Although many facets of life are returning to normal, summer traveling is still limited for many due to various restrictions. Because of this, some residents are once again foregoing vacation plans to exotic or far-away locales.
Rather than considering this as an opportunity lost, take the chance to discover the various attractions in your immediate area. A plethora of activities and adventures awaits your “staycation” that include day trips and quick jaunts to area parks, farms, wineries, and more.
Besides a myriad of activities and natural beauty available at New Jersey state parks, an additional incentive offered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is called “Vax and Visit.” This program offers free state park admission to all state residents who receive at least one dose of their COVD-19 vaccination by July 2, 2021.
The Vax and Visit campaign is part of the New Jersey State “Operation Summer Program,” which also included the “Shot and a Beer” and the “Uncork the Vaccination” incentives that ran in May and offered free wine and beer to vaccinated individuals. Participating wineries and breweries included Auburn Road Vineyards in Pilesgrove and Death of the Fox Brewing Company in Clarksboro.
The State Parks Vax Pass, holding the same value as the Annual State Parks Pass, gains you access to all 51 state parks and forests that charge daily fees and is good through December 31, 2021. This includes the popular Island Beach State Park, featuring over 10 miles of sandy beach along Barnegat Bay. To get your free pass, visit https://www.nj.gov/dep/vaxandvisit/
“The Park Service staff have worked hard throughout the winter months to ensure the state’s parks and forests are able to provide the quality outdoor experience everyone is craving,” said John Cecil, Director of the DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry.
“Improvements to camping facilities and swim areas have been made and additional full-time and seasonal staff continue to be recruited to meet the increased need for access to the state’s open spaces.
“In addition, the Vax and Visit Campaign is a great opportunity for residents to take care of themselves and others by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and heading outdoors for exercise, recreation and relaxation,” he added.
Fort Mott State Park in Pennsville, about a 30-minute drive from downtown Swedesboro, is situated along the Delaware riverfront in Pennsville. The park was designed during the Reconstruction era as part of a coastal-defense system for the Delaware River.
Walk through the old gun batteries, tour the museum and gift shop, picnic, or hike wooded trails along the adjacent Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. A scenic walk leads you to nearby Finn’s Point National Cemetery, containing graves and monuments dedicated to both Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers, and also contains the remains of veterans of subsequent wars and conflicts.
Ferry service to Fort Delaware State Park on Pea Patch Island also runs from Fort Mott. For more information, visit https://www.stateparks.com/fort_mott_state_park_in_new_jersey.html
Also about a half hour drive from Swedesboro sits beautiful Parvin State Park. Located in Pittsgrove, this 465-acre lakefront park offers campsites, cabin and boating rentals, fishing and swimming.
An easy hike along the wooded trails treats you to with a wide array of flora and fauna unique to the area, and free guided nature walks are also available. For more information, visit https://www.stateparks.com/parvin_state_park_in_new_jersey.html
County and municipal parks even closer to home also offer laid-back family summer activities.
Lake Narraticon off Park Avenue in Swedesboro offers walking trails, a playground, fishing platforms, and a kayak and canoe launch area. Visit http://www.historicswedesboro.com/about/parks-recreation/swedesboro-lake-park/ for more information.
Greenwich Lake Park off Tomlin Station Road in Gibbstown features a picnic area with grills, a conservation area, restrooms, and boating and fishing activities. For more information, visit https://njaudubon.org/wp-content/wildlife/PineBarrensTrails/Sites/tabid/1698/Scope/site/Guide/PINEBARREN/Site/303/Default.html
Don’t miss the Independence Day celebrations this year! Several locations around the area will feature fireworks and other events, including the annual Woodstown-Pilesgrove Firecracker 5K run and the annual fourth of July parade and fireworks show at Marlton Recreation Park off Marlton Road in Pilesgrove. For more information, visit http://www.marltonpark.org/community-events/.
On Monday, July 5, Pitman will host its annual Independence Day parade and fireworks show. The fireworks begin at dusk over Alcyon Lake Park on West Holly Avenue.
For a unique summer experience, bring the family to The Gloucester County Dream Park in Logan Township. This start-of-the-art equestrian complex offers public shows and competitions for all equestrian disciplines, equestrian educational events, therapeutic riding, horse boarding, and lessons. Visit https://dreamparknj.com/ for more details and a calendar of events.
Support area farms by not only shopping their produce markets, but by exploring their wealth of events this summer.
This year, Dalton Farms in Logan Township will hold its third annual sunflower festival. This popular event generally begins in mid-August and runs through September, depending on the weather and subsequent sunflower blooming.
The 99-acre farm is conveniently located just off Route 322, with the festival showcasing fields of 1.2 million sunflowers of all varieties! Check the Dalton Farms website regularly for updates, tickets, and more details: https://daltonfarmsnj.com
Experience a perfect day in the country at Hill Creek Farms along Route 45 in South Harrison Township. Farmers Fred and Mario grow over 14,000 apple trees on their picturesque farm, along with plums, Asian pears, nectarines, and other produce.
Pick your own fruit; sample local Auburn Road wines while listening to live music at the wine garden on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays; stroll around the farm; and shop at the on-site bakery and market featuring the farm’s own cider. There are also a variety of activities offered for children including barrel train rides and gem mining. For details, visit https://www.hillcreekfarms.com.
By Colleen Woods-Esposito