Historical Tour of South Jersey

South Jersey is an expansive region of New Jersey comprising the area between the lower Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean. While the borders between North, Central, and South Jersey are perpetually up for debate among NJ residents, South Jersey encompasses everything south of Burlington County according to NJ.com.

South Jersey is a region full of dense forests and bizarre lore, like the Jersey Devil: a cryptid beast with wings and hooves allegedly born to a woman living in the Pine Barrens. This month, Choose New Jersey traveled to South Jersey to highlight some notable historic sites.

Historical Hikes

Double Trouble State Park in Bayville, NJ offers visitors a small window into the wonder of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. The park provides 8,000 acres of dense pine forests and Atlantic white cedar wetlands, offering a diverse exhibition of the Pinelands ecosystem. The Historic District sits at the park’s entrance is surrounded by cranberry bogs and the naturally tea-colored Cedar Creek. By the 20th century, Double Trouble was one of the largest cranberry operations in New Jersey. Today, visitors can view the restored cranberry packing house and sawmill, as well as a schoolhouse, general store, maintenance shop, and more.

Batsto Village is located in Wharton State Forest, which is New Jersey’s largest state forest. The Pine Barrens is fabled to be one of the most haunted places in America, and Batsto is a perfect example of this claim. The Batsto Mansion is a 32-room mansion that acts as the visual centerpiece of the village. Once home to generations of ironmasters, the mansion is now open to the public for tours.

Wells Mills County Park in Waretown has a history dating back to colonial times. The park offers a three-story nature center including a museum, a library, and an observation deck. Every October, the park hosts the annual “Pine Barrens Jamboree.” In addition, there are over 50 miles of trails to explore, some of which run through the craggy Forked River Mountains, which are great for a challenging hike or run.

Walkable Historic Villages

Smithville is a historic village bordering Galloway Township, NJ. While many venture to Smithville for holiday shopping, its historic village is open year-round! Smithville is known for its many specialty shops, such as the notorious Cook’s Corner. At Cook’s, customers can try gourmet flavored coffee, or browse the gift shop for various coffees, teas, hot sauces, preserves, and more.

Whitesbog Preservation Trust, located in Browns Mills, NJ, is nestled in Brendan T. Byrne State Forest in Burlington County. The historic district consists of a visitors center, general store, art gallery, antique engine museum, and much more. The Whitesbog Historic Village also hosts yearly events, such as seasonal markets with multiple vendors, guided historic hikes, and even concerts. Additionally, there are over 3,000 acres of cranberry bogs, blueberry fields, and gardens to explore.

Washington Street is a pedestrian mall in Cape May and is the main hub of the town’s downtown historic district. Visitors can browse dozens of souvenir shops, grab a bite to eat, or visit the historic society.

Local Museums

The Harriet Tubman Museum, located on Lafayette Ave in Cape May, showcases the pivotal role Cape May played in the fight to abolish slavery. Harriet Tubman lived in Cape May in the 1850s, earning money to fund her missions to free enslaved people.

WheatonArts, located in Millville, NJ, is an artistic district open April through December. The American glass industry began in South Jersey, and the earliest glass factory was founded in Millville in 1739. The village features the Museum of American Glass, as well as art studios, a folklife center, and gift shops. Visitors can take glassblowing classes, or watch artists demonstrate flamework or pottery in the artist studios.

The Cape May Lighthouse is one of Cape May’s most notable landmarks. Tourists can climb all 199 steps to the top to view the Cape May peninsula, or stop at the visitor’s center to check out the museum and gift shop. The natural area surrounding the lighthouse offers several blazed trails along the dunes and marshes as well.

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