Atlantic Coast

The northernmost stretches of the New Jersey shore are not exactly appealing, and visitors bound for the beaches and vacation spots farther south generally turn a blind eye to the industrial blight of Bayonne, Elizabeth, and Perth Amboy, but once you round Staten Island and hit the Atlantic shoreline, the sights get better and better. Mixed in among gritty blue-collar summer resorts like Bruce Springsteen’s Asbury Park and Seaside Heights, birthplace of MTV’s Jersey Shore, there are intriguing Victorian-era resorts like Spring Lake and Avon-by-the-Sea.

The middle stretch of the Jersey shore is actually the quietest, with the million-acre Pinelands National Reserve (609/894-7300, daily, free) covering the inland area with forest and wetlands, and the coastal Long Beach Island dotted with sleepy little fishing and retirement communities. The biggest sight hereabouts is at the northern tip of the island: Barnegat Lighthouse (609/494-2016, daily summer, $3 adults), “Old Barney,” whose image appears on personalized New Jersey license plates.