The Best of LBI: Local Secrets

Long Beach Island, nicknamed LBI by locals, is known for its sandy beaches and charming seaside towns. LBI is a top summer destination for New Jersey residents and out-of-state tourists alike. If you’re planning a vacation to LBI, it’s best to know where the locals go for food, drinks and entertainment. As a tourist, you’ll also need to know the best lodging options and how to plan your vacation around LBI’s attractions and upcoming events. Luckily, LBI has something for the whole family. Here are some of LBI’s best local secrets.

Explore the LBI Shore

The top reason to go to LBI is its pristine beaches and peaceful landscape. LBI is a barrier island that is home to 18 miles of charming beach towns and a variety of fun beach activities on the shores of New Jersey. LBI has you covered whether you are looking for a peaceful beach area or crave being around others. LBI is the perfect place for any outdoor water activity including boating, kayaking, surfboarding and jet skiing. The beaches of LBI are also perfect for fishing, swimming and surfing. The easiest beaches to access from the incoming bridge are Surf City, Long Beach Township and Ship Bottom. These beaches are perfect for day trips and offer many different activities.

Surf City is home to the Boulevard District that has shopping and restaurants as well as a quiet bay beach that’s perfect for families. Surf City also has a high-end yacht club and the charming Zachariae Recreation Area. Long Beach Township is the largest area of LBI and contains almost 20 different beaches. Brant Beach and Beach Haven are known for their lively atmosphere and bustling nightlife, while areas like Northbeach and Loveladies are more private and peaceful. Ship Bottom is the perfect beach for day-trippers due to its proximity to the bridge on to LBI, it also hosts holiday parades and summer concerts. If you don’t mind taking a short drive, check out Barnegat Light, known for wide and peaceful shorelines as well as the Barnegat lighthouse. Beach Haven is located on the south end of LBI and is known for its lively atmosphere, shopping and nightlife. Beach Haven is also home to an amusement park, water park and a wide variety of restaurants.

Restaurants and Shopping

While LBI has its share of peaceful beach areas, it also has a wide variety of restaurants, bars and shopping. Compared to the rest of LBI, Beach Haven has the most variety when it comes to food. Beach Haven is a foodie’s paradise and is home to over 50 restaurants with cuisines from all over the world. Here’s a list of some top-rated restaurants in Beach Haven:

  • Sand Dollar Restaurant: located in the Spray Beach Hotel, Sand Dollar is designed as an upscale dining room that’s perfect for a formal dinner or a casual lunch and specializes in local seafood and creative cocktails.
  • Bahama Llama: A local favorite! Bahama Llama serves Latin American cuisine and also offers gluten-free options. They’re known for their empanadas and tacos.
  • The Gables Historic Inn and Restaurant: The restaurant located within the Gables Historic Inn is the perfect place for a birthday or anniversary dinner. The intimate lighting and upscale cuisine make it great for any special occasion.
  • Black Whale Bar and Fish House: Another favorite local spot, the Black Whale is known for its local seafood and delicious drinks. Its relaxed vibe makes it perfect for a casual dinner after a day on the beach.
  • Carol’s Organic Eatery: Perfect for vegetarians and vegans. Carol’s accommodates costumers’ dietary needs and specializes in vegetarian and vegan-friendly Italian dishes and desserts. Gluten-free options are also available.

If the bustling atmosphere of Beach Haven isn’t your speed, there are still plenty of restaurant options in LBI. Surf City is home to seafood favorites like Boulevard Clams and Sandbox Cafe as well as local Italian restaurants like Surf City Pizza. If you’re going North, Barnegat Light is known for homestyle spots like Viking Fresh Off the Hook and Eighteenth Street Cafe, specializing in American classics and local seafood.

In addition to its delicious restaurants, LBI also has lively shopping options with multiple malls and shopping centers throughout the island. Beach Haven is home to the Bay Village Mall and highly-rated shops like The Mod Hatter and Country Kettle Fudge. Surf City and Ship Bottom are known for mostly nautical-themed shops and surf shops. Up north in Barnegat Light, the nautical theme continues with shops like Wink and Americana By The Seashore. 

Nightlife and Entertainment

LBI has you covered if you enjoy live entertainment and nightlife. Beach Haven is the home of Fantasy Island Amusement Park, the only theme park in LBI. Fantasy Island has rides, games and concessions that are great for the whole family. Thundering Surf Waterpark is also located in Beach Haven and offers a change of pace from swimming in the ocean. If theme parks aren’t your speed, the Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven regularly hosts plays, musicals, concerts and comedy shows. The Surflight Theatre has been an LBI staple since 1950 and also offers acting workshops and community events.

Ship Bottom is home to Our Endless Summer. LBI’s video arcade and ice-cream shop offers a family-friendly atmosphere with games, prizes and yummy desserts. If you are looking to go for a drink after a long day at the beach, LBI has plenty of bars and nightclubs to best suit your style. Beach Haven has a wide variety of bars and is also home to The Shell Nightclub.

Top Attractions

LBI is home to many attractions that are fun for the whole family. Here is a list of LBI’s top-rated attractions:

  • The New Jersey Maritime Museum: This place is a great place for history buffs! The Maritime Museum is filled with nautical artifacts and shipwreck history.
  • Barnegat Lighthouse State Park: This lighthouse is located at the north end of the island and serves as an important navigational point to traffic going to and from New York Harbour. The park also has walking trails and natural beauty.
  • Long Beach Island Museum: A great way for visitors and residents to learn about the LBI area.
  • Veterans Park: A lovely spot for taking a walk with the kids or dogs!
  • Bayview Park: This park is located in Barnegat Light and is right on the beach. Take the kids to the playground or relax in one of the shaded seating areas.
  • Settler Mill’s Adventure Golf: Summer vacation and miniature golf go hand-and-hand which is why Settler’s Mill is a great place to go for family-friendly fun.

Upcoming Events

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak has canceled or postponed many of LBI’s usual events and concerts. Typically, LBI hosts daily and weekly events that aim to please locals and tourists. The Surflight Theatre shows plays, musicals and open-mic nights. Most restaurants host Sunday brunches or happy hours. Multiple parks in LBI host the 4th of July celebrations and Christmas parades. Live music can be heard all over LBI, especially in the summer months. Beach Haven and Barnegat Light both have pavilions that have weekly concerts during the busy season. For sports fans, LBI usually hosts the LBI Paddling Classic and holds surfing competitions. While the current pandemic has changed how we connect, these are some of the many things you can enjoy in LBI whenever it’s safe enough to do so.

Best Places to Stay at LBI

If you’re planning your next vacation to LBI to enjoy the beach and check out some of these amazing locally-renowned attractions, finding the perfect place to stay during your vacation is essential for a fantastic trip. LBI has hotels that range from economically-friendly to high-end luxury suites. When traveling with a large group, consider renting a charming beach house to make you stay at LBI even better. Beach house rentals are available in every town on LBI so you can personalize your visit and stay in the perfect area for you. However, if you want to stay in a hotel, here is a list of top-rated hotels in LBI:

  • Spray Beach Hotel: A more-affordable hotel right on the beach, with a restaurant, beach bar, nightly entertainment, and an elevator, located in Beach Haven near Fantasy Island Amusement Park and Parker Island Bird Sanctuary.
  • Spray Beach Hotel’s sister restaurant: Mariner Inn
  • Hotel LBI: While pricey, this hotel is the ideal luxury beach hotel and is complete with an indoor and outdoor pool, spa and fitness center. It’s also a short walk to the beach.
  • Drifting Sands Oceanfront Hotel: If you’re looking for a beautiful oceanfront view, this hotel is for you! Drifting Sands also includes a kitchenette in each room and is pet-friendly.
  • Sand Castle Bed and Breakfast: For a quieter, more intimate feel, Sand Castle is perfect for you. Located in Barnegat Light, Sand Castle offers quaint rooms, a rooftop deck and pool. Also, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park.

Whenever you’re planning your next vacation, consider bringing your friends and family to Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Not only is the landscape beautiful, but the long stretch of beaches and a variety of exciting attractions also make it ideal for a perfect vacation. Knowing the favorite local spots will help you feel connected to the community and allow you to further enjoy your visit.