Wharton State Forest pictured above

Hibernation is over. It’s time to stretch our legs, swap our slippers for real shoes and head outside to take in some of the great outdoors. The good news – you don’t have to go far to reach these great sites. They’re right here in South Jersey.



Wharton State Forest

Location: Atlantic, Burlington and Camden Counties
Size: 122,880 acres
Entrance fee: none for Wharton State Forest. Batsto Village has a charge per vehicle ($5 for NJ residents) on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Atsion recreation center has a per vehicle charge of $5/weekdays and $10/weekends for NJ residents.
Can’t-miss: Batsto Village, Atsion Lake, an abandoned town and kayaking

Wharton State Forest is the largest single tract of land within the New Jersey State Park System, which means there’s plenty of trails, rivers and lakes for hiking or biking. The forest is also a birders’ paradise, as it’s home to species like bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, great-horned owls and great blue herons. While hiking one of the park’s many trails, including the 50-mile Batona Trail connecting Wharton to the Brendan T. Byrne and Bass River State Forests, you might spot river otters, beavers or foxes. Take a dip in Atsion Lake or explore the Mullica River by kayak. You can also travel back in time at Batsto Village, a former bog iron and glass-making industrial center that thrived from 1766 into the 19th Century. Or head off the beaten path to discover the remains of Harrisville Village, a town abandoned at the beginning of the 20th Century.


Bass River State Forest 

Location: Burlington & Ocean Counties
Size: 18,208 acres
Entrance fee: $5 per vehicle for NJ residents
Can’t-miss: Lake Absegami, Warren Grove

As the first forest ever acquired by the state for public recreation, Bass River offers plenty of family-friendly activities. Guests can canoe or kayak around Lake Absegami, a 67-acre lake created in the 1930s, or wander through the park on nature trails that loop through the wetland forest in the Absegami Natural Area. You can also visit Warren Grove, often referred to as the Pygmy Forest, a rare forest of stunted oak and pine trees that grow no taller than 4 feet. Bass River State Forest also contains plenty of history – it was once a conservation camp created through the efforts of Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. The camp operated from 1933 to 1942 and put unemployed men to work conserving protected land and developing Lake Absegami. Visitors are even welcome to swing by the park’s office and check the records to see if any of their relatives were employed by the camp.


Corson’s Inlet State Park 

Location: Cape May County
Size: 341 acres
Entrance fee: none
Can’t-miss: Fishing, hiking and sunbathing

New Jersey is home to numerous beautiful beaches, and Corson’s Inlet State Park is no exception. It was established in 1969 in an effort to protect one of the last undeveloped tracts of land along the Shore coastline. You can spend the day fishing, crabbing, relaxing in the sand or keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife. Bring binoculars (and sunscreen), as the area is home to several migratory birds and is the nesting site for the endangered Piping Plover, the Least Tern and Black Skimmer.


Belleplain State Forest

Location: Cape May and Cumberland counties
Size: 23,000 acres
Entrance fee: $5 per vehicle for NJ residents
Can’t-miss: Lake Nummy, Interpretive Trails

Spanning over a stunning 23,000 acres, Belleplain State Forest was founded as a recreation, wildlife management, timber production and water conservation site. Three conservation camps were also set up in the area, which led to the Meisle Cranberry Bog’s transformation into Lake Nummy. The now-popular spot is open to swimmers from Memorial Day to Labor Day while lifeguards are on duty. You can also boat and fish. At the lake, you’ll find a beach complex with convenient changing rooms, restrooms, a first-aid station and a concession stand offering refreshments and beach supplies. The park also has several hiking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds and 2 Interpretive Trails that offer opportunities to view birds and wildlife native to the area like foxes, opossum and beavers. 


Barnegat Lighthouse State Park 

Location: Ocean County
Size: 32 acres
Entrance fee: none
Can’t-miss: Lighthouse, nature trails, fishing and picnic area

Situated at the northern tip of Long Beach Island, Barnegat Lighthouse has been guiding sailors since it was first lit in 1859. At that time, the lighthouse was once considered a critical resource for New York-bound ships along the New Jersey coastline. When you climb the lighthouse’s 217 steps, you’ll find stunning views of Island Beach, Barnegat Bay and Long Beach Island. Fishing is permitted along the bulkhead in the picnic area, where you can try to reel in striped bass, bluefish, summer flounder, black sea bass and other native species. You can also hike along the nature trail that winds through the small maritime forest or stroll along the inlet walkway extending from the lighthouse along Barnegat Bay.


Brendan T. Byrne State Forest 

Location: Burlington and Ocean Counties
Size: 38,000+ acres
Entrance fee: none
Can’t-miss: Whitesbog Village, Mount Misery Trail

Brendan T. Byrne State Forest offers the perfect blend of history and nature. The park boasts more than 25 miles of marked trails, including Mount Misery, a trail that’s ideal for mountain bikers. Guests can also explore the sandy, wooded trails that wind past the stone and brick remains of the former bustling town established around Lebanon Glassworks, which was built in 1851 but became defunct after depleting its source of wood for the furnace. The state park is also home to the once-bustling village of Whitesbog, a cranberry and blueberry-producing community that operated during the 19th and 20th centuries. Special events, including tours of the village (March 2), live music (March 17) and moonlight walks (March 23) are held each month.


Double Trouble State Park 

Location: Ocean County
Size: 8,495 acres
Entrance fee: none
Can’t-miss: Double Trouble Village, Cedar Creek and cranberry bogs

Located on the eastern edge of the Pine Barrens, Double Trouble State Park provides a window into the area’s rich history. While the lumber industry boomed, clearing the forest’s cedar swamps between the 1700s and 1900s, the areas were converted into cranberry bogs while a sawmill and cranberry sorting and packing house were built. If you visit the once-thriving village, you’ll also find a 19th-century schoolhouse, guided tours, exhibits and more. There is a 1.9-mile trail that winds through the historic village, as well as trails alongside the cranberry bogs and through the wetlands. If you’d prefer to go off the beaten path, launch your kayak onto Cedar Creek. The winding waterway, which opens into Barnegat Bay, once supplied power to the village’s lumber mills, iron furnaces and cranberry bogs.  





March 2024
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