Your Guide to Visiting Long Beach Island in the Fall

Add this shore town to your travel list for great surf, white sand and a grand new hotel.

long beach island

Planning a visit to Long Beach Island? Stay at the new 102-room Hotel LBI. Photograph by Ann Coen

The handful of towns that dot this slender 18-mile barrier island offer a taste of everything: majestic hotels and tiny B&Bs, briny beach cafes and cozy taprooms, water sports, white-sand beaches, chic boutiques and oysters galore.

Where to Stay

Ship Bottom’s new 102-room Hotel LBI is like a slice of Nantucket in Jersey, what with its preppy elegance and classic nautical vibe. And while the pandemic has put a damper on a few of the hotel’s perks (like its lovely Lighthouse spa, which is temporarily closed), the heated indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub are still open by reservation, and the spectacular sunset views are available every night of the week from the open-air rooftop lounge. Then there are the romantic Victorian-inspired rooms at the historic Gables B&B in Beach Haven, which are brimming with luxe details (claw-foot tubs! Working fireplaces!) and open Thursdays through Sundays in the fall. Meantime, fans of Philly’s Louie Louie and White Dog Cafe should know that Brant Beach’s surfer-kitsch-meets-mod Daddy O hotel is run by the same folks, Haverford-based Fearless Restaurants. It’s open through October.

What to Do

Surf. Come fall, the swells are up and the water’s warm — and Long Beach Township is widely known for its many designated surfing beaches, not to mention loads of places to rent boards and get lessons. (For the full rundown on the surfer beaches, head to Rather park it in the sand? Grab a beach read at Beach Haven’s LBI Bookswap (open through early October), which guarantees every New York Times best-seller in stock. You can also skip the beach entirely and leisurely work your way through the breweries and local maker studios on the self-guided Surf and Sip Brew Trail, or spend a weekend afternoon perusing naval artifacts at the New Jersey Maritime Museum in Beach Haven. And if the day is too chilly to hang outdoors, hit up LBI’s many stylish home boutiques (check the hours at Vintage Gray, the Seawife, Beach Barn Boutique and Little Bungalow), then do a driving tour of the grandiose homes in Harvey Cedars and Loveladies.

Where to Eat

Plan a weekend breakfast at LBI institution Mustache Bill’s Diner in Barnegat Light, which is somehow both a James Beard Award winner and a Guy Fieri favorite. For something lighter, newcomer Birdy’s Cafe & Artisan Market offers smoothies, juices and more in the cutest Harvey Cedars space, and for date night, there’s the casual but stylish Daymark Bar & Restaurant or its decidedly unbeachy, cozier sister restaurant and gastropub, the Arlington in Ship Bottom. In Beach Haven, Pearl Street Market has delish takeout sandwiches (that lobster BLT!) and prepared foods for gourmet beach picnics through Labor Day weekend. And for your ride back to Philly? Side Door Donuts serves up coffee and glazed sweets so pretty, you almost feel bad eating them.

Where to Drink

BYO to Parker’s Garage, where you can while the day away slurping oysters on a bayside deck, or get your fruity cocktail fix at the fun-­loving Terrace Tavern. Another idea: The Arlington and Daymark both offer fancy to-go cocktail kits — add one to your dinner tab and make your own nightcaps.

Road Trip

There’s lakeside and trail hiking aplenty in Wells Mill County Park, Wharton State Forest and Bass River State Forest, each about a 30-minute drive inland from island center.

Don’t Miss

Beach Haven’s long-running Chowderfest has gone virtual in light of the pandemic, but the LBI Surf Fishing Fall Classic runs through December 13th this year, and new regulations make it easier for anglers of all experience levels to take home prizes. The opening-day instruction seminar is Columbus Day weekend, which is also the weekend of the LBI FLY International Kite Festival, the fun-for-all-ages multi-day tradition involving choreographed sport kite competition, giant inflatable kites, and even glow-in-the-dark evening demonstrations.

Published as “Long Beach Island” in the “Off Season” guide to the Shore in the September 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.