10 Reasons to Love Camping in New Jersey

Top 10 Reasons to Love Camping in New Jersey

by Lisa Merman Bender

New Jersey. Just hearing the name of the Garden State awakens the senses. Maybe a vision of sprawling farms brimming with blueberries comes to mind. Perhaps you get a whiff of sweet caramel corn as you hear shrieks of joy from an amusement park. The scent of pine is pervasive and perking up to the high-pitched whistle of a bald eagle is not uncommon. New Jersey really does have it all and we want you to enjoy it for yourself. Here are the top ten reasons why you should join the fun and camp in New Jersey.

10. Accessibility

You can't get more convenient than New Jersey. According to choosenj.com, nearly one-third of the U.S. population is within a one-day drive to anywhere in New Jersey. There are also daily flights from hundreds of domestic and international destinations. And once you are in New Jersey, you can enjoy multiple campsites and see all of the state's unique regions. Traveling from Cape May in the southeast to High Point State Park in the northwest only takes about three and a half hours.

For driving, there are four main interstate arteries that keep traffic flowing into New Jersey, and multitudes of convenient highways (toll and free roads) that make traveling throughout the state convenient. International airports within New Jersey include Newark International and Atlantic City International. Most of South Jersey is also within an hour of Philadelphia International, and in North Jersey you are within an hour and a half from John F. Kennedy or LaGuardia International Airports.

You may be asking, if I fly, how will I have an RV to camp? Well, that's easy. Most campgrounds now offer rental cabins, rental campers, or other specialty sites. So just bring your suitcase and settle into serenity.

9. Hiking & Mountain Biking

Two activities to get you into the great outdoors on your camping adventure are hiking and mountain biking. There are unique terrains in each of the state's four regions. Starting in the south there is the low-lying Atlantic Coastal Plain. Don't let the elevation close to sea level fool you into thinking there aren't adventures awaiting for the active camper. Elevations here range from no change--think boardwalk trail over the wetlands--to a couple hundred feet, so they are good for beginners and intermediate riders and walkers.

In Central New Jersey there is the Piedmont with its rolling hills and the Highlands with more rugged terrain. Here the trails can be more challenging--less boardwalk, more one with the earth--but like the Coastal Plain, there are trails in state forests and parks, privately managed nature preserves, and trails right at the campgrounds. Enjoy the cover of lush forests and sounds of babbling brooks. Most of the trails tend to move between forests, wetlands, and even cleared fields--the Piedmont is horse country after all.

As you head to the northwest corner of the state, into the Ridge and Valley of the Appalachians, get ready to get your heart rate up. Many trails are still considered intermediate, but bear in mind the overall elevation is higher. Individual trail elevations range more from 300 to 500 feet while the 71.6 mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail has an overall change in elevation of 1,300 feet! Each stretch of trail for casual hikers is still reasonably flat, so almost everyone can get out there and say they've hiked the Appalachian Trail.

8. Beaches and Boardwalks

Cape May, NJ was the first seaside resort in America and is still one of America's best beaches, along with Ocean City, NJ who has also held a spot in the country's top beaches list in recent years. Atlantic City, though perhaps known more for its gambling and night life, also boasts a beautiful wide beach. And, basically every other town along the 130 miles of coastline in New Jersey has a beach that beckons you to come and relax. Have a hard time sitting still? Then hop in the ocean to ride the waves, take a stroll, or play one of the games you love to play at your campsite. New Jersey at its widest is only 70 miles across, so no matter where you choose to camp, you can take a quick jaunt to the coast and let the salt air refresh your soul.

And for those that may not love the feel of sand in their toes, there are many cities with large boardwalks or promenades along the ocean. Some boardwalks are just for getting above the sand while others offer shopping, dining, amusements, arcades, miniature golf, live performances, and even nightlife. No matter where you camp in the state, you are never too far from the coast and all it has to offer.

7. Leisure Sports

For the outdoor enthusiast, New Jersey is the place to be. With 16% of the state covered by water, you don't have to go far to find a water sport you'll enjoy. You'll find a lake or stretch of river at most campgrounds in New Jersey (if not, there's surely one close by). Swimming is a favorite, and many campgrounds offer rentals for canoes, kayaks, tubes, or paddle boards so there's something for everyone--you are on vacation after all, so it's okay to just sit and float on that tube!

With so many lakes, rivers, and the ocean, fishing is very popular. Many ponds at campgrounds are stocked or you can try your hand at surf fishing if the beach is your thing. If you are really committed to fishing or crabbing, there are many charters to get out on the open water and you may return to your campsite with dinner! If you'd rather spectate on the water, dolphin and whale watching cruises are a favorite adventure.

More of a landlubber? Golf is a go-to sport. Even though New Jersey has hosted 11 majors for the PGA at some spectacular clubs, there are many breathtaking public courses throughout the state, too. The equestrian community also thrives in New Jersey with the Somerset Hills area being one of the country's largest.

6. Professional Sports

Most people probably don't equate a camping vacation with pro sports, but in New Jersey, it's totally possible to enjoy the thrill of a game and get back to camp in time to roast marshmallows. If you prefer to camp in spring, baseball season is coming into full swing. In South and Central Jersey, it's simple to see the Philadelphia Phillies or the Jersey Shore Blue Claws--a Minor League Baseball Team in Lakewood, NJ. From North Jersey you can head to New York to cheer on the Yankees or Mets. Through spring and early summer, you could catch late-season NHL or NBA games. The New Jersey Devils play right in Newark and not too far away are the New York Rangers or Brooklyn Nets. You can cross the Delaware to Philadelphia for a Flyers and/or Sixers game, too. Late season campers may want to enjoy their NFL Sunday funday seeing some of the country's greatest rivals--the Eagles, Giants, and Jets.

5. Main Streets

New Jersey is the most densely populated state, but it's not about big cities. Newark is the largest city with 311,500 people and Jersey City runs close behind with 292,500. The next largest is about half that. There are only 37 cities with populations above 50,000, and that means quaint communities, many with welcoming Main Streets. The Main Streets of New Jersey support local businesses, but it's the sum of the individual storefronts that is the main business--and that business is tourism. The cities and towns invest in their promenades and plazas to please you, the visitor.

Savor the flavors of each community's specialty foods. Pop in to a gallery and pop out with a unique piece as a souvenir of your vacation. Forgot something? Most Main Streets have a hardware store or five-and-dime full of gadgets, games, and gizmos. A lot of towns have museums celebrating a community's culture or perhaps even live theatre. If you are the type of person who likes a side of culture with your camping, then don't wait to reserve your site. And if you'd rather be in the woods, but find a dreary day is upending your plans, then a drive into town could put your vacation back on track.

4. History

As a camper, you clearly like adventure. You know who had some big adventures in New Jersey? The founding fathers. New Jersey's location between New York and Philadelphia made it a strategic location during the Revolutionary War. More battles were fought here than in any other colony. After General Washington's crossing of the Delaware River from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, his army won two important battles making it a turning point for the Continental Army. In 1783 New Jersey was actually the site of the Continental Congress and you can visit the building today--Nassau Hall at Princeton University. There are many historic locations you can visit to follow General Washington's footsteps from New York to Pennsylvania.

To get a taste of civilian life in the late 1700s, you can visit Batsto Village spanning both Atlantic and Burlington Counties. It was a village that sprung up around an important iron works. Farther south in Cape May County, you can visit Cold Spring Village, a settlement that represents the very early days of the United States of America. Get a taste of the traditional trades as craftspeople and farmers made each village self-sufficient.

New Jersey is also home to many outstanding Americans like Thomas Edison, James Fenimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, and Albert Einstein. You can visit their houses as well as those of other famous New Jerseyans.

3. Festivals

You know what pairs perfectly with community pride? A festival to celebrate how amazing your part of New Jersey is. New Jersey is the Garden State after all, so from Spring to Autumn, there are festivals paying homage to blueberries, cranberries, pumpkins, corn, tomatoes, beer and wine. There are many festivals with an environmental theme. It's important to keep the environment clean and healthy so we can grow all of our fabulous food. Speaking of food, food truck festivals are a popular new addition and are popping up all over the state. There are festivals dedicated to music, but there is live music at nearly every festival. And if you've seen all our land has to offer, you can turn your eyes to the skies and take in the awesome sight of air balloons in flight at one of the state's hot-air-balloon festivals.

Campground owners in New Jersey get in on their own festive fun to entertain their guests. Some campgrounds host their own full festivals. Most have themes each long weekend with fun activities during the day like crafts, scavenger hunts, trivia, and then at night there could be parties with DJs and dancing or movie nights. So, check the calendars for not only your campground options, but also the community's because you may want to plan your vacation around a festival or specific campground theme. But remember to book early as camping is a very popular activity in New Jersey.

2. Beer and Wine

Throughout New Jersey, enterprises that take advantage of the fertile land are blooming... and business is booming! The beer and wine-making industries have both become a driving force for the state's economy. And what a fun way to support local businesses. Wineries offer tours, tastings, live music, lawn games, tasting plates, markets and more for their guests. Additionally, you get to enjoy the beautiful vineyard setting.

Micro breweries might not showcase the source of their ingredients onsite, but they usually offer a laid-back atmosphere, great music, fun games, beer and other spirits (hard cider and seltzers) and are near to great eateries so you can grab some food nearby to enjoy with your growler. Some larger breweries have restaurants as well.

In addition to beer and wine, distilleries are opening up locations in the state. It makes sense why they are choosing New Jersey--look at this great list so far! Now onto the number one reason to love camping in New Jersey.

1. Food

If you've been to New Jersey before, it's impossible to think about it without thinking about food. After all, you can't have all the great beverages without a bite to go along with them. New Jersey even has an ongoing feud over a food--is it Taylor Ham or Taylor Pork Roll? Either way, it is a deliciously tangy meat that can't be beat. You can eat it alone, as a sandwich with cheese, with egg and cheese, or even on a burger. Though some people equate New York with pizza, Jersey pizza is really the best! The crust is thin, but not crispy and the cheese is piled on in the perfect ratio with sauce so it doesn't become one big cheese sheet.

Being a peninsula, you can get amazing seafood throughout the state. Though not known for crab cakes as much as Maryland, you will find interesting chefs' takes on this crab-meat preparation. With a high population of Italian descent, there is an abundance of amazing and authentic Italian restaurants. More into Mexican? There are all varieties of Mexican food from upscale restaurants that serve traditional platters to grab-and-go burrito and taco stands. The term Taco Tuesday was actually coined in Somers Point, NJ by the owners of Gregory's Restaurant and Bar back in 1978!

Isn't there something about vacation that makes it seem like calories don't count? At the very least, they don't seem to count on the many boardwalks that sell the greatest sweet confections. New Jersey is famous for salt water taffy, but fudge isn't far behind. And other places make caramel corn, but there's something about popping kernels in the seashore's salty air that makes it taste so much better. Molasses paddles, coconut macaroons, and chocolate-covered pretzels, also rank among the top treats. Enjoy while you are here, and bring home goodies as souvenirs. Your friends and family will thank you for camping in New Jersey.

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New Jersey Campground Owners & Outdoor Lodging Association
PO Box 705, Pomona, NJ 08240
609-545-0145, info@campnj.com