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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Beaching with a Baby - Long Beach Island, New Jersey

I went to Long Beach Island, New Jersey for three days/two nights with the hopes of writing a weekender's guide. But the reality? It was a few days spent relaxing at a beach house with friends - days spent on the sand and evenings spent back at the house cooking dinner together. 

It's a family-friendly beach vacation destination, the place you go to be with friends and family, to relax and unwind. 

I can't tell you a ton about what to see, where to eat, or what to do on the island but I think that's the beauty of it all. I can tell you a bit about the beaches and the island, a few popular things to do, and most importantly, how to make a beach vacation with a baby a little bit easier.

Long Beach Island

Long Beach Island

About Long Beach Island 

Long Beach Island (often referred to as "LBI") is an 18-mile long barrier island off the southern coast of New Jersey. The island is home to 6 different towns: Barnegat Light, Beach Haven, Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Twp, Ship Bottom, and Surf City. Here on LBI, you are never more than half a mile from the water or the other side of the island. The bayside is filled with docks and boaters while the ocean side is busy with beachgoers. The only access point to the island by land is a single causeway. LBI does not have a busy boardwalk and big attractions like some of the other Jersey beach towns (Atlantic City and Ocean City). 

It's the kind of place where you pack your beach wagon for the day - lunch, shade, kiddie pool, sunscreen, and a whole lot more. There are lifeguards along the beach so before you set up your beach camp for the day, make sure you are in a supervised area (between the flags by lifeguard stands). The area is known for large waves and rip tides so swimming in a lifeguard supervised area is always a good idea. 

If you are renting a house on the island, make sure you ask about beach passes. Street parking is free on LBI but, each town has its own beach badge that is required for beach access during lifeguard hours.

Fantasy Island Amusement Park LBI

Besides The Beach

We spent our time on the beach or at the house while visiting LBI. Our friends ventured out one day to take the kids to the water park and said it was the perfect size for kids. We drove down to Schooner's Wharf one afternoon to see a bit of the town and grab some icecream. Don't expect Atlantic City or Ocean City when you come to LBI but, there are a few adult and kid-friendly activities besides the beach. 
  • Fantasy Island Amusement Park
  • Thundering Surf Water Park & Adventure Golf
  • Schooner's Wharf Shopping Area 
  • Surflight Theatre
  • Barnegat Lighthouse State Park (and museum)

Beach with a baby

Beaching with a Baby

A February baby meant that by the time summer rolled around, he was the perfect age for beach adventures. He was 4-6 months old which meant he was old enough to be out of the newborn stage but young enough where he wasn't walking or crawling yet. I deemed 2021 our "Stationery Summer". I spent the season in a process of trial and error and by the time our LBI trip came around, we had a pretty good setup. 

Beaching with a baby can be (almost) as fun as it used to be as long as you are prepared. There are some vital accessories that turn a day at the beach into a fun afternoon instead of a nightmare. 
  • Beach Cart: You need a lot more "stuff" for a baby than you are used to. It's more than tanning oil and a cooler now. A beach cart is the best way to make sure you can bring all the supplies you need and easily. 
  • Jogging Stroller: While the beach cart is amazing for getting all of our gear down to the beach, it didn't help with getting the baby there. His jogging stroller was perfect for getting across the sand, and it also provided another shade place for him to nap. If you want to combine the beach cart and jogging stroller, there are a lot of great beach wagons that come with seating options for little ones. 
  • Beach Bag: Not just any bag, but a larger tote with a lot of pockets is perfect for having everything within arms reach. I like to have an extra zippered (waterproof) pouch for important things like diapers and formula. 
  • Shade: I like to bring a few options when it comes to the shade department because it's the most important thing. I bring two umbrellas for shade (for me holding the baby and for placing over the kiddy pool). I also bring a shaded playpen that is the perfect place for naptime away from the sand and in the shade
  • Blanket: A large towel or a big blanket is perfect to have a sand-free place to lay down a little one. We also brought a few extra swaddle blankets which really helped provide extra shade or cover up sun-exposed toes when needed. 
  • Beach Table: This seems a bit silly but having a pop-up mini table was key. With busy hands and sand, it was perfect to have a place to set something down, up out of reach and out of the sand. 
  • Fan: Our rechargeable stroller fan was essential in keeping Whitney cool on his way to the beach, or at the beach during those really hot days. 
  • Kiddie Pool: Little ones aren't going to cool off in an ocean-like LBI which has large waves and a strong surge. A blow-up kiddie pool was perfect to be able to let him splash around and cool off. I bought a bath seat that I placed in the pool which was essential for little ones who aren't sitting up independently yet. This kiddie pool was a huge hit and it kept the 6-month-old, the 2-year-old, and the 7-year-old cool in the shade. Find one that is easy to blow up and doesn't require a pump or four adults to blow up. 
  • Sunscreen, SPF clothes, and Hats: If your little one is 6 months or older, make sure you bring a baby-safe sunscreen. Hats and SPF clothing are also a must. 
  • Fluids/Food: Make sure you have extra fluids and foods (extra bottle/formula/breast milk/pouch/snacks. 
  • Toys: We had a few water-friendly toys to keep him occupied when he was awake or playing in the water. Keep a few new or special occasion toys in your beach bag in case you have a very fussy little one. 
  • Swim Diaper/Diapers/Wipes: Swim Diapers are essential if you are placing a little one in a kiddie pool. Make sure you have extra diapers and wipes for the in-between moments. 
  • Garbage Bag: With babies and all the extra things (food, diapers, etc) a garbage bag is essential. Throw an extra garbage bag in your beach bag and thank me later. 

Family Long Beach Island

Parenting has been all about learning to pivot, learning to adapt to doing the things you love with a little one. I found the best way to get out there and enjoy the things you love (with your new addition) is to force yourself to get out there and as much as possible. There were countless days I dragged Whitney to the beach, just him and I and an oversized bag of too many things. Not all days are good and there were more than one trips that ended rather quickly after they started. 

If you are looking for a family-friendly getaway, LBI is a great spot to unwind and enjoy the beach. It's quiet with large beaches that are great for spending the day. I hope this post helps you get out there in the sand with a little one and as always, reach out with any questions. 

Happy Beaching

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