Get Your Badge and Hit the Surf

You'll have to pay a fee to hang out on the beach in Cape May.
You'll have to pay a fee to hang out on the beach in Cape May.
Sunday, June 24, 2007

For those accustomed to wandering onto a beach and plopping down on a blanket without paying a fee, the beaches of New Jersey come as a surprise. Here are some things to keep in mind.

· Most beaches charge some sort of fee, with a range of prices depending on length of stay and age. For example, Sea Girt charges $70 for a season pass, $7 for a day pass, with children younger than 12 free. Check with the towns' Web sites for details.

· Many hotels, inns and rental properties include beach badges in their fees. Be sure to ask before you book, or else you may have to pay a considerable amount in daily beach fees.

· Consider loading the family into the SUV and paying a carload fee at either the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area (732-872-5970,; $10), on the northern tip of the Jersey Shore, or Island Beach State Park ($10 on weekends; see story, Page P7), near South Seaside Park.

· Opt for a free beach, including those in Atlantic City or the Wildwoods.

· Pack plenty of quarters if you want to park close to the Atlantic. Many towns, including Point Pleasant Beach and Ocean City, have a mix of metered spots, for-fee parking lots and free on-street spots (though they can be blocks from where you want to be).

· Whether you're renting a condo or bunking at a B&B, ask your hosts whether beach towels and chairs are included.

· Some properties, such as several B&Bs in Cape May, provide outdoor showers and towels for cleaning up after a post-checkout trip to the beach. The charge for a beach day pass is much less than for another night of lodging, so this stretches your trip with minimal add-on to the vacation tab.

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