The best bargains at the Jersey Shore

Ferris wheel in Ocean City. Photo courtesy of the City of Ocean City, N.J.

You don’t need to break the bank to have a great time at the Jersey Shore this summer.

Every dollar you spend on one of our New Jersey beach bargains will be a dollar well-spent.

So before you take to the sand with the MTV gang, check out our favorite deals on everything from wine and pub grub to thrills and beach chairs.

Bargain Beach. Strathmere

Two costs are typically associated with going to a Jersey Shore beach: price of a beach tag and price of parking. But in Strathmere, a sliver of a town that shares its island with the more popular and populated Sea Isle City, no tags are required and parking is free, as long as you don’t mind pulling up on the side of a two-lane road.

Bargain Big Italian Meal. Angelo’s Fairmont TavernAngelo's Fairmont Tavern in Atlantic City

You can drop serious cash on a big Italian meal in Atlantic City, especially if you’re going to a celebrity chef’s spot in one of the casinos. Or you could save yourself some money and get buckets of ambiance at Angelo’s, a mom-and-pop place that even makes its own wine. 2300 Fairmount Ave., Atlantic City;; 609-344-2439

Bargain Gear. Hoy’s 5&10

This throwback to the days of dime stores is a one-stop shop for all your vacation needs, from toothpaste to flip-flops to hermit crabs to beach games. Prices are a little higher than at Walmart, but the four Hoy’s are blocks from the beach, which saves gas and a traffic-plagued drive back to the mainland. Hoy’s has the absolutely best prices on beach chairs in the shore area. 34th Street and West Avenue, Ocean City, 732 Asbury Ave., Ocean City; 219 96th St., Stone Harbor; 2800 Dune Dr., Avalon

Bargain Lemonade. Jakes Crab Shack

The big yellow lemonade stand outside Jakes Crab Shack in Belmar serves the best fresh-squeezed lemonade you can find down the shore for only $3. It’s a steal (and their fresh squeezed OJ -- $4 -- isn’t bad either). 500 Ocean Ave., Belmar;; 732-894-3502

Bargain Stay for Pet Owners. Billmae Cottage in Cape MayBillmae Cottage in Cape May

Skip the kennel fees by bringing your pooch with you to the Billmae Cottage, which is not a B&B but a B&D -- a bed and dog. Not only do they welcome dogs, but in season when the inn is full, they’ll have a yappy hour with free appetizers and cocktails for the adults and a meet-and-greet time for the dogs. You can also take your four-legged friend to one of the Cape May beaches along the Delaware, like Higbee Beach. 1015 Washington St., Cape May;; 609-898-8558

Bargain Wine. The Wine Loft at Pier Village

This Long Branch store knocks the price on select bottles of wine in half every Thursday night. Granted, these aren’t bottles of Two Buck Chuck, but if you want to try a good wine at a low cost while on vacation, this is the place to do it. There’s free live jazz, too. 32 Laird St., Long Branch;; 732-222-7770

Bargain ATM. Wawa

This chain of convenience stores from Middletown to Cape May is better than any 7-Eleven. Coffee is under $2, hoagies clock in at about $4, and it has every chip, soda and juice imaginable. But what makes Wawa really stand out is that there’s no fee for using one of its automated teller machines. So you can replenish your cash supply for free unless your bank charges a fee for using an out-of-network ATM. Even so, you’ll only get dinged for one fee, not two.

Bargain Thrill. Thunder Over the Boardwalk AirshowThunder Over the Boardwalk Airshow in Atlantic City

Atlantic City hosts the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, U.S. Army Golden Knights and other aerial delights on Aug. 17. Watch from the beach or boardwalk for free. If you want to avoid the crowds and traffic that follows the show, go the day before to watch the practice runs.

Bargain Pub Grub. Concord Café

My boyfriend and I had dinner at this Avalon restaurant -- with drinks -- for less than $25. And this isn’t crappy quick-fix food. You can choose from buffalo French fries, personal pizzas or the build-a-burger menu. The only drawback is you’ll wait for a table during the summer if you’re going for dinner. 7800 Dune Dr.., Avalon;; 609-368-5505

Bargain Fill Up. Garden State Parkway

If gas prices are going up you can skip the volatility by getting your gas on the Garden State Parkway. By law, those gas stations can only change their prices once a week, and they do so on Fridays. You can download a PDF of toll locations and costs at:

Bargain Race. Asbury Park Relay Marathon

If you’re tired of paying $200 to run a marathon, check out the Asbury Park Relay Marathon on Oct. 16. If you sign up by July 31, it’s just $50. Sure you can sign up in a team ($40 per team member if you register by July 31), but there’s also a team-of-one option. The course is the same Asbury Park loop run eight times. This keeps the cost down because the race organizers only need to hire police for one area of one town. It also allows your friends and family to support your marathon effort the entire way.

Jen A. Miller is author of The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May (W.W. Norton & Co., $19.95) Follow her adventures -- or misadventures -- at

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