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NEW JERSEY TRAVEL GUIDE

Ocean City, New Jersey Cape May, New Jersey Wildwoods, New Jersey

Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to New Jersey! Hopefully this page helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to New Jersey.

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I do not make any profit from this website, and you will see no ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons

OVERVIEW



New Jersey gets a bad rap. I must agree that portions of the New Jersey Turnpike are indeed very ugly, but overall New Jersey is a very attractive state. I see two distinct regions in New Jersey. The northern region sits in the shadows of New York City and doesn't get as much respect as it deserves (there's quite a lot to do and see there). The southern region is packed with awesome oceanside towns and some of the finest beaches on the northern half of the East Coast. In the middle of the state, amusement park junkies flock to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, one of the top-rated rollercoaster parks in the country. Families looking for quality seaside amusements and beaches will enjoy Ocean City or Wildwood, and adults looking for a romantic getaway enjoy Cape May at the southern tip of the state.

TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS IN NEW JERSEY



Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in New Jersey? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in New Jersey, in no particular order:

Take the family to Ocean City, one of the best family-friendly seaside towns in the U.S.
Explore the shops, restaurants, and Victorian architecture of Cape May
Walk among hundreds of art sculptures at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, which I feel is the top outdoor sculpture park in the U.S.
Photograph the amazing views of NYC from Liberty State Park in Jersey City
Visit Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, one of the best and most famous rollercoaster parks in the U.S.
Go aboard the Battleship New Jersey in Camden, the "most decorated U.S. Navy battleship"
Hop on a ferry from Liberty State Park to visit the Statue of Liberty
Have fun on the liveliest beach boardwalk in New Jersey: Wildwood
Cycle the Delaware & Raritan Canal, a 70+ mile rail trail that is considered NJ's best long distance bicycling trail
Visit the American Dream in East Rutherford, one of the largest malls in the country

If I could select only one place to visit in New Jersey, I would choose Ocean City. I love Ocean City's beach, beach boardwalk, and seaside amusements. You'll feel like a kid again.

For a list of 10 great attractions in each U.S. state, click here.

5-STAR ATTRACTIONS IN NEW JERSEY



Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in New Jersey. I believe each of these attractions should be on your New Jersey bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Northern New Jersey (north of interstate I-195)
Allaire State Park, Wall Township - features a historic 19-century iron making town and a narrow-gauge train ride; good fishing and hiking too
American Dream, East Rutherford - one of the largest malls in the U.S.; includes an indoor theme park and indoor skiing
Big Snow American Dream, East Rutherford - indoor skiing at the American Dream mall; as of 2022, this is the only indoor skiing in the U.S.
Colgate Clock, Jersey City - giant riverfront clock along the Hudson River; a fun photo-op
Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park - 70+ miles of hiking and cycling trails along a historic canal
Empty Sky - 9/11 Memorial, Jersey City - a moving 9/11 memorial with great views of NYC
Gateway Nat. Rec. Area-Sandy Hook Unit, Middletown Township - beaches, nature trails, bike paths, and great birding
Go Ape Zipline & Adventure Park, Allison Park - fun zip-lining tours
Grounds For Sculpture, Hamilton - one of the best outdoor sculpture parks in the U.S.; one of my all-time favorite places
High Point State Park, Sussex - drive or hike to the top of New Jersey
Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, Hoboken - paved cycling and walking path that has great views of NYC
Lakota Wolf Preserve, Columbia - one of the top wolf sanctuaries in the U.S..
Liberty Science Center, Jersey City - great science museum with a huge planetarium
Liberty State Park, Jersey City - beautiful views of NYC
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford - home of the New York Giants and New York Jets professional football teams
Palisades Interstate Park, Alpine - riverfront park with tall cliffs and 30+ miles of hiking
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton - one of the best university-based art museums in the U.S.
Princeton University, Princeton - beautiful ivy-league campus
Statue of Liberty National Monument - to visit from New Jersey, hop on a ferry at Liberty State Park
Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Ogdensburg - take a short underground tour into the 4th oldest mine in the country
Thomas Edison National Historical Park, West Orange - visit Thomas Edison’s home and laboratory
Wawayanda State Park, Hewitt - 60 miles of hiking trails and a lake beach with swimming

Southern New Jersey (south of interstate I-195)
Allaire State Park, Wall Township - features a historic 19-century iron making town and a narrow-gauge train ride; good fishing and hiking too
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, Long Beach Island - visit one of the tallest and most famous lighthouses in the U.S.
Battleship New Jersey, Camden - tour the "most decorated U.S. Navy battleship"
Black Pearl Pirate Tours, Beach Haven - interactive pirate ship cruise on Long Beach Island
Cape May County Park & Zoo, Cape May - New Jersey's best zoo
Cape May Lighthouse, Cape May - climb up one of New Jersey's best lighthouses
Cape May Point State Park, Cape May - popular bird-watching site with a lighthouse, beaches, and good hiking trails
Corson's Inlet State Park, Ocean City - undeveloped beaches and sand dunes (no swimming allowed), plus great bird-watching
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Oceanville - a bird-lovers paradise
Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park - "the crown jewel of the Jersey Shore"
Jenkinson's Boardwalk / Point Pleasant Beach, Point Pleasant Beach - boardwalk packed with amusement rides & more
Jersey Shore Alpacas, Cape May - beloved alpaca farm; by appointment only
Long Beach Island, Beach Haven - one of the best beaches in New Jersey
Lucy The Margate Elephant, Margate City - 65-foot tall roadside attraction made of wood & tin
Morey's Piers and Beachfront Waterparks, Wildwood - a classic seaside amusement area with miles of beach, shops, food, and fun
Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, Cape May - lots of vintage aircraft on display
Ocean City Boardwalk, Ocean City - perhaps the best family-friendly beach boardwalk in the U.S.
Revolution Rail Company, Cape May - one of several areas in the U.S. for "rail biking" (ride a pedal-powered machine on a railroad track)
Salt Marsh Safari The Skimmer, Cape May - top-rated boat tour on the bays of Cape May county
Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari, Jackson - the largest amusement park in NJ and one of the top rollercoaster parks in the U.S.
Storybook Land, Egg Harbor Township - storybook-themed buildings and rides
Sunset Beach, Lower Township - one of the best beaches in New Jersey
Victorian houses of Cape May - much of this town on the southern tip of New Jersey is oozing with Victorian charm
Washington Street Mall, Cape May - popular shopping district of Cape May
Wildwood Boardwalk, Wildwood - perhaps the most lively beach boardwalk in NJ

I didn't list any of the casinos of Atlantic City above, and that's because I'm personally not that impressed by them. Most of them were constructed decades ago and most are starting to show their age. The area around most of the casinos also isn't the best (or safest) in my opinion. Atlantic City has definitely seen better days, but I do hope for a revival at some point. The Atlantic City Boardwalk is another famous attraction in New Jersey, but there are better boardwalks in the state to visit (e.g. Ocean City, Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant Beach, Wildwood)

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in New Jersey? If so, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com.

For a list of 5-star attractions in neighboring states, click on any of these links:  DE  |  NY  |  PA

BEST TOWNS & CITIES TO VISIT IN NEW JERSEY



These towns and cities in New Jersey are generally regarded as the most interesting to travelers:

Asbury Park - one of several small oceanside towns in NJ with a beach and beach boardwalk; has many shops and art galleries
Atlantic City - this small city has one of the greatest clusters of casinos outside of Las Vegas; there's also a beach and a beach boardwalk
Cape May - this small town is famous for its Victorian architecture; the town has many boutique shops, restaurants, and B&Bs; the town also has whale-watching tours and good bird-watching
Ocean City - this family-friendly beach town has a great beach and an awesome beach boardwalk; packed with seaside amusements
Wildwood - one of several small oceanside towns in NJ with a beach and beach boardwalk; has many seaside amusements

If you like casinos, stay in or near Atlantic City.
If you like family-friendly beaches and seaside amusements, stay in or near Ocean City.
If you want a romantic getaway, stay in Cape May.
If you want to visit New York City, stay in Jersey City or Hoboken.

Click here if you'd like to see a complete list of towns and cities that I find interesting across the entire U.S.

WHAT IS NEW JERSEY FAMOUS FOR?



Here are some things that New Jersey is famous or well-known for:

amusement parks
beaches
beach boardwalks
can't pump your own gas law
diners
gambling/casinos
gardens
pine barrens
seaside amusements / family-fun attractions
water parks

Click here if you'd like to learn what other U.S. states are famous for.

NATIONAL PARKS IN NEW JERSEY



There are currently no national parks or national forests in New Jersey. There are several other federally-managed parks and properties in the state though, including:

National Monument
Status of Liberty National Monument (e.g. Ellis Island) - to visit from New Jersey, hop on a ferry at Liberty State Park

National Recreation Areas
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Gateway National Recreation Area

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Lower Delaware National Wild and Scenic River
Morristown National Historical Park
New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
Thomas Edison National Historical Park
Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail

For more information on New Jersey's national parks, visit the New Jersey page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all U.S. national parks, click here.

STATE PARKS IN NEW JERSEY



New Jersey has more than 35 state parks. Many would agree that these represent New Jersey's finest state parks:

Northern New Jersey (north of interstate I-195)
Allaire State Park, Wall Township - features a historic 19-century iron making town and a narrow-gauge train ride; good fishing and hiking too
Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park - 70+ miles of hiking and cycling trails along a historic canal
High Point State Park, Sussex - drive or hike to the top of New Jersey
Liberty State Park, Jersey City - beautiful views of the NYC skyline; a ferry can bring you to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
Palisades Interstate Park, Alpine - riverfront park with 30+ miles of hiking and tall cliffs
Wawayanda State Park, Hewitt - 60 miles of hiking trails and a lake beach with swimming

Southern New Jersey (south of interstate I-195)
Allaire State Park, Wall Township - features a historic 19-century iron making town and a narrow-gauge train ride; good fishing and hiking too
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, Long Beach Island - visit one of the tallest and most famous lighthouses in the U.S.
Cape May Point State Park, Cape May - popular bird-watching site with a lighthouse, beaches, and good hiking trails
Corson's Inlet State Park, Ocean City - undeveloped beaches and sand dunes (no swimming allowed), plus great bird-watching
Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park - "the crown jewel of the Jersey Shore"

My favorite state park in New Jersey is Liberty State Park. The view of the NYC skyline from this state park is amazing.

To see my list of the top 100 state parks in the country, click here.

BEST WATERFALLS IN NEW JERSEY



New Jersey has an estimated 40-50 natural waterfalls. Here are some of the best waterfalls in New Jersey, all of which are in northern New Jersey:

Buttermilk Falls in Stokes State Forest, Sandyston
Chikahoki Falls in Norvin Green State Forest, Ringwood
Hemlock Falls in South Mountain Reservation, South Orange
Paterson Great Falls (aka Passaic Falls) in Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, Paterson
Silver Spray Falls in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Tillman Falls / Tillman Ravine in Flatbrook Fish and Wildlife Management Area, Newport

I am not aware of any notable waterfalls in southern New Jersey. If you know of any, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com.

For a listing of all known waterfalls in New Jersey, visit the World Waterfall Database.

BEST SCENIC DRIVES IN NEW JERSEY



Here is a list of the best scenic drives in New Jersey:

Palisades Scenic Byway - a 42-mile paved route from the NJ side of the George Washington Bridge to Bear Mountain State Park in NY
Southern NJ Coastline - a 38-mile paved route along the ocean from Ocean City to Cape May using a variety of roads (e.g. Ocean Drive)

For a list of great scenic drives in each U.S. state, click here.

BEST OCEAN BEACHES IN NEW JERSEY



New Jersey offers more than 40 Atlantic Ocean beaches. Here are some of its finest beaches:

Northern New Jersey (north of interstate I-195)
Asbury Park beaches
Avon Beach, Avon-By-The-Sea
Belmar Beach, Belmar
Gateway National Recreation Area beaches (e.g. Gunnison Beach)
Island Beach State Park, Lanoka Harbor
Manasquan Beach, Manasquan
Point Pleasant Beach, Point Pleasant
Ocean Grove Beach, Asbury Park
Sea Bright Beach, Sea Bright

Southern New Jersey (south of interstate I-195)
Atlantic City Beach, Atlantic City
Brigantine Beach, Brigantine
Cape May Beach, Cape May
Corson's Inlet State Park beach, Ocean City (no swimming is allowed here)
Higbee Beach, Cape May
Pearl Beach, Cape May
Ocean City Beach, Ocean City
Poverty Beach, Cape May
Sea Isle City Beach, Sea Isle City
Seaside Park beaches
Stone Harbor Beach, Stone Harbor
Sunset Beach, Cape May
Wildwood Beach, Wildwood

BEST RAIL TRAILS IN NEW JERSEY



Here is a list of some the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in New Jersey:

Northern New Jersey (north of interstate I-195)
Columbia Trail - 15-miles
Delaware & Raritan Canal ("D&R Canal") - 70+ miles; this is widely considered NJ's best long-distance rail trail
Paulinskill Valley Trail - 15-miles
Saddle River County Park Bike Path - 8-miles
Sandy Hook Multi-Use Pathway - 9-miles
Sussex Branch Trail - 18-miles
Union Transportation Trail - 9-miles; a large portion of this trail is south of I-195

Southern New Jersey (south of interstate I-195)
Union Transportation Trail - 9-miles; a small portion of this trail is north of I-195

For detailed information on all known rail trails in New Jersey, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.

BEST AMUSEMENT PARKS / THEME PARKS IN NEW JERSEY



New Jersey is nationally famous for its amusement parks and water parks. There are many of them, especially smaller-sized parks found all along the coastal towns where tourism runs strong during the warmer months. Here is a list of the best amusement parks in New Jersey:

Northern New Jersey (north of interstate I-195)
Land of Make Believe & Pirate's Cove, Hope
Mountain Creek Water Park, Vernon Township
Nickelodeon Universe at American Dream, East Rutherford

Southern New Jersey (south of interstate I-195)
Casino Pier & Breakwater Beach Waterpark, Seaside Heights
Diggerland, West Berlin
Morey's Piers & Beachfront Water Park, Wildwood
Playlands' Castaway Cove, Ocean City
Ocean Oasis Waterpark, Wildwood
Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson - this rollercoaster park is the most famous amusement park in New Jersey
Splash Zone Waterpark, Wildwood
Steel Pier Amusement Park, Atlantic City
Storybook Land, Egg Harbor Township
Thundering Surf Waterpark, Beach Haven
Totally Tubular Aqua Park, Ocean City

BEST MUSEUMS IN NEW JERSEY



New Jersey has a few excellent museums. The best museums in New Jersey include:

Northern New Jersey (north of interstate I-195)
Liberty Science Center, Jersey City
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton
Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Ogdensburg
Thomas Edison National Historical Park, West Orange - visit Thomas Edison’s home and laboratory

Southern New Jersey (south of interstate I-195)

Battleship New Jersey, Camden - tour the "most decorated U.S. Navy battleship"
Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, Cape May - lots of vintage aircraft on display

BEST DAY HIKES IN NEW JERSEY



New Jersey has several great hiking trails/areas, especially in the northern half of the state. Here are some of the best day hikes in New Jersey:

Northern New Jersey (north of interstate I-195)
Buttermilk Falls, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area - one of New Jersey's best waterfalls
Giant Stairs, Palisades Interstate Park
Hemlock Falls, South Mountain Reservation - one of New Jersey's best waterfalls (25 feet tall)
High Point State Park trails (e.g. Monument Loop, Appalachian Trail) - take note that you can drive up to High Point instead of hiking
Kittatinny Ridge, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Mount Tammany, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area - beautiful overlook of "the Gap" in the Delaware River
Stairway to Heaven Trail, Wawayanda State Park - hike to one of New Jersey's best views

Southern New Jersey (south of interstate I-195)
Apple Pie Hill, New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve

The highpoint of New Jersey is High Point (1,803'), found within High Point State Park in the northwestern corner of the state. You can either drive or hike up to the top.

BEST BACKPACKING TRIPS IN NEW JERSEY



There are only a limited number of places where you can go backpacking in New Jersey. One is obviously the Appalachian Trail. With a permit, you can also backpack the 53-mile Batona Trail in the Pine Barrens region of New Jersey.

CLASSIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN NEW JERSEY



New Jersey offers a surprising amount of outdoor adventures, including these classics:

Backpacking the Appalachian Trail
Backpacking the Batona Trail - permits are required to backpack this 53-mile trail
Bouldering in Sourland Mountain Preserve
Bouldering in Tourne County Park
Canoeing/kayaking the Pine Barrens
Canoeing/kayaking the Rahway River
Cycling the Columbia Trail - 15-miles long
Cycling the Delaware & Raritan Canal ("D&R Canal") - 70+ miles long; this is generally considered NJ's best long-distance rail trail
Cycling the Paulinskill Valley Trail - 15-miles long
Day hiking Mount Tammany in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Day hiking the Giant Stairs in Palisades Interstate Park
Day hiking the Stairway to Heaven in Wawayanda State Park
Hot air ballooning in Ashbury
Hot air ballooning in Lebanon
Mountain biking in Allamuchy Mountain State Park
Mountain biking the Mountain Creek Bike Park
Mountain biking in Six Mile Run Park in Somerset
Parasailing in Ocean City
Parasailing in Wildwood Crest
Rock climbing in Allamuchy State Park
Rock climbing in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Skydiving in Sussex, West Creek, or Williamstown
Tubing the Delaware River

SKI RESORTS IN NEW JERSEY



New Jersey only has two notable ski areas: Mountain Creek in Vernon Township, which offers 46 trails, and Big Snow, which is an indoor skiing venue found within the gigantic American Dream mall in East Rutherford.

NEW JERSEY TRAVEL TIPS



For offbeat and unique New Jersey attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

UNIQUE / SPECIALTY FOODS TO TRY IN NEW JERSEY



Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in New Jersey:

bagels
crumb cake
deep-fried hot dogs
disco fries
hoagies
Italian hot dogs
pizza (e.g. Neapolitan-style, Jersey pizza)
pork roll sandwich / taylor ham
salt water taffy
sloppy joes

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in New Jersey (or any other U.S. state), visit the Roadfood.com website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each of the 50 U.S. states, click here.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in New Jersey (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.

OTHER KEY NEW JERSEY INFORMATION



State Capital:
Trenton

Major Airports:
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR); you can also fly into New York City, NY (which has 2 major airports) or Philadelphia, PA and then drive into New Jersey

Largest Cities:
Newark (318,431), Jersey City (301,419), Paterson (162,438), Elizabeth (139,764), Toms River (93,638), Trenton (92,063)

Primary U.S. Interstates:
I-76, I-78, I-80, I-95

State Highpoint:
High Point (1,803') in High Point State Park in northwestern New Jersey; you can hike to the top or drive very close to the top, and then walk up to it

Professional Sports Teams:
NFL: None, although the New York Giants and the New York Jets both play in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium
NHL: New Jersey Devils

Funny or Unique Town/City Names:
Buttzville, Cheesequake, Ho-Ho-Kus, Loveladies, and Wyckoff

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.



High Point monument in High Point State Park, New Jersey
High Point monument in High Point State Park, New Jersey

Ocean City boardwalk, New Jersey
Ocean City boardwalk, New Jersey

Lucy the Elephant in Margate, New Jersey
Lucy the Elephant in Margate, New Jersey

Victorian houses in Cape May, New Jersey
Victorian houses in Cape May, New Jersey

railbiking in Cape May, New Jersey
rail-biking in Cape May, New Jersey

Giant Steel Hockey Player in Newark, New Jersey
Giant Steel Hockey Player in Newark, New Jersey

sign in Wildwoods, New Jersey
sign in Wildwood, New Jersey

Ocean City Beach, New Jersey
Ocean City Beach, New Jersey

Grounds for Sculpture, New Jersey
Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton Township, New Jersey


ROAD TRIP GUIDEBOOKS



In addition to the information found on my website, I personally recommend purchasing these road trip/travel-related guidebooks. Click on any book cover to read reviews and/or purchase these books on Amazon.com.

        


MORE U.S. STATE TRAVEL GUIDES



Did you enjoy this state travel guide? If so, here are links to more of my comprehensive U.S. state travel guides:

Alabama Maryland Oregon
Arizona Massachusetts Pennsylvania
Arkansas Michigan Rhode Island
California Minnesota South Carolina
Colorado Mississippi South Dakota
Connecticut Missouri Tennessee
Delaware Montana Texas
Florida Nebraska Utah
Georgia Nevada Vermont
Idaho New Hampshire Virginia
Illinois New Jersey Washington
Indiana New Mexico Washington DC
Iowa New York West Virginia
Kansas North Carolina Wisconsin
Kentucky North Dakota Wyoming
Louisiana Ohio  
Maine Oklahoma  

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