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Nature Centers, Gardens and Arboretums in NJ

Hop off the beaten path to discover the scenic splendor offered at these reader favorites.


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Tired of the same old, same old? Hop off the beaten path to discover the scenic splendor offered at these reader favorites.

Duke Farms (Hillsborough)

In 1893, J.B. Duke began transforming his 2,750-acre home into an environmental resource center. In addition to 18 miles of trails, its orchid range, and manmade waterfall, Duke Farms offers educational programs on tree and plant identification, bird watching, and tree-top climbing. Use a GPS to find the 11 on-site geocaches.

Frelinghuysen Arboretum (Morristown)

Surrounding the Frelinghuysens’ magnificent Colonial Revival mansion, the woodlands, meadows, gardens, and distinctive collections of trees and shrubs of the Frelinghuysen Arboretum make the ideal setting for leisurely strolls. It’s a regional center for horticultural activities, including educational programs such as The Kathryn A. Porter “Branching Out!” Garden, a spring and summer program for kids ages 5–13.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (New Vernon)

Declared a national natural landmark in 1966, the nearly 8,000-acre Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is home to all sorts of creatures: deer, fox, muskrat, fish, frogs, and more than 200 species of birds. Meander the 1.2 miles of trails at the Wildlife Observation Center for a close-up view of this exciting array of wildlife.

Grounds for Sculpture (Hamilton)

Your family will enjoy discovering the 270 whimsical sculptures spead out over the park’s 42 beautifully landscaped acres (with live peacocks!)—such as the park’s new Seward Johnson Retrospective, on view through Sept. 21, that includes a 26-foottall, stainless steel and aluminum Marilyn Monroe, complete with her white billowing skirt.

Island Beach State Park (Seaside Park)

The 10-mile stretch of beach in Island State Park is clean and pristine, feeling remote without being so. (It’s just a short drive from the boardwalks and beaches of Seaside Heights). The park offers marked walking and horse trails, guarded beaches, and picnic areas, and it’s a popular spot for fishing. The southern tip of the Island Beach State Park bounds one side of Barnegat Inlet, offering a gorgeous view of Barnegat Lighthouse.

Reeves-Reed Arboretum (Summit)

Celebrating over 40 years as a historic public garden, education resource, and non-profit conservancy, Reeves-Reed Arboretum is a beautifully maintained example of early 20th century landscape architecture. On Saturdays between 9 am–1 pm, drop by with your child for hands-on exploration of nature topics through stories, crafts, and experiments.

Trailside Nature Center/Watchung Reservation (Mountainside)

Trailside Nature Center is a 4,500-sq.-ft. interactive museum dedicated to the natural world that overlooks the Watchung Reservation, a 2,065-acre preserve containing woodlands, fields, lakes, streams, and more than 13 miles of hiking trails. This serene setting provides the perfect classroom to have fun while learning about the natural environments.

 

Reader Picks

Bergen County

Meadowlands Environment Center (Lyndhurst)

Overpeck Park (Leonia)

Palisades Interstate Park (Alpine)

Ramapo Valley County Reservation (Mahwah)

Tenafly Nature Center (Tenafly)

Thielke Arboretum (Glen Rock)

Van Saun County Park (Paramus)

Wyckoff Environmental Center (Wyckoff)

Essex County

Branch Brook Park (Newark)

Cora Hartshorn Arboretum & Bird Sanctuary (Short Hills)

Eagle Rock Reservation (West Orange)

Environmental Center (Roseland)

South Mountain Reservation (Millburn)

Hudson County

Liberty State Park (Jersey City)

Hunterdon County

Hunterdon County Arboretum (Clinton)

Round Valley Recreation Area (Lebanon)

Mercer County

Delaware River Towpath

Grounds for Sculpture (Hamilton)

Marquand Park (Princeton)

Sayen Park Botanical Garden (Hamilton)

Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (Pennington)

Middlesex County

Johnson’s Park (Piscataway)

Plainsboro Preserve (Plainsboro)

Rutgers Gardens (East Brunswick)

Thompson Park (Monroe)

Monmouth County

Cheesequake State Park (Matawan)

Hartshorne Park (Atlantic Highlands)

Morris County

Frelinghuysen Arboretum (Morristown)

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (New Vernon)

Hacklebarney State Park (Chester)

Hedden County Park (Randolph)

Patriot’s Path (East Hanover Township)

Raptor Trust (Millington)

Reeves-Reed Arboretum (Summit)

Trailside Nature Center (Mountainside)

Ocean County

Cattus Island County Park (Toms River)

Island Beach State Park (Seaside Park)

Ocean County Park (Lakewood Township)

Passaic County

Goffle Brook Park (Hawthorne)

Somerset County

Colonial Park (Franklin)

Duke Farms (Hillsborough)

Environmental Education Center (Basking Ridge)

Leonard J. Buck Garden (Far Hills)

Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden (Somerset)

Sourland Mountain Preserve (Hillsborough)

Willowwood Arboretum (Far Hills)

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