Two things I don’t pay for at the Jersey Shore: beach tags and parking.
No, I don’t duck the beach tag checkers, or run in the water when they come up to my beach chair. I go to New Jersey’s free beaches.
Don’t want to pay for a pass? Here’s where to go:
Atlantic City. There’s more to Atlantic City than just casinos. If you’re staying at one of the resort hotels, you can sit on their designed beach where they’ll set up beach chairs and umbrellas. If not, there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Strathmere. This is an anything goes beach, so you’ll see dogs, fishermen and alcohol — maybe smell some pot. There are no lifeguards. That’s because no one polices this beach. Well, New Jersey State Troopers cover the town, but I’ve never seen them on the actual beach, and I’ve only seen a Sea Isle beach officer cross the border once (to use the port-a-potty, I believe, which is your only option if you have to go). So if you have kids, this might not be your best bet.
North Wildwood, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest. The beaches of the Wildwoods are free — for now. This might be the last year where that is the case. The beaches are also incredibly wide, so be prepared to schlep your stuff, or stick to North Wildwood, where the beaches aren’t so massive.
Cape May’s Delaware Bay beaches. You won’t find wide stretches of sand or huge waves here, but these beaches are quieter, and they do allow dogs. Just make sure to bring baggies for any oops your dog might make. I take my dog to Higbee Beach. I’ve also spent time on Sunset Beach, but the type of sand there hurts some dogs’ paws.
As for the parking: if you’re willing to walk, parking is always free. Just go outside the center of your chosen shore town to non-metered spots.