The Spring Lake beach in central New Jersey is nearly perfect. Summers there are the stuff of dreams. For a few glorious months each year, it is perfect. Having grown up a mile away, over in the next beach town, Sea Girt, I have been lucky to spend countless days, playing on the beach here. Refreshingly, the town and the Spring Lake beach are not as stuffy as its southern neighbor. The makeup of each town is nearly identical in their Irish Catholic roots. This area is affectionately known as the “Irish Riviera” due to the disproportionately large Irish-American population, with Spring Lake having the highest percentage of any town in the US.
This small little coastal town had slightly less than 3000 residents in the 2010 census. This figure represents a drop of nearly 500 souls (-16%) since the census a decade earlier in 2000. Could this be possibly be explained by more and more McMansions popping up? Spring Lake was listed as the 240th Best Place to Live in New Jersey in 2010. It begs the question, was that list compiled by an algorithm that weighted affordability above all else or a real person that visited this great town on the beach?
Where is Spring Lake Beach?
Jaws the Prequel: Spring Lake Beach 1916
The Spring Lake Beach has been in the American subconscious for over a century, with most people never knowing this small town’s name. Despite denials by the author, Peter Bentley, a rash of shark attacks in 1916 off the New Jersey coast is widely believed to inspire the novel Jaws. The attacks were up and down an 80 mile stretch of the Atlantic and included five unfortunate victims. The second victim was swimming a bit more than a football shore from the beach. The victim was a young Swiss belhop for the Essex and Sussex hotel, aged 27 years old.
Every Memorial Day weekend since 1977, Spring Lake hosts the annual 5 mile run along the beach. Runners World says it is one of the best races in America. There are over 10k racers in this fun event. Growing up, I thought the race t-shirts were the coolest piece of clothing one could own.
Like Sea Girt and Belmar to the north, the boardwalk fronting the Spring Lake beach is beyond cool. The boardwalk has been ripped up countless times over the years and is always replaced by something bigger and better that will last. These days, its not even made of wood anymore, so gone are the days of painful splinters from walking barefoot. Supposedly, these 2 miles of non-commercial boardwalk are the longest in New Jersey.
It’s obviously a good place to run on the boardwalk. The swimming is great too, if you can forget the Jaws theme for a while. There are 2 appropriately named public pools, North and South end, along the Spring Lake Beach. In general, this should be considered one of the best beach towns in the United States.
Je ne sais quoi