Updated: Apr 30
Coming over the Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge, the Atlantic Ocean spreads out on the horizon. It's the most memorable view from any road approaching the Jersey Shore. To the right is the narrowest developed area of the Shore, the small town of Sea Bright. While not as well known as Long Branch or Asbury Park as a shore destination, it's an easy place to spend a day at the beach.
Where do I park?
Once on Ocean Avenue, there are only small private lots by the sea wall that was built more than 100 years ago to keep the ocean at bay and off the railroad tracks. Those are all private, and to the right along the Shrewsbury River, there are few side streets and even fewer public parking spaces. The town's major public parking lot (see details below for cost) is downtown Sea Bright, south of the first stoplight. From the lot, visitors will see restaurants and take-out eateries, Bain's Hardware (with all your beach supplies), Lucky Dog Surf Co (lessons anyone?) and grocery and liquor stores (get your Cinnamon whiskey). To access
the beach, walk up the ramp or steps to the new Sea Bright Beach Pavilion which fronts an elevated concrete walkway and small boardwalk that extend for about 1/3 of mile south. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, buy a beach badge to hang out on this guarded beach, play
volleyball or use the children's playground. Outdoor showers are along the walkway, restrooms are inside the pavilion and police, fire and lifesaving personnel are nearby.
Healthy Restaurant Scene Ready for 2021
While many commercial strips experienced an increase in vacant storefronts in 2020 due to Covid restrictions, Sea Bright businesses hung in there and are set for a banner summer. New or enhanced outdoor dining was created at:
* Woody's Ocean Grille
* Angelica's Restaurant
* 2nd Jetty
* The Rum Runner
* Rory's Pub
* Yolk's on You Kitchen
* Alice's Kitchen
* Ocean House.
Most of the outdoor dining, particularly at Angelica's, appears to be more than a one-time summer fad.
Along with other sit-down restaurants Drifthouse by David Burke, Moo Yai Thai Restaurant, Yumi and the phenomenally popular Tommys's Tap & Tavern, there are grab and go options for smoothies and acai bowls at Melonhead (opening April 15), breakfast, sandwiches and pizza at Gigi's Ny Style Pizza/Sonny's Sandwich Shop and pizza and Italian dishes at Sea Bright Pizzeria.
Party to the South. Tread Lightly to the North
On most Jersey Shore beaches the consumption of alcohol is forbidden or seriously discouraged. There’s only one permanent bar—Donovan’s Reef—where you can legally drink in a designated section of the sandy beach, with lifeguards to boot. Starting April 15 when they open for the season, Donovan’s Reef fans can start their day as early as 9 a.m., bringing their own chairs and towels. The bar is well known throughout north Jersey Shore beach towns for its live music and popular bar. That was a double-edged sword last summer, when the crowds brought the scorn of the governor after restaurants were re-opening.
To the north of the main beach is the forbidding sign "Private Club Members Only." That's a message from one of the private seven private beach clubs: five to the north, two to the south. For many years, the clubs tried to restrict beach access. After a series of lawsuits, the state's attorney general reached an agreement with six clubs in 2010 (click here to read AG statement) to replace a 15-foot public access corridor with an "area encompassing at least 50 percent of the beach – up to a maximum of 150 feet." Confused? To complicate things, Sea Bright considers the public-use area in front of the private beach clubs as unsupervised municipal beaches and requires non-club members to have a beach badge. Feel free to sit on the beach in front of a private beach club, but bring a ruler and rule book in case you are questioned.
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Tips for Visiting Sea Bright
What's New: The Shrewsbury Riverfront Park just across the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge is more accommodating with benches and trash cans this summer. It's the only public spot for fishing in Sea Bright. The crazy, busy Dunkin' Donuts has permanently closed to make way for the new Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge which is in the final design phase.
Access & Parking: The main downtown parking lot off of Ocean Avenue is a great spot with easy access to the beach and the Sea Bright Beach Pavilion and downtown businesses, restaurants and shops. Starting May 15 through September 15, parking fees are in effect from 9am to 9pm. The cost is $1 an hour weekdays and $2 an hour weekends. The M2PayParking app is the easiest way to pay for parking. There is a much smaller public parking lot at Anchorage Beach north of bridge that is usually full. The same rates apply.
Amenities: The Sea Bright Beach Pavilion has outdoor showers and indoor restrooms. Lockers are sold out for the season.
Beaches: From Memorial Day to Labor Day, beach badges are required at the supervised public beaches in front of the Beach Pavilion and at Anchorage Beach. Badges are necessary for non-members to sit in front of a beach club. The daily beach badge is $8, and children under the age of 12 are free. More info here.
Starring Role: The famous "White Caps" episode of the The Sopranos features Tony Soprano buying a beach house for Carmela in Sea Bright. It all ends badly. The town is also featured in the movies Down by the Shore and Coyote Ugly.
This spring, summer and fall, follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he walks the entire 139 miles of the Jersey Shore from Sandy Hook to Island Beach State Park, from Old Barney to Beach Haven, from Brigantine to Cape May. Read all stories here about the www.JerseyShoreWalk.com.