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 on-site geocaches (it’s like a treasure hunt!).

Frelinghuysen Arboretum (Morris Twp.)

Surrounding the Frelinghuysens’ magnificent Colonial Revival mansion, the woodlands, meadows, gardens, and distinctive collections of trees and shrubs of the Frelinghuysen Arboretum are the ideal setting for leisurely strolls. It’s a regional center for horticultural activities, including educational programs for kids.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (Basking Ridge)

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 trail 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 spread out over the park’s 42 beautifully landscaped acres, such as those of people having a chat in the grass, abstract designs, oversized bulls in a field and a giant head in a lake. Grab a bite at Rat’s Restaurant and visit with the free-roaming peacocks before heading home.

Island Beach State Park (Seaside Park)

This almost 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, so you can catch some peace and quiet here before hitting the boardwalk. The park offers marked walking and horse trails, guarded beaches and picnic areas, plus fishing spots. 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. Snap pics with the Daffodil Bowl, in full bloom come spring, see art in the Wisner House gallery, relax in the Garden Library and Lounge and more.

Rudolph W. van der Goot Rose Garden (Somerset)
The garden was named in honor of van der Goot, the first horticulturist with the Somerset County Park Commission, as a tribute to his efforts in designing and developing the garden. In just one acre of land there are more than 3,000 roses of 325 varieties. There are popular modern hybrids, species and various classes of Old Garden Roses. All roses are clearly labeled for easy identification and only roses that thrive in central NJ are kept in the garden. The Rose Garden is part of a more extensive arboretum, which includes the Fragrance & Sensory Garden, the Ornamental Grass Collection, the Perennial Garden and the Shrub Collection.

Trailside Nature and Science Center (Mountainside)

Trailside is a 4,500-square-foot 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 environment.

Willowwood Arboretum (Far Hills)

Brothers Robert and Henry Tubbs were enthusiastic gardeners as youths at the family home in Kingston, NY. In July 1908, they went on a quest for a country place near Gladstone. They chose a farmstead surrounded by fields and purchased “Paradise Farm” as 135 acres of land with its huge weeping willows lining the brook. They named their new property Willowwood Farm. In 1980 the Morris County Park Commission took control of the land. There are plenty of gardens, structures and decorative highlights throughout that you can explore.

More Options

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)
Patriots’ Path (East Hanover Township)
Raptor Trust (Millington)
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)
Sourland Mountain Preserve (Hillsborough)

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9 Must-See Gardens in NJ
Butterfly Gardens in NJ