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Northern Monmouth Coast Road Trip Tips

The latest update for Northern Monmouth Coast Road Trip Tips is written by Lindsay Podolak.

The Northern Monmouth Coast (specifically, the stretch of Route 36 from Sandy Hook to Keyport) has a different feel than the rest of the shore. The terrain is hilly, the beaches are smaller and, of course, there’s a dramatic view of the NYC skyline at nearly every turn. The towns that dot the coast feel more like a community, and each has a different personality.

Here are just a few ways to spend a fun afternoon sampling the different sites each town has to offer.


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Highlands

monmouth, monmouth coast

You can’t have a bad meal in this town, especially when it comes to seafood. Off The Hook Restaurant is a local landmark with a patio that overlooks the skyline, where you can catch live music and daily bar specials Thursdays through Sundays. Another can’t-miss icon is Bahrs Landing. Up for something different? Head to Chilangos, a restaurant that offers Mexican fare and 260 types of tequila. Of course, if you’re going to walk up Twin Lights State Historic Site, do it before you hit the tequila.
Why I like it: Bahrs Landing is currently celebrating one hundred years in business. If a seafood joint has lasted that long, you know it’s got to be good!


Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook

monmouth, monmouth coast

Pay respect to those who lost their lives in 9/11 with a quiet moment at the memorial in this park, where you’ll also find views of Sandy Hook, the Raritan Bay and the New York City skyline. Did you know that at 266 feet, this overlook has the highest natural elevation on the Atlantic seaboard, from Maine to the Yucatan?
Why I like it: Mount Mitchill also has a playground so the kids can have a treat after your hike.


Atlantic Highlands

monmouth, monmouth coast

Take Ocean Boulevard to Bayview Ave, or head back onto Route 36 to get to this town, which offers a small main street with a friendly vibe. Pick up a cup of joe from 1st Cup Coffee then head over to treasure hunt at St. Agnes Thrift Shop, which is housed in a grand old Victorian home. Or enjoy a beer at Carton Brewing and, if the timing is right, check out a craft fair or vintage baseball game at Strauss Mansion at Atlantic Highlands Historical Society.
Side trip: Love to bike? You can also pick up the Henry Hudson Bike Trail in Atlantic Highlands, which runs all the way through Keyport.
Why I like it: If you’re into beautifully preserved Victorian homes, this is the town for you. Check their website if you want to find the next scheduled walking tour.


Belford

Belford

Located just off of Route 36 is a small strip mall with a great restaurant: Belford Bistro. The bistro serves inventive dishes like its Day Boat Scallops & Pork Belly, or if you’re into pasta, try the Gnocchi & Angry Shrimp. Afterwards, pick up a treat from Strollo’s Lighthouse, a summertime institution serving soft ice-cream and Italian ice, or kick back at the Belford Brewing Company. Make sure to browse the boutique, Refinement, which features consigned designer pieces along with creative gifts. Make a stop at the Bayshore Waterfront Park in Port Monmouth, which borders Belford, home to a fishing pier, tidal creeks, miles of beaches and amazing views of New York City’s skyline.
Why I like it: This tiny, quaint town is someplace you might not otherwise stop unless you were road-tripping. Explore it for a few hours – you’ll never know what great stores you’ll find!


Keansburg

Keansburg Amusement Park

Refresh with a bubble tea at Kazia Rae’s Chicken & Bubble Tea where there are 144,000 possible flavor combinations. The burger menu is extensive, too, with options like the Peanut Butter & Bacon Burger, said to be a favorite of Elvis Presley. Room for dessert? You can’t go wrong with a pastry from Dixie Lee Bakery. If you’ve brought the kids along, you’ll want to spend at least half a day at the Keansburg Amusement Park, which offers a nice mix of kiddie rides and attractions for the older ones.
Why I like it: If it’s a hot day, head over to Runaway Rapids for some waterpark fun. It’s located in the same complex as the amusement park, but you’ll have to purchase a separate ticket.


Hazlet

Hazlet

Pick up some treats for later at Chocolate Village (we’re partial to the chocolate-covered s’mores) then rediscover your lost love of bowling at Brunswick Zone, both at Airport Plaza Shopping Center on 36. Veterans Memorial Park is also a nice place to stop. Bring a picnic lunch or just watch the ducks swim in the pond.
Why I like it: Chocolate Village offers more than ready-made treats. It also has a full section of candy-making supplies for the dessert chefs out there!


Keyport

Keyport

From adorable shops to an array of great restaurants to the picturesque promenade, there’s a lot to love in Keyport. The Place and Honey Hole Antiques have vintage finds galore — enough to take up your afternoon. If there’s time, pop into the Free Public Library of Keyport which is located in a quaint historic building, as is the incredible Old Glory Kitchen + Spirits. Housed in a former church, this restaurant offers up casual fare with a great beer and cocktail list.
Why I like it: During the summer, you can enjoy movie nights every Thursday at the waterfront.