Manasquan, New Jersey A Real Jersey Shore Community

Manasquan, New Jersey

 The Jersey Shore has received a lot of press in recent years, thanks in part to  the popularity of MTV's reality show Jersey Shore. Many New Jerseyans find the  TV show a mixed blessing, while the antics of Snooki, J. Woww, the Situation,  etc. have made for great entertainment and certainly helped to infuse much  needed cash into the local economy, most residents and annual visitors believe  their hijinks do not accurately portray the true character, beauty and charm of  the real Jersey Shore.  

 Just 35 minutes north of the Seaside Heights crash pad of the permanently-tanned  MTV stars is the charming community of Manasquan. This historic little beach  town has been a go-to destination for those seeking sea, surf and sand for  generations. Manasquan consists of beguiling little 1950s beach cottages passed  down from family to family; a nice marina and quaint neighborhoods just minutes  from the ocean.  

 Early History

 Located along the Atlantic Ocean at the southern end of Monmouth County,  Manasquan has been a settled community for more than 125 years. Native  Americans were the first to enjoy this land along the river, inlet, lakes,  streams and brooks. The Unamis (“Turtle People”) branch of the Lenni Lenape fished and hunted from the Rartitan River south to  Barnegat Bay, but these truly were the first people to summer on the Jersey  Shore. It was from their presence along the Manasquan River that the name would  be derived, although it would not be until 1887 that the name Manasquan would  become the borough's official name. The Native American word for island is  man-a-tah, squaw, meaning wife, han meaning stream, combined—Manatahsquawhan. Manasquan, literally meaning “stream of the island of squaw,” is the English pronunciation.  

 Until 1801, Manasquan was part of Shrewsbury, when Howell Township was formed.  In 1850, Ocean County was created from the southern part of Monmouth County,  and the following year, Wall Township separated from Howell. Soon after,  Manasquan ceded from Wall to become its own community. Crude roads and homes  were set up. Farming was also well underway by the early 19th Century. Soon  stores, a tavern and an inn were established.  

 Becoming a Resort Town

 By 1878 railroad service made Manasquan accessible to North Jersey and New York.  The village was growing along with the beachfront. Wooden bungalows began to  appear as summer visitors found Manasquan a wonderful place to relax, fish and  sea-bathe. By the 1920s, a mix of Victorian homes, seashore cottages, and beach  shacks dotted the shoreline.  

 In recent years, the number of vacationers declined, though the beaches are  still busy with swimmers, sunbathers and surfers. Many families though still  choose to make Manasquan their year-round home instead of just a summer  getaway. The proximity of the parkway, ferry service to Manhattan from nearby  Red Bank and a New Jersey Transit train stop in the center of town makes  Manasquan a convenient commuter town.  

 Things to Do

 Its downtown has many local attractions, including the Algonquin Arts Theatre, a  1938 movie house that has been converted to a professional performance space.  Though somewhat overwhelming in the summertime, the local bar and party scene  in the area between Brielle Road and Main Street is busy year-round especially  with local establishments such as Leggetts and The Osprey.  

 Bar-hopping, restaurants and shopping aren't the only things to do. The main  reason Manasquan is a popular destination is, of course, its proximity to the  ocean. You can beach-comb or cast a fishing line in the surf. And speaking of surf, Manasquan’s natural inlet affords surfers some of the best surfing on the Jersey Shore. If  surfing isn’t for you, how about a nice bike ride? The community’s bike path starts in Manasquan, just off East Main Street, and goes all the way  to Allaire State Park. Historic Allaire Village celebrates the colorful history  of the area and of the Howell Iron Works, which was an important employer  during the 1830s.

 With all that Manasquan has to offer it's no wonder that New Jersey Monthly  Magazine ranked it as the 22nd best place to live in its 2008 “Best Places to Live” annual survey. So why not head on down to Manasquan this summer for a beach  break—you may just decide to make this vacation destination your permanent address.    

 Liam P. Cusack is associate editor of The New Jersey Cooperator.