Where are the New Jersey Gay 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

It’s that time of the year when 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 LGBT needs in New Jersey 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 all summer long.

Sandy Hook Beach fun photo by Stephen Wilcox 2009The most popular of the gay beaches, many say, is Sandy Hook’s Gunnison Beach, also known as Area G, where clothing is optional, and the gayest section is at the most southernmost section of Area G — 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, you can make plans for the evening’s festivities later in the day. There are no beach tags to worry about, maybe because there is nowhere to put them, but get there early because the parking lots fill up and close their gates. Once the parking lots are full, you are out of luck until next time. There are no boardwalks near Sandy Hook and only two small refreshment stands far from the water are available. So come packing a good size cooler, you’ll want to stay hydrated. Sandy Hook is a national park, and also home to the first ever twin lighthouses.

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,” here either. But the 4th and 5th Avenue Beach (near the Convention Hall) is one popular hot spot for gays and lesbians all year — and always starting Memorial Day weekend.

The city of Asbury Park is a popular LGBT destination too. It has been, and continues to be, revitalized by “the gays.” There are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from, but Paradise at the Empress Hotel is a popular hangout, and boasts a pool, tiki bar and dance floor with top-notch DJ’s most 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 all meet. Another great spot is Hotel Tides on Seventh Avenue. It is a boutique hotel that hosts many LGBT events during the year — especially for the non-profit LGBT organizations and the leather 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 this year on Sunday, June 4th. The festivities start for most of New Jersey’s LGBT community early on Friday, June 2, 2017.

Asbury Park boards night sceneBack on the Asbury Park beach, there is a charge of $5 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 is slowing down the last few years and loosing its draw as Asbury Park continues to draw ever-larger crowds. You will need a Belmar beach tag for the day ($7). A seasonal adult badge is $50, seniors are $15 and those 15 years or younger go free. 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. The section to the far right (eastern shore) has become popular with the local gay community. First, the town will have to keep this beach clean, it’s been noted that the beach is littered and not very appealing. But 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.

In South Jersey, Atlantic City’s traditional gay beach has always been 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. The city has officially crowned this section as the “gay beach.” As Atlantic City tries to reinvent its tourism industry this may become the popular place in 2017.

Further south in Cape May there is not a beach area for gays. But Higbee Beach, which is a very well-kept secret is frequented by the local LGBT community. Years ago, it was a popular beach for nudists, but sunbathing nude is now illegal, punishable by a fine and your name in the local paper. But that has not stopped the gays, who hang out between South Voodoo Tree and the creek by Sunset Beach. No badge required.