I was born in Jersey. I grew up in Jersey. I live in New York. I miss Jersey. New Jersey has wonderful beaches though if you are from New Jersey it is not the beach. You are going down the shore. At least that is how everybody I know refers to the Jersey beaches. A lot of people probably associate the Jersey shore with the show Jersey Shore. The Jersey Shore certainly gave one aspect of our beach life.
If you are young then yes the New Jersey beaches offer a lot of nightlife and debauchery. Though I have never been kicked out of night clubs or peed behind the bar like cast mates of the show I do know the night life is full of energy. There are dance clubs, rock clubs, comedy clubs, and boardwalks. All cranking out loud sounds and beckoning your attention. Flashing lights, high hair, loud Jersey accents; it is all very distinctive. It is all Jersey.
The food…oh the food. The Jersey Shore of my youth had huge $1 pizza slices which were delicious. I would drive a couple of hours just to get the slice. Gas and tolls were cheaper then and I didn’t mind the drive. The grease oozing down my chin. Yum. There is also frozen custard, the best salt water taffy, cheese fries, zeppoles, and for seafood loves fried clam strips. If you know people from Jersey then you know they love food. Now you can travel and find some of these features at other beaches but not in so much quantity. Not so unapologetically beckoning you to indulge while you are in your swim wear. Jersey tells you, that you worked hard to fit into that bikini but now you are at the beach so you need a freshly squeezed lemonade with half a lemon in it and some fried food. The food is like the people. In your face and dares you to ignore it.
The beaches…I have to be honest, I have been to a lot more pleasant beaches than the Jersey shore. Beaches with softer sand, cheaper parking, warmer water, cheaper beaches, clearer water, and gentler waves. Our sand is like the people a bit coarse and rough. Like the people our sand is weathered and a little sharp. It is not that soft powdery stuff of the Bahamas. The sand like the people of Jersey will not be ignored. The parking is expensive. Jersey is expensive and the powers that be figure you have been eating fried food and cold drinks that a little cardio every few hours to run to the meter will do you some good. Bring quarters. Lots and lots of quarters for those ever present parking meters. New Jersey is not a tropical state. We get a few months of summer and that’s it. Our water temperatures never seem to understand that come June we are ready for warm water. Our water is nice and warm in September when everybody goes back to school. Maybe our water has a Jersey sense of humor. Jersey charges to get onto the beach. I must admit this annoys me. It is a natural resource and should be open to everybody. It does seem wrong to pay for what was once free. In more tropical locales the water is so clear you can see your feet and what lurks below. That is a bit comforting. The Jersey shore offers no such comfort. If you want to come into its water you will have to take it on faith that your feet are still below you and that nothing more dangerous lurks under you. The water is not crystal blue. It is green from the seaweed. Crystal blue and clear is so predictable. You can get that anywhere. No the Shore like the people who live there are never quite what you expect. Just when you expect to receive the Jersey state bird you will get a hug and just when you think you are cool with somebody they will rip into you. And oh that Jersey sarcasm. Are they being nasty or just joking? Who knows for sure? Kind of like our shore water. You know it is water but everything else is up to chance. Any beach will give you waves on a stormy day. Waves that leave you wondering which way is up. They will also give you calmness on a nice day. The Jersey waves are a bit more ribald. Even on a nice day they may take you for a tumble. Much like the people in Jersey you are free to enjoy their company but don’t for one minute get too comfortable and forget who you are dealing with. Before you know it a surge of green water might sneak up on you and dunk your head. The shore’s waves are fun but they are to be respected. This is not the calm lapping waves of Bermuda after all.
There are places where the locals depend on being more than kind because you are their income. In Jersey the locals have a name for the people who flock to the Shore…Bennys. Bennys in their eyes are a nuisance even though they sustain the local economy. They can’t wait for you to leave and give them back what they think is theirs. This does not change even if you are yourself from the Garden State. You are still a tourist to them.
I have travelled the world and been to many beaches but none that has the life of the Shore. It like its people is a rock and roll good time. There are better beaches for lazy days but if you are looking for a place where the food is fattening and delicious, the people are funny and sharp, the ocean is not a passive body of water but has just enough edge to keep you on your toes or knock you on your butt, and the sand is great for sand castles but will leave a mark if you decide to scrape along the bottom on your knees then the Jersey Shore is the place for you. It isn’t perfect but for me it is home.