Whether you have a day or only a half-day for your getaway, here’s a relaxing spot for your mini-vacation right in Monmouth County, New Jersey
This year especially, when many people are looking for alternatives to large-scale vacation plans, staycations with day trips closer to home are becoming more popular. Here’s another place that’s only about half an hour from Lakewood and less than an hour and a half from Brooklyn where you can unwind and relax with the family; Bradley Beach
My Personal Connection
Let me tell you why this quiet little beach town has a special place in my heart.
Our second son, Yisroel, was born on Shemini Atzeres 5776 (October 4, 2015) at the Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, NJ. The closest orthodox synagogue is a place called Agudath Achim in Bradley Beach, a 45-minute walk from the hospital. Being stuck there for Yom Tov, I walked the whole 45 minutes to the shul located two blocks from the boardwalk, on the corner of McCabe and Central Avenue. Though I was dressed in my traditional Chassidic garb and a bit out of my milieu, I found the modern orthodox shul warm and welcoming. The congregants made me feel at home. Not only did they give me an aliyah on Shemini Atzeres, but they asked me to lead Shacharis on Simchas Torah.
Since that Simchas Torah, more than four years ago, I still find myself driving back there on random occasions simply to gaze at this edifice that, sadly, is only used seasonally. Looking at the shul building brings me back very fond memories of that happy time when another holy soul joined our family. On one of these excursions, I decided to check out Bradley Beach in a broader spectrum beyond the shul.
Here’s what I found:
Bradley Beach is a quiet beach town on the Jersey Shore dotted with small restaurants and stores throughout its enclaves. Though the homes lining the serene streets appear quaint, most are updated and quite pricey as many are close to the beach and Sylvan Lake. During the year, Bradley Beach’s population is under 5,000, however, summer count often hits 30,000.
Yes, it may get a little crowded during the summer, but can still make a pleasant warm weather outing just to get away from it all for a few hours. And if simple and serene is what you seek, then Bradley Beach is definitely the place for you.
The boardwalk is simple, but very well kept and offers a beautiful view of the ocean. You can enjoy a pleasant stroll without any major hullabaloo of a noisy, crowded summer vacation spot. The rolling and crashing sounds of the waves add to the serenity.
As for attractions, there are not many. But if you are looking for simple, like I said, this is the place. You’ll be surprised how refreshing a change of scenery can be even if you don’t need a plane to get there.
Points of Interest on the Boardwalk
A nice place to check out with young kids is the boardwalk playground located at Ocean Ave. and Park Place Ave. Allow your little ones to roam around the small, but decent play area and let out their energy. The playground features slides, swings, see-saw, plastic bongo set, rock-climb, and a few other odds and ends.
A little further down, between Ocean Park Ave. and McCabe Ave, you will find Shipwreck Island Mini Golf. This attractive 18-hole mini-golf course can provide a fun family experience, especially if your children are middle school to high school age. The golf course gives the feeling of an island with the holes separated by bridges and pools of water. To add to the island decor, there is a small but noticeable cascading waterfall in the middle of the golf course. A lighthouse and a few ships scattered across the entire area add to the atmosphere. If you don’t feel enough like you’re at sea yet, every hole is marked with a wooden sign resembling a life preserver. And if you happen to hit your golf ball into one of the aforementioned pools, not to worry. There are nets along the way that can be used to retrieve your ball and continue playing. Check out their website at bradleybeachminigolf.com/ for more information.
Continuing south on the boardwalk you will reach a classic fountain and pool between Lareine and Brinley Avenues. The fountain has a stunning, tiered sculpture in the center with statues of children sitting atop ornately carved fish on either side. Streams of water shoot out from the fishes’ wide open mouths. Nice to look at when all the spouts are working, but I would skip it if the water’s not on.
The last point of interest on the boardwalk is the Bradley Beach gazebo, which is used for weekly concerts during the summer. This gazebo was recently built, replacing the original wooden gazebo that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The gazebo is a nice place to sit and look out towards the ocean. At night, it’s lit up and has a special look. Possibly a good outdoor venue for corona-era weddings?
That kind of wraps up a day trip with the kids at Bradley Beach. But we all know that you and your spouse are entitled to some quiet time as well. If you want to wake up early to observe the sunrise here and do some early-morning jogging before it gets crowded, that’s an idea too. So, as you have read this article, you’ve probably realized that Bradley Beach is more of a quiet setting versus an action-packed getaway.
Although viewer discretion is always advised no matter where you go during the summer months, it just might be worthwhile to know if there are a lot of beach-goers during the time frame you are planning your excursion. As a rule of thumb, if quiet is what you seek, always avoid all beaches during peak season, especially times like July 4th weekend, at least during the daytime hours.
There are a few small hotels in the area and loads of s/t summer rentals if you want to plan a family Shabbos. Here’s some more information you might find helpful.
Congregation Agudath Achim of Bradley Beach is open regularly throughout the summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day. While there is no daily minyan, they do have minyanim every Shabbos. They make Shabbos early with mincha at 7:30 pm. Shacharis is at 9:15 with a a kiddush after davening. Mincha is followed by shalosh seudos on Shabbos afternoon.
If you are of a Sephardic persuasion, the seasonally functional Magen David Congregation is just for you. This shul is located at 101 5th Ave., corner Ocean Ave., and is visible from the boardwalk. This shul does have a daily Shacharis minyan at 7 am and Mincha at 7:15 pm. The shul staff can be reached at (732) 988-1200.
Should you and your family decide that you are adventurous enough to to spend Shabbos out of Lakewood, Deal, or wherever you may be coming from, there are ways to make this work. Thankfully, Bradley Beach is small enough in area that it is easily accessible from neighboring towns by foot.
Avon-by-the-Sea to the north and Ocean Grove to the south are similar beach towns which also offer an array of hotels and s/t house rentals, with no shortage of styles to match your taste and preference. (Google hotels in the above mentioned areas for more details).
Make sure that you have all your Shabbos provisions with you (food, clothes, etc.) as there may not be any Jews where you are staying (but, then again, you never know). Make sure that your hotel is close enough to the shul. (Obviously you are not bringing any small children to shul as there is no eruv). After that, just enjoy your stay and blissfully breath in the beach air as part of your oneg Shabbos away from mainstream Jewish society out on the Jersey shore.
If I haven’t told you enough about this nice, quiet, unassuming area of Jersey…well…then I guess there is more to Bradley Beach than meets the eye.