearby Red Bank, where some Kevin Smith movies were filmed; it’s also home to the Count Basie Theatre, where Springsteen liked to play. Or take a half-hour drive to Sandy Hook, an old military base turned public park, and admire the ritzy mansions along the way. Rent bikes and ride to the tip of the peninsula for a pretty view of the NYC skyline.

The Can’t-Miss List

1. The Whitechapel Projects
This new craft brewpub in a repurposed brick warehouse has a rotating menu of delicious beers and bites.

2. Historic lighthouses at Sandy Hook
Climb the oldest continuously operating beacon in the U.S. And just five minutes away, visit Twin Lights, where some of the first wireless telegraphs were sent.

3. Go swimming au naturel at Gunnison Beach
Pretend you’re a carefree European at New Jersey’s only nude beach.

4. See a show on Broadway
At the New Jersey Repertory Company, located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch. The theater still stages world premieres.

5. Catch dinner and a movie outside
In July and August, Pier Village does its best drive-in impression, showing weekly flicks on the boardwalk.

Published as “The Jaunt: Weekending In … Long Branch” in the May 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.