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The 12 best beach towns to visit near Philly this summer

Cool off and check out some sites

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Editor's note: This article was last published in 2018 and has been updated with the most recent information.

It’s getting to be that time of year in Philly again: the sun is shining all the time now, Memorial Day is just a week away, and everyone is itching to start their summer travels.

And how great is it that Philadelphia is located smack-dab in the middle of the Jersey shore and the Delaware beaches? Best of all, many of them are right within some of the most charming coastal towns in the country, offering great architecture, boardwalks, and local shops.

In anticipation of Memorial Day Weekend, as well as all kinds of summer travel, we've picked 12 of the best beach towns to check out this month, from the picture-perfect Cape May in New Jersey to the quiet, but lovely Bethany Beach in Delaware.

All of these beach towns are within about a two hour's drive of Philadelphia, and do not include state parks. They're listed here in geographical order.

Do you have a recommendation? Share the wealth and leave a comment. We'd love to know your favorite Mid-Atlantic beach.

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Asbury Park

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This beach town was established in 1871 by a New York City broom manufacturer who named the beach after Francis Asbury, the first American bishop for the Methodist church. Since then, Asbury Park has had a long history of being a progressive city, known for its music scene and growing gay community. Like many Jersey shore towns, Asbury Park went through some tough times during the 1980s and 1990s, but in recent years it's regained its popularity. Plus, the Stone Pony is a must-see for all the Springsteen fans out there.

#Saturday. ☁️☀️ #AsburyParkNow capture by @snapshotsfromsuzanne

A post shared by Asbury Park Now (@asburyparknow) on

Long Beach Island

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Affectionately called LBI by locals, Long Beach Island stretches 18 miles and includes six small towns within it. All are worth a visit, but Beach Haven is where you'll find some remaining historic structures dating back to the 1800s, plus shopping and restaurants.

Brigantine Beach

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A shipmate on Henry Hudson's ship said it best when they set sight on Brigantine in 1601: “This is a very good land to fall in with – a pleasant land to see.” At the time it was a popular fishing spot for the Lenni-Lenape tribe, and the island didn't really see development until the 1800s. Today, much of the history remains, from the Brigantine lighthouse to the occasional sighting of the many shipwrecks that occurred on this island. Atlantic City is a quick drive from here if you're looking for some night life.

A post shared by Suzanne Fluhr (@boomeresque2) on

Stone Harbor, NJ

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Come to Stone Harbor to ogle the multi-million dollar mansions that dot the southern portion of Seven Mile Island. The two neighboring towns are considered some of the most affluent in the nation—the New York Times once described Stone Harbor as a place with "gleaming McMansions and elegant shops." And if you like Stone Harbor, you might also check out Avalon, its equally posh neighbor to the north.

Ocean City

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Ocean City, New Jersey is often considered one of the best family-oriented beaches in the country. It was originally known as Peck's Island, after fisherman John Peck who used the beach to store freshly caught whales, according to the town's website. Today, taking a stroll along its 2.5-mile iconic boardwalk is a must. But if you're craving an ice-cold beer after a long day at the beach, you'll have to go elsewhere—Ocean City is a dry town.

Flickr user Kevin Jarrett

Strathmere Beach

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Strathmere is New Jersey's little beach secret: It's the one beach that doesn't require buying beach tags. Go here if you want some real R&R, as it's much more secluded than other beaches along the Jersey shore. You won't find a bustling boardwalk or too many other things to do here besides lounge around on the beach.

A post shared by MIke Ruddy (@mxavier71) on

Wildwood Beach

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Wildwood is a midcentury modern mecca, lined with Doo Wop-style motels that are still standing from the beach town's building boom post-World War II. When you need a break from the beach, meander the streets to check out the unusual architecture, or learn about it at the Doo Wop Preservation League Museum.

Courtesy of Mark Havens

Cape May

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At the very tip of New Jersey's shoreline is Cape May, an incredibly charming town that actually burned to the ground in 1878. It wasn't until after the fire that the beautiful Victorian beach houses were built and remain today as homes and bed and breakfasts. For folks really looking for small-beach charm, note that there are no commercial chains in Cape May. That may be why NJ.com named it the best beach in the state. Try to make a trip to Cape May Point and the lighthouse. If you're really feeling adventurous, hop on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, which will shoot you (and your car) over to Delaware's Lewes Beach in 1.5 hours.

Lewes Beach

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This super small beach town was established in 1631, so it's filled with plenty of historic homes like the 18th-century Colonel David Hall House and the classic Thomas Country Store dating back to the year 1800. Need a place to stay? Dogfish Head Brewery opened its hip, beer-themed motel in Lewes in 2014. Fun tip: Consider traveling here via the Cape May-Lewes ferry. You can take your car.

A post shared by Andrew Chen (@andrew3sixteen) on

Rehoboth Beach

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Rehoboth Beach is the largest beach resort town in Delaware, but it's only one square mile. The mile-long boardwalk looks over the often-crowded beach—you're better off exploring the many quaint shops on and off the main street. And don't forget that salt water taffy from Dolles.

Hint: If you want a less-packed beach, drive a little north to the next beach, Cape Henlopen State Park. The rarely crowded park offers camping, bikes, and a big white sand beach.

A post shared by Grace Meany (@howsweethesound) on

Dewey Beach

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Most folks head to the beach or shore to relax. Not so in Dewey Beach, where people come to party along the one-mile-long town that's only two blocks wide. While other beach towns tend to shut down after sunset, Dewey's bars and restaurants tend to stay open pretty late into the night.

A post shared by Michaela Lewis (@lewima4) on

Bethany Beach

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On a good day, you can drive to Bethany Beach from Philly in just over two hours, making it the final and southern-most beach town on this map. It's one of the more quiet, residential beaches in Delaware, which makes sense given its history: Bethany was first established in 1901 as a seaside meeting place for members of the Christian Church. Aside from the homes, it's just beach and bay here. But there is a cute shopping area with local shops and a farmers market.

A post shared by Jennifer Clark (@jennuhhhfur) on

Asbury Park

This beach town was established in 1871 by a New York City broom manufacturer who named the beach after Francis Asbury, the first American bishop for the Methodist church. Since then, Asbury Park has had a long history of being a progressive city, known for its music scene and growing gay community. Like many Jersey shore towns, Asbury Park went through some tough times during the 1980s and 1990s, but in recent years it's regained its popularity. Plus, the Stone Pony is a must-see for all the Springsteen fans out there.

#Saturday. ☁️☀️ #AsburyParkNow capture by @snapshotsfromsuzanne

A post shared by Asbury Park Now (@asburyparknow) on

Long Beach Island

Affectionately called LBI by locals, Long Beach Island stretches 18 miles and includes six small towns within it. All are worth a visit, but Beach Haven is where you'll find some remaining historic structures dating back to the 1800s, plus shopping and restaurants.

Brigantine Beach

A shipmate on Henry Hudson's ship said it best when they set sight on Brigantine in 1601: “This is a very good land to fall in with – a pleasant land to see.” At the time it was a popular fishing spot for the Lenni-Lenape tribe, and the island didn't really see development until the 1800s. Today, much of the history remains, from the Brigantine lighthouse to the occasional sighting of the many shipwrecks that occurred on this island. Atlantic City is a quick drive from here if you're looking for some night life.

A post shared by Suzanne Fluhr (@boomeresque2) on

Stone Harbor, NJ

Come to Stone Harbor to ogle the multi-million dollar mansions that dot the southern portion of Seven Mile Island. The two neighboring towns are considered some of the most affluent in the nation—the New York Times once described Stone Harbor as a place with "gleaming McMansions and elegant shops." And if you like Stone Harbor, you might also check out Avalon, its equally posh neighbor to the north.

Ocean City

Ocean City, New Jersey is often considered one of the best family-oriented beaches in the country. It was originally known as Peck's Island, after fisherman John Peck who used the beach to store freshly caught whales, according to the town's website. Today, taking a stroll along its 2.5-mile iconic boardwalk is a must. But if you're craving an ice-cold beer after a long day at the beach, you'll have to go elsewhere—Ocean City is a dry town.

Flickr user Kevin Jarrett

Strathmere Beach

Strathmere is New Jersey's little beach secret: It's the one beach that doesn't require buying beach tags. Go here if you want some real R&R, as it's much more secluded than other beaches along the Jersey shore. You won't find a bustling boardwalk or too many other things to do here besides lounge around on the beach.

A post shared by MIke Ruddy (@mxavier71) on

Wildwood Beach

Wildwood is a midcentury modern mecca, lined with Doo Wop-style motels that are still standing from the beach town's building boom post-World War II. When you need a break from the beach, meander the streets to check out the unusual architecture, or learn about it at the Doo Wop Preservation League Museum.

Courtesy of Mark Havens

Cape May

At the very tip of New Jersey's shoreline is Cape May, an incredibly charming town that actually burned to the ground in 1878. It wasn't until after the fire that the beautiful Victorian beach houses were built and remain today as homes and bed and breakfasts. For folks really looking for small-beach charm, note that there are no commercial chains in Cape May. That may be why NJ.com named it the best beach in the state. Try to make a trip to Cape May Point and the lighthouse. If you're really feeling adventurous, hop on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, which will shoot you (and your car) over to Delaware's Lewes Beach in 1.5 hours.

Lewes Beach

This super small beach town was established in 1631, so it's filled with plenty of historic homes like the 18th-century Colonel David Hall House and the classic Thomas Country Store dating back to the year 1800. Need a place to stay? Dogfish Head Brewery opened its hip, beer-themed motel in Lewes in 2014. Fun tip: Consider traveling here via the Cape May-Lewes ferry. You can take your car.

A post shared by Andrew Chen (@andrew3sixteen) on

Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach is the largest beach resort town in Delaware, but it's only one square mile. The mile-long boardwalk looks over the often-crowded beach—you're better off exploring the many quaint shops on and off the main street. And don't forget that salt water taffy from Dolles.

Hint: If you want a less-packed beach, drive a little north to the next beach, Cape Henlopen State Park. The rarely crowded park offers camping, bikes, and a big white sand beach.

A post shared by Grace Meany (@howsweethesound) on

Dewey Beach

Most folks head to the beach or shore to relax. Not so in Dewey Beach, where people come to party along the one-mile-long town that's only two blocks wide. While other beach towns tend to shut down after sunset, Dewey's bars and restaurants tend to stay open pretty late into the night.

A post shared by Michaela Lewis (@lewima4) on

Bethany Beach

On a good day, you can drive to Bethany Beach from Philly in just over two hours, making it the final and southern-most beach town on this map. It's one of the more quiet, residential beaches in Delaware, which makes sense given its history: Bethany was first established in 1901 as a seaside meeting place for members of the Christian Church. Aside from the homes, it's just beach and bay here. But there is a cute shopping area with local shops and a farmers market.

A post shared by Jennifer Clark (@jennuhhhfur) on