20 Dog-Friendly Beaches in New Jersey You Have to Visit This Summer

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When you think of beaches, you may not think about New Jersey. But this northeastern state has more than 60 beaches on 130 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. From Keansburg Beach on the northern tip of the state near the Keansburg Amusement Park to Cape May Beach on the southern tip near Cape May Lighthouse, you will have no trouble finding a beach in New Jersey. However, it can be a challenge to find the best beaches where you can bring your dog. 

Some of the best beaches in New Jersey are the ones where you can let your dog run around off his leash. Some of these include Ocean City Dog Park in Ocean City, Beach Haven Doggy Bay in Beach Haven, and Asbury Park Dog Beach in… you guessed it… Asbury Park! But those beaches where your pooch does need to be leashed are still fun and have so much to do. You can check out Sandy Hook Gateway National Park, Belmar Beach, and Ocean Grove too. 

Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area Beach

Starting in northern New Jersey, Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area has a lovely beach where your pup can play as long as he is on a leash no longer than six feet. Gateway NRA is situated in both New Jersey and New York that includes the Sandy Hook Unit, Staten Island Unit, and Jamaica Bay Unit. It covers almost 27,000 acres and has over a dozen beaches, including several in New York and seven of them in Sandy Hook.

The Sandy Hook Unit is the best one for pups as it allows your fur baby to join you on all the beaches on the bay side of the island. However, during snowy plover season (March 15th to September 15th), you will have to stick to Horseshoe Cove. Besides swimming and playing in the sand, you and your fur baby can go boating, hiking, and fishing as well as picnicking and just hanging out. 

Bayshore Waterfront Park

Right across Sandy Hook Bay, Bayshore Waterfront Park is also pup popular with its 227 acres that include a huge bayside beach as well as another beach on Pews Creek. As long as your fur baby is attached to his leash the whole time you are there, he is welcome to join you on the beach and in the water. And make sure that his leash is no more than six feet long. Also, please bring doggie cleanup bags to pick up anything your pup drops. 

Besides swimming and playing in the sand, another popular activity here is fishing, especially on the fishing pier. It is almost 500 feet long and offers some excellent spots to do some fishing or just enjoy the view. You will need a New Jersey saltwater fishing license if you want to fish, but you can get it online, and it is free! If you have a kayak or canoe, bring it along and get out on the water with your canine companion. But make sure you are both wearing life jackets!

Asbury Park Dog Beach

It is just about 20 miles around the corner and to the south to get to Asbury Park Dog Beach. Called 8th Avenue Dog Beach by the locals, Asbury Park Beach welcomes your fur baby from 6 PM until 8:30 AM from May 15th to September 14th off the leash. The rest of the year, your canine companion is welcome any time of day. But bring your leash just in case since there are no fences here. 

Pack your pup’s favorite toys for a game of fetch or tug in the sand. Also, pack some extra puppy poo bags to pick up anything he drops. The city asks that you do not use the 8th Avenue entrance from the boardwalk. You can use the north end of the park or the one on Deal Lake Drive. Also, during the off-season, you can take your pup along the boardwalk to visit the Wonder Bar where they have Yappy Hour for dogs on weekends. 

Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area Beach

About 10 miles south of Asbury Park Dog Beach, the 55-acre Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area is surrounded by water, including the ocean, Manasquan River, Deep Creek, and Crabtown Creek. All friendly leashed dogs are welcome on the beach but only on the eastern section since the western beach is only for dog-free activities. But you may notice that the locals often let their pups off the leash here since they claim it is not enforced. It is up to you, but if you get caught, you will have to pay a fine. 

The rest of the park (except for the western beach) is dog-friendly as well so you and your pup can go explore the trails, do some fishing, or take out a canoe or kayak onto the water. Once again, be sure to get a fishing license if you plan to fish. Deep Creek is said to be a great place to catch crappie and bluegill. 

Island Beach State Park

Also in northeastern New Jersey, about 16 miles south of Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area, Island Beach State Park boasts 10 miles of soft white sandy beaches along a narrow barrier island. It begins next to South Seaside Park and White Sands Beach and continues to the end of the island across from Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. Even with all the beachfront space, there is only one true swimming beach in the center of the park, where they have seasonal lifeguards and showers. 

However, the rest of the park has plenty to do, including numerous waterfront areas where your pup is allowed to cool off and play around even if people are not. Just be sure to keep his leash on at all times. You can also do some fishing (remember a license), hike on one of the eight trails, and have a picnic at one of the many picnic areas. Do not forget to bring doggie bags with you. 

Barnegat Lighthouse State Park Beach

Just across the inlet, Barnegat Lighthouse State Park also gives leashed dogs access to lots of beach space. The only time your pup cannot visit is during piping plover season from April to September. They are also not allowed inside the lighthouse or on the jetty. But that is okay because that leaves plenty of water, fun, sandy space, and other fun activities to enjoy here. Fishing is always fun along the inlet, where you can catch tautog, sea bass, flounder, and bluefish.

You will also find a lot of picnic areas with tables where you can enjoy something delicious for you and your canine companion. If you did not bring anything, that is okay too because there are concessions, food trucks, and nearby eateries to grab something quick. But do not bring your pup into any establishment without asking. Also, remember to pack plenty of puppy poo baggies to pick up anything he drops. 

Beach Haven Doggy Bay 

Just over an hour south of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park Beach on Barnegat Bay in mid-eastern New Jersey, Beach Haven Doggy Bay is a pup’s paradise. From September 16th until May 14th, all dogs can enjoy this stretch of sand in Beach Haven, New Jersey, on Taylor Avenue. It is a peaceful place with clean sand and stunning blue water running in front of adorable pastel-colored beach homes. Your fur puppy does not need a leash, but if he is not voice-controlled, you may want to keep him hooked up because there are no fences to hold him back. 

Besides the gorgeous beach where you can play fetch and toss around a frisbee, make a sand castle, or just relax in the sun, there is also a playground next door for the little humans. There is even a basketball court, restrooms, a boat launch, benches for relaxing, and a huge parking lot where parking is free!

North Brigantine Natural Area Beach

Across the bay from Beach Haven Doggy Bay and just before you get to Longport Dog Beach, North Brigantine Natural Area Beach allows pups on the sand and in the water year-round on the northern end of the island. From 14th Street on, your fur buddy has free rein on the rest of the Atlantic coastline to the northern tip at Brigantine Inlet. He will need to keep his leash on, but that is okay because you can get some exercise running him around. 

Swimming is only allowed from June 15th to Labor Day, but your canine companion is welcome to cool off in the water anytime if he is leashed. If you are curious about the rest of Brigantine Island, Fido is allowed to wander past 14th Street to the south from October to June, with a leash on of course. There are over 20 beaches on that end, but you cannot swim during those times. 

Patriot Lake Park

Another great pup popular park in the mid-eastern section of New Jersey is just north of Brigantine, about 20 miles inland. Patriot Lake Park not only has a lake with lots of beachfront area but it also has an off-leash dog park! This place is a hidden gem known by the locals as the “best-kept secret in Galloway” because it is never crowded. But it certainly is the perfect spot to spend the day with your favorite furry family member!

The lake is also stocked with a variety of fish, from bass to trout, so bring your tackle if you have some. And don’t forget your fishing license. The dog park is the main attraction for Fido, though. There are two sections, both with the sandy ground, so you do not have to worry about mud or dirt. The park also has tunnels and other fun pup popular amenities like a water fountain and great digging spots. 

Amico Island Park Beach

Amico Island Park is another pooch-friendly park where your dog is allowed to join you any time of the year as long as he is on a leash. Although it is called an island, it is really a peninsula on the Delaware River on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. With 55 acres of space, you and your fur baby can enjoy two miles of trails that take you through a variety of terrain. And if you visit during the winter, you can even try snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. 

You will find beach access in the northeastern corner that includes the river as well as Rancocas Creek or the West Beach, where they have picnic tables with grills for barbecuing. Fishing is popular here, especially in these two sections. The park also includes over 100 bird species and other wildlife like deer, foxes, rabbits, frogs, and turtles. Keep your eyes peeled for snakes too!

 Longport Dog Beach

Another hour to the south, just past the famous Atlantic City, Longport Dog Beach is probably the best place in New Jersey to bring your pup for a swim. Located on Ocean Drive in Somers Point, it is also known as Malibu Dog Beach by the locals. It is part of the Malibu Beach Wildlife Management Area in the Egg Harbor Village and has lots of golden sand for your pup to romp around on and dig holes in. 

Besides bringing doggie cleanup bags, you should also bring a lunch and beverages if you are going to be there for a while because there are no concession stands or eating establishments here. In fact, there is no restroom either, so you better stop on your way to the beach. You should also pack your pup’s favorite ball for fetch and a frisbee to toss around while you are there.  

Cooper River Park

You will find the 346-acre Cooper River Park about 60 miles inland from Longport Dog Beach in the middle of the state. This place has it all, including Cooper River, several ponds and lakes, fishing, beaches, and even a dog park where you can let your canine companion run around with his buds off the leash. If you have some little humans with you, they will love the William Rohrer Children’s Playground in the middle of the park by the Cooper House Restaurant. 

In the southeastern end of the park, you will find a miniature golf course, a circuit trail system, a pavilion with picnic tables and barbecue grills, and some ball fields. At the very southeastern tip is where your pooch really wants to be, the dog park! It is all completely fenced in, has a separate area for small and shy pups, and even has access to the river. It does not get any better than this!

Timber Creek Park Beach

Less than 10 miles to the south, you will find one of the biggest dog parks in the state of New Jersey! Timber Creek Park boasts almost 130 miles of greenspace, creeks, and ponds as well as a nine-acre off-leash dog park. You do not have to worry about your pup running off into the woods because it is completely fenced in, so you can just call him when you are wondering what he is up to. He will love traipsing through the forest on his own!

Big Timber Creek runs along the northwestern end of the park, where you can take your pup to play in the water. But since it is outside the fence, he will have to be on a leash. You can also take him for a walk on one of the hiking trails. In the southern end of the park, you will find Timber Creek Pond, where your pup can swim. It is the unofficial dog lake in the park. 

Ocean City Dog Park Beach

Less than 10 miles to the south is a beach we cannot pass up. The Ocean City Dog Park has a whole acre of space just for dogs and their pup parents. There are actually three sections here. One for dogs over 25 pounds, one for dogs over 25 pounds, and a dog run area for all dogs to share. Each of these areas is completely fenced, so your pup is safe to run around without a leash slowing him down. 

There is a pavilion with a picnic table in each section, shelters and benches in all areas, water fountains, pooper scoopers and Mutt Mitt dispensers, fire hydrants, and agility equipment. Your canine companion will love running and hiding in the tunnels and jumping over obstacles. And afterward, put his leash back on, and you can walk over to the Crook Horn Creek, where he can splash around in the water to cool off.  

Corson’s Inlet State Park Beach

Just a few miles down the beach, Corson’s Inlet State Park is another popular pooch park. As long as your canine companion remains on his leash the whole time you are there, you and your furball can explore and enjoy the 340 acres of space from September 15th to April. Well, it is one of the last undeveloped patches of nature in the state, so you may not be able to get into some of it where it is preserved or protected. 

If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, bring it to the beach on weekdays from May 22nd to October when you can drive all the way to the water. Sit on the back of your truck and toss out a line to try and catch some striped bass, kingfish, and bluefish. You can play in the sand, splash in the water, and even take out a boat if you have one. Always keep your pup nearby and watch for bears, which live in the woods here. 

Estell Manor Park Beach

Head inland, approximately 22 miles to let your fur puppy play in the freshwater in southeastern New Jersey. Even though saltwater is good for your skin, it may not be as good for your pup’s paws. Estell Manor Park has 1,677 acres where you and your dog are welcome all the time. However, you will need to keep him on the leash at all times while you are there. The historic park has an interesting past starting with its owners, the Estells who had glassworks on the site. 

During WWI, the glassworks was turned into a munitions plant. After the war, the forest took over and claimed the land as its own. Today, you can take a walk along the river where you can let Fido play in the water, and you can bring along a fishing pole to try your luck catching “the big one.” Be sure to bring doggie bags to pick up after your pup while you are there. 

Fort Mott State Park Beach

Fort Mott State Park is about 52 miles northwest of Estell Manor Park Beach and also welcomes fur babies of all shapes and sizes all year long. Just as long as you keep your pup on his leash at all times and bring plenty of doggie bags to pick up after him, he can join you in the fun here. This is another historical place where you can see some old forts. It was built after the civil war as a defense point on the Delaware River, and there are still old gun batteries and the remains of the forts. 

Right on the border between Delaware and New Jersey on the Delaware River, you will find some really nice waterfront spaces to spend the day with your fur baby. Let him play in the water, run along the beach, and sniff all the new scents from the wildlife that live here. There are also several trails, picnic areas, and a playground for the kids. 

Wildwood Dog Park and Beach

You should have no trouble finding this beach since it has a 25-foot-tall bright red fire hydrant! Wildwood Dog Park and Beach is located on the southeastern tip of New Jersey between Stone Harbor and Cape May. Even though your pup has to keep a leash on while he is on the sand, he can still play in the water and run around in the sand. And there are two fenced areas for small and large dogs where you can unleash him to get rid of that excess energy he always seems to have. 

The sandy park has tons of agility equipment like climbing logs, ramps to race up and down, steps to climb, tunnels to run through, and even a few doggie pools during the summer. After working up an appetite here, take your canine companion next door to PigDog Beach & Bar, where you both can enjoy some delicious barbecue, and you can have some adult beverages. 

Sunset Beach

Just southwest of Wildwood Dog Park and Beach, you will find the famous Sunset Beach, where pups are allowed to play from September 16th to April 1st. They do have to be leashed at all times, but your pooch will not mind when he sees all the sand and water to play in. And it is always a good idea to keep ahold of your fur puppy when you are near the ocean, even if he is a good swimmer. 

Known for its incredible sunset (hence, the name), this sandy space is a great place to see whales from September to December, so bring binoculars or a good camera. If you and your pooch have some energy to spare, climb up the steps of the concrete tower, where you can get an extraordinary view of the area. And do not miss the view of the SS Atlantus Concrete Ship that has been stuck there since 1926. It is a great fishing spot as well!

Maurice River Bluffs Preserve Beach

Heading north to the northwestern end of the state, Maurice River Bluffs Preserve is a stunning dog-friendly park with more than 500 acres and almost six miles of trails through the forest. As long as you keep the leash on your fur baby, you can bring him with you to the water’s edge, where he will love splashing in the Maurice River. Bring along his favorite fetch toy and water toys to play with in the remote areas where nobody cares if your pup is on a leash or not. 

There is a lot of hilly terrain with a variety of flora and fauna. You may see foxes, deer, and turtles while you are there, as well as bald eagles, ospreys, and hawks. Please remember to bring a good supply of puppy poo bags to pick up after your pup and keep him from getting too close to any of the wildlife. 

The Final Woof

If you need to take a break from the beach for a while, get out on the water with Cape May Whale Watcher Tours in Cape May. Dogs are welcome, and you are almost guaranteed to see whales and dolphins on your tour. For a more educational tour, visit NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum, where friendly leashed dogs are welcome on weekdays from 10 AM to 4 PM. You can see a real WWII hangar and a bunch of hands-on activities. Looking for a good place to get a brew with your canine companion? Head to the historic Cold Spring Brewery in Cape May.  

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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