New Jersey may be the country’s fourth smallest state, but it’s the most densely-populated. You know what this means: traffic gridlock can be a real headache. Traversing the Turnpike alone can get your blood boiling in no time. This thoroughfare conveys motorists up and down New York and Delaware. It virtually handles the travelers of the East Coast. When it comes to in-state traffic, the Garden State Parkway doesn’t fare any better. There’s also Route 80 and Route 3. The list can go on and you’ll see why both locals and out-of-towners call New Jersey’s highways and roads as an evolving horror show. But all is not lost in this great state. Beyond the traffic-gridlocked highways and byways are sections that can offer breathtaking views and the rich history of this heavily-industrialized state. There’s still a soft and beautiful side to New Jersey that is epitomized in these 10 scenic drives.
Old Mine Road
If you’re on a mission to experience how 17th century Dutch settlers moved from New York to New Jersey and vice versa, there’s no other more historical route to take than the Old Mine Road. This is one of the country’s oldest continuously-used routes that stretches some 104 miles from the Delaware Water Gap to within New York’s Kingston. The New York section of the route is now modernized. The section in New Jersey, however, retains its rural and historical charm. This is where your journey begins.
Built in the middle of the 17th century, the Old Mine Road takes you through much of the same trail as the pioneers took at that time period. As you drive along, you’ll be greeted by stunning streams and beautiful wildlife. It’s an oasis of sorts, providing a great vantage point for taking in as much of the charm of the Delaware River as possible. There are historic sites along the route such as Civil War cemeteries and old copper mines. A scenic drive on the Old Mine Road is never complete without connecting with Mother Nature at her finest.
Located in the southern section of the state, New Jersey Route 49 offers 55 miles of scenic drive from Deepwater to Tuckahoe. The undivided, 2-lane road gives motorists a chance to see the rural side of New Jersey. It’s the kind of road trip that will never make you want to curse in your seat. Instead, your eyes will be glued to the stunning, albeit bucolic sights. From country churches to crab shacks, you’ll begin to wonder if you’re still in New Jersey or have already ventured farther north.
Hope Point is a favorite among motorists for a shot at the sweeping landscape down below. The best vantage point for this is at Elsinboro Point. It’s not a shutterbug’s paradise but you won’t get any other opportunity to photograph such a commanding sight elsewhere. Once you arrive in Tuckahoe, make sure to check the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge. It’s the state’s way of letting you forge a more meaningful connection with Mother Nature herself. The Reserve is home to different species of seabirds and other coastal wildlife.
Batsto Wilderness Route
If you don’t mind driving on a road where there are no other motorists except you, then the Batsto Wilderness Route is perfect. This 21-mile stretch of scenic drive from New Gretna to Hammonton runs along New Jersey’s Route 542. While it is okay to take a trip all year round, the best time to do it is during the warmer days of summer. You can try driving at night, too, if you feel like spooking yourself instead of relishing at the sights.
Batsto Village is a popular stopover on this idyllic route. Being a part of the Pinelands National Reserve, Batsto features a number of mid-20th century structures including a mansion and a sawmill. Upon reaching Hammerton, treat yourself to different blueberry delicacies. After all, this is the world’s blueberry capital. The town plays host to the annual Red, White, and Blueberry Festival as well as the Our Lady of Mount Carmel festival. It’s always a good way to culminate your scenic drive of the Batsto Wilderness.
Garden State Parkway
Forming the backbone of the state of New Jersey, the Garden State Parkway is one of the state’s longest roads. It starts all the way from Montvale in New York and ends at the tip of Cape May. This 172-mile toll parkway boasts of the stunning view of the Atlantic in the East. At the tip sits the mighty Delaware River as it kisses the blue Atlantic. It’s not only a fascinating sight to behold, but a very memorable one at that.
There is a particular strip in this route that is worth driving. Between Ocean City and North Wildwood is 29 miles of Instagram-worthy views of the blue waters of the Atlantic. There are multiple toll booths that you’ll encounter on the drive. But all of the spare change that you’ve lost will be forgotten the moment you look at the ocean. Take a detour towards Strathmore and head towards one of the beaches that are open to the public. If you’re not a beach bum, then take the Corson’s Inlet State Park for a more adventurous hike.
Driving on Route 519 requires skill and concentration. The route flows like a serpent coming down from the top of New Jersey and heading towards Rosemont. You’ll pass through the woods that can give you a very different feel of NJ life. The road then opens to modestly-expansive farm fields that make you feel like being in Montana. Route 519 offers motorists very rare yet equally-stunning views of rural New Jersey, complete with woodlands and farmlands.
From West Milford to Frenchtown is a section people call the Hunterdon County Roads. The best time of the year to pass through this section is during autumn. The changing colors of the foliage and fields make it a very pleasant drive through farms, small towns, and forests. Newfoundland features an old train station. It’s a great stopover for a quick lesson in New Jersey history. There’s also the old red mill in Clinton, which is perfect for photographers. And if you fancy trying your angling skills, then the Raritan River beckons you to try.
With a distance of about 43 miles from Montague to Hope, Route 521 is another route that is worth making a road trip. Some sections of this route lie parallel to the Military Road. It gives motorists a chance to marvel at the fortifications that line the Delaware River. These fortifications stand as a reminder of the fierce battles between the French and local Indians. Period-specific homes are still standing in some places before these small communes give way to wooded areas.
The route features gently-rolling hills and turns that give you a mesmerizing look of the most beautiful part of the state. There are state parks, lakes, and streams that offer a wonderful respite for weary travelers. On the shores of Swartswood Lake is the Boathouse Restaurant. This eatery can give you not only a hearty meal, but also a panoramic view of the place. And if you don’t mind getting wet, a dip into the cool water of the lake should make for a worthwhile road trip. There’s also a general store in the town of Stillwater that’s opened in 1876. And yes, it’s still operational to this very day.
Land of Make Believe Highway
They call this strip the Land of Make Believe. It may have a fairy tale-like ring to it, but it’s the beauty of the landscape that will make you believe. The thing about this 89-mile drive is that it doesn’t look anything like the New Jersey that everyone knows. There’s no traffic and no throngs of busy people hurrying along. What you get are quaint towns and picturesque farms that can make you forget you’re in the country’s most densely-populated state.
The trip transports you to a long-gone era when people were more laid back and were more content on simply looking out the windows of their homes. There are antique shops that sell merchandise you won’t get in the city. Plumbstock and Harmony are two tiny towns with a storied past. These towns now offer hidden treasures for those who are willing to look for them. There’s the largest preserved bear, too, at the Space Farms. Goliath, as they call the furry creature, is perfect for those seeking some quirky fun.
Secret Backway to the Shore
If you don’t like taking the lengthy Garden State Parkway, you’ll have an equally-fantastic view of the Atlantic via the Secret Backway to the Shore. This route was a prized gem among the locals. Only they knew its existence. Somehow, other people got wind of this secret passage that the route now conveys more motorists than ever before. It’s easy to think that the increase in traffic will detract from the natural beauty of the place. You’d be surprised that it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, the route is as beautiful as ever.
Charming little towns dot the landscape as you drive from Allentown and make your way towards Tuckerton some 58 miles away. There are Wawas along the way, perfect for having breakfast, lunch, or dinner with their built-to-order menus. Another favorite stopover is New Egypt, where the Emery’s Berry Farm has been serving delicious pies for many years. These pies can help give you the fuel to continue with your exploration of this side of the country. Of course, the calm waters of the Atlantic are always a great source of inspiration during these scenic drives.
For a taste of American History, especially during the American Revolution, you’d better take a scenic drive through the Delaware Valley. From Trenton, you’ll be driving some 33 miles through a charming and historic strip towards Frenchtown. One of the highlights of this road trip is a stopover at the Washington Crossing State Park. You’ll have a better understanding of how George Washington led his compatriots over the river and take Trenton. You already know what happened next. The US, as we know it, wouldn’t be here if not for this river crossing.
The Delaware Valley doesn’t only offer you a glimpse of the critical events of the American Revolution. It also provides you with a rare opportunity to check out the equipment and methodologies that 19th century farmers used in the valley. The Howell Living History Farm provides such remarkable pieces of history for everyone to see and appreciate. This is one road trip you’ll want to take with your kids as they get to have a much better appreciation of American history.
Palisades Interstate Parkway
Stretching some 38.25 miles, the Palisades Interstate Parkway is a great scenic drive for those who are pressed for time. The journey starts in Fort Lee, New Jersey at the George Washington Bridge. It stretches north to the traffic circle in New York’s Montgomery. Of course, you don’t have to drive all the way to New York to discover the quaint charms of the route. The road gives you a good chance to marvel at the New Jersey Palisades along the western banks of the Hudson.
There are three very important lookout points along the Palisades. The State Line Lookout, Alpine Lookout, and Rockefeller Lookout are great stops to have along the Parkway. These provide spectacular views of the Hudson River and the Big Apple skyline. The first two lookouts offer a great view of Yonkers while the Rockefeller gives a brief look at the Manhattan cityscape. There’s also a park at the head of the route. Families on a road trip can make a stop at the Henry Hudson Drive for some biking fun.
New Jersey may be known for its monster traffic jams and heavily-industrialized economy. But there are still some parts of this great state that retain the mystic charm of its glorious past. Taking a scenic drive should be a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
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- New Jersey Scenic Drives: Revolutionary War Trail – HowStuffWorks