New Jersey summers are a filled with beach trips, boardwalks, parks and local attractions. But year after year of hitting the same South Jersey spots can leave you longing for something new. If you find yourself searching for something new to do in South Jersey, either in the summer or in off season, you are in luck. We’re rounding out the last few weeks of summer and beyond with some tips and insights into some great hidden southern New Jersey gems.
Cape May and Sunset Beach
If you love heading to the Jersey shore but tend to hit your favorite beach spot over and over again, you might want to think about heading to Cape May. Cape May is one of the area’s most notable seaside resorts and one of our favorite places to visit in the summer and all year long. Known for its Victorian homes, unique shopping experiences and eco-tourism, Cape May offers a wide range of activities for every member of our family.
One of our most favorite stops in Cape May is Sunset Beach. With its quaint little beaches, coin operated binoculars (a favorite of my kids) and nearby eateries and shops, this southern New Jersey treasure stays true to its name by offering its visitors breathtaking sunsets and three unique visitor experiences that mustn’t be missed.
The S.S. Atlantis, which is the most famous of the twelve experimental concrete ships built during World War I, is a visible sight from the Cape May beach. At one time, the S.S. Atlantus was clearly visible from shore; however, due to weather and rising tides, only the ship’s stern remains visible today.
Try digging for Cape May “Diamonds.” These hidden treasures are actually quartz crystals that can be found on the beach. If you find one, you can take it home with you or you can take the found crystals and turn them into jewelry at one of the nearby gift shops.
Certainly the most powerful experience of Sunset Beach is the evening flag ceremony. This 40+ year tradition, held every night at dusk, involves veterans’ casket flags, which were donated by their families, being lowered as the sound of “God Bless America,” “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Taps” play in the background. This moving ceremony is held daily in season (May through September) and is an amazing demonstration of patriotism.
TRAVELING MOM TIP: Visiting Cape May in the off season? There is still plenty to do. Enjoy some seasonal shopping or visit some of our favorite wineries and breweries in the area like Turdo Winery, Cape May Winery or Cape May Brewing Company. Order up a local favorite and enjoy the off season vibe of this laid back shore town.
You don’t have to be the outdoorsy type to take advantage of the fun outdoor activities southern New Jersey has to offer. Throughout Southern New Jersey, there are numerous environmental attractions that make for great outings and fun, family adventure.
Paws Nature Farm in Mount Laurel is open year round. Paws is a wonderful way to introduce your children to local wild life with interactive teaching exhibits and over 80 birds and animals. For a low cost of $6 for adults, $4 for children and free for children 1 and under, Paws is a fun way to spend the afternoon. If you decide to go, wear play clothes and don’t wear nice shoes, especially if it rained the day before. You can purchase goat food to feed the animals. The animals are very friendly and enjoy all of the attention. If you do decide to feed the animals make sure you bring some wipes and hand sanitizer, to clean up afterwards. They do have their own hand sanitizing stations but it is better to be prepared just in case.
If Paws isn’t for you, consider visiting the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor or the Sayen Park Botanical Gardens in Hamilton or the area’s many local state parks and lakes. Many of the state parks and lakes in the area have attractive amenities to encourage visitors such as concession stands, showers, restrooms, water slides and life guarded beaches. You can make a day of it by swimming, grilling, fishing, boating and hiking and biking on their many designated trails.
Some of the best local parks in the area include:
- Washington Lake Park in Sewell
- Union Lake in Millville
- Parvins State Park in Elmer
- Scotland Run Park / Wilson Park in Clayton
- Gaskell Park in Mays Landing
- Crystal Lake Park in Burlington County
TRAVELING MOM TIP: Many of the state parks have special events and activities planned all year round. If you find yourself visiting Scotland Run Park in the spring or the fall, make sure to check out their bird walks held every first Saturday of the month or the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Washington Lake Park around the holidays.
History and Culture
Learning doesn’t have to stop in the summer. You can combat the summer slump by continuing your child’s school year lessons with a few educational day trips. Consider visiting Historic Smithville and Village Greene. Here you can experience 60 colonial shops in a historic NJ village (free), or visit Wheaton Village in Millville where your family can see demonstrations of glass blowing, carving and pottery. Other options include the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton; Walt Whitman’s house in Camden and Batso Village in Hammonton.
TRAVELING MOM TIP: Smithville is simply magical in the fall and around the holidays. Plus, the shopping is fantastic. Find the perfect Christmas or holiday gift for just about anyone.
New Jersey is the Garden State. Throughout southern New Jersey you can find farms offering pick your own vegetables and fruit options for a fraction of the price you would pay at your local supermarket. Summer harvests include berries, cherries, peaches, sweet corn, peas and tomatoes. “Pick Your Own” is a rewarding family activity and a fun way to introduce new foods to the picky little eater in your house. Click here for a complete listing of Pick Your Own Farm sites.
TRAVELING MOM TIP: Pick your own patches are available in the fall as well. Many of the local farms offer pick your own pumpkins, apples, pears and grapes. While visiting, you might catch one of their amazing fall festivals or catch a hayride. Bonus tip: Order the apple cider donuts and make sure they are hot!
With all that South Jersey has to offer you can fill your last few weeks of summer, or any time of the year, with new and interesting activities making this your time in South Jersey a time to remember.