It’s official, we might just have discovered Utopia. Jaime Schneider, The Scout Guide Two Rivers & The Shore Editor is pleased to introduce you to the area where she grew up and calls home today. It’s a region filled with endless waterfront views (you pick: ocean, bay or riverside), world-class restaurants, fabulous shopping and one of the nation’s best park systems. Plus, it’s only a 40-minute ferry ride from Manhattan or an easy, traffic-free drive from Philadelphia and the Main Line. Here, she introduces the uninitiated to the region and shares her top picks for visiting some of the area’s prime spots for a quiet, out-of-the-ordinary weekend at the Jersey Shore.
“When you’re ready to get out of dodge this summer, there are three areas you can get to quickly and easily from East Coast cities that will give you entirely different vibes, with a little something for everyone,” says Jaime.
The Two Rivers area in Northern Monmouth county is surrounded by the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers, including the bustling town of Red Bank and reaching up to the picturesque Sandy Hook peninsula and Atlantic Highlands. Stretching southward is the hip, Asbury Park area, a bit like Brooklyn on the beach. Travel a little further south and you’ll find the elegant towns of Manasquan, Spring Lake, and Sea Girt, full of charming B&Bs and quiet beaches.
“Pick one spot to dig in, or hit all three in a weekend,” says Jaime. “What’s so wonderful about these areas is that there is just so much to do for so many different people, no matter how you want to spend your weekend.”
WHERE TO STAY
In Two Rivers, Jaime recommends three hotels for their waterfront views and easy location. Molly Pitcher Inn (88 Riverside Ave., Red Bank) and Oyster Point Hotel (146 Bodman Place, Red Bank) both boast sweeping views of the marinas that dot the Navesink, with central locations to enjoy all that Red Bank has to offer. Or stay a few steps from the Manhattan ferry at the Blue Bay Inn (51 First Ave. Atlantic Highlands), known for its views of the city skyline and fantastic restaurant, Copper Canyon (where you will find 150 types of tequila).
For a beachfront vibe, your best bet is Ocean Place (1 Ocean Dr., Long Branch), an upscale hotel right on the shore in Long Branch that’s home to both a spa and tiki bar. The Asbury Hotel (210 5th Ave. Asbury Park) is a chic and super-fun, dog-friendly boutique hotel with an awesome rooftop bar, ocean views and live music in the lobby.
The Breakers Hotel (1507 Ocean Ave. Spring Lake) in Spring Lake has that traditional oceanside feel, dating back to the 1800s, known for centuries for its ocean views. The area of Spring Lake and Manasquan is also full of quaint bed and breakfasts. Jaime recommends the Grand Victorian Hotel (1505 Ocean Ave. Spring Lake) for a perfect mix of B&B charm and beachfront location.
WHERE TO ENJOY THE OUTDOORS
When it comes to natural beauty, this region is full of surprises. Jaime likes to skip the boardwalk scene in favor of some off-the-beaten path adventures. “Sandy Hook is a must-see,” she says. “It’s a barrier peninsula with seven miles of ocean and bay beaches, views of the Manhattan skyline and rich Revolutionary War history.”
Right across the bridge and next to Atlantic Highlands, a sleepy beach town, is Jaime’s top pick: Hartshorne Woods. This county park features some of the highest points along the Atlantic coast with views of the ocean and river, perfect for a morning hike or bike ride. “Take a picnic lunch to the restored gun battery in the woods for insane views of the bay beach, Hudson and New York City.”
If you happen to be staying in Red Bank, you can pick up that picnic at Sickles Market (1 Harrison Ave. Little Silver), a popular flower and gourmet market where the locals get their goodies or head over to Brennan’s in Rumson for a truly specialty sandwich.
New Jersey isn’t called The Garden State for nothing. Horticulture enthusiasts, or those who simply enjoy a long walk among the flora and fauna, will want to visit Deep Cut Gardens (152 Red Hill Rd. Middletown), a gorgeous French-style botanical garden dedicated to inspiring the home gardener. Their Rose Parterre, featuring 180 bushes with 52 varieties of roses, blooms throughout the summer.
WHERE TO FUEL UP
Jaime is a coffee enthusiast, so she has a lot of advice regarding java when you’re in Jersey. There are two major coffee places in the region: Rook Coffee and Booskerdoo. You’ll find multiple locations throughout the area. Lesser known spots for great coffee and a side of something sweet include Danish Cafe (2 Bridge Ave. Red Bank), which is located in the Galleria, an old WWI uniform factory right on the beach, and French bakery Antoinette Boulangerie (32 Monmouth St. Red Bank).
WHERE TO SHOP
After you’ve had your pick-me-up, then it’s time to do some shopping. Two Rivers is home to plenty of high-end shopping centers, a Jersey staple. You can’t go wrong visiting The Grove & Grove West (597 Broad St.) for a mixture of local shops and bigger chain stores in comfortable, upscale surroundings. Head to Northshore in Sea Bright for the perfect beach fashions for men and women. Next, wander the heart of Red Bank. Get your beach vibe gear, like a “Local” T-shirt or breezy home goods at Cabana 19 (18 White St.). Bain’s Outdoor Living (125 East River Rd.) has artisan-crafted home accessories for inside and out. For high-end European styles for men and women, check out Theo (3 E. Front St.).
WHERE TO EAT
Red Bank has every cuisine imaginable, with countless options for any palate. Jaime’s list of favorites includes the four-star Restaurant Nicholas (160 Rte. 35 South), a special place with multi-course tasting menus and homemade, elevated desserts worth splurging on. At B2 Bistro + Bar (141 Shrewsbury Ave., Red Bank) the menu is always changing, and the chef is serving some of the most innovative food in the area. Try a special made in their wood fired oven. Jaime also loves Taka (600 Cookman Ave.) for sushi or Pascal and Sabine (601 Bangs Ave.) for a French bistro vibe — order the caviar or a burger, depending on your style.
The Boondocks Fishery (1 Marine Park Red Bank) is tucked away inside a marina on the Navesink River. “There should be 100 places like this one down here,” Jaime says. “It’s our go-to, where we order lobster out of a window and eat on picnic tables overlooking the boats in the marina while sipping our BYOB.” Local 130 Seafood (1305 Memorial Dr. Asbury Park) and Bareli’s by the Sea (1505 Ocean Ave. Spring Lake) are also must-stops.
Brunch on the Shore is a real affair. Live like a local and try The Buttered Biscuit (700 Main St. Bradley Beach) for pancakes or a savory brunch pie at Talula’s (550 Cookman Ave.). Before brunch, Jaime brings her guests to a megaformer class at Pilates Blast (134 Broad St. Red Bank). Follow the meal up with a trip to the Nailtini Bar at Coco Bond Salon (809 Broad St. Shrewsbury).
WHERE TO SIP
Jaime has a secret bar she likes to bring her guests to: Murphy’s Tavern (17 Ward Lane, Rumson). “It’s in the middle of a totally suburban neighborhood, unmarked in the basement of a house,” she shares. “But once you find it, you won’t believe it’s there. This was a speakeasy in the 1920s and they’ve kept their liquor license all these years.”
For beachside drinks, sit on the deck at Watermark Asbury Park (800 Ocean Ave. Asbury Park), which infuses its own spirits and presses its own juices. In the summer, locals flock to Rooney’s (100 Ocean Ave. North) for shrimp-accented Bloody Marys. If you like wine, then Undici (11 W. River Rd.) is your place, featuring an extensive wine list. Asbury Biergarten is in a giant, converted warehouse with countless German and Dutch beers on tap. And, according to Jaime, “Carton Brewing (6 E. Washington Ave. Atlantic Highlands) makes the world’s greatest craft beer.”