Is Ocean City, NJ worth visiting? Travel tips for 2024

I grew up spending many summer vacations in Ocean City, New Jersey, so it’s a special and nostalgic place for me and my family. But sentimentality aside, is Ocean City really worth visiting?

Is Ocean City, NJ worth visiting?

Short answer: Yes! Ocean City is 100% worth visiting.

When people hear “Ocean City,” usually Ocean City, Maryland comes to mind, but Ocean City, New Jersey is a hidden gem on the East Coast. It’s been dubbed America’s Greatest Family Resort because of its safe and fun atmosphere that offers something for all ages.

Ocean City is only about an hour from Philadelphia and two to three hours from Baltimore and New York, so it makes for a relaxing weekend destination from these major cities and their surrounding areas.

Ocean City is also a nice destination from New England. We drove about six hours to get there from our home in Boston.

Is Ocean City NJ worth visiting? Surrey ride on the boardwalk

Top 10 things to do in Ocean City

Here is a list of some of the very best things to do during a trip to Ocean City!

1. Walk the Ocean City Boardwalk

A prime feature that makes Ocean City, NJ worth visiting is its expansive, fun-filled boardwalk. The boardwalk extends 2.5 miles along the Atlantic Ocean, offering stunning views the entire way.

One of my favorite things to do in Ocean City is simply walk along the boardwalk and take in the scenery.

If you want to avoid the crowds, you can enjoy an early morning workout on the boardwalk and even catch the sunrise if you’re up for it. Most shops and restaurants don’t open until around 9 a.m. so the early hours are the best time to enjoy the boardwalk in peace and quiet.

Bikes and surreys are also welcome on the boardwalk from 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. during the summer months, which is another a fun way to get around. There are several bike and surrey rental places along the boardwalk.

Of course, another highlight of the boardwalk are the many shops and attractions lined up the entire way. You’ll find stores selling souvenirs, apparel, surfing gear, beach toys, and more.

Dozens of restaurants offer a variety of food choices, including pizza, fries, lobster rolls, acai bowls, and ice cream. There are also several mini golf courses with various themes, including haunted, pirate, medieval fantasy, and goofy golf.

2. Soak up the sun at Ocean City Beach

Ocean City Beach is technically a series of different beaches along an eight-mile stretch of sand, with most of them accessible directly from the boardwalk. In fact, that’s how I would recommend spending the perfect day at Ocean City: a mixture of beach and boardwalk.

Ocean City Beach is known for its decently sized waves that are perfect for boogie boarding and even surfing. It’s no Hawaii, but you’ll see plenty of surfers hoping to catch the perfect wave, especially in the early morning hours.

I grew up boogie boarding during my Ocean City vacations and it was always one of my favorite things to do on a beach day. If you don’t have a boogie board, there are plenty of stores on the boardwalk where you can purchase one.

The sand on Ocean City Beach is some of the softest and cleanest I’ve ever seen — perfect for building sand castles or laying down to catch some rays.

Is Ocean City NJ worth visiting? Relaxing on the beach is definitely worth it.

3. Explore Corson’s Inlet State Park

Corson’s Inlet State Park is a natural preserve in Ocean City that covers about 341 acres over land and water. If you’re looking for a more undeveloped, less commercialized part of the island, this is the place to go.

The state park is a haven for wildlife, and you should be able to spot a variety of bird species, including ospreys, herons, egrets, and sandpipers. Many people also go fishing and crabbing here.

You can enjoy the many hiking trails at the park. One of the most popular trails is the 1.5-mile Corson’s Inlet Trail that takes you through dunes and wetlands and along the beach.

Spend a beach day at Corson’s Inlet State Park if you’re hoping to escape the throngs of people at Ocean City Beach. There are plenty of picnic areas as well.

4. Catch a thrill at Playland’s Castaway Cove

Located on 10th Street and Boardwalk, Castaway Cove is a family-friendly amusement park with over 30 rides for all ages. My three-year-old daughter loved riding on the train, spinning helicopter ride, and carousel, but there are plenty of other options for older kids as well.

You can purchase individual tickets for $1 each or get a book of 60 tickets for $50. There are larger books of 125 and 200 tickets available, too, if you plan to go on lots of rides. 🙂

Most rides require between 2 and 6 tickets, with the exception of the Gale Force roller coaster that costs 14 tickets.

Is Ocean City NJ worth visiting? Check out Playland's Castaway Cove.

5. Enjoy the historic Gillian’s Wonderland Pier

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier is another popular amusement park on the boardwalk and has been in operation since 1929. The park was founded by David Gillian Sr. and has been owned and operated by the Gillian family ever since.

Some longtime favorite rides at Wonderland Pier include the Crazy Submarine, Frog Jump Around, MonoRail, Canyon Falls Log Flume, Moby Dick, Tilt-a-Whirl, and Giant Wheel.

It’s worth noting that the Wonderland Pier is a bit more expensive than Castaway Cove. While ticket pricing is similar, the number of tickets required for each ride is higher at Wonderland. (The carousel at Wonderland requires 4 tickets compared to 2 tickets at Castaway Cove, for example.)

6. Tour the Ocean City Historical Museum

If you’re interested in learning about the history of Ocean City, both before and after the city’s founding in 1879, visit the Ocean City Historical Museum. The museum is home to a collection of documents, photos, and other artifacts that tell the story of Ocean City’s past.

The exhibits focus on four key topics:

  • The early years that describe the Native American heritage of the region and the religious beliefs surrounding Ocean City’s founding.

  • The history of Ocean City’s beloved boardwalk.

  • The Sindia shipwreck of 1901. (The ship still lies under the sand near the 17th Street beach!)

  • The beloved movie star Grace Kelly’s personal connection to Ocean City.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is inside the Ocean City Community Center, where you will also find the Ocean City Public Library and other community resources.

7. Grab a cone from Kohr Brothers or George’s

Kohr Brothers’ frozen custard has been a long-time favorite in Ocean City. This soft-serve ice cream company was first founded in 1919 by Archie and Elton Kohr, who pioneered a unique form of frozen custard that became wildly popular on the east coast.

While I prefer hard-serve ice cream, there is something so nostalgic about grabbing a chocolate-vanilla twist dipped in jimmies (the local term for sprinkles). You can find Kohr Brothers all over the boardwalk.

If you’re like me and want hard-serve ice cream instead of soft-serve, George’s Candies is another popular ice cream shop on the boardwalk. But in addition to ice cream, you have to try George’s traditional coconut macaroons. They are incredibly soft and chewy and so delightful.

My mom will tell you to make sure to not get almond macaroons in place of coconut, and that George’s has the best macaroons around. (Also, don’t mistake macaroons for French macarons — they are very different. :))

Beautiful Ocean City mural on the boardwalk

8. See a show on Music Pier

One of the most imposing and attractive buildings on the Ocean City boardwalk is the Music Pier, which dates back to 1929. The pier provides stunning panoramic views of the ocean and also hosts many musical performances, concerts, and other events throughout the year.

The Music Pier is also home to the Ocean City Pops Orchestra, which performs regular concerts throughout the summer. Check out the Music Pier Showpass website for a list of upcoming events.

9. Bike and go birding at Stainton Wildlife Refuge

If you’re a bird enthusiast, you’ll enjoy Howard Stainton Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll find lots of different bird species in their natural habitat, including ospreys, hawks, shovelers, black ducks, and kingfishers.

There are trails throughout the refuge, as well as a paved bike trail around the perimeter. If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat into nature during your time at Ocean City, this place is worth a visit.

10. Shop on Asbury Street

A little further inland is Asbury Street, which is a popular area for shopping and dining. A couple great coffee shops to try include Ocean City Coffee Co. and Drip N’ Scoop, and Jon & Patty’s has an expansive latte bar and food menu.

You’ll also find lots of cute boutiques and local shops where you can hunt for souvenirs and other Ocean City treasures, including:

Is Ocean City NJ worth visiting? See a show at the Music Pier.

Things to do in Ocean City during the off season

While many shops and restaurants shut down during the off season, there is still plenty to do if you prefer to visit when the weather is cooler and there are fewer crowds.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Walk or bike along the boardwalk. A lot of the attractions may be closed but the boardwalk itself is open year-round, so you can take in the beautiful ocean views while you exercise.

  • Relax on the beach. You may not want to take a dip in the water during the colder months, but you can still take a walk along the sandy shore or lounge in a chair with a good book at any time of year.

  • Hike at Corson’s Inlet State Park. Bundle up and enjoy the peaceful scenery as you walk the trails.

  • Shop and dine on Asbury Street. When temperatures are colder, shopping and eating are always nice things to do.

  • Enjoy an arcade or mini golf. There are certain places that remain open throughout the year for some fun and games.

  • Visit the Ocean City Historical Museum. When the weather outside is frightful, that’s the perfect time to go to a museum and expand your knowledge.
Ocean City beaches are definitely worth visiting

Where to stay

There is a variety of accommodation options at Ocean City to suit your needs.

Book a hotel room or suite

If you plan to visit Ocean City as a couple or small family, there are plenty of excellent hotels on the island within a short distance from the boardwalk. Here are a few highly rated options:

📍Scarborough Inn: Clean and comfortable bed and breakfast with a delicious array of à la carte and buffet items.

📍Watson’s Regency Suites: These suites come with a private kitchen, and there is also a shared indoor swimming pool and hot tub.

📍The Beach House: While not an entire beach house, these large suites will still feel like a home away from home.

📍Harris House by the Beach: This motel-style inn is really close to the beach and boardwalk and comes with complimentary beach tags.

📍Ebb Tide Suites: These apartment-style hotel rooms have a kitchen and also include a balcony with city views.

Rent a beach house

If you’re going to Ocean City with a larger group, I highly recommend renting a beach house. My family has always rented a beach house for a cozier vacation experience.

Not only it is a great way to save money on meals by cooking at the house, but you also have access to other amenities like a washer and dryer, outdoor shower for washing sand off, beach equipment, beach tags, and more.

Below is a picture of the amazing beach house we rented on our last vacation through Vrbo. It was a close walk from the boardwalk and beach and was in really great condition – 10/10!

🏠 Book this beautiful beach house through Vrbo ⬅️

Rental home in Ocean City NJ

You can find many other vacation home rentals on Vrbo or Airbnb as well.

Where to eat

You won’t run out of places to find good food at Ocean City, but here are some of my top recommendations:

  • Positively Fourth Street Cafe: This corner cafe on 4th street is unassuming from the outside but they serve up the most unique and tasty sandwiches and smoothies (they had one with lavender and bee pollen that was simply amazing), as well as high-quality coffee. I also love their beachy guitar-themed interior.

  • Jon and Patty’s: This place on Asbury Avenue serves great breakfast items, but they are especially known for their latte bar, including drinks like The Elvis (peanut butter and banana), Lazy Hazy Days (hazelnut and vanilla), and Strawberry Cheesecake (with — you guessed it — strawberry and cheesecake!).

  • Playa Bowls: This boardwalk staple not only offers the best acai bowls, but also a large selection of “green bowls,” “coconut bowls,” “pitaya bowls,” and more. My favorite is the Tropical Acai Bowl with acai, granola, banana, pineapple, coconut flakes, and honey…mmm.

  • Oves: I’m not the biggest fan of their dinner menu but they make amazing apple cider donuts (seems random to find in the summer but they are so perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside) and smoothies for a nice morning or midday pick-me-up. They can be found on the boardwalk at 4th street.

  • Manco & Manco: This is one of the most popular places on the boardwalk to order fresh, thin-crust pizza. Try one of their classic white broccoli or meat lover’s pizzas.

  • Augie’s Omelette and Waffle: This is a classic diner-style restaurant serving comfort breakfast items like waffles, French toast, eggs, and bacon.
Tasty latte bar at Jon & Patty's

Weather in Ocean City

Weather in Ocean City consists of cold and windy winters and warm and humid summers. The graph below shows the average temperatures in Ocean City each month.

Average temperatures in Ocean City, NJ

When is Ocean City, NJ worth visiting?

Summers are the best time to visit Ocean City. My favorite time to go is in June, when temperatures are warm but not as hot as July, August, and September. But the water is warmest for swimming in August and September.

Not only is the weather better in the summer, but more businesses are open, so you can take full advantage of all Ocean City has to offer. Ocean City definitely caters toward the summer tourist crowds.

Things to know before you go

  • Ocean City is known as a “dry” island, so you won’t find any alcohol served in stores or restaurants. You can bring alcohol into your home or hotel but you will need to purchase it outside of the city. Some people may be turned off by this aspect of Ocean City, but it does help keep the island “family-friendly” and I never see people lacking for fun.

  • No dogs are allowed on the boardwalk, and they are only permitted on beaches during the off season.

  • You will need a beach tag to enter Ocean City Beach. Some rental homes and hotels come with complimentary beach tags, but if not, you can purchase a tag at the Music Pier on the boardwalk or other areas around town.

Getting around the island

There are various ways to navigate around the island depending on your needs.


Ocean City is very accessible, with nicely paved sidewalks throughout the island. You can get to most places fairly easily by walking — that was the main way I navigated around the island, especially since I spent most of my time on the boardwalk and beach.


If you want to get around faster while still exercising, biking is another great option. You can ride a bike almost anywhere on the island.

Just note that the boardwalk has limited biking hours in the summer, with bikes typically only allowed from 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. See the full schedule with a list of exceptions on the Ocean City website.

Riding a surrey

One of the most fun and unique forms of transportation that is available on the boardwalk is a surrey. You can rent a surrey that fits anywhere from 2-9 adults (with two small chairs on the front for small children) and cruise along the boardwalk in style for an hour or more.

Surreys can be rented from 12th Street Bikes and Bob’s Bike and Surrey Rentals on 14th Street, among others.

Driving a car

You can also drive a car around Ocean City, but parking can sometimes be a challenge to find (and expensive). Many hotels and beach houses come with complimentary parking spaces or free street parking, but grocery stores and attractions have limited parking available.

Taking an Uber

If you want to get from point A to B quickly but don’t have a car, Uber is also available at Ocean City.

Is Ocean City NJ worth visiting? Shrivers salt water taffy and fudge might make you say yes.

How to save money in Ocean City

Here are some of the best ways to reduce expenses to make Ocean City even more worth visiting:

Make as many of your own meals as possible. Restaurant prices seem to keep increasing, so if you book accommodations with a kitchen, cooking at your place will help a lot with reducing costs.

Rent a beach house with a group. My family makes vacation much more affordable by sharing a beach house and splitting the cost by household. You can save a lot on the nightly cost by going in together with family or friends.

Spend most of your time wandering the boardwalk or enjoying the beach. To me the boardwalk and beach are the two best things about Ocean City, and both are free!*

*Other than purchasing a beach tag, but some accommodations come with complimentary tags.

Free things to do

Besides the boardwalk and beach, here are some other free activities in Ocean City:

  • Ocean City Historical Museum
  • Corson’s Inlet State Park
  • Stainton Wildlife Refuge
  • Window shopping on Asbury Street
Fun and games at Playland's Castaway Cove


Here are answers to some common questions about Ocean City, New Jersey:

Is Ocean City nicer than Atlantic City?

Ocean City and Atlantic City are two very different places in my mind. Both have lots to offer, but I like the relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere of Ocean City. If you are looking for more of an adult-focused trip, Atlantic City has more options on that front.

But Ocean City is fun for all ages, and even if you don’t plan to visit with kids, there is a timeless thrill in exploring all the shops and activities along the boardwalk and relaxing on Ocean City’s beautiful, white-sand beaches.

How many days do you need in Ocean City?

Ocean City is a popular day trip destination for locals or tourists visiting other parts of the Jersey shore. For me, the highlight areas of Ocean City are the boardwalk and nearby beaches, so it’s doable to spend the morning and early afternoon on the beach followed by a walk along the boardwalk in the late afternoon and evening.

But it’s easy to spend several days or longer at Ocean City if you’re looking for a relaxed beach vacation. Weekly beach house rentals typically run from Saturday to Saturday, and that’s how long my family has always stayed at Ocean City.

It’s amazing how fast the time flies by at Ocean City. Every time we visit, we always wish we could stay a little longer.

Why is Ocean City so popular?

Ocean City is probably the most popular because of its family-friendliness. While some of the rules in place may seem restrictive, they help maintain the safety and cleanliness of the island. I have been to a lot of U.S. beaches and Ocean City beaches are some of the cleanest and best maintained beaches I have seen.

The boardwalk is another special feature of Ocean City. My family visits the boardwalk every day during our weeklong vacations, and we never get tired of it. There is an endless list of things to see, do, buy, and eat on the boardwalk.

Where can I park at Ocean City?

Parking is allowed on most streets but pay attention to meters and posted signs. Some streets have free parking while others are paid. Meter rates range from 25 cents per hour to $1.50 per hour (more expensive near the beach and boardwalk).

There are also several public lots around the island with varying hourly rates, but the daily maximum will never exceed $20 (which is pretty amazing compared to what you can expect to pay in places like Boston!).

Note: If you plan to visit Ocean City during the off season from October 31 to May 1, all street and lot parking is free.

Which beaches have lifeguards?

Lifeguards are on duty at most beaches from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays. You can still access beaches outside of those hours but the Ocean City Beach Patrol advises not to swim in unguarded areas.

You can find the current list of guarded beaches on the Ocean City website.

What are the beach hours?

You can access Ocean City beaches from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. The closing time used to be 10 p.m., but this was recently changed to 8 p.m. following incidents related to teen partying. I’m not sure if or when the restriction will be lifted.

See the previous question above for information about when lifeguards are on duty at Ocean City.

What are the boardwalk hours?

The boardwalk is technically open 24/7 but most shops and restaurants don’t open until around 9 a.m., and most close between 10 and 11 p.m. Hours may be shortened during the off season from October to May.

If you plan to bike on the boardwalk, note that bicycles are only permitted from 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the summer.

Ocean City boardwalk

Wrap-up: Is Ocean City, NJ worth visiting?

Hopefully this post has convinced you that Ocean City is definitely worth visiting! Maybe I’m biased since I’ve been there so many times, but I think it’s one of New Jersey’s biggest gems.

There are plenty of other exciting destinations along the Jersey Shore, but if you’re looking for family-friendly fun and clean, safe beaches, Ocean City is an excellent choice.

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