Day Trips: Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

Day Trips: Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

In a state teeming with oceanfront diversions, the modest little borough of Point Pleasant Beach—not to be confused with the neighboring town of Point Pleasant—might be one of the best-kept secrets along the Jersey shore.

With a mile-long boardwalk stretching next to the sand, this aptly named community is an ideal destination for families. Jenkinson’s Boardwalk supplies a wide variety of traditional seaside activities, from arcades and mini-golf to an amusement park with plenty of rides for young children. Fireworks displays are held on the beach at dark each Thursday, and Friday nights bring free movies on the beach.

However, an aquarium may be the most unexpected and exciting discovery among Jenkinson’s many attractions, and one with broad appeal. After all, a fascination with sharks isn’t restricted to any one age group, though penguins and seals—plus a host of other under-the-sea creatures—all boast their own fan base.

Entrepreneur Charles Jenkinson launched the original Jenkinson’s Pavilion in the late 1920s, achieving success and continued growth even during the Depression. His family carried on the operation until the late 1970s when Pat Storino took ownership and began to implement his own family-oriented boardwalk vision. His brother Vinnie soon joined the business and together they acquired additional locations and expanded amenities at multiple venues. Today the second and third generations of the Storino clan take pride in ensuring that Jenkinson’s Boardwalk evolves and remains up-to-date while maintaining a timeless appeal.

For example, one throw-back attraction, the Fun House, attests to the enduring appeal of wacky structures with moving parts and odd illusions. A new addition this year keeps the encounter fresh and lively.

On the contemporary side, a 7D Dark Ride provides immersive and interactive entertainment by melding a shooting game with a movie, and augmenting the experience with wind, movement, and intense sound effects.

The 27 rides at Jenkinson’s South Amusement Park cover every age and adrenaline level, from a tot’s first easy-going Fire Engine ride to the heart-pounding intensity of Super Himalaya. Other classic rides include Big Bumper Cars, Tilt-A-Whirl, and two sizes of swing rides. Multiple generations can take a spin on the vintage-style carousel or chug around the park on an old-fashioned miniature train. Tidal Wave, a spinning roller coaster inspired by beach culture, makes a splashy debut this season.    

Older kids and teens seeking hands-on excitement (while wearing a harness) should head to the Adventure Lookout Ropes Course, featuring two levels that reach 36 feet in height, more than two dozen “thrill elements,” a zip line, and incredible views. A Sky Tykes course is designed for younger adventurers.

Got your heart set on winning a prize? Peruse a plethora of boardwalk games to find the combination of skill and luck—from darts and water guns to whack-a-mole or a candy wheel—that speaks to you.

With three locations, there’s no excuse for missing out on the decadent treats proffered by Jenkinson’s Sweet Shop. This well-known establishment takes the confectioner’s art to an irresistible level, with hand-dipped candy apples, loads of chocolate candies, fanciful gummies, iconic taffy, and fudge in a mind-boggling array of flavors. If Peanut Butter Explosion doesn’t hook you, perhaps Oreo Cheesecake might do the trick. (Don’t worry, traditionalists. There will always be a Chocolate Walnut.)

Allow sufficient time for a full exploration of the intriguing exhibits at Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Although thoroughly entertaining, this facility’s mission is to educate people about marine life and conservation. “We want people to be inspired and learn more about ways to protect the environment,” says Cindy Claus, a marine biologist (and New Jersey native) who has served as director since the aquarium opened in 1991. Alliances with conservation and wildlife organizations help to create outreach programs and other innovative educational opportunities.

The aquarium’s largest tank—a whopping 58,000 gallons—is home to 4 varieties of sharks, and their feeding time is a major draw. (Find the feeding schedules for Atlantic sharks, penguins, and seals on the website.) Another habitat replicates the Jersey shore, acquainting visitors with fish and a type of endangered sea turtle that live, typically unseen, in area waters. A Pine Barrens display showcases this state’s unusual ecosystem, and baby diamondback terrapins raised are eventually returned to the bay.

Discover more exotic climes at the Coral Reef and Pacific Habitat displays, and take note of the bright parrots, playful monkeys, and a sloth in the tropical Rainforest display.

Two of the most beloved animal exhibits feature an African penguin colony with 19 utterly charming birds and a pair of seals, including Luseal—a well-known resident since 1991, who had sustained injuries in nearby waters as a pup. Though blind, she navigates her familiar environment with ease.

An interactive Touch Tank pool enables visitors to get up close and personal with sea stars, sea urchins, stingrays, and more, including horseshoe crabs. Despite a fierce appearance, these prehistoric-era creatures are actually quite gentle—and don’t pinch like indigenous blue crabs. A Mangrove exhibit also features touch interaction.

Celebrations this month include World Oceans Day and World Rainforest Day. Starting in July, when Shark Awareness Weekend takes place, a busy schedule of events features free staff-led Beachcombing walks, Kid’s Beach Blanket Bingo!, and more.

While numerous boardwalk distractions beg for attention, take a moment to cast your eyes eastward and take in a lungful of salty air: The beach invites you to stop by for a dip in the ocean and leave some footprints in the sand before heading back to the Lehigh Valley.

300 Ocean Ave. Point Pleasant Beach, NJ


Spike’s Fish Market and Restaurant
415 Broadway

Take a break from the boardwalk at this off-the-beaten-path marina destination that’s been a local legend for 93 years. Just 14 picnic-style tables keep the atmosphere casual and cozy as the clientele focuses on swimmingly fresh seafood. In fact, Spike’s boasts a rare state-and-federal license to buy catches directly from boats—resulting in blackboard features that may change twice a day with new arrivals. Look for owner Steven Weinstein’s favorite special, Neptune’s Nest: an Italian bread bowl brimming with lobster tail, clams, shrimp, and mussels in roasted garlic cream sauce.

A collection of soups made daily in this scratch kitchen includes lobster bisque and chowder, red and white styles of clam chowder, and seafood jambalaya. Raw clams and oysters are also popular starters, and the entrée selection delivers diverse tastes, from crab cakes and king crab legs to shrimp scampi and sauteed flounder Francaise. For a bountiful feast, dive into a broiled combo plate. Alternately, a proprietary blackening method imparts an optional Cajun kick to the seafaring assortment. (Notable menu mention: Not a single dish here is deep fried.) However, be sure to save room for dessert—their signature key lime pie is all that.

While Spike’s doesn’t take reservations, this hospitable BYOB offers outdoor seating where guests can relax and enjoy a drink before dining. They’ll even supply cups if needed!

For a fantastic edible souvenir, bring along an ice chest and pack it with tasty aquatic treasures from the adjacent fish market.   

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