Re: Potential move to (south) NJ from AL...yikes!
Ok I will try to answer most of your questions but let me start with lakewood in nj
It is in ocean county which is a good county (I grew up in that county) but lakewood is not where you want to live. It is about a 30 to 45 minute drive to lumberton on rt 70 which is a one lane highway for the most part. ex any AL rd.
Where you are looking the only "town" with a cute downtown would be probably haddonfield.
Medford does have some cute shops here and there but the next town over is the mecca of all shopping. Not good for the budget though. It does have great farms and fruit picking (medford)
Princeton has an amazing downtown as well but the cost of living is ridiculous. Ocean county has some nice places to live at a low cost of living the further south you go. The only town that has a downtown there is Point Pleasant Beach but again huge price of living but not worth it imo.
NJ is very commercialized only a handful of small towns that = $$$$$
The traffic in NJ is like nothing you have ever seen before but 70 is a staight shot to where lakewood is and mostly only congested once you hit the town before lakewood which is Manchester--where my parents currently live.
I think you are on the right track though. Other than the small town thing what is most important to you and I can try to think of great places that I know of.
I honestly think you can not go wrong with medford or lumberton imo. If you wanted something closer there are some towns off of 70 like New Egypt.
I hope I have been some help and not confused you more.
I saw that Fairhope has a cd store and I am so Jealous! I live in a heavily populated area 1hr west of montgomery.