The Wetlands Institute Celebrates 50 Years

Turtle Fest kicks off the Wetlands Institute celebration on April 20. Photo courtesy of the Wetlands Institute

A prized New Jersey institution celebrates its 50th anniversary this month with, among other events, a terrapin-themed egg hunt and turtle-hatchling nature walks. Founded in 1969, the Wetlands Institute, located in Middle Township outside Stone Harbor, is a true forerunner of the environmental movement. “The institute predates the creation of the EPA and passage of the Clean Water Act,” says Lenore Tedesco, the organization’s executive director for the last seven years. “It was at a point in time where there was no wetlands protection.”

The celebration kicks off on April 20 with Turtle Fest. “It’s a big draw that starts off with a pancake breakfast,” says Tedesco. Subsequent events include the 7th annual Spring Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival, May 18-19; and the 50th Anniversary Weekend Celebration, June 22-23, with free admission.

Herbert Mills, a Cumberland County resident and former executive with the World Wildlife Fund, was the guiding force behind the founding of the institute, which began with the purchase of 6,000 acres of marshland. Mills, who died in 1972, recognized the importance of New Jersey’s wetlands. “Wetlands are some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems, rivaling rainforests and coral reefs,” says Tedesco.

Most of the original acreage purchased for the nonprofit institute is now part of the Cape May Wetlands Wildlife Management Area. Meanwhile, the institute remains steadfast in its mission of research, conservation and education. It received more than 17,000 visitors in 2018, plus more than 12,000 schoolchildren.

Attractions include a 720-foot-long elevated boardwalk that provides a close-up view of marsh life. On a clear day, the institute’s 40-foot observation tower offers views of the barrier islands and thousands of acres of marsh. A 122-foot-long dock is used for eco-cruises on the Skimmer, a 40-foot pontoon boat, and back-bay kayak and paddleboard tours.

“Our biggest success,” says Tedesco, “is connecting people to the ecosystems and allowing them to understand their importance, in addition to our cutting-edge research and conservation programs.”

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3 Great Spots for Backpacking with Kids

Photo by ?àm T??ng Quân via Pexels

For a fun and educational walk with your kids, consider  Monmouth County Parks Department’s Safari Backpack program. The backpacks are loaned for free and contain everything a young explorer may need, including magnifying glass, binoculars, butterfly net, trail maps, scavenger-hunt activities, and pamphlets to help identify birds, insects, flowers and trees. “The Safari Backpacks are meant to get kids excited about exploring,” says Ruth Carll, senior naturalist for the parks system. You can choose from three county locations:

Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center • Howell
Stay close to the Visitor’s Center and check out the pollinator garden and the birds and insects that congregate at the front pond. For more of a walk, venture out on the 1.1-mile Cove Trail, which skirts the nearby lakeshore, or the more ambitious 5.1-mile loop around the reservoir.

Deep Cut Gardens • Middletown
Pick up a backpack at the horticultural center, then take the paved path through the main garden of the 54-acre sanctuary to see flowers, bees and butterflies. Explore the greenhouse and koi pond, or meander through chestnut, oak, maple and ash groves on the Meadow Walk. 

Huber Woods Environmental Center • Middletown
Choose among meadow, forest or pre-K-geared backpacks. The park has eight miles of trails; the short Discovery Path and Nature Loop, both under a half mile, are ideal for little legs and for spotting wildflowers and butterflies.

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Rediscovering the Beauty of Slowing Down

Illustration by Sandra Dionisi

As time slowed to a crawl last spring in the final month of my pregnancy, my runner’s pace gave way to that of the slowpokes I’d once resented. I made my way around Orange Reservoir in the South Mountain Recreation Complex at a pained amble, fond memories of past 5Ks and marathons swirling around me. I recalled one race at that very reservoir. At that time, I had sailed around the reservoir seemingly weightless and free, October sunshine reflecting on the water, crisp autumn air in my face. Now, years later, it was very warm, I was very large, and my pace was very slow.

Yet my hindered speed (thanks to the 8-pound bowling ball in my abdomen), enabled me to view the world a bit more clearly.

Once, I would dash past the birdwatchers pointing eagerly at the finches in the trees above the playground. Now I caught myself glancing upward as well, hoping to catch a glimpse of yellow wings and maybe a nest with eggs, mirroring my own condition. 

The stretch of the reservoir loop where I’d once been annoyed by the obnoxious whistle of the zoo train in the adjacent woods now suggested my future: a harried parent with chubby-cheeked child in tow.

Most of all, I had time to take in the human side of the reservoir that I’d previously missed at my runner’s pace.

As I trailed a woman taking painful, halting steps in a knee brace, I found myself touched and even inspired that someone with an injury—perhaps chronic—was doing her best to make it around the 1.7-mile loop that had once seemed like small change to this former marathoner. Stopping at a bench for a much-needed break, I was heartened to see an older gentleman sharing the spot with his dog, carefully dribbling drops from his own water bottle for his graying pal.

Pausing again at a large patio, I listened intently to two middle-aged women discussing the antidepressant qualities of cashew nuts, certain I’d misheard some detail; but no, she was talking about the nut. 

Everywhere I looked, people of different ethnicities and ages were taking the same route, completing the same circle, following in each other’s steps, exchanging nods and smiles. All these tiny human interactions transcended any perceived barriers of language or customs. We were treading the same circuit around the reservoir, some with dogs or kids, one footfall at a time. In another life, I’d passed all these people without a thought. Now I felt a kinship with them, all of us walking together.

Later in the summer, I returned with a stroller—and my new walking companion—taking in all the tiny curiosities and intriguing sights along the water’s edge. We walk the reservoir together now, slowly.

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7 Stunning Full-Moon Hikes

Illustration by Bob Scott

Not enough daylight to explore all the Garden State’s natural wonders? Full-moon hikes extend your outdoor time, offering an opportunity to see the state in a whole new light—of the silvery moon.

Full-moon hikes are easy-to-moderate walks in a park or preserve. Led by a staff naturalist, the hikes typically begin at dusk. By nightfall, your eyes are so accustomed to the dark that you won’t need a headlamp or flashlight. In fact, some leaders prefer you go without.

No mere walks in the woods, these moonlit mini-adventures are designed to enlighten, surprise and educate. Some focus on connecting with nature. Others are timed to place the group in an awe-inspiring spot as the moon crests. And some weave history into the walk. One minute you might be hiking alongside a former cranberry bog, the next learning about the last family to farm it.

With your sight diminished, the scent of blossoming plants is magnified, as is the sound of wildlife, including the high-pitched mating calls of male tree frogs. These “spring peepers,” as they’re commonly known, are abundant in wetlands. “It’s like you’re in an amphitheater of peepers,” says Patricia Trasferini, program coordinator for Cloverdale Farm County Park in Ocean County. “Pair that with the moonlit sky, and it’s perfect.”

Registering early is recommended. While you’re signing up, note any age restrictions. Full-moon hikes are scheduled on or near the date of the actual full moon.

Ready to venture forth? Here’s a sampling of hikes, listed from north to south:

Newton (Sussex County)
Start: 199 Goodale Road
Length: 3-mile loop

Your hike begins at the visitor’s center with an explanation of the phases of the moon. Then it’s into the woods along rail-trails and grassy paths that take you over gently rolling hills and through meadows. But don’t be lulled. The hike includes enough inclines and rocky trail conditions that it’s limited to teens and adults. Those who challenge themselves are rewarded with the sight of the moon reflecting on Lake Aeroflex, the deepest natural lake in the state.

When to go: Monthly in spring and summer. Check website for dates.

Bergen County
Start:  313 Hudson Avenue
Length: 1.5-mile loop

Perched atop the Palisades cliffs eight miles north of the George Washington Bridge sits a quiet swath of some 400 acres where budding oak and maple trees, climbing grape vines, and huge fallen trees edge the trails on this meditative, two-hour walk. Leader Jillian Henthorn discourages hikers from talking as she guides them into the woods, stopping occasionally to identify trees or remark on the historical significance of the property, including its ties to the Lenni Lenape, as well as its former life as a cattle farm. You’ll briefly stop at the 4-acre Pfister’s Pond before completing the loop.

When to go: April 17; May 18; June 16

Mendham (Morris County)
Start: 339 Pleasant Valley Road
Length: 2-mile loop

After ascending two moderately steep hills, you coast along flat trails through a hardwood forest of tulip and ash trees, poplars, maples and oaks. Passing an old pole barn brings you to Lookout Point, offering views of the North Branch of the Raritan River. Hike leader Lauren Theis stops the group here to observe the moon before continuing through the forest to the Great Meadow, where hikers marvel at the quarter-mile-wide, moonlit area filled with ironweed, beardtongue and violets, as well as a mix of Indian grass, big and little bluestem, and switchgrass.

Illustration by Bob Scott

When to go: May 18; June 17

Harding (Morris County)
Start: 1 Tiger Lily Lane
Length: 1.5-mile loop

If your idea of a good time is mimicking the call of a barred owl and ducking flying squirrels, register early for this popular hike at the Great Swamp Watershed Association Conservation Management Area. Before proceeding onto the mulched or earthen trails, you’re given red film to cover your headlamp or flashlight. This allows you to see better while preserving your night vision. By the time you reach a low, 18-foot-long boardwalk bridge, it’s dark, the moon has risen, and the drone of traffic from Route 287 is replaced by spring peepers and the brook below. “We’ll walk slowly, listening, experiencing what life was like at night 100 years ago,” says hike leader and director of outreach and education Hazel England, who touches on animal behavior, water-quality issues and Great Swamp history. 

When to go: May 18; June 14

Toms River (Ocean County) 

Start: 1170 Cattus Island Boulevard
Length: 2 miles

The unique coastal habitat of salt marsh and maritime forest, combined with a pre-sunset departure and easy trails, make for a memorable, family-friendly hike. From the Cooper Environmental Center, you pass American holly and Eastern red cedars and pine and oak forests, occasionally stopping to spot ospreys nesting on one of the park’s 11 platforms. You reach the bay beach in time to watch the sunset, then retrace your steps as the moon rises—the air filled with the loud chanting songs of Eastern whip-poor-wills and chuck-will’s-widows.

When to go: May 18

Barnegat (Ocean County) 

Start: 34 Cloverdale Road, Length: 2.5-mile loop 

Check in early at the nature center and tour its displays chronicling the history of Cloverdale, a 102-acre former cranberry bog. Then it’s onto the relatively level trails past seven connected bogs, one—the Grandfather’s Bog— dating to the late 1800s. After a couple miles, you reach the back of the property, where you might spy the whitish-pink blossoms of mountain laurel and inhale the clean scent of sweet bay magnolia—both Jersey natives. Watch for screech owls zipping past and the occasional night hawks careening over the water. If hike leader Patricia Trasferini times it right—and she keeps you moving at a good clip to do just that—you will find yourself atop a knoll above the tree line as the moon crests.

When to go: May 17

(Burlington & Ocean counties)  

Start: NJ 72, Woodland Township (Call 609-296-1114 for precise location.)
Length: 5-mile loop

Hardy hikers age 10 and up have a unique opportunity to traverse a rare ecosystem on unmarked trails. Park along NJ 72, where the hike leader guides you along sand and gravel paths through a forest of rare pygmy pines that reach an average of only four feet. At the highest point on the route, you pause to gaze over the acres of pines as the moon rises.

When to go: April 20

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State Plants Seeds for First Offshore Wind Farms

Atlantic City’s giant wind turbines generate enough energy to power more than 2,000 homes. The development of offshore wind farms is the next step in New Jersey’s clean-energy plan. Photo: AP Photo/Mel Evans

If you’ve driven into Atlantic City in recent years, you’ve been awed by the five massive turbines of America’s first coastal wind farm. The installation produces approximately 19 million kilowatts of emission-free electricity per year. That’s enough energy to power more than 2,000 homes.

If this much renewable energy can be harnessed on coastal lands, imagine the possibilities if you could take those wind farms offshore, where sea breezes are magnified. That’s what Governor Phil Murphy had in mind last year when he signed an executive order calling on the state to create 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, with the longer vision of transforming New Jersey into a 100 percent clean energy state by 2050.

To get a better understanding of offshore wind, a team of researchers at Rutgers University conducted a study of factors that would affect wind-based energy production. 

“It’s important that developers take into consideration local effects, like sea breezes, to make sure they can optimize production,” says one of the Rutgers researchers, Dr. Joseph F. Brodie, director, Atmospheric Research, Center for Ocean Observing Leadership, at the university.  

The Rutgers study, published last September, found that not only do sea breezes travel three times farther offshore than onshore, but that the breezes are stronger during upwelling conditions, most common in the summer and fall, which is when water in deeper levels of the ocean rise to the surface. Thanks to the study, developers now know which months to expect the greatest potential wind energy. 

Last September, the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) starting taking bids from developers for the first 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind production. The winning bids will be announced in June. “Construction would be expected to start in 2022-2023, with commercial operations expected to begin in 2024-2026,” says BPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso. “Projects will be located in one of the four federally designated offshore wind lease areas off the coast of New Jersey.”

The offshore wind farms, which are expected to produce more energy than those onshore, will transmit power to shore by undersea radial transmission cables, connecting onshore at locations to be determined. The planned initial 1,100 megawatts of installed capacity will be able to generate an estimated 4.8 million megawatts of energy annually. This is enough to serve approximately 500,000 New Jersey homes.

The offshore wind farms are expected to bring jobs to New Jersey, while offering cost-effective, renewable energy. The BPU says a two-year research project led by the state Department of Environmental Protection “showed minimal environmental impact would occur” at proposed offshore sites. Additional studies looked at the impact on commercial and recreational fishing. “The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) thoroughly reviewed and considered these potential impacts,” says Fiordaliso. “In addition, developers are required to complete extensive site-evaluation studies and construction and operations plans, which must be reviewed and approved by BOEM in order for any project to proceed.” 

Further, the NJ DEP will monitor any environmental impacts in state waters and onshore. According to Dr. Josh Kohut, associate professor, Center for Ocean Observing Leadership at Rutgers, who worked on the study, “Frequent and open communication between all of the groups involved, and appropriate collaborative research, ensure decision-makers have access to the most relevant information.”

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Hoboken Food Tour: Pizza, Mozzarella and So Much More

Writer Sophia Gottfried approaches Lisa’s Italian Deli on Park Avenue. Photo by Marla Cohen

Hoboken clocks in at just over one square mile, but the Hudson County city packs a plethora of authentic Italian food into its tiny domain. One way to taste a smattering of it—from hand-pulled mozzarella to crusty, coal-fired loaves to pillowy cannoli cream—is to pound the cobblestones with Avi Ohring of Mangia Hoboken! Food and Culture Tour.

Kate Hein at Carlo’s. Photo by Marla Cohen

Ohring, who has called Hoboken home since the mid-1980s, started taking tourists around his city 10 years ago. He advises groups to start hungry and wear comfortable walking shoes. Our party of seven, who converged at the Hoboken PATH station on a sunny, early-fall day, gladly complied. During the 3 1/2 hour outing, we briskly followed our leader down promenades crammed with strollers and dogs, along rowhouse-lined side streets and through quaint alleys. We walked the streets with gusto, jaywalking like true Jerseyans.   

The adventure, which costs $48 per person (including food tastings), began at Carlo’s Bakery, of reality television’s Cake Boss fame, where we skirted the crowds and ate our cannoli in the fragrant back alley. Ohring imparted a little history (the building has been a bakery for more than 100 years), and divulged Carlo’s secret cannoli ingredient—lard (vegetarians, take note). 

Back on Washington Street, Hoboken’s main drag, we wove through young families enjoying the weather, shop owners greeting regulars, and college sports fans heading for a pub. Ohring led us fleetingly past the popular Luca Brasi’s Deli, explaining, “If we went to all the Italian delis in Hoboken, this would be a seven- or eight-hour tour.” 

We trekked instead to Fiore’s Deli, whose sign proclaims, “Famous for our mozzarella.” Indeed, patrons were lined up to the establishment’s well-weathered door for the chewy, juicy house specialty, eaten on its own or in a special roast beef and gravy sandwich. We intently devoured a tray, the tranquility broken only when a slice I was holding accidentally slipped to the ground.

The Mangiaracina family. Photo by Marla Cohen

All was forgiven by the time we got to Dom’s Bakery Grand, last of a small chain of traditional Italian bakeries in Hoboken. In the bare-bones interior, only a few pieces of tomato focaccia and two flaky, cream-stuffed sfogliatella, or lobster-tail, pastries remained by the afternoon. A passing local graciously informed us that the bread keeps well in the freezer. But ripping hunks from a loaf still warm from the coal-fired oven is superior. (Consider bringing your own olive oil for dipping, as Ohring did for us.) 

Between food stops, we also got a fair serving of history; Ohring pointed out the vacant lot on Monroe Street where Frank Sinatra’s birthplace once stood, a few of the once-abundant Italian-American social clubs still in use, and plenty of formerly industrial buildings turned condos.

If you know Hoboken, you know the Lisa of Lisa’s Deli is a guy—Tony Lisa. Photo by Marla Cohen

More mozzarella awaited us at Lisa’s Italian Deli on Park Avenue, where 73-year-old Anthony “Tony” Lisa, whose family has owned the shop since 1971, had the shelves stocked with canned Italian tomatoes, peppers, pasta and other imported goods. But the sandwiches, panini and fresh mozzarella were the draw; in fact, Tony had mozzarella boss embroidered on his chef’s jacket. To prove it, he gracefully pulled a ball of curds into a neat braid, and another into a bundle to be aged and stuffed (called scamorza). Entertained, we dug into a tray of heroes laden with housemade pesto, arugula and ham, salami or fried eggplant (and, of course, fresh mozzarella). Meanwhile, Lisa told family stories and explained how Hoboken has changed over the last 50 years. One of our party was so charmed, she said she’d return as much for his company as for his sandwiches. 

What’s an Italian food tour without pizza? Back on Washington, we piled into Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, of Brooklyn fame; this is one of their two Jersey locations. Seated at the bar, my food-tour comrades and I didn’t have to be convinced to make room for a thin, crispy slice topped with more fresh mozzarella.

Rounding out the cheese-and-bread-filled journey, we headed to Sweet, a charming corner bakeshop, for mini red-velvet cupcakes. We took them up the block to Empire Coffee & Tea on Bloomfield Street for a caffeine pairing. The family-owned business offers dozens of signature roasts, as well as drinks to go.

Three hours and about one and a half walked miles later, Ohring returned us to Carlo’s Bakery, this time out front. There we stood, mozzarella-sated but already plotting to return for more.  

Mangia Hoboken! tours run at 2 pm every other Saturday, April–October; tours are limited to 16 people. Go to hobokenfoodtour.com for information and reservations.

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32 Great Walks in New Jersey

Photo by Marla Cohen

Somewhere between tapping your TV remote and hiking up a hill is that most rewarding form of exercise, the walk. Whether brisk or leisurely, the walk can do it all. Walks are an ideal form of exercise, but they can also provide relaxation, fresh air and quiet moments. Walks with friends and family (or the family pet) encourage camaraderie and conversation. Walks provide scenic views and help us connect with nature or history. And there’s nothing that says a walk can’t be interrupted for a snack, a libation or a bit of shopping.

In this issue, we provide dozens of ideas for New Jersey walks. Some might be right in your town; most are definitely worth a drive. Our walks take you through parks and along rivers. Some explore green corridors through densely populated neighborhoods. Others veer off the beaten path. Our city walks provide glimpses of history and architecture that you might miss from a car window. Our Hoboken food tour invites you to not just walk through that city, but to taste it.

Each of our walks can turn an ordinary morning or afternoon into a memorable one. But how about night-time? For that, we introduce you to eight guided, full-moon hikes offered on specified dates at a variety of state, county and municipal parks. These mini-adventures will delight, surprise and educate you.

So, what are you waiting for? Lace up your comfy shoes, fill a water bottle, and start strolling.

The Garden State’s Most Scenic Strolls

Historic City Walks You Won’t Want to Miss

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Historic City Walks You Won’t Want to Miss

The Record Collector in Bordentown Photo by Frank Veronsky

Few states can claim as many historic sites as New Jersey. These five city walks take you back in time. 

Start: Prince and Courtland streets
Distance: 1.25-mile loop

This walk starts at the statue of Revolutionary War author and activist Thomas Paine, a onetime resident of this Delaware River city. Proceed north on Courtland Street and turn right (away from the river) on Farnsworth Avenue. At 32 Farnsworth, you’ll reach the home of another local patriot, Joseph Borden, son of the town’s namesake. Your next stop is 101 Farnsworth, the imposing brick home of Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Across the street, Common Sense Brewing (102 Farnsworth), named for Paine’s influential pamphlet, offers refreshment Friday-Sunday. Continue to the restored 1740 Friends Meeting House at 302 Farnsworth. At 358 Farnsworth you’ll reach the Record Collector, where you can search the bins of old vinyl LPs. Heading back, turn right on Crosswicks Street and walk five blocks to Burlington Street to see the red-brick schoolhouse where Red Cross founder Clara Barton taught in the 1850s. Dining options include Oliver a Bistro (218 Farnsworth) and Jester’s Café (233 Farnsworth). Park on the street or city parking lots.—Tom Wilk

The landmark Colgate Clock on the Jersey City waterfront Photo by Jennifer Brown

Start: Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial
Distance: 5-6-mile loop

Although a building boom has changed the face of the Jersey City waterfront, several well-preserved historic neighborhoods remain in the downtown area. Start in Liberty State Park (use the free Statue of Liberty parking area) with a visit to the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial and the neighboring Central Railroad Terminal. Here you can enjoy sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. Walk along the water’s edge away from the river and through the Liberty Landing Marina, then cross the Morris Canal footbridge onto Jersey Avenue. Continue north on Jersey Avenue about six blocks to the neighborhood around Van Vorst Park, with its tree-lined streets and preserved, 19th-century brownstones. The redstone Heppenheimer Mansion (now condos) on the corner of Jersey and Montgomery streets dates to 1884. Turn right into the park, then left on Barrow Street and right on Wayne Street to pass the 1837 Greek Revival Barrow Mansion, named for an in-law of the Van Vorsts, now a community center. Return to Barrow Street and head toward the lively Newark Avenue Pedestrian Mall. Here you can pick up a street map at Word Bookstore or sustenance at Porta, Two Boots or Roman Nose. Turn right at Grove Street and walk past the massive, 1892 granite-and-marble City Hall. Turn left at Grand Street and proceed to the Paulus Hook Monument at Washington Street. Turn right on Washington, right on Sussex Street, left on Warren Street and left on Morris Street to soak up the ambience of Paulus Hook, a beautiful, preserved neighborhood first populated by Dutch settlers in the 1600s. Follow Morris toward the river until you reach the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway. Walk past the Goldman Sachs Tower, New Jersey’s tallest building, and you’ll come face-to-face with a true icon, the 1924 Colgate Clock. Follow the Waterfront Walkway to Warren Street, where you can catch a ferry back to Liberty State Park (every 30 minutes weekdays, 60 minutes weekends).—Pegi Adam

Start: 11 DeHart Street
Distance: 1.5-mile loop

The lifelike statue of Morris Frank, founder of the Seeing Eye Photo by Laura Baer

First settled in 1715, the city of Morristown has a rich history, much of it centered on the American Revolution. Start in the municipal parking lot next to 11 DeHart Street. Leaving the lot on DeHart, turn left and left again on South Street, then proceed to the Morristown Green. Now a public park, the Green was used as a parade ground by George Washington’s Continental Army in the winter of 1777.

Historic marker on the Morristown Green indicates location of the tavern that served as George Washington’s HQ from January-May 1777 Photo by Laura Baer

At the center of the Green, take a selfie with the life-size statues of Washington chatting with Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette. For another selfie, look for the statue of Morris Frank, founder of the Seeing Eye, on a traffic island at the far corner of the Green. Now cross East Park Place to the stone Presbyterian Church and Burying Ground. The current church, the third on the site, dates to 1893. Note the sundial to the right of the church, marking the spot of the original church where Washington took Holy Communion in 1777. Behind the church, you can wander through the graveyard, with many tombstones from the 1700s. Now retrace your steps to South Street and head back toward DeHart. You’ll pass Morristown’s restaurant row and a series of historic buildings, starting on the right with the Dr. Lewis Condict House (51 South Street), a 1797 Federal-style residence. Nearby is the restored, 18th-century Wood Farmhouse (83 South Street) where Lafayette stayed on his return to Morristown in 1825. At the corner of South and Miller streets, gaze up at the austere Norman tower of the 1897 St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. 

The tower of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, built in 1897 Photo by Laura Baer

Across from the church is the Vail Mansion, former home of Theodore Vail, an early president of AT&T and the architect of the Bell System. The mansion now houses Jockey Hollow, a New Jersey Monthly Top 30 restaurant. Now walk down Miller Street alongside St. Peter’s until you reach Macculloch Avenue. The large, white corner house on your right—a national landmark—is the longtime home of 19th-century political

The longtime home of political cartoonist Thomas Nast Photo by Laura Baer

cartoonist Thomas Nast, who gave us the modern images of Santa Claus and Uncle Sam. Across Macculloch Avenue is the Kedge, an unusual brick-and-shingle home from the 1870s. Immediately next door is the Federal-style Macculloch Hall Historical Museum. The sturdy brick mansion—built in the 1810s—is now a museum of early-American decorative arts and features the world’s largest collection of works by cartoonist Nast. (Museum open 1-4 pm, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; the gardens in the rear are free and open daily.) Across from Macculloch Hall is the Admiral Rogers House, an 1852 Victorian with a magnificent display of wisteria on its broad front porch. Proceed on Macculloch and turn right on Dehart to return to your car. To complete your Morristown tour, drive up the steep hill behind the county courthouse to Fort Nonsense, which provides a broad view over the city. Then head to the Ford Mansion and Washington’s Headquarters Museum (30 Washington Place) for a full dose of Revolutionary history.—Ken Schlager 

Princeton’s Einstein bust Photo by Ken Schlager

Start: 55 Stockton Street
Distance: 2-mile loop

Our walk begins at Morven Museum & Gardens; there’s ample free parking to the rear. Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, built the pre-Revolutionary mansion; it later served as the residence of five New Jersey governors and is now an art and history museum (open Wednesday-Sunday). A pathway to the right of Morven leads to the Princeton Battle Monument, a towering marble-and-granite tribute to George Washington’s victory at the Battle of Princeton in 1777. Continue on the path to the Einstein bust, dedicated in 2005 to the memory of Princeton’s most famous 20th-century resident. Proceed for three blocks on Nassau Street to Palmer Square on your left. Here you can stroll among boutiques and gift shops and grab a coffee at Rojo’s Roastery or an ice cream at the esteemed Bent Spoon. The Nassau Inn at the center of the square is home to the Yankee Doodle Tap Room. Step inside (entrance next to Lindt Chocolate Shop) for a look at the large Norman Rockwell mural behind the bar. Walk through the bar to the dining room and examine the gallery of graduation photos of some 60 Princeton alums, including Jeff Bezos, James Stewart, Bill Bradley and Michelle Robinson Obama (class of ’85). Exit the Yankee Doodle near the photo gallery, turn left, then right on Hulfish Street and left on Witherspoon Street to reach the Princeton Cemetery. Follow Wiggins Street to Grandview Avenue to locate the cemetery entrance. Using a map from the honor box, you can find the graves of U.S. president Grover Cleveland, his wife, Frances, and their daughter, Ruth; novelist John O’Hara; businessman Paul Tulane; U.S. vice president Aaron Burr; and other famous

Novelist John O’Hara’s grave in Princeton/strong> Photo by Ken Schlager

Princetonians. After leaving the cemetery, follow Vandeventer Avenue across Nassau Avenue to the university campus. Continue up Washington Road and enter the campus on your right, between Firestone Library and the massive University Chapel. For a break from the itinerary, turn left in front of the chapel to reach the Princeton Art Museum, with its fantastic collection of art and photography from around the world (open Tuesday-Sunday; free). To continue on your way, proceed across from the chapel, past the statue of John Witherspoon and through the arches of Pyne Hall to Nassau Hall, where British troops surrendered to Washington after the Battle of Princeton. Exit the campus in front of Nassau Hall and turn left to pass the 1756 MacLean House, original residence of the college presidents, and the Nassau Presbyterian Church. Continue on Nassau Street to Stockton Street to return to Morven.—KS

Start: 1 North Broad Street
Distance: 1-mile loop

Broad Street offers an educational journey through Woodbury’s past. A Civil War monument outside the county courthouse (1 North Broad Street) honors 181 Union dead. A few steps away is the World War I Doughboy Sculpture (19 North Broad). The Sailing to Freedom Mural (161 North Broad) commemorates the Wood family of Bury, England, who arrived in 1683 and gave the city its name. Cross at the Red Bank Avenue intersection for a slight uphill return on the other side of Broad Street. Take a detour into Broad Street Lake and Park to stroll along the paths and grassy areas. The Woodbury Friends Meeting House (120 North Broad) is your next stop. Built in 1715-16, it is the city’s oldest public building and was used at different times by Colonial and British troops during the Revolution. The Gloucester County Historical Society Museum (58 North Broad) is housed in the 1765 Hunter-Lawrence-Jessup house, once the home of Captain James Lawrence, who uttered the words “Don’t give up the ship” as he lay dying during the War of 1812. Next to the house is a historic marker indicating the November 1777 headquarters of British general Cornwallis. Enjoy lunch or dinner at Charlie Brown’s (111 North Broad) or grab a snack at Fiore’s Bagel Nook & Café (5 Delaware Street). Park for free at the county garage, North Broad and Hunter streets. A walking tour map is available at the city library (33 Delaware Street).—TW

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The Garden State’s Most Scenic Strolls

Joseph Turkot and Caroline Rash of Mount Ephraim enjoy an evening stroll around a gravel track at Cooper River Park in Camden County, home to the Cooper River Yacht Club.
Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

Forget the hiking boots and granola bars. Walking in New Jersey requires no more than a comfy pair of shoes and a desire to enjoy fresh air and daylight. We’ve identified 18 delightful strolls throughout the state—none too long, none too steep—that everyone can enjoy. 

Mountain Lakes (Morris County)
Start: Pocono Road and Boulevard
Distance: 2.5 miles one way

This paved path runs alongside Boulevard, the main artery through Mountain Lakes, and overlooks the town’s namesake lake, offering beautiful views of the surrounding homes. Following the bed of a former trolley line, the path is a popular route for walkers, runners and bicyclists. Impressive colonial, Georgian and Spanish-style homes flank the path, and large, mature trees provide shade, adding comfort even on the hottest days of summer. There are several free parking lots on Boulevard, or grab a spot on a side street. The path stretches to Elcock Avenue; start at either end.—SV

Newark (Essex County)
Start: Park Avenue and Lake Street
Distance: Varies

This 360-acre expanse—America’s first county park—was formally created in 1895. The Olmsted Brothers redesigned the park in 1900, giving it a natural look similar to Central Park, their father’s most famous design. A 4-mile paved path winds through the rolling mix of meadows and woodlands. Notably, Branch Brook features America’s largest collection of cherry trees (more than in Washington, D.C.). Thousands of visitors descend upon the park for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, starting this year on April 6. Festivities conclude April 14 with Bloomfest, an extravaganza of Japanese cultural demonstrations, live music, children’s activities, food vendors and more.—MM

Lucy, the cocker spaniel, leads NJM managing editor Deborah Carter and her family (from left) Janelle Gera, Angela Weaver and Beatrice Willis on a shady stroll.
Photo by Marla Cohen

(Essex County)
Start: Watchung Avenue entrance
Distance: 1.2-mile loop

Another Olmsted Brothers creation, this 121-acre park, which straddles Bloomfield and Montclair, hosts summer concerts and fireworks on the Great Lawn and features a running track and 18-station fitness course. Enter on Watchung Avenue; a one-way road takes you to the first parking area. From there, a shaded, 1.2-mile asphalt walking path offers a mix of minor inclines and level ground. Walking in the direction of the vehicular traffic, you’ll pass ballfields and, on your right, a largely hidden archery field. At the top of the hill, there’s a playground on the left. You can detour onto a path into the woods past the dog park to the rose garden—a hilltop refuge with benches. Rest here and smell the more than 100 varieties of roses.—DPC

(Camden County)
Start: Parking lot near LaScala’s Birra restaurant
Distance: Varies

Opened in 1935, this 346-acre park along the Cooper River runs through Pennsauken, Cherry Hill, Collingswood and Haddon Township. The park—home to the Cooper River Yacht Club boathouse—hosts frequent rowing events and regattas. Local high school crew teams can often be seen practicing on the river on weekday afternoons. It’s also a popular area for birds and wildlife, with scenic views throughout the park. There are two designated walking paths: a paved 3.8-mile loop from Cuthbert Boulevard to Route 130, and a 1.35-mile trail from Cuthbert to Grove Street. The Philadelphia skyline views are especially striking from the bridge on Cuthbert Boulevard.—SV

(Hunterdon County)
Start: Bridge Street, Lambertville
Distance: 4.2 miles one way

The D&R is a 60-mile linear park following a 19th-century canal towpath that stretched from Frenchtown on the Delaware River south to Trenton and inland to New Brunswick. Start in downtown Lambertville (use the free lot next to Cavallo Park at Mt. Hope Street). Follow the dirt-and-gravel trail north along the canal past the tidy riverfront backyards of Lambertville. North of town, the surroundings open to a broad vista of the mighty Delaware. After four miles, you’ll reach tiny Stockton; about a half-mile farther are the galleries and gift shops (and public restrooms) of the restored Prallsville Mills. For a longer walk, continue three miles to Bull’s Island Recreation Area, with its modern pedestrian bridge over the river.—KS

Ricky Larcara and NJM associate editor Jacqueline Klecak take in the lush greenery at Duke Farms in Hillsborough.
Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

Hillsborough (Somerset County)
Start: South Gate Entrance off Dukes Parkway West
Distance: Varies

More than 18 miles of trails await you at Duke Farms, a privately owned estate committed to conserving and protecting the environment. The varied paved, gravel and mulched paths wind through and around woodlands, meadows, lakes and waterfalls. You’ll also pass sculptures and historic buildings. Grab a map at the Farm Barn Orientation Center, located near the parking lot at the estate’s south end, and design your own route through the 2,700-acre site. No formal tours are given, but dozens of interpretive signs and audio tours are located around the property. Don’t miss the Orchid Range, filled with stunning orchids and other exotic flowers, or the Old Foundation site, where nature has taken over the remnants of an abandoned mansion. The recently restored Coach Barn was built in 1899 with locally quarried fieldstone. Admission to Duke Farms is free. No pets allowed.—SV

Pennsville (Salem County)
Start: Fort Mott Road
Distance: 1.1 miles roundtrip

A self-guided walking tour begins near the parking lot off Fort Mott Road. Constructed in 1896 to defend the Delaware River, Fort Mott consists of five batteries, whose guns had a range of up to 8 miles. Ladders along the length of the fort provide an elevated view of the riverfront, including Fort Delaware—on an island opposite Fort Mott—and the nearby Salem Nuclear Generating Station. The parapet, a massive concrete wall up to 35 feet thick in places, concealed the guns. The grassy trail is level, but can get muddy after a rain. Tables and grills are available for picnicking. The Welcome Center offers trail maps and a museum. A half-mile walk north of the fort is Finn’s Point National Cemetery, which contains the Civil War remains of 2,436 Confederate and 135 Union soldiers.—TW

Garrett Family Preserve
Photo by Ken Schlager

Cape May (Cape May County)
Start: 801 Wilson Street
Distance: Varies

This 180-acre marshland preserve—a recent project of the Nature Conservancy—is home to migratory birds, raptors, butterflies and a world of unseen, chattering insects. The Perimeter Loop is a flat, 2-mile walk on a mowed path through marshes and flowery fields. The connections with intersecting trails can be confusing, but there’s no chance of getting lost or wandering outside the loop. A series of man-made arbors at the forested northeast corner of the preserve provides the only shade; sunscreen, bug spray and a water bottle are essential. A bird blind at the southeast corner provides a view over the neighboring salt marsh. The preserve is about two miles from the Cape May beaches.—KS

Haddon Avenue Walk

(Camden County)
Start: Kings Highway and Haddon Avenue, Haddonfield
Distance: 2.5 miles one way

This sidewalk stroll takes you through three towns—Haddonfield, Haddon Township and Collingswood—past dozens of small businesses and eateries. Make your first stop at Jersey Java for a coffee or iced tea before continuing to Hooked, a yarn boutique. Peek through the windows of Acme Accordion School in Haddon Township; you might catch an accordion lesson in progress. If you’re hungry once you pass the Westmont PATCO station, stop into Heart Beet Kitchen for a bite, or if you’re in the mood for a pint, Keg & Kitchen or the Pour House offer a large selection of beers on draft. Collingswood rolls out a bounty of boutiques, galleries and restaurants. Don’t feel like walking all the way back? Hop on the PATCO and hop off two stops later in Haddonfield, a block from where you started.—SV

Popamora Point (Monmouth County)
Start: 369 Shore Drive, Highlands
Distance: 1.5 miles one way

This short, scenic walk covers the easternmost section of a 24-mile trail that arcs through Monmouth County. Here the trail hugs a narrow strip of land along Sandy Hook Bay at the foot of the Atlantic Highlands bluffs. Rising steeply above one side of the trail is the highest point on the East Coast south of Maine. On the other side, the broad view across the bay can reach all the way to Manhattan on a clear day. A hidden bay beach marks one end of the trail like an exclamation point; it’s a sandy jewel. Hurricane Sandy washed away parts of the trail, but they have been rebuilt with sturdy concrete walkways across the low, wet spots. The mostly gravel trail is flat and smooth, connecting the main streets of two neighboring towns, Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, each offering plenty of food choices at either end of your walk.—KC

Photo courtesy of Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corporation

Pennington (Mercer County)
Start: 424 Federal City Road
Distance: 5.2 miles roundtrip

This trail has something for the engineering geek, naturalist, biker and historian, all with comprehensive signage and varied scenery. Pass Rosedale Lake, stocked with trout, and pretty Willow Pond to reach the Hunt House, believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, now headquarters for the county parks. From there, it’s about 1.5 miles through woods and stunning grasslands to Pole Farm, the site of AT&T’s former array of 10-story poles and antennae that enabled the first transatlantic phone calls. Side trails reach an insect walk, observation tower and stargazing area. Maps are available at lhtrail.org. Note: Deer hunters may be using bows and arrows in the park as part of the deer-management program September–to-mid-February, but not on Sundays and not within 50 feet of county trails.—TK

Middlesex Greenway Photo courtesy of Edison Greenways Group

(Middlesex County)
Start: Middlesex Avenue, Mutton
Distance: 3.5 miles one way

This shaded, paved trail makes its quiet way along an old rail bed through the tangle of highways that bisect the state’s midsection. That long underpass? It runs beneath the Jersey Turnpike. That arcing bridge? It takes you over Route 1. Flat and smooth, the Greenway is a welcome respite from the bordering bustle and offers an engaging history lesson, with interpretive markers along the way. The Metuchen end gets the most use and is also home to a worthy trailside detour: the emotion-packed Metuchen Memorial Park, with 41 honey locust trees standing in straight ranks, one for each local resident who died in the wars of the last century.—KC

(Somerset County)
Start: 2 Main Street, Gladstone
Distance: Varies

Park in a designated area near the entrance, then pick a path. The Upper Field Nature Trail (a 1-mile loop) features rocky sections, two steep inclines and plenty of wildflowers. The Great Meadow Trail (1.3 miles) is a much flatter journey through a scenic meadow. The North Branch of the Raritan River runs through both trails. For a map and further park information, go to somersetcountyparks.org. Looming above the north end of the 404-acre park is the Natirar Mansion, home to Ninety Acres, a fine-dining restaurant and cooking school.—DM

Photo courtesy of New Jersey State Botanical Garden at Skylands

Ringwood State Park (Passaic County)
Start: Parking Lot A
Distance: 1.75-mile loop

Flowering plants, forest paths, statuary, a mansion and a hidden pond are among the attractions on this walk. From the parking lot, proceed to the Carriage House for a map of the park, then turn left to pass the annual and perennial gardens. Beyond the gardens to your left, two parallel rows of crab-apple trees stretch for a half mile. Head across the crab-apple rows to reach a fenced sanctuary for hostas, rhododendrons and rock-loving plants, then follow the path to the right to  Swan Pond. Turn around and recross the crab-apple rows and head for the lilac garden, which is best enjoyed in May. Terraced gardens nearby lead to Skylands Manor, a Tudor Revival mansion (guided tours on select Sundays). Circle the house to the left, enjoying the trees as you return to the parking lot with a lighter heart and lungs full of fresh air. Still feeling energetic? Ringwood Manor, also part of the state park, is a short drive away.—KL

Cranford (Union County)
Start: Springfield Avenue lot
Distance: 2-mile loop

Located across the street from Union County College, this county park features a scenic lake bisected by a footbridge. Park in the lot near the playground (spots can be scarce on weekends) and take the paved, mostly flat path through the woods to Kenilworth Boulevard, which follows the edge of the park to Riverside Drive. At the end of Riverside Drive, a footbridge takes you over the Rahway River and back toward your starting point beyond the lake. Keep an eye out for deer, geese and turtles. The park contains ballfields, two playgrounds, a gazebo, and numerous benches and picnic tables.—MM

Palisades Interstate Park
Photo courtesy of njpalisades.org

(Bergen County)
Start: Fort Lee Historic Park (metered parking); Ross Dock Picnic Area ($5-$10 parking, cash only); Allison Park (free parking); Englewood Picnic Area ($5 parking, cash only); or Stateline Lookout (free parking)
Distance: Varies

The Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey is about 12 miles long. Choosing which portion to explore is the hard part. The NJ Palisades Guide App is a huge help; so is njpalisades.org. Both offer information about trails, picnic areas, parking lots, restrooms, snack stands and landmarks. Assuming you don’t plan on traversing all 12 miles, some of which are difficult, you can choose from four more manageable walks: 

The 33-acre Fort Lee Historic Park is like an outdoor museum. Paved paths meander through the grounds, which contain a visitor center, historic artifacts and recreated 18th-century soldier huts. 

The brick walkway around the Ross Dock Picnic Area offers sweeping views of the Hudson River, George Washington Bridge and New York City. From Ross Dock, follow the Shore Trail, a tranquil dirt path with stone steps leading to sand banks and the river. Walk for 1.3 miles to the Englewood Picnic Area. That’s where you’ll find a concession stand called the Snack Shack.

For a short stroll, stop at Allison Park, an 8-acre area with paved routes. 

From the the State Line Lookout, wander down Old Route 9 W, a 1.5-mile section of highway closed to traffic. Double back to the parking lot and grab a bite at the State Line Lookout Café.

Seeking more adventure? North of the Englewood Picnic Area, the Shore Trail’s terrain changes from level to rocky. The Long Path (aqua markers) follows a woodsy, cliff-top route. There are five short trails connecting the Shore Trail and Long Path as well as the challenging boulder field known as the Giant Stairs. The police emergency number for Palisades Interstate Park is 201-768-6001.—JK

Lebanon (Hunterdon County)
Start: South Parking Lot
Distance: 1-mile loop

This looped, multiuse trail passes through pinewoods and offers beautiful views of the glimmering Round Valley Reservoir, the deepest lake in the state. Unpaved yet well groomed, it’s the easiest trail on-site, making it especially good for children and birdwatchers. Round Valley is open year-round, but can be crowded on weekends, especially during summer. There are picnic tables just off the trail if you’d care to pack a lunch. Leashed dogs are welcome.—SV

(Mercer County)
Start: West Windsor Community Park, Princeton-Hightstown Road
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip 

The Trenton-New Brunswick Fast Line Trolley ran hourly between the two cities from 1902-1937; part of the old right-of-way is now a paved, flat trail suitable for walkers, bikes, wheelchairs and strollers. The northern half-mile of the trail starts to the east of the football fields in West Windsor Community Park and goes to Rabbit Hill Road. To your left, off the trail, is Grovers Mill Pond, said to be namesake of the fictional town in Orson Welles’s panic-inducing 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast. Turn back to the south, passing the starting point and cross Princeton-Hightstown Road at the light. Follow the trail along the road, then to the left, before the PSE&G power lines. The unshaded path runs through fields of wildflowers, wetlands and wildlife. Turn back once you reach Penn Lyle Road.—TK

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