Heat ripples the air. Stomachs growl. Cajun-spiced shrimp hit the grill. Italian sausages,
sizzling and browned, sidle up to soft
buns and are happily smothered by fried
peppers. Oysters glisten on their half
shells. Bright red lobsters are cracked to
reveal luscious meat. Welcome to Bradley
Bradley Beach is a quiet Shore retreat,
but when Lobsterfest rolls into town
each year for one summer weekend, the
boardwalk booms. The 2014 event attracted some 30,000 attendees, nearly
nine times Bradley’s year-round population, which hovers around 4,300.
Lobsterfest sprawls along the Bradley Beach boardwalk, a walkway of
honeycomb-shaped paving stones. (
Admission and activities are free, but food
and beverages must be bought.) With
more than 100 food and craft vendors,
it’s a hive of activity.
In one shaded tent last year, teens
poked through sports memorabilia.
Nearby, a young woman sipped a liquid
concoction from a foot-tall, green plastic
goblet while her friend tried on stone
rings. Children shoved Frozen-themed
trinkets into their parents’ hands and
headed for the inflatable obstacle course
and its 15-foot slide.
Cathy Smith, of Sayreville, a first-time
Lobsterfest vendor last year, hawked her
hand-decorated and personalized wind
chimes. “When you hear the chime, it’s
time for a glass of wine,” she said. Makes
sense: The chimes are made from recycled wine bottles. “I love Bradley Beach
so far,” she said.
Mike Petrie, a Lobsterfest attendee
from Westfield, bit into a lobster roll.
“Fresh and delicious,” he said, wiping
butter from his fingers. “It’s all claw
meat, no filler.”
Lobsterfest returns June 27 and 28,
but for most of the summer, Bradley Beach
will be its normal, low-key self. The town
traces its roots to 1871, when William B.
Bradner and James A. Bradley, developers
of nearby Asbury Park, purchased 54 acres
of waterfront property south of
Ocean Grove. They dubbed it
Ocean Park, but wanting
to distinguish it from its
neighbor, they renamed
it Bradley Beach.
The town soared in
popularity in the 1920s
with flashy hotels, wa-
terfront pools and seaside shopping. But
those days are long gone. Today’s Bradley
Beach is warm, intimate and inviting.
It’s a place for vacationers drawn to the
Shore’s simple pleasures.
“It’s a really great Shore town,” says
Sean Trupo, a Philadelphia resident who
spends weekends at his father’s house in
Bradley Beach. “It’s one of the few where it
feels like the people are here year-round.”
Mornings in Bradley Beach start with
a blissful jog or leisurely stroll along the
mile-long boardwalk, which stretches
from artsy Ocean Grove at the north end
to tonier Avon-by-the-Sea at the south-
ern border. The boardwalk also invites
bicyclists, but only until 10 AM. On your
jaunt, you can pause to watch the bocce
players at Fourth Avenue, or pick up a
beach read at one of the three Little Free
Libraries, courtesy of the Bradley Beach
The Fifth Avenue Gazebo, rebuilt
after Hurricane Sandy, is the ideal place
to sit in the shade and catch up on reading—or just catch your breath.
To catch some rays, take a spot on
Bradley’s soft, white sands. Bradley was
the first community in the country to is-
sue beach badges, starting in 1929. Back
then, the tin badge was free for
residents and hotel guests;
day visitors paid a small
fee. Today, daily beach
passes are $8. You can
also rent chairs and
umbrellas. Newark and
Second avenues have
An intimate Shore hamlet opens its arms
to lobster lovers. By Maryrose Mullen
Lobster is the main attraction for
many Lobsterfest revelers, including first-time attendee Carrie-Ann
Solana, left, of Ocean Grove. A
vendor’s sign (below) testifies to
the variety of cuisine from the sea.