I’m a big fan of both nature and adventure, but I’m not necessarily the type to hike the entire Appalachian trail or wander off in the wilderness. Luckily, there are so many amazing ways to appreciate the outdoors in New Jersey that don’t require survival skills. Here are a few fun ideas that anyone can enjoy.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Lakota Wolf Preserve, Columbia
This incredible non-profit houses wolves in a natural environment and provides them with the care they need while allowing visitors to enjoy scheduled educational and photography tours. Bobcats and foxes can also be found here.
2. Black Knight Bowbenders, Jackson
This private archery club offers open shooting on Thursday nights from May until September. The suggested donation is $5 per shooter or $10 per family. Guests are welcome to bring their own food for grilling. Another option is the Obissquasoit Bowmen private club in Alloway which offers open shooting on select Tuesdays.
3. The Raptor Trust, Millington
One of the nation's premier rehabilitation centers for wild birds, The Raptor Trust is open to the public daily for viewing and admission is free, though donations are appreciated. You can also enjoy special tours and talks for just $10 per adult and $5 for children 12 and under - the next event will be held on Saturday, May 28th.
4. Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Ogdensburg
This unique attraction highlights New Jersey's rich mining history and abundance of fluorescent minerals. From an underground mine tour to rock and fossil discovery centers, a mineral museum, exhibit hall and observatory, there is so much to do here. If you'd like a hands-on adventure, there are regular opportunities for mineral collecting.
5. Lorrimer Nature Sanctuary, Franklin Lakes
Operated by the New Jersey Audobon Society, the Lorrimer Sanctuary offers walking trails and bird watching along with interactive exhibits and a visitor's center. Classes are available for children and adults including nature study workshops.
6. The Wetlands Institute, Stone Harbor
As you can tell from the video, this is a truly magical place. Admission is $8 and opportunities for wildlife watching abound. Check their calendar for educational events.
7. Delaware River Tubing, Milford
The perfect way to spend a summer day, your trip includes an amazing adventure, spectacular scenery and a mouthwatering meal. Delaware River Tubing offers fun for everyone and even won the Governor's Tourism Award in 2011.
8. Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, Hoboken
Enjoy free kayaking trips on the Hudson seasonally. Trips last around 20-25 minutes and children are welcome with a guardian. Longer excursions are available to those over 18 and participants are selected via lottery.
9. Pinelands Adventures, Shamong
The Pinelands are paradise for nature lovers year-round. While you'll have no trouble finding something to do, Pinelands Adventures simplifies the process and practically guarantees a good time. Choose from a wide variety of informative, fun-filled outings including kayaking on the Mullica river, ghost town tours and a Jersey Devil hunt. Canoeing lessons are also offered.
10. Great Falls, Paterson
No hiking is necessary to enjoy the historic Great Falls. Now a National Park, the area is well maintained and offers foot bridges for exceptional views.
11. Buttermilk Falls, Layton
Located in Stokes State Forest, these easily accessible falls have a viewing area and stairway to the top. Though you won't need to hike here, hiking opportunities in the area are abundant.
12. Pochuck Boardwalk, Glenwood
A single mile stretch of the Appalachian trail, this boardwalk hike is very manageable and offers amazing views. You'll need to make the trip twice (out and back) for a total of two miles, but the spectacular scenery and beautiful bridge crossing make the journey well worth it.
13. Bike Bass River, Tuckerton
Bass River State Forest and the surrounding area offer numerous biking trails. For an easy trek, try the 11.1-mile paved route beginning at Lake Absegami. You'll take Stage Road to Route 653, turn onto Route 542, then Routes 9 and 654 back to the lake. You'll pass a Wading River and wetlands along the way.
14. Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, Montclair
Open daily from dawn to dusk during bloom season, admission is free but donations are appreciated. There are over 1500 different Iris varieties to view along with trees, shrubs and a bee sanctuary.
15. Rutgers Gardens, North Brunswick
Another fantastic free attraction. you'll find a wide variety of gardens to enjoy including one of the largest collections of American Hollies in the United States, a Rhododendron and Azalea Garden and a Bamboo Forest.
16. Grounds For Sculpture, Hamilton
This whimsical indoor/outdoor attraction is a magical way to spend the day. Take in some sun, stroll the grounds and leave absolutely awestruck.
17. Asbury Park Pedal Boats, Asbury Park
The swans are back on Wesley Lake, this time in the form of pedal boats. Enjoy a scenic 30-minute ride with Asbury Park and Ocean Grove views; each boat can accommodate up to two adults and one child or one adult and two children.
18. Zoom Ziplines, Vernon
Zoom through the mountains and enjoy amazing views with minimal effort - the ziplines do the work for you. The 2-hour guided tour will take you over a river and through the woods (okay, over a lake) for an unforgettable adventure that isn't too terrifying. You'll get your blood pumping, but it isn't heart stopping - sounds perfect to me.
19. Auburn Road Vineyard & Winery, Pilesgrove
This top-rated winery offers tastings for just $5 and tours for $30. The tours are a fantastic value, offering guests a complementary Antipasti and souvenir wine glass. The two hour tours include the vineyard, winery and barrel room, are limited to groups of 10 and under, and are hosted by the owners - it all feels very exclusive, in the best way possible. You can also enjoy the Enoteca Wine Bar which offers fantastic wood-fired pizza.
20. Beach day!
A quintessential outdoor activity in New Jersey, there's a beach here for everyone. Choose from secluded beaches like High Bar Harbor on LBI, free beaches like Keansburg and Wildwood, or beaches with boardwalks like Ocean City, Atlantic City and Point Pleasant.
Which of these adventures are you most excited to try? What other easier outdoor activities in New Jersey would you add to this list?