Northeast
Manasquan sand, Tuesday, July 9, 2019. (Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Which Shore beach has the best sand? The devil’s in the details.

If you're an avid beach-goer, you likely have a favorite place to park your beach chair and catch some rays. And even if you only make a few day trips each summer, we bet you throw your beach towel or blanket on the sand in the same spot, give or take a few yards if your go-to place is packed that day.

But have you ever really thought about the sand itself? After all, you're laying on it, your kids are building sandcastles with it, you trudge all your beach gear through it, and it gets everywhere.

The sands from one Jersey Shore beach to the next vary widely, and everyone has a preference on what's the best. So we visited several beaches, from Sandy Hook to Cape May, to find out just how different they are from each other, and why.

The beach sand study

Beachgoers relax on Manasquan beach, Tuesday, July 9, 2019. (Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

The beach sand study

We visited 12 beaches along the coast of New Jersey in July. The sand samples we gathered were taken approximately 10 feet from the wrack line -- the line of debris left on the beach by high tide. This process was used to keep the samples as consistent as possible from beach to beach, as the sand at the dunes will naturally be different from the sand at the water’s edge.

We took mason jars filled with our beach sand samples to Stewart Farrell, director of Stockton University's Coastal Research Center, who helped us analyze each sample for mineral content, and in some cases, the actual size of the grains of sand we collected.

Check out details on each of the beaches we visited, listed in order from largest grains to smallest.

Asbury Park

Ashley Boulivard, of Elizabeth, relaxes on the sand in Asbury Park, Tuesday, July 9, 2019. (Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Asbury Park

Asbury Park's sand grains are an average size of 1.5 mm in diameter, the largest of all the beaches we visited. It was a bit rough on our feet as we walked on it -- not a bad thing if you're looking for a free pedicure.

Facebook user Emily Bader, of Asbury Park, said, "I love AP's sand. Definitely soft and fine-grained, nice on the feet." Bader also mentioned that the sand gets "super hot" around noon, and as a result, "you see people running to the water by jumping between umbrella shadows."

Sand sample taken from the beach at the end of 4th Avenue.

Asbury Park sand. Inset shows Asbury Park sand at 40x magnification. (Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Grain size: Very coarse

Sand color: Medium tan overall, with mostly yellow- and brown-stained sand grains and some white and black grains

What it's made of: Mostly quartz and feldspar, with glauconite and magnetite

Last replenished: 2015-16


Manasquan

Caitlin McGowan, right, and J.B. play in the Manasquan sand, Tuesday, July 9, 2019. (Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Manasquan

Manasquan's sand was a little softer than Asbury Park's, but seemed to have more pebbles and shell fragments mixed in. The sand grains here are an average size of 1 mm in diameter.

Sand sample taken from the beach at the end of East Main Street.


Manasquan sand. Inset shows Manasquan sand at 40x magnification. (Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Grain size: Coarse

Sand color: Light to medium tan overall, with mostly white- and yellow-stained sand grains and some brown-stained and black grains

What it's made of: Mostly quartz and feldspar, with glauconite and magnetite

Last replenished: Spring 2014

Multimedia Specialist Lori M. Nichols walks on the sand in Sandy Hook, Tuesday, July 9, 2019. (Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Sandy Hook

The sand at Sandy Hook was the roughest on our feet, probably due to the large amount of angular, rather than rounded, sand grains. Rounded grains reflect a long history of abrasion from water and wind, so the angular grains of sand on this beach are newer than others.

However, the sand here is less likely to stick to you in large amounts because the grains are larger.

A lot of the sand here is actually beach fill from Long Branch and Monmouth Beach, which has been transported north to Sandy Hook by the current, according to Farrell.

Sand sample taken from South Beach - Area E.

Sandy Hook sand. Inset shows Sandy Hook sand at 40x magnification. (Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Grain size: Coarse

Sand color: Light tan overall, with mostly white and light yellow-stained sand grains and some black, amber and purple grains

What it's made of: Mostly quartz and feldspar, with some magnetite and glauconite, and trace amounts of zircon, rutile and garnet

A couple takes pictures in Seaside Heights, Tuesday, July 9, 2019. (Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Seaside Heights

The beach sand at Seaside Heights contained a lot of pebbles, small stones and large shell fragments, making it a little rough on your feet. But we also noticed some softer areas when walking around.

Sand sample taken from the beach between Hancock and Sheridan avenues.

Seaside Heights sand. Inset shows Seaside Heights sand at 40x magnification. (Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Grain size: Coarse

Sand color: Light tan overall, with mostly white and very light brown-stained sand grains and little amounts of black and brown- and yellow-stained grains

What it's made of: At least 90 percent quartz, with some feldspar and magnetite

Last replenished: January 2019 by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

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