Your Guide to Fall Down the Shore

jersey shore in the fall

The Cape May Lighthouse is one of many sights to see during your Jersey Shore fall trip. Photograph by Laura Thistle

So it wasn’t exactly what we had planned, this summer. Even the Shore — our standby, our go-to — wasn’t a given. And frankly, even if we managed to make it there, it wasn’t quite the same.

But here’s a little-known fact, and also a reason to cheer up: Fall, not summer, is the Shore’s best season. The crowds are gone. (Social distancing!*) The water’s warmer. Fishing’s good; surfing’s great. And the towns you think you already know show off an entirely different side once the seasons shift. It’s a side you should see. Probably a side that would do you some good right about now.

Below you’ll find five glorious seaside escapes, including the Shore’s coziest hotels, prettiest hikes, coolest kayak tours, and plenty of other secrets the summer tourists miss. Just remember to pack a sweater.

Cape May

jersey shore in the fall

Visiting Cape May in the fall? Consider a stay in a cottage bedroom like this at Beach Plum Farm. Photograph by Laura Thistle.

This jewel of a Shore town — all postcard-perfect beaches, Victorian facades and adorable antiques shops — has a wild side the summer crowds miss: The flora and fauna and farms of autumn are beyond idyllic. Keep reading here.

Atlantic City

jersey shore in the fall

Biergarten in Atlantic City. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

A place that was once all about casinos is now a diverse, multicultural, food-centric oceanfront city for people who actually like cities. Plus, easy connections to Brigantine to the north and Downbeach (Ventnor, Margate and Longport) to the south offer visitors a taste of more “traditional” Shore days, too. Keep reading here.

Long Beach Island

jersey shore in the fall

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. Keep reading here.

Seven Mile Island

jersey shore in the fall

The Diving Horse in Seven Mile Island. Photograph by Dan Doran

The chichi sister towns of Avalon and Stone Harbor slow to a crawl in the off-season … which is exactly the point. Keep reading here.

Asbury Park

jersey shore in the fall

The lobby of The Asbury in Asbury Park. Photograph by Nikolas Koenig

With its retro-cool vibe and eclectic year-round music, art, retail and restaurant culture, this famous little Shore town has become, as one local told the New York Times, like “Brooklyn on the beach.” Keep reading here.

*Speaking of which … unless otherwise noted, the businesses in this article were open as of press time, and the restaurants were offering outdoor dining or takeout. We recommend calling ahead before venturing out to a specific site.