Every summer, visitors flock to the beach as they look to get away with their families. There’s no better place to take your family than Ocean City, New Jersey.
In 2022, New Jersey experienced a remarkable surge in tourism with 114.6 million visitors, a 99% return to pre-pandemic levels. Visitor spending also increased to $45.4 billion, a 98% rebound compared to 2019.
In other words, no matter how you measure it, going to the shore is an important part of what makes New Jersey thrive.
While we’re confident that you’ll come visit us sometime during the summer, we also want to help you have a blast when you do. That’s why today we’re focusing on beach games. While many consider beach activities — swimming, sun bathing or building a sandcastles — to be self-explanatory, we know that just getting the kids out of the minivan and into the sand isn’t always enough.
Therefore, we’re putting together this comprehensive guide on things to do at the beach. Included are our favorite summer beach games for thrilling family beach days. They’re fun, are mostly free — though some may require a few toys — and they’re great for kids and adults of all ages.
So don’t worry about what to do at the shore. Pack the sunscreen and beach towels and get ready to have some fun in the sun with the whole family!
Two things that kids are always excited about at the shore are finding shells and digging in the sand. So why not encourage the little ones to combine both? Task them with creating the biggest and wildest seashell art that they can. Let them know that when they’re done, you’re going to memorialize their masterpiece with a photograph that will become one of the defining documents from your vacation.
Kids are very creative, but often they need specific parameters to help them channel that creativity. That’s what makes this such a good activity. It’s not actually challenging and they can’t really do it wrong. But by telling them that you want it to be a certain size and, if they need a little help, giving them a subject to present, you’ll get them excited for the task. Now they will have a certain number of shells that they’ll need to collect. They will then have to take time to arrange them intentionally rather than just dumping them haphazardly.
Just make sure you are encouraging them for art’s sake and not pitting siblings against each other. If your kids are especially good at cooperative activities, you can even ask them to make one masterpiece rather than multiple individual works.
Pictionary is a classic game that almost everyone knows how to play. But if you need a refresher, here’s the gist. One person is in charge of getting other players to guess a common term or phrase. They’re allowed to draw, but can’t speak or use letters or numbers. You can either divide into teams or just have one person be the drawer and have everyone else trying to guess.
The nice thing about sand Pictionary is you don’t need any equipment whatsoever. All you need is a canvas of sand and a finger. If you have younger ones who might have a limited vocabulary, cater all the clues to things they can find at the shore. You can even add a twist by playing near the waves, forcing people to work against a “tidal clock!”
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your own family rules. Once you’ve hit upon something that really works for your crew, solidify it moving forward and you’ll have your own special version for years to come.
This is basically musical chairs, but with a fun beach twist. Instead of chairs, set out towels — one less than the number of players. Then pick out one of your favorite beach jams on your smartphone of portable radio. Have everyone circle the towels until you stop the music. When the music stops, everyone rushes to sit on a towel, and whoever remains standing is out. Remove a towel and play another round with those that remain.
To make it a little harder, require that players lay down on their backs on the towel, making sure that no part of them is touching sand. This will surely make for some zany struggles as players jostle for the last spot.
Many of us probably remember the crab walk from gym class. Just like walking on all fours, except instead of having your back in the air, it’s your stomach that’s facing up. You probably remember how tough this is, so this is especially good if you have some high energy kids.
This activity is especially well suited for the beach since crash landings are common when crab walking. While gym floors may make for sore bottoms, the sand allows kids to try and move a little faster without the fear of falling over.
Kids will also love watching parents trying their own crab walk. And while parents may be likely to beat little ones at a foot race, a kid’s lower center of gravity actually gives them an advantage when crab walking, which is a nice way to even the playing field during intra-family competitions.
Remember skee-ball from your childhood afternoons at the arcade? A cross between bowling and shuffleboard, players roll a wooden ball down an alley in an attempt to ramp it into a number of different holes, with each hole having a different assigned score.
Well, if you have some small plastic balls (such as whiffle balls) you can make your own skee-ball alley out of sand. Just start by building a mound out of sand. Then dig some whole in the face of the mound. Next, flatten an alley in front of the mound, and include some dug out ditches as gutters.
Depending on the age of the kids, you can make it as difficult or easy as you want. Younger ones will be more than happy to try to roll the ball into the hole, regardless of the score. Older kids might want to make some more complicated rules and challenge themselves to top each other’s scores.
If you have a larger ball, try this easy variation on beach skee-ball. Simply make your own bowling alley in the sand, using the empty water bottles that you’ve been collecting over the day. Don’t fret if you don’t have exactly 10 bottles. Just work with what you’ve got. If you want an easier scoring system, count strikes as two points, spares as 1 and everything else as 0.
Here is another variation of a classic board game that’s right at home on the beach. Instead of colored circles, construct your own four by four board with four different symbols, such as “x” or “o.” Then find some way to select what body part — right foot, left foot, right hand and left hand — and where to put it. Eventually, your kids will be so tied up in knots that they’ll fall into a giggling fit. Blessedly, the sand will cushion any falls!
You can buy a set of plastic over-sized beach golf clubs, but even a single whiffle ball and a piece of drift wood is enough to set up your own beach links. Just dig a hole — make it bigger for younger ones — and designate a tee box somewhere else on the beach. If you want to put in a little extra effort, you can even make a few traps. Set your kids to digging some pits that will serve as hazards. You can even arrange your course so it sits next to the water, which will give you a water hazard to work with.
Just make sure you’re being mindful of your neighbors. While everyone on the beach knows that there will be kids playing, they might not appreciate being hit in the head with a whiffle ball. So try to set your hole up in such a way that everyone can have a good time without worrying about having to yell “fore!”
This is similar, except instead of trying to get a ball in the hole, your goal is to hit an object with a frisbee. Just put a stick or an umbrella in the sand and then set the tee box somewhere else. Then you throw the frisbee towards the object, trying to do so with as few throws as possible.
The same warning applies — in fact, it might be an even bigger concern with this variation. You don’t want to set your hole up in the midst of a crowd of vacation goers and run the risk of hitting someone with an errant frisbee.
In many ways, limbo is the perfect beach activity, seeing as it originated from the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Now that kids are coming to the beach with pool noodles in hand, it is easy to convert the noodle into a limbo poll.
This is an especially good way to encourage your kids to get an inadvertent workout. Because limbo requires players to try to get under a bar by bending backwards, staying on their feet while easing their bellies under the noodle, it is a great way to work on flexibility.
Plus, like so many of the games on this list, the soft sand makes tumbles far less of a concern.
Bocce ball is an Italian classic, and generally involves a specially designed bocce ball set. However, if you just want to make your own set, the rules are simple and you can use any ball that you have on hand.
First, throw a small ball some distance ahead of the players. Next, other players take turns trying to get their larger balls as close to the target ball as possible. Typically, players have multiple balls that are color-coded. But if you’re improvising, just have each player have one ball or one smaller ball and one big one. You can make your own family rules that you can pull out for future beach vacations.
The Beach Ball Relay Race is a high-energy game that combines teamwork and coordination. Families form teams and each team lines up in a row along the shore. Participants pass a beach ball overhead and between their legs as they relay it. The objective is to be the first team to complete the relay without dropping the ball.
Communication and cooperation become paramount in keeping the ball moving seamlessly as family members work together. The Beach Ball Relay Race fosters a sense of unity and strengthens the family bond as everyone shares in the thrill of passing the ball successfully from one end of the line to the other.
The Beach Bubble Contest is a delightful and enchanting game that captivates both young and old. Parents bring along bubble wands and a container of bubble solution, sparking the imaginations of their little ones. Family members of all ages can participate in creating the biggest or most unique bubbles, engaging in friendly competition and playful interaction.
The shimmering bubbles floating in the air reflect the joy and wonder on everyone’s faces as they chase and marvel at the floating spheres. The Beach Bubble Contest brings laughter and excitement and reminds everyone to appreciate nature’s simple joys.
This fun twist on volleyball is a great way to entertain the whole family. Beach Towel Volleyball is a fun-filled variation of traditional volleyball that suits the beach setting perfectly. Families set up a makeshift volleyball net using beach towels tied between poles or held by family members. Players divide into teams and use a beach ball or lightweight ball to volley over the net.
The softness of the beach towels adds a unique element to the game, requiring players to adjust their techniques. Beach Towel Volleyball encourages friendly competition, communication and camaraderie as participants strategize and work together to keep the ball in play. The game’s relaxed atmosphere and laughter-filled rallies make it a memorable experience for everyone involved.
The Beach Water Bucket Challenge is a refreshing and team-oriented game that cools off everyone on a hot day. Parents organize family members into teams and each team lines up along the shore. A large bucket filled with water is placed at the front of each line. Each player holds a cup or small container. On the signal “Go,” the first player fills their cup with water and passes it overhead to the person behind them.
The water is passed down the line from one player to the next until it reaches the last player, who pours it into the bucket. The objective is for the team to fill their bucket with water as quickly as possible or to have the most water in their bucket after a set time. The Beach Water Bucket Challenge encourages communication, cooperation and camaraderie as family members work together to achieve the goal. The splashy and spirited play guarantees laughter and shared joy, making it a memorable and refreshing beach game for families.
It’s good to keep the brain busy during your free time too. The Beach Memory Game challenges family members to flex their memory muscles. Parents arrange various beach items on a tray or blanket, giving participants a brief moment to study the objects. They then cover the tray or swiftly remove the items, prompting family members to recall as many items as they can remember.
The game enhances cognitive abilities, stimulating the brain as participants try to recollect each item. Friendly competition arises as family members compare their memories and celebrate their successes. The Beach Memory Game fosters a sense of accomplishment and teamwork as everyone works together to remember the objects on the tray.
The Beach Water Balloon Piñata promises a refreshing and thrilling experience that combines the fun of a piñata with the coolness of water play. Parents hang water-filled balloons using strings or rope from a tree branch or pole. Family members take turns being blindfolded and handed a bat or stick to break the water balloons. Blindfolded participants rely on their teammates’ directions to locate and strike the balloons, eagerly anticipating the following splashes and laughter. The Beach Water Balloon Piñata offers a delightful way to beat the heat and create lasting memories of shared laughter and excitement at the beach.
These beach games are specifically tailored to cater to the youngest members of your family. As they splash, giggle and explore the sandy shores, the following games will help create treasured memories for toddlers and parents alike:
While many of these family beach games would be great for the whole family, we do want to point out a couple of fun adult and teen beach games. Like our games for kids, we choose games that require very little equipment, meaning you can play all of these on a budget and don’t necessarily need to plan ahead of time.
Now that you are equipped with a number of great and simple games, all you have left to do is book your vacation. We are your one stop site for all the best information on where to stay, how to book your room or beach home and what to do once you arrive in Ocean City, New Jersey. So contact us today and get your trip to OCNJ booked and put on your calendar. On the other hand, if you’re ready to begin booking, start right away while that perfect rental is still available.
So what are you waiting for? Your family deserves a break. Your kids are ready to cut loose. And there’s nothing that can compare to watching your loved ones smiling and laughing as they enjoy all that Ocean City, NJ, has to offer. Book your Ocean City, New Jersey vacation today!