If you spend a weekend at Brigantine Beach, you’ll want to stay longer. This author made it her personal oasis after a major life loss.
On a sunny day in 2008, I went in search of purchasing a condo at the Jersey shore. It was shortly after losing my husband just after I turned 50. I was looking for a place that would bring me calm and allow me to heal after a major loss in my life. I had heard of Brigantine Beach but didn’t know much about it.
Within minutes of my arrival, the realtor won me over when she took me to the water’s edge. The April sky was bright blue, the sand was soft and warm, and the sound of the ocean waves drew me in. I was so ready to sign on the dotted line.
Now 13 years later and after spending a full summer here, I’m even more smitten with this welcoming beach community. My condo on the corner in Brigantine Beach is my happy place. It’s my little oasis where my family and I go to relax and unwind from the busyness of everyday life.
Where is Brigantine Beach?
Brigantine Beach is a small island next to Atlantic City. It’s about an hour from Philadelphia and two hours from New York City. There used to be a welcome sign at the entrance that said, “Slow down, you’re already here.” Although the sign was taken down a few years ago, as I drive over the causeway each weekend it still prompts me to let out a long “ahhhh” and release the tension that has built up over the week.
“An island you’ll love for life…”
Like the Brigantine Beach website says: “When you visit our beautiful town of Brigantine Beach for the first time, you will not want to leave. Once you visit our stunning beaches and feel the sand on your feet and the smell of the fresh ocean air you will feel like your dream came true. You too will come to find that Brigantine Beach is “an island you’ll love for life…”
Visitors are welcome
While there aren’t any major hotel chains on the island, you can find properties for seasonal rental for a few days, week or month. If you want a spot for summer, best to make your contacts early, even a year in advance. There are numerous local realtors if you need help.
If you want to do your own search, I suggest checking out Zillow, Airbnb, VRBO or other home rental sites. Oftentimes multiple families or multi-generations share a large house. If you prefer more action, there are plenty of hotels minutes away in Atlantic City. Some hotels near the marina offer free shuttles to Brigantine Beach.
Relax on the beach
On a sunny weekend, the beach is the place to hang out. Beach passes can be purchased in advance at the Community Center on 42nd Street for $7.00 a day per person (those 65 and older are free with proper ID) or from beach attendants during their walkabouts. Note, you’ll need cash or check to pay, credit cards aren’t accepted.
There are free lots for parking at select entrances and street parking is available too. One more reminder: Don’t park where you see a yellow line near the crosswalk — or you might find a ticket on your car when you return.
Don’t have beach chairs or umbrellas? No worries, there are several sundry stores in and around town to purchase all your beach paraphernalia.
Enjoy fun sports in the great outdoors
One of the things I love about summer at Brigantine Beach is that I can spend most of my time outdoors and enjoy myself without spending a lot of money.
There are tennis and pickleball courts near the Community Center on 42nd St. Mornings are open play for all levels and afternoons you can team up with two to four players. There’s miniature golf for the young set and Brigantine Golf Links for proficient golfers.
You’ll also find that Brigantine Beach is a bicycle-friendly town. Any time of day you’ll find cyclists cruising up and down the island on bicycle lanes that line the roadways. Be sure to pack your helmet so you’re riding safely.
For water sports, you can find jet-ski rentals to go out on the inlet or bay, surfing on select beaches (inquire about summer surf lessons at Primal Surf), and Stand-Up-Paddle and SUP Yoga (which requires advance online signup). Plus many fishermen set up their fishing gear on the ocean and bay beaches to see if they can make a catch or go fishing.
Bring your binoculars and go bird-watching
Bird enthusiasts will want to go to North Brigantine Beach (East Beach Avenue and 14th Street North) to go bird watching at the Bird Watch Tower. According to the Brigantine Beach website: “Depending on the season, you might just see some species common in coastal marine habitats such as gulls, minnows, sand crabs and diamondback terrapins. Remember to wear long pants and bring your bug spray to keep the mosquitos away!”
I’ve become more of a bird-watcher recently. I find it to be a very mindful experience. The sandpipers are my favorites to follow as they scurry along on the sand.
Outdoor dining at Brigantine Beach
There’s not an abundance of restaurants on the island but new places have been cropping up over the past few years as the seasonal population increases. During the pandemic, most restaurants have been offering outdoor seating as well as takeout.
Popular spots for quick bites for breakfast or lunch include: Yanni’s, known for its varieties of bagels; the new Mission Cafe for specialty hot or cold coffee drinks; Aversa Italian Bakery for hearty breakfast sandwiches and yummy breads and pastries; Ernest for its superb subs; and Soulberri for smoothies, coffees and açaí bowls.
For sit-down full-service breakfasts and lunch try: Yanni’s (lines can be long but worth the wait for an outdoor table), Pirate’s Den on the North-end of the island, and Brigantine Bistro for salads, sandwiches and Mexican fare.
For dinner dining, I suggest The Cove or The Cellar or Brigantine Bistro for American casual; Andre’s, Coldaveri’s, or Primo’s if you’re craving Italian. And for seafood, nothing beats eat-in or takeout from the Crab Shack. Ooh, ooh, ooh, the Jumbo Lobster Roll served with French fries and coleslaw is worth sharing. If you can’t get through the lines to place an order, put your phone on redial and keep trying. It’s a very popular place.
If you feel like dressing up, you can make a reservation for fine dining at one of Atlantic City’s casino hotels including Tropicana, Borgata, Harrah’s, The Golden Nugget, or newer establishments like The Ocean or The Hard Rock Hotel. Be prepared, as dinners at casinos can be pricey.
For at-home dining, I usually bring my groceries in a cooler for weekend stays or purchase food at the local Acme (the only large grocer on the island). Grilling is my go-to during the summer months. When renting a place, I suggest asking if the property has a gas or charcoal grill.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, if you want fresh seafood to grill, take a drive to Randalls in Pleasantville. It’s only about 20 minutes away and the seafood is delicious. Go before noon, for the best selection.
We all scream for ice cream, especially during the summer
When you’re ready for dessert you’ll want to head to Aunt B’s or Richman’s for ice cream or soft serve. Based on the crowds early evening or late, you’ll find that most Brigantine locals and visitors love their frozen treats. The lines move quickly. BTW, as you wait you’ll likely change your mind on which sweet to order anyway.
Aunt B’s is known to have the best brownie sundae on the island, along with 11 flavors of soft-serve and 30 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream. They also have shakes, floats, water ice, sundaes and more.
In addition to similar icy desserts in multiple forms and flavors, Richman’s menu includes dinner items such as gourmet burgers, Nathan’s hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, onion rings, and fresh-cut fries.
Forget about the diet, it’s time to indulge. You’re on vacation.
Don’t forget to visit The Brigantine Farmer’s Market
Speaking of good food, on Saturday mornings there’s The Brigantine Farmer’s Market with a wide selection of stalls with fresh-picked fruits and veggies from local farms, homemade pies and pastries, fresh seafood, gourmet doggie treats and handcrafts made by creative South Jerseyans.
The Brigantine Farmer’s Market is located in the Brigantine Community School parking lot (Sheridan Blvd Side). It runs every Saturday morning from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon.
Ready to visit and spend a weekend at Brigantine Beach…or more?
Have I enticed you to spend a weekend in Brigantine Beach? Come on down. I know you’re going to fall in love with this place like I did 13 years ago. Who knows, you might just decide to retire here!
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Brigantine Beach living is easy and casual. Quite a few people fall in love with the community in the summer and decide to retire here and enjoy this beach community even in winter. Residents (including summer residents) over 60 can sign up for two free recreation classes like yoga, Zumba, pilates, held in the Community Center each season.
- Because it’s a beach town, it’s very informal. You don’t have to dress up to go out to dinner. There aren’t fancy restaurants. You can dress in shorts and jeans.
- The new pickleball courts are appealing to boomers who play.
- It’s a great place for multigenerational vacations, offering fun things to do for people of all ages, including grandkids.
- If you are planning a weekend at Brigantine Beach, especially during the summer, make reservations early. Popular rentals fill up even a year in advance.
- The beaches are very wide in certain spots so plan accordingly if you carry chairs and coolers. You may want to bring or purchase a beach wagon during your stay if you plan to walk to the beach.
- For more information about Brigantine Beach and a calendar of local events visit the city website.
All photo credits: Judy Freedman
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