My First Visit to Duke Farms

Person holding IPhone in greenhouse

It was a gorgeous, chilly Fall day after Thanksgiving, and I was in the mood for a spontaneous adventure somewhere. I was thinking of going to NYC or Philly but thought otherwise with the holiday rush. Then I remembered that Duke Farms was only about 20 minutes away, and judging by the dozens of excellent spots I have seen on Instagram, I knew it would be a fun place to adventure.

Quick Guide for Duke Farms:

  • Price: Free
  • Location: Hillsborough, NJ
  • Time Of Year: Open Year Round
  • Suitable For: Photos, Bike Riding, Walking, Families, Events

I hopped in my car and arrived early afternoon with my camera in hand and excited to explore this new spot. When I arrived and parked in the main lot, I was already impressed by the fantastic architecture and magnitude of the buildings.

I went inside to check out the cute cafe they had inside. You can grab a quick snack or sit down for a meal here. It was a great spot to sit and enjoy the large windows pouring natural light in and the back patio for warmer days. As I made my way over to where the maps were, I was immediately amazed at how large the property was.

Best Spots for Photos at Duke Farms

, My First Visit to Duke Farms

I spoke to one of the guides there and asked where would be an excellent place to take photos for a first-time visitor. She immediately pointed to the north section of the map that had just recently opened and said there was a Red Bridge there that people had lately been enjoying photographing.

I also asked about the Orchid Greenhouses on the property because that spot always stood out when browsing photos through Instagram. She had shown me the location on the map, and luckily it was on the way to the newly opened area.

A European Feel Right Here in New Jersey

Walking through the Duke Farms Estate was incredible. It gave me a flashback of walking the Royal Properties in Great Britain I visited as a child. With lavish gardens, intricate landscaping, and intriguing statues and structures, I was immediately in awe of some of the scenes.

As I made my way to the Orchid Greenhouse, my curiosity grew about this place. I was constantly wondering, “How do they maintain this place? They didn’t charge me a dime.” I knew the property wasn’t state-owned, so I went to Google and searched.

The History Of Duke Farms, NJ

James Buchanan (J.B.) Duke transformed more than 2,000 acres of farmland and woodlots into an extraordinary landscape known as Duke Farms. Consisting of nine manmade lakes, over 18 miles of roads, over 45 buildings and a bucolic landscape, Duke Farms is a testament to J.B.’s ingenuity, resourcefulness and determination. After J.B.’s death in 1925, his fortune was inherited by his daughter, Doris Duke.

Doris Duke was an environmentalist long before it was fashionable. She demonstrated an especially keen interest in conservation and horticulture. In her will, she envisioned that Duke Farms should serve to protect wildlife as well as be used for agriculture, horticulture and research. – Source

After learning more about how the estate was established, I continued to read about how it is maintained. The funding continues to allow more visitors like myself to visit and enjoy this magnificent property. Duringg my walk through the ground, I appreciateds the minor historical and informative signs explaining different spots along the way.

Visit the Orchid Greenhouses at Duke Farms

When I first arrived at the greenhouse, I was greeted by the warm and humid areas that were contrary to the dry, cold air outside. This climate inside immediately fogged up my camera lens and made me nervous that I wouldn’t be able to capture the beauty before me. Lucious greens, bright yellows, eye-popping pinks, and vibrant colors filled the first room. It was certainly picturesque.

As I made my way through the various houses filled with thriving plants (and my camera defogged), the colors were ever-changing, giving me the feeling of escaping the outside world. The colors were unique, with great angles and hallways to capture the beautiful scenes. One of my favorite moments was when the mist turned on in one of the greenhouses, naturally creating a fog and moody feeling throughout the room. The sun was peeking through the clouds and danced light through the thick glass of the greenhouse. That was one of my favorite moments and photos on my first visit to Duke Farms.

The Red Bridge of Duke Farms, NJ

After I enjoyed the colors and sanctuary of the greenhouses, I continued to walk north on the property to see the new area that had been opened recently with the Red Bridge. At first, I saw open fields, a small lake house, and a body of water. I expected the bridge to be around that area until I looked over a peaking hill and spotted the Red Bridge. It glowed compared to the seasonal Fall browns and greys that surrounded it. The bridge immediately reminded me of one of oriental fashion and style. Assuming it’s due to the area recently opened, I couldn’t find out more about the bridge at this time, but it is certainly something to see on your visit to Duke Farms.

My first visit to Duke Farms was not disappointing, and I certainly can see why so many people continue to go back and visit. I could only see a tiny sliver of what the property has to offer, and I’m looking forward to heading back there soon.

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