Ocean City

With the sea and sand on one side and quiet bays, estuaries, and forests on the other, you’re guaranteed some quality time with Mother Nature here.

If the glitz and gambling of Atlantic City has got a bit much, head south to Ocean City, a quieter seashore community in New Jersey that strips away the neon and just lets the spectacular beaches speak for themselves.

Eight miles of beach await on a long finger of land that is Ocean City, but there are more ways to enjoy the scenery than just sitting toe-deep in sand. Kayak or stand-up paddleboard out at sea, or go surfing. The best spots are the 6th Street and 17th Street beaches; rent boards if you don’t have your own. Then there’s kite-boarding, Jet Skiing and windsurfing. Don’t want to get wet? Ocean City is laced with miles of bike paths that take in the best of the coastline. Bikes are easy to rent – have a laugh with the family and get one that seats up to six adults.

While Ocean City is all about earthly pleasures, it’s not just the sea that shines. The city strip is backed by numerous state parks, wildlife reserves, and forests. At Corson’s Inlet State Park you can see dolphins, birds, and butterflies, with more than 300 acres of sand dunes and pretty estuaries to ramble about in. Hike the Crook Horn Creek Nature Trail, which runs along an old railway line, or chill out at the Howard S. Stainton Wildlife Refuge with the migrating birds.

It may be a little sleepier than Atlantic City but Ocean City still delivers when it comes to great festivals throughout the year. There are numerous pageants, a Quiet Festival (think yoga, board games and kids’ activities) and a classic car weekend in September. Every summer the 1920s Music Pier hosts an Ocean City Pier Pops series of concerts. For the Night in Venice event in July almost every local boat and bay-side home is decorated and the whole city erupts with parties and concerts.