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In the 1920s, a small stretch of boardwalk and a merry-go-round were built along Ocean City’s shore. Two Ferris wheels, several looping roller coasters, and a century later, the skyline may be more dramatic, but the town’s appeal remains just as wholesome. Amusement park rides and waterslides make Ocean City’s wooden boardwalk (rebuilt in 2018), one of the Jersey Shore’s most popular spots. Its 8-mile-long white-sand beach has plenty of space to build sandcastles or spot hermit crabs. Visitors should keep in mind that Ocean City is a dry town, meaning you can’t buy or drink alcohol in public within the city limits, though it’s fine to bring it in from elsewhere and drink in private.
Several major cities are within a short drive of Ocean City. The closest airport is Atlantic City International (ACY) in New Jersey, about 20 miles away. You can also fly into the airports in Philadelphia (PHL) 70 miles away, or further out, in Newark, NJ (119 miles), or New York City (roughly 150 miles away). Buses also run regularly between Ocean City and Atlantic City or New York City. You will likely want to rent a car to get from the airport, though rideshares are available too. In town, most major spots are within walking or biking distance.
Summer is peak season here: From June through late August, temperatures range from the 70s up to the 90s Fahrenheit, with periods of high humidity lasting into the evening. Bring sunscreen and bug spray in summer, especially if you plan to hike. Hurricane season lasts from mid-August through October, and temperatures cool down through fall. Winter’s 40-degree days and occasional snow shut down most of the boardwalk’s rides, though some indoor arcades and shops remain open. Spring temperatures are mild, in the 60s and 70s, but passing showers can put a damper on beach days.
Ocean City’s beaches are among the cleanest along the Jersey Shore. In the high season, the sand is swept daily and lifeguards keep watch from regular intervals. The water in summer is warm and generally calm enough to swim, kayak, and paddleboard. You can rent gear, umbrellas, and beach-accessible wheelchairs at several spots along the beach. In summer, anyone older than 12 will need to pay a beach access fee; buy daily or weekly tags on the boardwalk or from an inspector on the beach.
It’s worth getting up early to rent a bike or surrey for a cruise along the boardwalk, allowed only before noon in summer. By midday, the boardwalk is in high gear, though it’s so wide it rarely feels crowded. The two amusement parks feature a good mix of kiddie and thrill rides, from the original 1920s carousel to a new 120-foot-tall roller coaster (tickets can be purchased per ride, though the bundles are a better deal). With water slides, a lazy river, and a pirate-themed playground, the OC Waterpark can take a whole day to explore.
On the south end of town, this 341-acre coastal park is the counterpoint to the neon-lit boardwalk. A series of short hiking trails wind through the sand dunes and tall grasses, with views of the ocean and wetlands. The beach is accessible only at low tide, so check the tide report to time your visit, then bring a picnic, settle in, and watch for migratory birds. Swimming isn’t allowed here, though kayaking or fishing (with a permit) are.