Updated: Apr 30
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 Unlike its more boisterous neighbors to the north and the south, Monmouth Beach is quiet and withdrawn.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
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
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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.
Tips for Visiting Monmouth Beach
What's New: After being closed for most of 2020, the Monmouth Beach Cultural Center has re-opened with art exhibits and events from 10am - 2pm Wednesday through Sunday. Sage Home and Floral at 36 Beach Road offers fresh flowers, silk, dried and preserved flowers and home accents.
Access & Parking: According to the Borough, during summer months there may be paid public parking at the Cultural Center, but there are only a handful of spaces. To park at Little Monmouth's lot or on the Borough's grass lot on Seaview Avenue requires a parking decal which is only available for purchase for Monmouth Beach residents. According to the Borough, parking is free on Monmouth Beach streets, but pay careful attention to no parking signs.
Amenities: There are restrooms available at the Monmouth Beach Bathing Pavilion (entrance on the outside). Access to the Pavilion pools requires a membership. The Monmouth Beach Bath and Tennis Club is private.
Beaches: From Memorial Day to Labor Day, beach badges are required at the supervised public beaches in front of the Monmouth Beach Bathing Pavilion and south of the Pavilion. For 2021, daily beach badges are $10 and can be purchased via the Viply app on the day of the visit. It is still to be determined if visitors can purchase a badge on-site at the entrance to the guarded beaches. For non-residents, seasonal beach badges are $80 for the season. Parking decals are $50 for the season. The only way to purchase them is to create an account by going to monmouthbeach.org, scrolling down the page and clicking on the link for GovOnline.
Starring Role: In Season 2, Episode 12, The Sopranos features Tony Soprano and the guys along the dock by the Channel Club Marina.
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.
Next stop: Seven Presidents Park in Long Branch between Miles 10 and 11.5. See all the Jersey Shore Walk stories at www.JerseyShoreWalk.com