Hundreds of thousands of people go to New Jersey for the beige sand glory of a beach vacation. Two popular places to visit boast 100-year-old boardwalks fronting amazing beaches: Atlantic City and Ocean City, New Jersey.
Ocean City, NJ, and Atlantic City offer great vacation options for a fantastic weekend or week[s] of ocean beach fun, boardwalk attractions, and great places to stay.
Atlantic City boasts nine casino hotels. Ocean City self-proclaims itself as "America's Greatest Family Resort."
Let's compare and contrast these two New Jersey beach towns to help you choose the best location for your oceanfront vacation. Keep reading to get all the information and links to plan the best New Jersey beach vacation.
How Close are Atlantic City and Ocean City, NJ?
These great beach towns are less than 20 miles apart. They are each on their own coastal island. You can choose different routes that often have similar travel times.
Offseason, the two towns are 30 minutes apart. In high season it could take over an hour to travel from one to the other.
What To Do in Atlantic City?
Atlantic City is famous for the boardwalk that runs its five-mile length in front of its beautiful beaches. The city offers nine casinos you can visit, with four along the boardwalk itself.
Along its boardwalk, you will find water sports, beach hotels, shopping, miniature golf, and an amusement park at Steel Pier.
Does Atlantic City Have Good Beaches?
The beach in Atlantic City is beautiful, with beige sand and clear ocean water for swimming. Your stay on the beach is made safer by the active professional lifeguards who patrol the beach and its waters.
Are the Atlantic City Beaches Clean?
Yes, the city cleans the beaches daily. They drive beach cleaning machines over the sand up to the dunes. People walk the dunes, cleaning them as well.
Is it Safe to Swim in the Ocean in Atlantic City?
Atlantic City beaches are generally a great place for swimming. Only swim where lifeguards are patrolling. Currents can make ocean swimming difficult, so check which lifeguard stands are staffed.
What Casinos are in Atlantic City?
Gamblers can visit any of the nine physical casinos in Atlantic City or try their luck at twenty-two other online casinos based in the city. You can gamble on-site at these nine casinos:
- Midtown: Bally's Casino, Caesars Casino,
- Uptown: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Resorts, Ocean Casino Resort
- Marina: Golden Nugget Casino, Harrah's Atlantic City Casino, Borgata Hotel Casino
- Downbeach: Tropicana Casino
What To Do on the Atlantic City Boardwalk
You will find so many fun activities on the Boardwalk. You can shop for swimsuits, snacks, and sunglasses. You can rent or buy surf or boogie boards. Or get a lesson on either.
Come to the Boardwalk to enjoy all the delicious fried Oreos, funnel cakes, corndogs/hotdogs, nachos, or fish and chips. The restaurants range from beach wear to fine dining in beachfront hotels.
What is Steel Pier in Atlantic City
You and your children will find thrills and arcade fun at the Steel Pier in front of the Hard Rock Hotel. Challenge your fear of heights on the Slingshot [youth] or High Flyer [kids].
Try to win prizes by shooting basketballs at Hot Shot or popping balloons with Balloon Bust.
What to Do in Ocean City, NJ?
Ocean City Ocean City proclaims itself "America's Greatest Family Resort." The 2.5-mile Boardwalk is world famous for its incredible views, two amusement parks, miniature golfing, watersports, and delicious carnival-like foods.
Does Ocean City, NJ, Have Good Beaches?
Like Atlantic City, you will find sandy beaches with excellent lifeguard safety. Visitors can swim, surf, and suntan on over seven miles of beaches.
Is it Safe to Swim in the Ocean in Ocean City, NJ?
The Ocean City Beach Patrol provides excellent lifeguarding on many of the area's beaches. The Beach Patrol stands will have flags alerting you of surf conditions.
Ocean swimming is more difficult than pool swimming, so be extra careful when swimming. Keep an eye on children at all times.
What Amusement Parks are in Ocean City, NJ?
You can enjoy three different amusement parks on the Ocean City Boardwalk.
Gillian's Wonderland Pier has 25 rides for families with younger children, including a wonderful Merry-Go-Round where you can tag the rings as you ride the horses.
Ocean City Amusement Park Thrills
You can get your thrills on the Double Shot [drop ride] or the GaleForce Roller Coaster at Playland's Castaway Cove on the Boardwalk between the 10th and 11th streets. Playland offers 32 rides, including the 227-foot high Ferris Wheel.
Head to the Totally Tubular Aqua Park for 5,000 sq. ft. of floating inflatables for climbing and bouncing into the ocean waters near the Ocean City Boathouse Marina pier.
What is Stainton's in Ocean City?
Plan on shopping at Stainton's for beautiful clothing, sea-themed home decor, and art by a variety of local vendor shops, all under one roof.
You can visit two locations: Stainton's Downtown or Stainton's Gallery on the Sea, right on the Boardwalk.
Is Ocean City Dry and Alcohol-Free?
Yes, Ocean City, NJ, is a dry town. Four Methodist pastors founded the town in 1879, aiming for a family-friendly experience. The town continues the practice of no alcohol sales in restaurants, hotels, or grocery stores.
Can I Bring Wine to Restaurants in Ocean City, NJ?
No, you cannot drink any alcohol in restaurants, public spaces, or on the beach in Ocean City. You cannot buy beer, wine, or spirits on the island.
You may bring it for private use in your vacation rental home or hotel room.
Is Ocean City in New Jersey or Maryland
You will find an Ocean City in both New Jersey and Maryland. Both have great beaches with a family-friendly boardwalk for shopping, eating, and watersports.
Ocean City, Maryland, has more options for the nature lover with Assateague State Park with its herd of wild horses.
Which is Better, Ocean City or Atlantic City?
The best vacation for you and your family is a matter of taste. From morning to early afternoon, both towns offer great beaches, boardwalks, and lots of activities for everyone.
Atlantic City has a different feel in the late afternoon and evening with its casinos and extensive bar offerings.
Atlantic City After Dark
You have lots of evening activities in Atlantic City. The casinos have comedy clubs, burlesque shows, and musical acts on their stages.
Most casinos have nightclubs that run most nights in the summer and on weekends in the off-season.
Can We Bike on the Boardwalk?
You can bike on the boardwalks in both Ocean City and Atlantic City at any time during the off-season [October-April]. During high season [May-September], you can only bike on the boardwalks in the morning.
In Ocean City, you can bike until noon, but in Atlantic City, only till 10 a.m.
Water Sports in Atlantic City and Ocean City
You can find all kinds of water sports in both beach towns. You can learn to surf or paddleboard.
From either beach town, visit the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey, Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City. You can climb the 228 steps to see the giant Fresnel Lens.
When you visit the education museum, you will see a glimpse into the lighthouse keepers' life.
Can We Visit Both Atlantic City and Ocean City, NJ?
You can visit both Atlantic City and Ocean City on the same day or split in a week's vacation.
You might spend the first half of the trip enjoying one of the casino hotels with its nightlife and gambling. Then close out the week with the more relaxed pace of Ocean City.
What's the Best Place for a Beach Vacation?
You can enjoy a great beach vacation in either Ocean City or Atlantic City. Atlantic City is the best choice if you want the bar scene and nightlight. If you prefer a quieter scene for relaxation, choose Ocean City.
Looking for more beach destination options, try one of these: