Summer fun awaits at New Jersey LGBT beaches

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Asbury Park Sand Blast Beach Party in 2012. Photo By Geoff Rosenberger
Asbury Park Sand Blast Beach Party in 2012. Photo By Geoff Rosenberger
Where are the New Jersey gay beaches?

Summer is at its peak, and LGBT families, couples and their friends will be planning to head down to the Jersey Shore for fun in the sun. Not sure which beach will suit your personality and needs? Out in Jersey has the lowdown, but don’t keep it on the DL! Share with your friends so you will have a beach blanket gay extravaganza this summer.

Sandy Hook Beach fun photo by Stephen Wilcox 2009The most popular of the New Jersey gay beaches, many say, is Sandy Hook’s Gunnison Beach, also known as Area G, where clothing is optional. The gayest section is at the southernmost section of Area G. That is just past the fishermen and the straights. The beach also provides views of the New York City skyline on a beautiful day of sightseeing. So while sunbathing au naturel in the daytime, you can make plans for evening festivities.

There are no beach tags to worry about, which may be because there is nowhere to put them. But get there early! And have $15 ready at the National Park entrance to gain access to parking. The parking lots fill up early, especially on weekends, and close their gates once the park is full. When that happens you are out of luck until next time.

Sand Blast Beach Party at Sand Blast Weekend, Asbury Park, New Jersey, July 21, 2012, on Sunset Beach and Aqua Bar.
Sand Blast Beach Party at Sand Blast Weekend, Asbury Park, New Jersey, July 21, 2012, on Sunset Beach and Aqua Bar.

There are no boardwalks near Sandy Hook. There are just two small refreshment stands far from the water. So come packing a good-size cooler. You will want to stay hydrated. Sandy Hook is a national park, and also home to the first ever twin lighthouses.

Asbury Park has a large LGBT community and gay beach area

Asbury Park is another beach community that has had lots of LGBT activity for a long time, but especially since around 2000. There is no official “gay beach.” But the 4th and 5th Avenue Beach (on the northern end, south of Convention Hall) is a popular hot spot for gays and lesbians all year. The season starts on Memorial Day weekend and gets real busy in late June.

At Paradise in Asbury Park 2012 photo by Alan Joseph
At Paradise in Asbury Park 2012 photo by Alan Joseph

The city of Asbury Park is a popular LGBT destination on its own. It has been, and continues to be, proudly revitalized by “the gays.” There are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from. Paradise at the Empress Hotel is a popular hangout, and boasts a pool, tiki bar and dance floor with top-notch DJs most summer nights and super crowded dance parties every Saturday all-year long. Georgies Bar on Fifth Avenue may be far from the crowded beach, but it is where the locals meet later in the day for happy hour. Another great spot is Hotel Tides on Seventh Avenue. It is a small boutique hotel that hosts many LGBT events during the year. They cater especially to many nonprofit LGBT organizations and the leather community folks.

Asbury Park’s beach is a great place for dolphin and whale sightings, too. The city hosts New Jersey’s annual LGBTI Pride festival. In typical Jersey style, it is simply called Jersey Pride and is held annually the first Sunday in June.

Hundreds watch the Jersey LGBTI Pride Parade in Asbury Park in 2016.
Hundreds watch the Jersey LGBTI Pride Parade in Asbury Park in 2016.

Back on the Asbury Park beach, there is a charge of $5 Monday-Friday, and weekends and holidays are $7 per day for a beach tag, seasonal tags are $70 ($20 for seniors and teens), and 12 and younger are free. Parking can be a bit of a hassle, so arrive early or go in the late afternoon.

Belmar Beach does not have as large a gay population as the other beaches, but the gays that go like to sun the hours away at 2nd Avenue and the Boardwalk. This beach has been popular for a very long time but has slowed down as Asbury’s star has risen. You will need a Belmar beach tag for the day ($8). Children 15 and under are free. Seasonal badges are available for $55 and $15 for senior citizens. There are plenty of refreshment stands within walking distance, so no need to lug a cooler. Metered parking is available on Ocean Avenue, and you’ll find free parking on various side streets.

Keansburg Beach is still early in its development of gay beach hotspots. Some locals are really pushing to make this struggling bay town the next Asbury Park. Only time will tell. Check out Keansburg just off the Parkway’s exit 117. There are some cool views of New York City too. And Keansburg is a free beach. The section to the far right (eastern shore) has become popular with the local gay community. There is a sizable amusement park nearby and plenty of food and drink spots. You’ll find parking at the metered municipal lot adjacent to the boardwalks.

Southern New Jersey gay beaches
Atlantic City photo by B. Krist for the Atlantic City GLBT Alliance
Atlantic City photo by B. Krist for the Atlantic City GLBT Alliance

In South Jersey, Atlantic City has its traditional gay beach that was officially designated the “gay beach” a few years back at Park Place and the Boardwalk. In recent years, the beach is more family oriented and diverse. But this is where the gays still hang out. Atlantic City continues to reinvent its tourism industry. And the “gay beach” idea is a part of that.

Further south in Cape May there is not a beach area for gays. But Higbee Beach, has a bit of a secret spot. It is frequented by the local LGBT community. Years ago, it was a popular beach for nudists. But sunbathing nude is now illegal here — officially. It is punishable by a fine and your name in the local paper. But that has not stopped the LGBT community and the local nudists. They hang out between South Voodoo Tree and the creek heading south toward Daveys Lake by Sunset Beach. And there are no badges required.