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Back to Nature

The picturesque southern region of the Garden State is calling you.

By Tamara deMent
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted May. 4, 2011

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The Cape May County Zoo & Park

Photo by Capemayzoo.org

ATLANTIC CITY — With winter’s inclement conditions finally clearing out, it’s time to put on a comfortable pair of shoes and venture beyond the comfy couch — to which your bottom has become somewhat fused — to the great outdoors. In addition to the area’s beautiful beaches and busy boardwalks, as part of the scenic Garden State, southern New Jersey has a number of parks and picturesque wildlife reserves for you to explore as you re-discover the concept of ambulatory movement.

The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge: Located 10 minutes outside of Atlantic City, the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge is conveniently located near the Noyes Museum of Art. A great place for wildlife-dependent, recreational activities, such as fishing and wildlife observation, the refuge protects over 47,000 coastal habitats and is actively protected and managed for migratory birds. Forsythe is also one of the many refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System, a network of refuge sites that represents the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world. fws.gov/northeast/forsythe or 652-1665. (For the birds: Check out this very cool list of bird sightings at the refuge!)

Batsto Village: Under the auspices of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Batsto Village is known nationally for its historical significance and scenic beauty. Located within the central Pinelands of New Jersey, Batsto Village can trace its roots back to 1766.  Stop by Batsto on Sunday, May 15, to enjoy a range of different offerings including, the Cruisin’ Classics Auto Club Show, the Batsto Village Decoy Show and a special performance by folk artist Jim Albertson. 
batstovillage.org or 561-0024.

Belleplain State Forest: Established in 1928 by the State of New Jersey for recreation, wildlife management, timber production, and water conservation, the forested acres of Belleplain feature an array of various tree specimens including young pine, oak and white cedar. With many reasonably priced campsites, Belleplain offers a great and affordable way to engage in nature-related activities such as hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting and canoeing. state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks

Birch Grove Park: With over 50 campsites nestled within its 271 heavily wooded acres, Birch Grove Park is a wonderful place to discover the great outdoors.  Located just minutes away from Atlantic City’s Boardwalk & Casinos, Birch Grove offers fun for the entire family from fresh water fishing to live music. Visit the on-site Museum & Historical House for local history. Catch a live performance at the Park Bandstand. Or simply enjoy the many tranquil vistas and wooded areas.
cityofnorthfield.org or 641-3778.

Estell Manor Park: Stretching over 1700 acres of land, Estell Manor Park is a historically rich site located three and a-half miles from Mays Landing. With nearly 20 miles of flat land trails, the site is ideal for hiking, cross country skiing and mountain biking. But that’s not all. Launch your boat or kayak into the South River from the North End of the park.  Study nature in one of the site’s observation booths. Or, discover the area’s past with artifacts from Native Americans and remnants of the Bethlehem Loading Company at the Warren E. Fox Nature Center. aclink.org/PARKS or 645-5960.

The Richard Stockton College: Known for its campus’ natural beauty, The Richard Stockton College is not only the leading academic institution in the Atlantic County area, it’s also a great place to enjoy nature.  Covering over 2,000 acres of land, the campus is located within the National Pinelands Reserve in Galloway. A devoted steward of its environs, Stockton has a strong commitment to leaving the grounds unspoiled through its sustainability practices as well as community engagement programs, and an array of academic offerings in environmental science.
Stockton.edu or 652-1776.

Historic Smithville Village & Village Greene: Open every day of the year, Historic Smithville Village is a wonderful place to shop, dine or just get a breath of fresh air.  Enjoy the views over Lake Meome and see various types of waterfowl.  Find that one of a kind gift or just relax and have a cup of coffee.  During the weekends, the Village also offers a range of activities that are fun for the whole family.  Upcoming events include the annual Mayfest, Car Cruises and the Renaissance Faire. smithvillenj.com or 748-6160.

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge: With 11,000 acres of upland forest and wetland, the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge is a great place for fishing, hunting, wildlife observation and environmental education. Since its establishment in 1989, the refuge protects the habitats of hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, which pass through the area each year.
fws.gov/refuges/profiles or 463-0994.

Pleasantville to Somers Point Bike Path: Dust off your bike and pedal out to the Bike Path, a suburban trail that winds through residential, commercial and park areas. Stretching from Somers Point to Pleasantville, the Path is a great, dog-friendly hiking trail, which was created from a previously unused railroad corridor. Supported by Rails-to-Tails Conservancy, the path is a great place to run, walk your dog or ride your bike. traillink.com

Whitesbog Village: Discover the birthplace of the cultivated blueberry at Historic Whitesbog Village, located in Pemberton. Stretching over a 490-acre tract in the Pines, the Village frequently offers tours through the grounds including the monthly “Moonlight Walk,” where attendees can discover nightlife of another sort. During the hike, experienced guides share their knowledge of  South Jersey and Whitesbog’s history, folklore and nature. This particular tour has been referred to as “almost magical” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. whitesbog.org.

Cape May County Park and Zoo: Bring out the entire family for an afternoon of enjoyment at the Cape May County Zoo. Far from your typical small-town menagerie, the site consists of 128 wooded acres and features over 250 different species. Recent additions to the zoo’s animal attractions include Sabu and Kaba, twin snow leopards born on-site last August. They are the first cubs of their kind to be born in Cape May County.  capemaycountyzoo.org 465 -1033.

Leaming’s Run Gardens: A hidden oasis of botanical beauty, Leaming’s Run Gardens is located in Swainton, just off of Rt. 9 near Cape May. Stretching over 30 acres of pristine lawns, ponds and lush foliage vignettes, Leaming’s Run opens May 15 to the public. Visitors are invited to enjoy a leisurely stroll down the meandering footpath leading through 25 separately themed gardens, including a fernery and a shady bamboo forest. For prices and further information see leamingsrungardens.com or 465-5871. 

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1. Anonymous said... on May 5, 2011 at 08:46AM

“Thank you for including this in your entertainment section! We are fortunate to live in an area with so many opportunities to view and enjoy nature--thanks for reminding your readers that life isn't all about bars, casinos and dining!”

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