New Jersey has so many interesting and unique places, many of which inspire wonder, curiosity and exploration. While there are countless options, you never know what you’ll discover at these 10 incredible spots.
1. Hutcheson Memorial Forest, Franklin Township
Located in the East Millstone section of Franklin Township, this nature preserve is known for its old growth forest. It is home to one of the last uncut, unburned White Oak-American Beech forests in the country and has been designated a National Natural Landmark. It is open to the public by appointment, and tours are led by the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Tours are free and depart from 2150 Amwell Road; the next tour is scheduled for June 19th.
2. Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Galloway
This 47,000-acre national wildlife refuge is one of the most visited wildlife refuges in the country. A popular birding spot, the area is comprised mainly of tidal wetlands. There is an 8-mile automobile tour, guided by brochure, along with birding hikes on Fridays at 8 a.m.. These free hikes are led by tour guides and even offer loaner binoculars.
3. Atsion Village, Shamong
Take a peek into the past and explore the ruins of Atsion Village. You'll find several structures here, some of them intact, all built between the mid-1700s and mid-1800s. Atsion, similar to nearby Batsto, was once a thriving iron community. The most magnificent structure is the historic mansion, kept as it was in 1826. Seasonal tours are available; call (609) 268-0444 for more information. After observing what remains, hike the nearby trails or head to the Atsion Lake Recreation Area.
4. Palisades Interstate Park, Alpine
You'll be blown away by the striking cliffs and scenic Hudson River views. A hike here means exploring hidden castles (the Women's Federation Monument), a historic homestead (the Kearney House), a reconstructed Revolutionary War encampment and over 30 miles of trails.
5. Bull's Island Recreation Area, Stockton
There's just something about an island that makes me want to explore. This particular island is part of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park and offers boating, fishing and hiking. The nature trail winds through a lowland floodplain forest, home to several rare plant species. The island is accessible via boat or footbridge.
6. Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Basking Ridge
The remnants of Glacial Lake Passaic, this 7,768-acre preserve is home to over 244 species of birds, deer, turtles, foxes and a wide variety of plant life. The area almost became a Port Authority jetport, but was saved by supporters in the community. In 1968, the Great Swamp became the first wilderness area designated within the Department of the Interior. There are several trails, including a boardwalk trail, and a wildlife observation center to enjoy.
7. BaToNa Trail, Pinelands
This approximately 50-mile hiking trail just begs to be explored. Short for BAck TO NAture, this impressive trail runs through several state parks in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Camping is allowed in designated areas, and you will definitely need to take breaks along the way. If you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, this secluded trail is the place to be. If you're up for an insane challenge, The Batona, held this year on November 5th, is a no fee run that covers the entire length of the trail. If 50-plus miles is too much, a 50K option (31 miles) is also available. That's STILL longer than a marathon (26.219 miles).
8. High Point State Park, Sussex
The aptly named park is home to the highest point in New Jersey and offers stunning views of three states. Enjoy swimming, boating, fishing and hiking here, along with the impressive High Point Monument. Visitors are often allowed to climb to the top on weekends, though it is currently closed. The park is also home to the Dryden Kuser Natural Area - the highest elevation swamp of its kind in the world.
9. Marine Mammal Stranding Center, Brigantine
You don't need to be outdoors to want to explore; museums can pique your curiosity, too. The Stranding Center has a Sea Life Museum, open on Saturdays/Sundays (and daily from Father's Day - Labor Day) and a 1,000-gallon observation tank from May - September. Visitors will enjoy the "please touch" area featuring a whale jawbone. Be sure to check out the gift shop, which helps support the non-profit rescue group.
10. Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Cape May Court House
The portion of this park along the Delaware Bay is one of the most popular migratory bird destinations in the Northeast. Why? Horseshoe Crab eggs, a favorite dish, can be found here in abundance. The Delaware Bay hosts the largest concentration of spawning horseshoe crabs along the Atlantic Coast of North America. Open from dawn to dusk, this spot is spectacular for both sunrises and sunsets.
Did you learn anything new about New Jersey? What’s your favorite spot in the state to explore?