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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Mar 18, 2021

Local Places to Explore the Outdoors This Spring and Summer

By Lauren Lavelle

holmdel park

Photo by Emily Chang

After months of isolation due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19, many people are itching for a safe, fun way to get some fresh air that doesn’t involve taking a short walk around the block. Why not take a quick drive to one of New Jersey’s many beautiful, scenic parks? Jam-packed with family-friendly, fun activities, the following parks will definitely cure that cabin fever. 

Turkey Swamp Park

Photo Courtesy of Monmouth County Parks System

For those searching for an activities-packed family getaway, look no further than Turkey Swamp Park in Freehold. The 2,283-acre wooded park features campsites equipped with electrical and water service, hot showers, fire rings for cooking and campfires, and picnic tables for enjoying all those delicious camp-cooked meals. Visitors are welcome to utilize the park’s seven archery ranges or rent the park’s soccer fields for a game. Kayaking, canoeing, paddle boating and fishing have concluded for the season but will pick back up again during the warmer months. 

Allaire State Park

Photo Courtesy of the Historic Village at Allaire on Instagram

History buffs will find their oasis at Allaire State Park in Farmingdale. The historic park features Allaire Village, it’s very own 19th-century iron-making town that includes a general store, a blacksmith shop, a carpenter’s shop, a manager’s house, a foreman’s house, and a church. The Pine Creek Railroad is also an Allaire staple. Originally established in 1953, the railroad offers a look into the steam era with live-steam and diesel, narrow-gauge trains operated by the New Jersey Museum of Transportation. 

Visitors can camp at one of the park’s 45 tent and trailer family campsites, or reserve a shelter which features wood stoves and double-deck bunks that sleep up to four people. Additional park activities include fishing, picnicking, canoeing, horseback riding, and hiking. 

Manasquan Reservoir 

Photo by Kathy McCann

With its stunning, natural views and the relaxing sound of the reservoir water lapping along the rocky shores, the Manasquan Reservoir in Howell is the perfect place for a calming afternoon walk on the site’s five-mile trail, or a fishing trip with friends and family. Visitors can take a walk through the reservoir’s environmental center to learn more about the wetlands ecology and wildlife that make up the area, or partake in pond ice skating when the weather calls for it. Kayak and boat rentals are also available during the spring, summer and fall months. 

Holmdel Park

holmdel park

Photo by Emily Chang

Holmdel Park in Holmdel is perfect for those looking to make the most of New Jersey’s unpredictable seasons. For the spring and summer lovers, Holmdel Park offers fishing, picnic areas, tennis courts, playgrounds, and 10 miles of trails for visitors to use at their leisure. For those who prefer the often frigid temperatures of the fall and winter, visitors can partake in sledding if the weather permits and ice skating if the park’s pond is more than five inches thick. 

The area is also home to the Historic Longstreet Farm and the Holmes-Hendrickson House, two historic sites located on the park’s grounds. Longstreet Farm is operated by the park staff and features recreations of life during the 1890s, while the Holmes-Hendrickson House is operated by the Monmouth County Historical Association. 

Big Brook Park

Photo courtesy of Monmouth County Parks System

Is your child dinosaur-obsessed? Take a trip to Big Brook Park in Marlboro for an afternoon of fossil hunting with your little one. During park hours, visitors are permitted to use small hand tools to scoop paleontological items from the park’s stream bed and have the option of bringing a few fossils home in a 12-ounce can or sandwich bag. The park system encourages fossil-searchers to share their findings with park system naturalists at the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center and turn in any items of historic significance, and items of value, to the park system within 48 hours. Parties larger than 10 people must schedule a Naturalist-led program to participate in fossil hunting.

Hartshorne Woods Park

Photo by Julia Mortimer

Hartshorne Woods Park, located in Locust, is made up of 794 acres of land overlooking the Navesink River with space for hiking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, cabin camping, and fishing. The site also includes the Navesink Military Reservation which features restored WWII era batteries previously used to store heavy artillery and for coastal defense efforts. The park also recently completed the restoration of Battery Lewis, which included repairs on the casemate canopies and wing walls, interior concrete walls and steel doors, and the addition of a 16-inch gun barrel and an interpretive exhibit. Tours of the military reservation will begin in the spring.