Living in Philadelphia I used to spend a lot of time at the NJ beaches when I was a child - we had a house at one of the beaches until I was 12. Once they started charging to go on the beach, I did not go anymore (only Atlantic City and Wildwood are free these days) and the beaches are very crowded in the summer and rentals are high - for $2000/week, I can think of better places to go and I have a problem with paying to go on a supposed public beach!
I remember going to Asbury Park 20+ years ago to see Bruce Springsteen at the Stone Pony (those were the days!). Friends of mine that are in a band recently arrived for an east coast tour - Philadelphia, Asbury Park, Baltimore, NYC, and also their 1st tour to Latin America with Pearl Jam so I saw them in Philly and Asbury Park and NYC- I have to say since I have not been in Asbury Park in 20 or more years, I was pleasantly suprised - it seems to be going through a revivial - quite a few restaurants on the boardwalk and many folks walking the boards on a September evening. I don't know how it is during the height of summer but it looks like a maybe for a nice September long weekend and after labor Day, you do not have to pay.
Maybe NJ beaches are worth taking a look at again for a long weekend away from Philadelphia
The area has really been renovated. Wildwood is now a retro type resorts....reminders of our times there in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Stone Harbor has been completely updated with many of the older homes being torn down and replaced by lovely new homes. Cape May is still a quaint town to visit.
Older homes torn down - that is not always a good thing - replaced by what - many condos - new Mcmansions?
I was in Sea Isle City not too long ago and went to see what our old house looked like - I felt like crying - it was a lovely old Victorian and it was built on open slatwork so the water could run through it during storms - the house stood for over 100 years - now the bottom with the open slats was all renovated into living area, the open porch was closed in, the side yard was sold and 2 houses were crammed into the old side yard - the next big storm to hit Sea Isle City - it may not be there another 100 years. The shore towns, especially in south Jersey are pretty much ruined now all in the name of greed - corrupt governments letting them build anywhere - overbuilding, not enough drainage and sewer systems. Even folks who live there full time have to pay to use the beach in the summer and they are paying high taxes to live there!
I agree that Cape May is still pretty decent and at least Wildwood beaches are still free but am leaning more towards south Jersey beaches not being a vacation destination for me