As summer approaches, I can’t help but feel anxious with wonder to what my new beachfront is going to look like. Belmar, one of many areas devastated by the hurricane-like-wrecking-ball ‘Sandy’, was all but an ocean, scattered sand, and pavement once the storm had finally passed. With some collectivism from the locals, volunteers near and far, and various non-profits, we are all hopeful that their efforts during the winter months have transformed our beach into a habitable destination just in time for Memorial Day.
Ever since I was a little girl, Belmar days were the highlights of my summers. My mother would pack us a lunch, load up the car with chairs, blankets, sand toys, and the umbrella, then tell us (my brother and me) to get dressed in our swimsuits. I cannot remember ever being so excited at 8am until these moments arrived. So nostalgic looking back, and even more so when Sandy wiped away the landmarks that were so crucial to my childhood memories.
So, with that, here is your trip guide to exploring the new and improved Belmar beachfront! Hoping it brings you as much enjoyment as I’ve experienced and then some!
10th Ave Burrito
Well before this local joint was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” TV series, it was a goldmine in the Belmar community. With an extensive Mexi-Cali cuisine menu and freshly made-to-order dishes, 10th Ave Burrito will have your mouth watering before you even walk in the door! Besides filling a void in Main Street’s dining variety, they also sponsor local artists and musicians – thus creating entertainment value while supporting their neighbors.
Boathouse Bar & Grill
Located on the most southern end of Main Street, you will find one of the liveliest eateries on the strip. The Boathouse is full of excitement. On one hand, you have your go-to local dining: great menu, great atmosphere, great people. In the back room, you have a music venue – perfect for Saturday night Springsteen cover bands, or local jazz ensembles. During late hours of the night, the bar-scene is bouncing and the billiards are packed. If you end up here, you will not regret it! Oh – and don’t forget to order the wings.
Although often mistakenly pronounced “Cannoli” Station, it is not far off from the elegance that awaits inside. This restaurant took over what was once called JL Sullivan’s Steakhouse in 2005, and combined the fine dining experience with an Irish touch. Those looking for a romantic evening, or just some well-cut steak with succulent lobster, should reserve a seat here.
The original of the Windmills is in Long Branch, NJ. It is known not only for its delicious “gourmet” Zagat-rated fast-food, but the architectural design of the building. Even though Belmar’s location is not as aesthetically up-to-par, this is still a must-see while in the area. The locals love its dog-friendly and family-oriented atmosphere where anything goes…but never on an empty stomach!
Belmar Pro Surf Contest – 16th Ave
At every closing of summer, the water is the warmest it’s been and the surfers are in the prime of their season. This is when Belmar’s annual Pro Surfing contest is held. Sponsors, local artists, food vendors and the like all post up on the beach for one of the most exciting events in town. Picture a scene out of the movie Blue Crush – a judges table, all three intently watching the contenders; spectators silently waiting in anticipation for their friends/favorites to make it in; and alas – the nose of a board appears, surfer intact, hand held high in celebration of the ride. This is something to stick around for.
One of the oldest and most prideful places of Belmar – the Marina. Located along the Shark River, this span of dock has been home to sail boats, fishing boats, charter and row boats since the 1800’s. Today, you can rent one and explore the bay or ocean on your own. You can dine at one of the restaurants that host tables with an outstanding view. If nothing else, you will watch one of the most vibrant and amazing sunsets of all time.
To act like a local is to think like a local. In the tiny town of Belmar, almost everyone owns a bicycle. It is – in my opinion – the best way to travel. Stop by DJ’s on Main St. for single or dual bike rentals, accessories, repairs, or sales. They have few competitors, as they are simply the best.
Nostalgic Nonsense Vintage Clothing
Located on Main St. with most other businesses, this is one of the swankiest vintage shops. Inside is filled with almost any treasure you could think of. Be it artwork, shoes, wigs, evening wear, jewelry, posters, paper, pillows, records, figurines, lunch boxes, etc., you’ll find it here. I love driving by at the changing of seasons and admiring the cool/funky window displays that bring customers in. I suggest you take a look!
Although Belmar, in size, is teeny tiny, there are so many great treasures to uncover there. For instance, you might never find Oceanside Gallery unless you were looking for art, or a native to the town. This magnificent art hub has something for every wall. Whether it’s a local artists’ painting of the month, or a well-renowned painter/sculpter that catches your eye, you probably won’t leave empty handed.
A Paperback Exchange
Set off the beaten path, you will discover a friendly, home-styled book store. You can buy and sell new or used books, drop in for a chat with the owner, or currently, paint your favorite Belmar ‘scene’ on the back wall.
Almost every town in New Jersey was built around a main street. This mile and a half of pavement brings together a community of over 5,000 inhabitants in Belmar. Parades, local businesses, the sunset – these all flourish just feet away from the precious center. Honestly, what would a beach town be without one?
I’m getting excited just thinking about it! This is THE bar of Belmar. Inside you will find at least three bars, two dance floors, and a live band. Outside, well, where do I start? To the right, you have an extensive outdoor patio that expands about an eighth of a mile. In the day, customers dine here. At night, you can hardly move. Towards the middle, there is a raised porch area, a sandy knoll (former volleyball court) with cabanas, and another patio beyond. I could go on and on, but I suggest you grab some friends and check-it-out for yourself!
Of course, this is my favorite place. The beach! It will take some time for the new boardwalk, new everything, to reestablish itself, but the beachfront is home. You can come here for a morning run, mid-day biking, or evening stroll. You can stay at a bed-and-breakfast to the south, or grab a slice of 3 Brother’s pizza on 16th. For the fishing pier or peace and quiet, head north down the strip. And of course, planted on the sand, gaze to the sky, is the most spectacular view of the starry night. Enjoy!
article published here.