This summer, all New Jersey state parks, forests and recreation areas will be free to enter, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday ahead of the busy Memorial Day weekend.
Those who have already purchased state park passes will have the cost refunded, and any state-run park will be free to enter, no matter where you are coming from. Neighboring Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to visit and experience any of the 50 sites operated by the New Jersey State Park System.
“Outlined in our fiscal year 2023 budget, the bold steps we’ve taken toward a more affordable Garden State will ensure access to our state parks for everyone, residents and visitors alike,” Murphy said. “While encouraging tourism and economic activity in our local communities, Fresh Vacations also promote access to green and open spaces, thriving waterways and the many natural wonders that make us proud to call New Jersey our house.”
Although entrance fees will be waived for all state-operated parks and forests, additional fees for attractions like fishing, boating and camping will remain in place.
New Jersey’s only state-run beach, Island Beach State Park in Berkeley Township, Ocean County, opened on May 28. Additional lifeguards for state-run lakes will begin serving in mid-June. Those looking to swim can check the status of their preferred state-run swimming area on the Park Service website.
“From High Point State Park in Sussex County to Cape May Point State Park in Cape May County, the state park system offers endless opportunities for recreation – from swimming, hiking, hiking and kayaking to picnicking, exploring nature and experiencing our rich history,” said Shawn LaTourette, Environmental Protection Commissioner. “Whatever your passion or interest, there’s a New Jersey state park for you.”
State parks, forests and recreation areas abound in South Jersey. Many of them take visitors through some of the New Jersey Pinelands, while others are great for camping or fishing.
Wharton State Forest in Hammonton, Atlantic County allows visitors to explore the New Jersey Pinelands. The area was an important hub in the state’s industrial history, particularly through the village of Batsto, which is currently available for self-guided tours and explorations.
You can visit the fully furnished Batsto Mansion or go canoeing on the rivers and streams. Visitors can also go fishing for catfish, pike and sunfish, or camp for an extended stay.
The Atsion Recreation Area, located at the northern end of Wharton State Forest, has picnic tables, kayaks and additional play areas. Swimming at Lake Atsion will be open for the summer by July.
The Belleplain State Forest opened in 1928 and is located within the Pinelands National Reserve. The Cumberland and Cape May County Forest has the greatest variety of habitats in New Jersey.
Swimming at Nummy Lake should be available in mid-June and is only permitted when a lifeguard is on duty. There are over 40 miles of trails for hiking and over 160 tent and trailer sites for camping. Other activities include fishing, picnics and kayaking.
Bass River – New Jersey’s first national forest – has a variety of attractions. However, there will be no swimming available this summer as the state Department of Environmental Protection begins work on a new beach recreation complex with food concessions.
There are eight trails along the Pine Barrens and over 175 campsites and cabins for groups and families. There is also a large picnic area with over 100 tables and a sports field.
The Brendan T. Byrne State Forest is located in the pine forests of New Jersey. Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor recreational activities like mountain biking, camping, fishing, bird watching, and picnicking.
History buffs can visit Whitesbog Village, an ancient cranberry and blueberry growing community where the first blueberry was grown.
Cape May Point is arguably best known for its lighthouse, but the state park is also home to 244 acres of meadows, ponds, and forests. Visitors can picnic, fish or watch wildlife at the popular birding site. Cape May Point was also a military base, so visitors can check out a preserved World War II bunker.
A complete list of state parks in South Jersey, coastal New Jersey, and statewide is available on the Park Service website.
New Jersey’s park system is made up of more than 50 sites, 453,000 acres of land, and attracts millions of visitors each year, according to the governor’s office. Along with the Jersey Shore, the state park system is a key contributor to the summer economy statewide.