Central Jersey is the hotly-debated region of our great state. And I’m here to tell you that yes, it exists, and yes, it’s amazing to explore. The most popular spots to visit in New Jersey are the Delaware Water Gap, or far south in the Pine Barrens. However, Central Jersey is home to some beautiful parks, swimming spots, and most importantly, great places to eat!
Here are three spots that are must-visits this summer, plus a place to go afterward once you’ve worked up an appetite:
Cheesequake State Park (Matawan, NJ)
In the heart of Central Jersey is Cheesequake State Park, a 1200-acre wild space that has something for everyone. Cheesequake is home to three moderate hiking trails, multiple fishing areas, a swimming spot, and multiple picnic areas with playgrounds for the little ones. The trails range from heavily-wooded areas with rough terrain to open, scenic areas that offer opportunities for some beautiful pictures.
After spending a beautiful day here, head just 5 minutes down the road to Big Ed’s BBQ. Big Ed’s is a traditional barbecue restaurant with arguably some of the best ribs in New Jersey. It is also a great place to catch a sporting event or to just hang out with a beer — a perfect compliment to the state park.
Rutgers Gardens (New Brunswick, NJ)
Rutgers University, one of the largest schools in the Garden State, is not only known for its academics and football team. Rutgers is also home to one of the most vibrant gardens in New Jersey. You can walk for hours and get lost among all of the beautiful plants and flowers. The Gardens also make for great photography — #NJSpots had an Instameet there last year! This is a great Central Jersey spot to unwind on the weekend, especially if you are looking for something more relaxing.
After unwinding in the gardens, head to Rutgers University campus for their famous RU HUNGRY sandwiches. RU HUNGRY originated as a food truck and became notorious for their greasy sandwiches, so much so that they were once featured on Travel Channel’s Man V Food. The truck is gone and RU HUNGRY now has a physical location on College Avenue in The Yard at Rutgers. Put nutrition to the side and grab yourself a Fat Knight!
Turkey Swamp Park (Freehold, NJ)
For the third and final stop on your Central Jersey tour, head to Turkey Swamp Park in Freehold Township. Turkey Swamp is another all-in-one park that has many options for families. They have paddle boats, canoes, and kayaks for rent during the warm summer months. This outdoor mecca also has an archery range, campgrounds, and ten miles of hiking trails.
The Bagel Nook in Freehold is the perfect breakfast to start your day before (or after!) your trip to Turkey Swamp. The Bagel Nook is well-known for its creative (and sometimes bizarre) flavors of bagels and cream cheeses, ranging from apple crumbs to Nutella. My personal favorite is a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos bagel with jalapeno cheddar cream cheese.
Central Jersey is the hidden gem of our state. There are great parks as well as great food to be had, so get out this weekend and start exploring!