Best County in New Jersey to Retire in Style: Middlesex County vs. Monmouth County

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Aerial view of Navesink Bay in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

10 minute read

What You’ll Gain From Reading This Article: This article provides a detailed comparison between Middlesex County and Monmouth County. It emphasizes factors like population, cost of living, recreational activities, and health care services, allowing readers to weigh their preferences and priorities for an optimal retirement experience.


Where do you envision yourself retiring? Answering that question can be tough, but finding the right answer is important for your quality of life. If you’re considering the Garden State for your retirement, then Central New Jersey could be a serious contender. Middlesex and Monmouth are two popular counties, known for their wineries, farms, rich culinary scenes, and bountiful outdoor activities. Each has a distinct personality and attracts retirees, but which is the best county in New Jersey for you?

Demographic and Economic Overview

Piscataway Pond in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Middlesex County

As of July 2022, Middlesex County is home to over 860,000 people. The overall cost of living in this area of New Jersey is lower than the state’s average, which could make it an attractive option if you’re prioritizing affordability in the Garden State. It’s worth noting that the cost of living here is 24.7% higher than the national average, according to Best Places. Also, the minimum income for a single person to live comfortably here is $60,800, according to the same report.

Monmouth County

The population in Monmouth County is smaller, at just under 650,000 people. The cost of living in this part of Central New Jersey is also lower than the state’s average, but like neighboring Middlesex County, the cost of living is higher than the national average. Best Places puts the minimum income for a single person to live comfortably in Monmouth County at $51,200, a little lower than Middlesex County.

Lifestyle and Amenities

Horses grazing at twilight on a ranch in Monmouth County, a contender for the best county in New Jersey.

If you’re looking for the best county in New Jersey, then you’ll want to consider your lifestyle goals. Both Middlesex County and Monmouth County have bountiful amenities for active adults, as well as options that will excite visiting family and friends.

Middlesex County Attractions

You’ll find plenty of cultural draws and entertainment options in the more urban parts of Middlesex County. You can visit the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick to immerse yourself in its vast collection. Additionally, if you’re interested in shopping, Edison is home to Menlo Park Mall. Middlesex County is also home to a few different golf courses beckoning anyone who wants to perfect their long and short games in retirement.

You can up your culinary game in Middlesex County by buying fresh ingredients from local farmers markets, which tend to run from early spring to fall. The county is also home to many farms and orchards that welcome visitors who want to enjoy fresh produce. When you’re in the mood to go out, you’ll find a variety of restaurants to satisfy whatever you might be craving. You can also explore the local wine culture through the area’s multiple vineyards.

Middlesex County offers a multitude of parks with amenities as well as walking and hiking trails. Additionally, the county has thousands of acres of conservation area, a big plus for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts. The county’s parks also host concerts and other events throughout the year, giving you the perfect reason to enjoy the outdoors. 

Monmouth County Attractions

Life in Monmouth County offers a blend of comfortable residential living and waterfront beauty as well as proximity to big metropolitan areas. Close to home, you can catch concerts and other live performances at several theaters and performing arts centers. You can also spend a day out wandering through shops and picking a local restaurant to try if you explore the downtown areas of cities like Freehold, Asbury Park, and Allentown. Also, history buffs can get to know local museums, like the New Jersey Maritime Museum and the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and Vietnam Era Museum.

The culinary scene in Monmouth County embraces fresh seafood, but you’ll also find local spots to dig into barbeque, brunch, pizza, and cuisines from around the world. Whether you have an adventurous palate or you prefer to stick to your favorite comfort foods, you’ll quickly find favorite local spots for eating out.

Additionally, Monmouth County has no shortage of beaches. You can find a quiet sandy stretch to relax and listen to the sound of the waves. Or you can explore one of the area’s bustling boardwalks.

While the beaches are a big part of outdoor life in this part of New Jersey, they aren’t the only way to make the most of the outdoors. You can golf, hike, bike, and boat in several spots. For example, Shark River Park in Wall has a playground, spots for picnicking, opportunities for fishing, and more than eight miles of trails. If you’re in the mood for a pop of color, then be sure to check out Deep Cut Gardens with 54 acres planted of blooms.

Central New Jersey Climate

When moving to the best county in New Jersey, you’ll need to adapt your lifestyle to the seasonal changes of the Garden State. Both Middlesex County and Monmouth County residents enjoy warm summers. But don’t expect to escape snowy winters if you retire in the Garden State. The scenic coastal locations also mean that you could experience severe weather events, including tropical storms and hurricanes.

55+ Housing Options and Affordability

Tables and chairs beside the outdoor pool at Rossmoor Village in Monroe, New Jersey.

Middlesex County 55+ Communities

Housing is one of the most important considerations for choosing a retirement spot. You can expect to find typical homes in Middlesex County priced in the mid $400s, according to Best Places. This price point is slightly higher than the state average, but it’s not the most expensive spot to buy in New Jersey.  

There are many 55+ communities in Middlesex County as well as a wide mix of home styles and price tags. Below are some of the different cities in the county and their 55+ communities:

Cranbury

East Brunswick

Helmetta

Kendall Park

Metuchen

Monmouth Junction

Monroe

Old Bridge

Parlin

Plainsboro

Princeton

Sayreville

South Amboy

South Brunswick

Exterior view of a home in Surrey Downs in Freehold, New Jersey.

Monmouth County 55+ Communities

Monmouth County offers coastal living with easy access to nearby major cities. However, the desirable location is reflected in the county’s housing prices. You can expect to find typical home prices in the high $500s, according to Best Places. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find more affordable options, especially in towns that aren’t quite as near to the coast.

Monmouth County has plenty of active adult communities to consider as well. The long list of options means you have plenty of flexibility when it comes to home style and your budget. Here are the cities in Monmouth County and the 55+ communities they have to offer:

Allentown

Eatontown

Englishtown

Farmingdale

Freehold

Freehold Township

Holmdel

Holmdel Township

Howell

Little Silver

Manalapan

Marlboro

Morganville

Neptune Township

Ocean Township

Red Bank

Shrewsbury

Spring Lake

Tinton Falls

Wall

Health Care Facilities and Services

A doctor consulting a 55+ patient for healthcare feedback or support.

Middlesex County Health Care

Health care is a priority for many people in their retirement years. Proximity to facilities that offer comprehensive care can give you both convenience and peace of mind. Middlesex County is home to a few major hospitals, including JFK University Medical Center in Edison, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, and Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy.

Monmouth County Health Care

If you opt to retire in Monmouth County, then you’ll have the option to receive care at several hospitals. Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, and Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune are among the county’s major health care providers.

If you’re seeking the best county in New Jersey for health care, you’ll find plenty of wellness resources like fitness centers and spas in Middlesex County and Monmouth County. You’ll have access to resources to help you stay active and embrace self-care.

Community and Social Life

A scenic view of Bayshore Waterfront Park in Monmouth County, a contender for the best county in New Jersey.

A sense of community and opportunities to socialize are major benefits of settling down in a 55+ community. Many of the active adult communities in Central New Jersey have clubhouses, hobby groups, and amenities that help residents connect. But you can also find plenty of other options to get involved and build relationships in the wider community.

Middlesex County Social Life

Middlesex County offers volunteer opportunities for groups and individuals. You can help out at local food drives to serve the local community and meet other people. The county is also home to many nonprofit groups and clubs that you can join to meet like-minded people. You can also spend your free time getting to know the area at local fairs and festivals. For example, the Middlesex County Fair in East Brunswick is a summer tradition.

Monmouth County Social Life

You can also find plenty of ways to volunteer in Monmouth County. For example, the Kiwanis Club of Asbury Park is dedicated to supporting children in the community through efforts focused on issues like education, literacy, and food insecurity. In addition to volunteering, you can consider joining a local social club, like Monmouth Social Club, to get to know the area and connect with people.

The Right Fit for You

The best county in New Jersey will depend on what you’re looking for, but Middlesex and Monmouth offer some compelling arguments. Consider what you value most in retirement to help you decide which Central New Jersey county is the right fit for you.

Middlesex County and Monmouth County share many things in common: ideal locations, a surfeit of activities, and many 55+ communities to consider. The cost of buying a home in Monmouth County could be more expensive than in Middlesex County, but there is a wide range of options for different budgets in both areas.

Monmouth has more coastline and a smaller population, but Middlesex does have a slightly higher overall cost of living. While costs do vary, both counties offer their residents multiple options for health care and many ways to get involved with the local community. You’ll also find golf, hiking, biking, and ways to get out on the water in both Middlesex and Monmouth.

Contact 55places.com today to learn more about homes for sale in Central New Jersey!

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Can you spot the $207,744 difference between these identical homes?

Financing is the difference!

Get the details in The 62+ Loan Homebuyers Guide.

55places Mortgage is a joint venture between Mutual of Omaha Mortgage and 55places.com.
Details here.

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