New Jersey is home to more than 130 miles of gorgeous Atlantic Ocean coastline, which are home to some of the nation's top attractions, including the picturesque Victorian homes of Cape May and the lively casinos, hotels, and boardwalk attractions of resort area Atlantic City. Visitors can easily day trip to sites throughout the state from nearby areas like New York City and Philadelphia and explore the state's historic towns, which are home to major Revolutionary War-era preserved living history sites. Unique roadside landmarks throughout the state include Lucy the Elephant, considered to be America's first roadside attraction. State parks and forests provide opportunities for year-round outdoor recreation, ranging from hiking and swimming to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
1.Allaire State Park
Allaire State Park is a charming state park located throughout Monmouth County near the borough of Farmingdale, located within the gorgeous New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route. The park is best known for its Allaire Village, a restored 19th-century-era ironworks site which is named in honor of Howell Works founder James P. Allaire. Visitors can explore the preserved historic buildings of the ironworks, including its blacksmith shop, foreman's home, church, and general store. The park's Pine Creek Railroad operates excursion railroad outings throughout the year, overseen by the New Jersey Museum of Transportation. Fishing is permitted along the Manasquan River, while biking is allowed on the Edgar Felix Bikeway. Other attractions throughout the park include day-use picnic sites, tent and trailer campsites, and the Nature Interpretive Center, which offers nature-related exhibits and guided excursion programming.
4265 Atlantic Ave, Wall Township, NJ 07727, Phone: 732-938-2371
Atlantic City is one of New Jersey's most iconic coastal attractions, originally established in the 19th century as a health resort area. Today, the district is known for its glamorous high-rise hotels, lively casinos, and luxurious nightclub destination. Visitors can stroll along the city's iconic boardwalk, which inspired the game Monopoly and was the nation's first public boardwalk at the time of its opening in 1882. The acclaimed Boardwalk stretches for four miles, home to attractions such as the Tropicana Atlantic City, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and the Golden Nugget Atlantic City. Kitschy visitor attractions include the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, the House of Blues, and the Steel Pier amusement park, home to newly-added giant Ferris wheel. Since 1921, the city has been the renowned home of the annual Miss America pageant.
3.Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park is a lovely 32-acre park on Long Beach Island's northern edge, preserving the historic lighthouse of the same name, which was once known as one of the most important navigational aids for ships entering New York Harbor. The picturesque lighthouse was originally lit in 1859 and operated until 1927. In 2009, it was relit by the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse nonprofit organization. Visitors can scale the lighthouse's 217 steps daily throughout the summer months for stunning views of Long Beach Island, Island Beach, and Barnegat Bay. For visitors looking to avoid the trek, the park's adjacent Interpretive Center showcases live image transmissions of panoramas at the top. Fishing, birdwatching, and picnicking are also popular throughout the park, which is home to a half-mile self-guided loop nature trail.
208 Broadway, Barnegat Light, NJ 08006, Phone: 609-494-2016
Cape May is one of New Jersey's most popular seaside resort areas, named as one of America's top 10 beaches by the Travel Channel. The city is known for its stunning Victorian-era houses, which are all designated within the Cape May Historic District, making the entire city a National Historic Landmark. Stunning historic houses include the Emlen Physick Estate, which is operated as a living history museum. The Cape May Lighthouse and the World War II Lookout Tower are also operated as living history sites, overseen by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for birdwatching on the city's beaches, view dolphins and whales aboard year-round cruises, or view stunning "Cape May diamonds" clear quartz pebbles at sites like Sunset Beach. Charming shops and restaurants line the Washington Street Mall pedestrian mall area and city boardwalk.
5.Cheesequake State Park
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Cheesequake State Park is a gorgeous 1,610-acre state park located within the city of Old Bridge, originally established in 1937. The unique park is noted for its diverse ecosystems, which lie at a transitional zone between unique state habitats like saltwater and freshwater marshes, tidal estuaries, white cedar swamps, and northeastern hardwood forest. Visitors can fish for trout, catfish, sunfish, and largemouth bass on the six-acre Hooks Creek Lake, which also offers opportunities for crabbing. Boating, canoeing, and swimming are permitted throughout the summer months, with lifeguards staffed on duty between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Five marked hiking and mountain biking trails meander through the region's forest and marshland areas, while an interpretive center offers exhibits on the region's unique ecology. Throughout the winter months, visitors can enjoy opportunities for cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing.
300 Gordon Rd, Matawan, NJ 07747, Phone: 732-566-2161
Clinton is a picturesque village in Hunterdon County, located along the banks of the Raritan River's southern branch. The lovely town has been featured in many feature films and television series, noted for its historic attractions, including the 10-acre Red Mill Museum Village, which was constructed in 1810 and has been featured on the series Ghost Hunters for its purported haunting. Visitors can explore the museum's living history exhibits, which include a replica quarry building, schoolhouse, and log cabin, or attend its annual Red Mill Haunted Village Halloween celebration. Across the river at the Stone Mill, the Hunterdon Historical Museum showcases a collection of more than 40,000 historic artifacts related to the city's history. The Hunterdon Art Museum showcases contemporary art and craft works in an 1836 mill building. Nearby, the city's downtown district is lined with lovely art galleries, cafes, and boutiques.
Columbia is a lovely town in Knowlton Township, located on the eastern edge of the Delaware River. The community is known for its environmental conservation efforts, including the preservation of the Columbia Wildlife Management Area, which protects stream and forest habitats and offers opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and wildlife watching along the banks of the Columbia and Delaware Lakes. Visitors can view endangered tundra, Arctic, and timber wolves as part of family-friendly Wolf Watch Tours at the Lakota Wolf Preserve, along with rare species of foxes and bobcats. Stunning views of the region's natural wonders are offered from aboard the Portland-Columbia Toll Supported Pedestrian Bridge, which spans the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Visitors can also sample delicious red and white wines at Brook Hollow Winery or stay overnight at the charming Rosemary Inn bed and breakfast facility.
Edgewater is a charming historic borough located in Bergen County along the Hudson River, known for its connection to the American Revolutionary War and the region's colonial history. Many of the city's lovely historic buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including its 1904 Borough Hall, which was fully restored to its original condition in 2009. The Binghamton Ferry, which is permanently anchored today at Binghamton Shopping Plaza, was originally constructed in 1904 and remains the only double-ended steam-powered ferry boat still docked on the Hudson River. Visitors can explore the town's Edgewater Free Library, the only remaining Carnegie library in the state, or stroll along its beautiful River Walk, which stretches for 11 miles along the Hudson and showcases stunning Manhattan skyline views. The city is also known for its Edgewater free-flying monk parakeet colony, which are native to South America and have lived in the region since at least 1980.
9.Grounds for Sculpture
Grounds for Sculpture are one of New Jersey's loveliest outdoor sculpture parks, located on 42 acres in Hamilton on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds land. The nonprofit park, which was originally founded in 1992 by John Seward Johnson II, showcases an ever-changing collection of contemporary art sculptures, including a permanent collection of more than 270 large-scale works by American and international artists. Prominent past works on display have included significant works by artist Seward Johnson, including his Forever Marilyn sculpture of Marilyn Monroe and his Unconditional Surrender, which recreated the iconic V-J Day Times Square photograph. Six indoor galleries are also showcased, along with special events throughout the year like art classes, lectures, and moonlight garden tours. After viewing sculptures, visitors can dine at the grounds' lovely Rat's Restaurant, which is named in honor of the Wind in the Willows character of the same name.
80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619, Phone: 609-586-0616
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Haddonfield has been named as the Delaware Valley's best shopping and dining destination by Philadelphia Magazine, located just 10 minutes from the city of Philadelphia in Camden County. The charming city, which is accessible from downtown Philadelphia via the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman bridges, is home to more than 200 lovely shops and art galleries, which have earned it multiple titles as the Courier-Post's top downtown shopping district. Unique stores include high-end shoe retailer Benjamin Lovell, eclectic children's toy store Happy Hippo, and vibrant pet accessory store Velvet Paws. Visitors can dine at some of the Philadelphia region's top restaurants and cafes or explore historic attractions like the Historical Society of Haddonfield, which is housed within the 1841 Greenfield Hall.
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Highlands is a lovely coastal community in Monmouth County, overlooking Sandy Hook Bay and New Jersey's beautiful Atlantic Ocean coastline. The quaint maritime community is home to historic landmark twin lighthouses, which were originally constructed in 1828 and restored and rebuilt in 1862. Visitors can ascend the lighthouses seasonally as part of guided tours and view stunning panoramas of the region's waterways and shoreline. Seven miles of pristine beachfront are showcased along Sandy Hook Bay, known as popular swimming and sunbathing spots throughout the summer months. Several marinas and docks also offer opportunities for recreational boating and fishing. On land, the city's delicious seafood restaurants are known as area landmarks, including the century-old Bahrs Landing Seafood Restaurant and the Lusty Lobster Seafood Market.
12.Island Beach State Park
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Island Beach State Park protects one of the United States' largest areas of undeveloped barrier island, stretching for nearly 1,900 acres across two northern and southern natural area sections on Berkeley Township's Barnegat Peninsula. The park, which is located just south of Seaside Park, is a popular spot for swimming, kayaking, and fishing throughout the summer months at areas that are open to the public as recreational sites. The Sedge Island Marine Conservation Zone protects over 1,600 acres of lovely tidal marsh, pond, and open water areas and is home to the state's largest osprey colony. Visitors can frolic along the park's white sand beaches, which offer lifeguarded swimming areas throughout the summer months. Dune buggy and four-wheel-drive vehicle access are permitted throughout certain areas of the park.
13.Liberty State Park
Liberty State Park is a charming public park on Jersey City's Upper New York Bay, overlooking the stunning Manhattan skyline and landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The park was opened in 1976 as part of the American bicentennial celebration and is overseen by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry today. Visitors can enjoy great opportunities for hiking, biking, boating, canoeing, fishing, and crabbing throughout the year or explore attractions such as the two-mile Liberty Walk promenade, which has received major landscaping awards for its unique design. At the park's northwestern entrance, the Liberty Science Center offers family-friendly STEM exhibits and one of the world's largest IMAX Dome theaters. Monuments and memorials throughout the park include the World War II-themed Liberation by Nathan Rapoport and Frederic Schwartz's Empty Sky, which commemorates the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
200 Morris Pesin Dr, Jersey City, NJ 07305, Phone: 201-915-3403
Margate City is a charming Atlantic County city on Absecon Island, which is best known as the home of lively tourist hub Atlantic City. Though the popular Jersey Shore destination is known as a major tourist area during the summer months for its gorgeous beaches, its lack of high-rise hotels makes it less crowded with one-time visitors and more populated by regulars who rent summer homes and AirBnBs for lower-key stays. The town stretches for eight blocks along the Atlantic Ocean and is home to lifeguarded beaches throughout the late spring, summer, and early autumn months. Visitors can view famed sites such as Marven Gardens, noted for its Monopoly fame, and the unique Lucy the Elephant zoomorphic architecture structure, which is more than 130 years old and stands 65 feet tall.
15.Morristown National Historical Park
Morristown National Historical Park was the United States' first National Historical Park at its founding in 1933. The 1,676-acre park protects a number of sites related to the American Revolutionary War, including General George Washington's Headquarters at Ford Mansion, which is known as the site of the Revolutionary War's "hard winter." Washington's Headquarters Museum showcases three exhibit rooms and showings of the documentary film Morristown: Where America Survived. Fort Nonsense overlooks Morristown's landscape atop a hilltop overlook, while Jockey Hollow preserves the site of a former Continental Army encampment. More than 24 miles of hiking trails are also offered, along with the preserved New Jersey Brigade Encampment Site, which was used by large populations of soldiers throughout the winter of 1779-1780.
30 Washington Pl, Morristown, NJ 07960, Phone: 973-543-1949
© Paterson Museum
Paterson Museum preserves the history of the city of Paterson, which was the nation's first planned industrial city at its founding. The museum is housed within the Thomas Rogers Building, the former site of the Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works erecting shop, in the city's Old Great Falls Historic District. Visitors can explore the city's unique industrial history through exhibits such as its Fenian Ram submarine, which was designed by John Philip Holland, and its Norman B. Tomlison Jr. and Paul R. Applegate Collection of rare Colt firearms produced by Paterson throughout the mid-19th century. A significant collection of more than 200,000 negatives, prints, and photographs detail the company's operations, while a 20th-century medicine collection showcases unique paintings of medicine covers.
2 Market St, Paterson, NJ 07501, Phone: 973-321-1260
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17.Point Pleasant Beach
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Point Pleasant Beach has been named as one of New Jersey's best beaches by the New Jersey Marine Science Consortium's 2008 Top 10 Beaches Contest. The family-friendly beach, which is located in Ocean County, is known for its expansive pristine beachfront stretches and scenic mile-long boardwalk. Visitors can stroll the beach's Jenkinson's Boardwalk, which is lined with cotton candy, popcorn, ice cream, and sausage vendors, and play lively games of miniature golf or games of chance. Unique attractions include Jenkinson's Aquarium and Uncle Vinnie's Comedy Club. The beach is also known as an antiquer's paradise, home to delightful antique stores like the Point Pavilion Antique Center. Many to-go and full-service restaurants line the boardwalk, including the renowned Europa South restaurant, which serves up delicious Portuguese cuisine options.
Princeton is best known as the home of renowned Ivy League college Princeton University, which dates back to 1754 and is known as one of the East Coast's top schools for science and liberal arts. Visitors can tour the influential college's campus and view gorgeous architectural landmarks such as the Collegiate Gothic-style University Chapel. The Princeton University Art Museum showcases stunning collections of classical and Chinese art. Revolutionary War history is on display at Princeton Battlefield State Park, while 18th-century culture is preserved at the Morven Museum and Garden living history site. Arts lovers can enjoy performances at regional Tony Award-winning McCarter Theatre Center or watch classic and foreign films at the Princeton Garden Theatre. In town, Nassau Street is home to charming shopping destinations and delicious global cuisine options.
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19.Rockingham State Historic Site
© New Jersey Official Tourism
Rockingham State Historic Site preserves the historic home of John Berrien, which served as George Washington's final headquarters throughout the Revolutionary War. The Franklin Township attraction was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, relocated from a hillside at Rocky Hill on the eastern side of the Millstone River. Visitors can view the historic home in its completely restored condition, which showcases period-appropriate furnishings and Washington military reproductions. Guided tours are offered between August and November, elaborating on historical events that took place within the home, including the writing of Washington's "Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States." A children's museum is also maintained at the site, along with an 18th-century kitchen garden.
84 Laurel Ave, Kingston, NJ 08528, Phone: 609-683-7132
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Smithville is a lovely community in Galloway Township, located approximately 15 miles inland from Atlantic City. The formerly rural community gained national notoriety in the 1960s after the construction of its Smithville Towne Center, which has been rebranded as the Village Greene today. Visitors can explore more than 70 unique shops and attractions, including family-friendly rides such as a carousel, train, and paddle boats. Charming cobblestone walkways line the historic town center, which is also home to an arcade and boardwalk. History lovers can explore the city's beautiful restored Georgian-Victorian-style Smithville Mansion, which is operated as a living history museum. The town's Colonial Inn offers excellent adults-only bed and breakfast amenities, including rooms with double soaking tubs and steam showers.
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Toms River is a vibrant waterfront Jersey community in Ocean County, best known for its appearances in major feature films and television series like Jersey Shore, Boardwalk Empire, and The Amityville Horror. The family-friendly destination is home to beautiful coastline stretches as Ortley Beach, which features lifeguard-staffed areas throughout the summer months. Cattus Island County Park offers a plethora of beautiful woodland trails, along with attractions such as a lovely Butterfly Garden and the interactive Cooper Environmental Center. Ocean County Mall is home to more than 120 specialty stores, including name brands such as Victoria's Secret, H&M, Coach, and Swarovski. Visitors can also take cruises aboard the paddlewheel riverboat River Lady, learn about exotic insects at Insectropolis, or catch live music performances by the Garden State Philharmonic or the Toms River Theatre Company. Each year, the town hosts one of the nation's largest Halloween events.
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Tuckerton is a quaint borough in Ocean County, named in honor of Ebenezer Tucker. The town is best known for its Tuckerton Seaport maritime village and museum, which was opened in 2000 and showcases a number of recreated historic buildings that are connected by a lovely boardwalk and wetlands nature trail. At the Seaport's Visitor Center, exhibits detail the habitats and wildlife of the Jersey Shore and the Barnegat Bay Estuary. Preserved historic buildings include the relocated Tucker's Island Lighthouse, the historic Skinner-Donnelly and Periwinkle Houseboats, the working Perrine Boatworks, and the 1699 Andrews-Bartlett Household. Along the city's Main Street, visitors can peruse shops, restaurants, and attractions such as the New Jersey Surf Museum.
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23.Wharton State Forest
Wharton State Forest is New Jersey's largest state forest, spanning more than 122,000 acres throughout Hammonton's Pinelands area. The forest is named in honor of 19th-century landowner Joseph Wharton, who is known for his proposed plan to tap the Pine Barrens' groundwater for drinking water for the city of Philadelphia. Visitors can explore the former Batsto Village bog iron and glassmaking center, which operated between 1766 and 1867. Lovely hiking trails showcase native wildlife like bald eagles, ospreys, turkeys, river otters, and foxes, while miles of unpaved roads offer opportunities for horseback riding and mountain biking. Year-round opportunities for outdoor recreation range from fishing, hunting, boating, and swimming at Atsion Lake to cross-country skiing throughout the winter months. Other attractions include a museum shop, an interpretive center, and day-use picnic sites.
Hammonton, NJ 08037, Phone: 609-561-0024
23 Best Day Trips in New Jersey
- Allaire State Park, Photo: Gary/stock.adobe.com
- Atlantic City, Photo: creativefamily/stock.adobe.com
- Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, Photo: David/stock.adobe.com
- Cape May, Photo: lightningboldt/stock.adobe.com
- Cheesequake State Park, Photo: CE Photography/stock.adobe.com
- Clinton, Photo: siogio/stock.adobe.com
- Columbia, Photo: byrdyak/stock.adobe.com
- Edgewater, Photo: Jin/stock.adobe.com
- Grounds for Sculpture, Photo: Jin/stock.adobe.com
- Haddonfield, Photo: Andrew Kazmierski/stock.adobe.com
- Highlands, Photo: Andrew Kazmierski/stock.adobe.com
- Island Beach State Park, Photo: Oleg Kovtun/stock.adobe.com
- Liberty State Park, Photo: pabrady63/stock.adobe.com
- Margate City, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Morristown National Historical Park, Photo: Kent/stock.adobe.com
- Paterson Museum, Photo: Paterson Museum
- Point Pleasant Beach, Photo: Stephen Bonk/stock.adobe.com
- Princeton, Photo: glynspencer/stock.adobe.com
- Rockingham State Historic Site, Photo: New Jersey Official Tourism
- Smithville, Photo: Evgenia/stock.adobe.com
- Toms River, Photo: Jin/stock.adobe.com
- Tuckerton, Photo: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/stock.adobe.com
- Wharton State Forest, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: eqroy/stock.adobe.com