Monmouth Beach: Greta Garbo of the Jersey Shore. "I Want To Be Alone"

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

All photos by R.C. Staab
Monmouth Beach Cultural Center by R.C. Staab. All photos by R.C.

If it weren't for the Monmouth Beach Cultural Center and the signs at each end of the borough, a visitor could drive along Ocean Avenue and never know there was a town between Sea Bright and Long Branch. The Borough's beach stretches for only one and half miles. Unlike its more boisterous neighbors to the north and the south, Monmouth Beach is quiet and withdrawn.

Quiet Beach in the shadow of the condos.

Hovering over the shore at Monmouth Beach are three condominiums built in the 1970s-80s -- the two towers of The Shores and the single tower of The Admiralty. The reason used at the time was the need to expand the tax base, instead of looking like Miami Beach. Fortunately, that was the

Looking south from Sea Bright

end of that. North of the towers, the beach tends to be sparsely populated - a density reflected by the large, single-family homes across Ocean Avenue with well-tended yards. From Monmouth Beach Bath and Tennis Club by the condos and continuing south to the Monmouth Beach Pavilion, the crowds pick up. However, it never feels like a day in Atlantic City because public parking near the beach (see below under Tips) is difficult, and no stores or food stands are nearby.

Big Monmouth. Little Monmouth. Long wait to get in.

One hundred years ago this summer, the Monmouth Beach Bath and Tennis Club (left above) was built. It's the grand, white edifice that has surprisingly stood the test of time against numerous storms. Although it's referred to as "Big Monmouth," the building as seen from Ocean Avenue appears rather small because of the fencing around it and because it lives in the shadow of the

Give Dad (or Mom) a gift that lasts all year

Get the scoop on whale watching, minor league baseball, fishing adventures and more with the #1 NJ Travel Guide. Click here to buy.

condominium next door. It's a private club with a long waiting list, so you can best experience the building's grandeur from the beach by peering through the iron gates.

Further south past the condos is the Monmouth Beach Bathing Pavilion (right above) or "Little Monmouth." The Pavilion is a borough-owned club that echos the architecture of its big brother. Not surprising because of its ownership, Borough residents get first dibs to join, and the parking lot requires the purchase of a season pass. Some amenities on the outside are open to the public, but the pool and changing facilities are for members only. Non-residents can join, but there are already hundreds on the waiting list. To the credit of Borough staff when asked, they encouraged people to join the waiting list even if takes five or 10 years to obtain membership.

Brunch with the Wicked Witch of the Shore or dock and dine

With twice as many people as its northern neighbor Sea Bright, Monmouth Beach has about half as many restaurants and shop. The Beach Road commercial strip is small and away from the

ocean. Yet there are still two good reasons to stop in Monmouth Beach for a meal.

First, you know the place has a great brunch when no matter if you arrive at 8:30am, 11:30am or 1:30pm, there's a line. That's always the case with My Kitchen Witch on Beach Road. Maybe it's the limited seating (both inside and out) or the pastries by the cash register. In any case, they keep a strong breakfast menu with clever titles such as the Wicked Witch of the Shore Omelette, plus salads, sandwiches and smoothies.

The Beach Tavern gets its name from the town, not its location. Although it's not on the ocean side, it commands a stunning view of the Shrewsbury River looking north toward Sea Bright. It has a loud bar, outdoor dining overlooking the Channel Club Marina, and, if boaters call ahead, a spot to dock and dine.

By the way, if the Garbo reference is confusing, Greta Garbo was one of American's leading film actresses in the 1920s and '30s. Her screen persona was that of an aloof, sophisticated woman, and she famously uttered the line "I want to be alone" in the movie The Grand Hotel. She retired from acting at the age of 41 and refused to make a come back or talk about her screen career.