Courtesy Duke Farms
1112 Dukes Pkwy. W., Hillsborough Township
In 1893, American Tobacco Company President J.B. Duke turned more than 2,000 acres of land into a residential estate with stunning sculptures, huge buildings and ornate gardens flecked with fountains. Opened to the public in 2003, this natural sanctuary has 18 miles of walking and biking trails, plus an Orchid Range that offers a year-round tropical oasis. Make sure to swing by the Old Fountain and ruins of the never-completed mansion. Bikes are welcome, but if you forget yours, a limited number are available to rent.
353 East Hanover Ave., Morris Twp.
As the main headquarters for the Morris County Parks Commission, this 127-acre arboretum is a part of Patriots’ Path, a 35-mile stretch of hiking, biking and equestrian trails that run from East Hanover all the way to Washington Township. The Getting to Know Us Stroll lasts 30 minutes and takes you through the Great Lawn (home to outdoor summer concerts), past the mansion and the rose gardens. Be sure to do some bird watching at the Belvedere, too. The self-guided tour ends near the Branching Out Garden, where the kids get their hands dirty during scheduled classes.
274 Old Short Hills Rd., Short Hills
This spot is located along 2,110 acres of South Mountain Reservation. Visitors take in stunning examples of architecture, statues and ceramic works of art alongside beautiful greenery. Stroll past blooming cherry blossom trees or watch butterflies feed on agapanthuses and peonies. Chickens, geese and goats may want to mingle during your visit. Drop by at twilight for a magical guided tour (check the calendar for dates).
Grounds for Sculpture
80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton
Besides the 42 acres of breathtaking natural beauty, these gardens boast more than 200 sculptures, including a collection of NJ native Seward Johnson’s bronze figures around the grounds. There’s also a gorgeous lily pond flaked with wildflowers (which pays homage to Monet’s Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge) you can see from Rat’s Restaurant, where you can enjoy light fare like chopped salads and mussels. Don’t forget to visit with the friendly peacocks roaming the park. A gorgeous walkway lined with trees is a favorite for photo-ops. Timed tickets are required, so reserve a slot online in advance.
Holland Ridge Farms (closed for season until September)
86 Rues Rd., Cream Ridge
Opened just last spring, this farm already has a reputation for breathtaking tulips. Now in full bloom, the tulip fields spread over 50 acres on a 153-acre property that also has farm animals and picturesque barns. It was started by Casey Jansen, Sr., a Dutch immigrant who has years of experience of growing prized tulips. Teach the kids a bit about Holland while your there at the Hollandwood Theatre, Good ‘Ole Days Museum and Hollandshop. Go in the fall to see sunflowers take over. Buy tickets online to score a special web-only discount.
Leonard J. Buck Garden
11 Layton Rd., Far Hills
This 33-acre public botanical garden is home to one of the premier rock gardens on the East Coast. Leonard J. Buck developed the garden as part of his estate in the late 1930s, leaving behind an idyllic place for families to unwind. The garden’s made up of 12 planted rock outcroppings and woodland gardens with trails that connect wildflowers, ferns, azaleas, daffodils, violets, dogwoods and more. The largest rock formation on the property is Big Rock, which incorporates the remains of a waterfall just to the north and offers a striking display of all that Buck Garden has to offer.
New Jersey Botanical Garden
2 Morris Rd., Ringwood
Known as “Garden of the Garden State,” the NJBC at Skylands is an outdoor haven. Listed on both state and national Registries of Historic Places, this oasis is set amongst 96 acres of 13 specialty gardens and is surrounded by more than 1,000 acres of woodlands in Passaic County. Walk several miles of paths flanked with wildflowers and lilacs from around the world. Don’t forget to smell the rhododendrons and azaleas in the Hosta/Rhododendron or Moraine Gardens, where clusters of rock deposits are left behind from the Ice Age. Self-guided tours are available, and on select Sundays you can tour the historic Skylands Manor. Head to the woods behind the garden for some of NJ’s best hiking trails.
165 Hobart Ave., Summit
The Reeves-Reed Arboretum offers 13.5 acres of nature’s best with historic and contemporary gardens highlighted by six acres of woodland forest. Check out the Children’s Square Foot Garden (the arboretum’s gardening program encourages healthy eating and showcases gardening practices to try on your own). Kids will love digging in the vegetable garden, hiking woodland trails and visiting fishy friends at a koi pond with a bog garden and waterfall, as well as a European beech nicknamed “The Elephant Tree” that’s nearly 200 years old. Visit the historic Wisner House and Library Lounge to learn the history of the arboretum and the families who lived there.
The Willowwood Arboretum
14 Longview Rd., Far Hills
More than 2,100 different kinds of native and exotic plants (many rare) grace 131 acres of rolling farmland at this arboretum, established in 1908 by the Tubbs Brothers. There are 14 gardens, each with a unique setting of stunning tree canopies including oak, maple, willow and magnolia. The kids will marvel at the NJ Champion Dawn Redwood (one of only a handful in the US), which is 100 feet tall. When in bloom, Pan’s Garden is a sight to behold, with its colorful design crafted to look like a Persian prayer rug.
For more flora and fauna, check out our huge list of arboretums and nature centers.