By Carol Cain, on May 1, 2015

Peace in the Pinelands

The snow finally has melted on the streets of New York City and the signs of spring are slowly starting to pop up. Still, there isn’t enough greenery around to enjoy just yet, and when you want to go for a long, quiet stroll through a park you will find them busy and crowded, as everyone else gets out to enjoy the warmer weather too.

Normally city dwellers tend to leave excursions beyond city limits for those weekends when the beach calls. But if you’re itching for an escape to a more serene place, head over to New Jersey, to a place called the Pine Barrens.

This spot also is known as the Pinelands. It’s part of The Pinelands National Reserve, which stretches over a total of 1.1 million acres and was the first National Reserve established in the country.

Visitors here can hike, canoe, hunt (for deer or duck), visit wineries, and even tour some cranberry bogs during harvest season in October. This also is a great place for blueberry-lovers, as the tart berries grow wild and are farmed in the region.

Hiking the Batona trail, 50 miles long

New Jersey gets a bad rap and it took my moving here to really appreciate all it has to offer. What I have been discovering slowly is just how beautiful this state is, and how many options it offers visitors looking to get away, even when on a limited budget and limited time.

The Pinelands definitely is one of my favorite spots so far.

Viewfinder tip: Though many cranberry bogs are on private farmland, visitors to Whitesbog Village can take part in guided tours and local festivals.

We started one of our recent visits in Chatsworth, known unofficially as the capital of the Pine Barrens.The Chatsworth General Store, a small gift shop initially established as the Wade-Buzby Store in 1865, is the town’s unofficial tourism office for all the information, maps, and Pinelands-related trinkets you could want. 

This gorgeous destination is a short drive from New York, Philadelphia, Washington/Baltimore area, and other parts of New Jersey. This makes it a perfect day-trip outing, though I would recommend several days for more fun.

If you want to make a longer road trip out of it and want to really experience the beauty of the area, plan to travel along the Pine Barrens Scenic Byway or the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail, which are less crowded during the cooler months.

The Pinelands are just one example of what New Jersey has to offer travelers and why even this New Yorker is so proud to call the state home.

When you travel, what do you look for in an open space and/or national park?