Oh, New Jersey. You never cease to amaze me. We’ve enjoyed finding more and more ways to spend time outdoors, in nature. But most of all, we’ve been able to enjoy it all at minimal cost, if not free. We’ve such enjoyed these awesome finds that when we aren’t traveling or running around doing errands, we delight in the opportunity to discover something new.
This past weekend was no exception and our newest discovery led us to Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ. Duke Farms is 2,740 acres of diverse, protected, and beautifully preserved habitats, and is one of largest privately owned parcels of undeveloped land in the state, owned and managed by The Duke Farms Foundation.
Start your visit at the Orientation Center which is housed in the Farm Barn, what used to be the main house of this historic farm. There visitors can learn about the area’s wildlife and plants through interactive exhibits and literature. This is also where community events are held, such as educational programs and short film showings. And it is where the cafe is located as well.
The area provides 18 miles of paved, wood-chipped, and grass and pathways for hiking, all easy to navigate, with beautiful finds and scenery along the way. Preferably however, and to better see it all, I would recommend biking the grounds – something which a lot of guests really enjoy doing. For those walking, there are shuttles that stop at designated pick up points and leave guests where they wish to get off along the way (though the wait can be long if there are not seats on the shuttle and you have to wait for the next one).
There are different activities to take on as a group or family, such as scavenger hunts and geocatching, and tons to see, such as the Orchid Range and Hay Barn.
For me, the most interesting spot on the property is the Old Foundation, which consists of remnants of an old foundation, with its basement entries and windows, slowing being taken over by trees and other greenery as it lays abandoned. In 1913 J.B. Duke started construction for a lavish mansion there, but soon decided against it and the site was left non-completed. The reasons for why he left are unclear, but the view of the site is eery and interesting, an unfinished skeleton of what was without a doubt going to be something grand.
I absolutely loved this latest find and the day to take it all in couldn’t have been more perfect. Next time however, we will bring our bikes, as there was a lot more left to be explored.
Admission to the site is free, as is parking. For more information, please visit www.dukefarms.org.
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