If you live in New Jersey, you’ll probably already be familiar with at least a few of the state’s wealth of state parks and recreation areas. If you’re not, prepare for a treat. From dense forests to grassy beaches, rolling farmland to dramatic peaks, New Jersey’s state parks are a nature lover’s dream. Whether you want to hike, bike, fish, or camp, you’ll find endless opportunities for outdoor adventure. Without further ado, here are the 10 best state parks in New Jersey.
10. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Stretching alongside 40 miles of the Delaware River, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a haven for nature lovers. Packed with dramatic waterfalls, grassy beaches, and densely forested mountains, it offers endless opportunities for hiking, fishing, swimming, or simply sitting back and marveling at the surrounding beauty. On top of the geographical wonders of the park, there’s plenty of history to enjoy. Chose your trail carefully, and you’ll pass by numerous Native American archaeological sites, along with remnants of 18th and 19th-century villages.
9. Gateway National Recreation Area
According to Park Guider, Gateway National Recreation Area is the only “wildlife refuge” in America’s National Park System, making it a must-visit for any would-be David Attenboroughs. Along with the endless opportunities for wildlife spotting, it’s a great place for hiking, biking, and camping. With 26,607 acres of coastal attractions to explore, it’s the kind of place you’ll never get bored of, no matter how often you visit. While you’re there, be sure to check out Fort Hancock, one of the last remaining coastal defenses from the 1800s. Understandably, the park is hugely popular, clocking in around 10 million visitors each year. Thankfully, it’s big enough that you don’t need to worry about jostling for elbow space.
8. High Point State Park
No visit to New Jersey is complete without at least one visit to its oldest state park, High Point. Spread over 14,218 acres of woodland, it boasts a huge assortment of attractions, including the Dryden Kuser Natural Area, which ranks as the highest elevation cedar swamp in the world. Other highlights include the High Point Monument: set 1803 feet above sea level, it offers stunning panoramas over the surrounding valleys and mountain ranges. If you’re searching for a little piece of paradise that’s perfect for hiking, fishing, or even camping, don’t miss it.
7. Cape May Point State Park
Every fall, bird watchers dust off their binoculars and descend on Cape May Point State Park, which is widely considered one of the best places in North America to catch the birds on their journey south. Even if birds aren’t your bag, there’s still a lot to enjoy, from lazing on the sand to swimming, fishing, or hiking. The only downfall is the price – with entry costing $80 to New Jersey residents and $90 to everyone else, it’s by no means the state’s cheapest park. Fortunately, there’s enough happening in both the park and the surrounding town of Cape May to justify the price.
6. Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
Venture to the northernmost tip of Long Island Beach and you’ll find Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, a 32-acre park that dates back to 1957. During the spring and fall migrations, it’s a magnificent place to bird-watch. Outside of those times, the big attraction is the iconic lighthouse, which can be climbed to the lightkeepers catwalk. Once you’re at the top, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Long Beach Island, Island Beach State Park, Barnegat Bay, Barnegat Inlet, and the ocean.
5. Allaire State Park
Ranked by matadornetwork.com as one of the best state parks in New Jersey, Allaire State Park was once the site of the Allaire Villiage, a self-sufficient iron producing community boasting a carpentry and pattern making shop, a blacksmith shop, a bakery, mills, a boarding house, a church, a school, a general store, and workers homes. The people may be gone, but the beautifully preserved buildings are still there, offering visitors a wonderful glimpse into the history of the area. On hand to dish out fun facts about the village are groups of 18th century attired park workers, who are always ready and willing to answer questions. The park also offers excellent opportunities for hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and camping.
4. Monmouth Battlefield State Park
According to stateparks.com, one of the largest battles of the American Revolution took place in the fields and forests of Monmouth Battlefield State Park. The rolling farmland and hedgerows that surround the park’s miles of trails and picnic areas are much now as they were then. While you’re there, be sure to check out the restored Revolutionary War farmhouse and visitors center.
3. Hacklebarney State Park
If you like hiking, you’re going to love Hacklebarney. The park is packed with hiking trails, some easy, some challenging. The riverside trail along the Black River is spectacular, while the longer trails that crisscross the center of the park offer plenty of opportunities to spot local wildlife, including several species of endangered owl and turtle.
2. Liberty State Park
Described by new-jersey-leisure-guide.com as the crown jewel of urban northeast New Jersey’s parks, Liberty State Park offers an almost endless array of outdoor activities to enjoy. Even if you’re not a huge fan of hiking or biking, the stunning views over the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island are worth the trip alone. Must-do attractions include the “Empty Sky” 9/11 Memorial and the Liberty Science Center.
1. Island Beach State Park
If you’ve never visited Island Beach State Park, now’s the time to put that right. The 3000-acre state park is nothing short of glorious, with a stunning oceanside location and more attractions than you could fit into a lifetime. The northern part of the beach is a marine conservation area, but the rest is open for people to swim, fish, kayak, or do whatever else they like in the clean, warm waters. If you want to spot some rare birds, head for the huge bird estuary on the bay side of the beach. As well as boasting the largest osprey colony in NJ, it’s home to a huge variety of migrating songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds, peregrine falcons, and wading birds. It’s not free (expect to pay $10 on weekends and $6 on weekdays) but it’s most definitely worth it.