The Highlands and Atlantic Highlands area is a beautiful place, close to the ocean & bay with some of the best views on the east coast. They are two separate towns but often people confuse them. They each have their individual personalities but I often find that people moving from California are only interested in these two towns.
Atlantic Highlands has a wonderful downtown with shops and restaurants plus a municipal harbor that is popular among boaters, fisherman and other water lovers. The NYC ferry departs from here. Architecturally, Atlantic Highlands is wonderful with lots of Victorian homes and many more recently built homes.
Highlands is smaller, closer to the ocean and also rich in historical details, most obviously with the Twin Lights lighthouse which sits high on the hill overlooking the ocean. From here you can see Sandy Hook, the Shrewsbury River, Raritan Bay, NY Harbor and Manhattan and Long Island. A clamming town that is still called home by local fisherman, Highlands also offers a great deal of condo living, many with spectacular views. Highlands is also home to some of the finest dining in all of NJ (check out Zagat.com for Bay Ave Trattoria, Doris & Ed's and more). Dock & dine, waterviews, varied cuisines (e.g. Cuban, Seafood, Italian, American, Jamaican, and more!)... there's a lot to love about the restaurant options here! In addition, the NYC ferry departs from Highlands. A great added feature is Hartshorne Woods which offers 700 acres of woodland trails and is very popular for biking, hiking, jogging and walking... one of the favorite spots for mountain bikers in the northeast.
The two towns have their own elementary schools and share the middle/high school. The high school was recently recipient of the governor's award for achievement.
I would say most people are interested in the area because it offers something a bit more unique, a little less suburban... I've lived in Highlands for 8 years now and love it. The proximity to the beach and Sandy Hook, walking to the local restaurants, enjoying Hartshorne Woods' trails, and having the convenience of the NYC ferry... it's a great place to be.
If you're thinking of moving here I'm happy to give you the "nickel tour"... a quick overview of all the area has to offer.