In a state that has 39,000 miles of public roadways, there’s no shortage of destinations to explore by car. Want to cruise along the Jersey Shore? Perhaps you’d prefer to drive past the Pinelands or Palisades Cliffs. No matter what’s on your itinerary, missing out on the opportunity to explore the vast diversity of the Garden State would be a shame. Yes, we really mean that. So, we’ve gone ahead and made a list of New Jersey road trips worth taking (organized by eight scenic byways), that includes everything from routes with coastal views to ones laden with historic landmarks.
Delaware River: 34 Miles That Will Transport You Back in Time
Consider yourself a Revolutionary War buff? The Delaware River Scenic Byway starts in Trenton, our state capital, and passes through riverside towns such as Titusville, Lambertville, Stockton, Raven Rock and Frenchtown. Along the way, you’ll find opportunities to birdwatch, kayak, hike or bike. If you’re interested in a more eclectic itinerary, this trip features local antique shops, flea markets, art galleries and more. Those who really want to transport themselves back in time can even attend a battle re-enactment.
Bayshore Heritage: 122 Miles Through Coastal Jersey
This South Jersey road trip will end at the Jersey Shore, but it’s a bit of a wild ride to get there. The Bayshore Heritage byway will take you along the Delaware Bay Shoreline, through Salem, Cumberland and Cape May Counties. While it won’t be all beaches and boardwalks, you will pass by plenty of sand dunes and coastal marshes. If you’d like to stop off, there are historic landmarks, monuments, museums, nature trails and areas to spot wildlife.
Millstone Valley: 25 Miles Through NJ’s Most Historic Sites
Millstone Valley was originally home to the native Lenape before the region was settled in the early 1700s. Today, this historically significant area of Central Jersey still boasts Dutch and English Colonial architecture, along with Greek Revival, Italianate and Craftsman-style homes and buildings. In addition to preserved dwellings, you’ll also notice vintage bridges and even a canal. (It’s no longer in operation.) D&R Canal State Park is where you’ll want to pull off for recreational activities such as canoeing, geocaching, birding, fishing and more.
Palisades: 20 Miles of Skyline Views & Dramatic Outlooks
As the saying goes, the best views of New York are from New Jersey. Case in point: the Palisades Scenic Byway. The State Line lookout offers one of the best vantage points in all of NJ, in addition to the Alpine Scenic Overlook. A stop-off at Fort Lee Historic Park is perfect for panoramas of the George Washington Bridge, Upper Manhattan and the Hudson River. This iconic route, built into the base of the Palisades Cliffs, has maintained much of its natural beauty and historic integrity which makes it a one-of-a-kind driving experience in New Jersey.
Pine Barrens: 130 Miles of Mystery For Fans of the Obscure
It’s spooky, it’s mysterious, it’s the Pine Barrens. For those who want to live out their ghost or Jersey Devil-hunting fantasies, this is where to go. However, there’s a lot more to this area than just folklore. Picture wetlands rich with wildlife, the abandoned Batsto Village and some of the best cranberry and blueberry farms in the country. As the longest route on this list, there are endless activities to get involved in along this drive—whether you want to begin your adventure in town, in the forest, on a farm or down a river or stream.
Upper Freehold: A 24-Mile Journey Through New Jersey Horse Country
There are farmsteads galore on this 24-mile trek through Monmouth County. The Upper Freehold Scenic Byway is perhaps the best example we have today of New Jersey’s farming and cultural history. There’s the Horse Park of NJ for aspiring (and actual) equestrians. Sites such as Historic Walnford or the Old Yellow Meeting House offer an exclusive look at colonial living. And if you’re just driving through, sprawling landscapes and abundant wildlife make for a picturesque, albeit rural, ride.
Warren Heritage: 19 Miles of Historic Landmarks and Hiking Trails
The Warren Heritage Scenic Byway along Route 57 is home to mountain ridges, state parks, farm stands and the historic Waterloo Village. When you’re en route, you’ll drive past a marker that denotes a one-mile stretch of road known as “the first concrete highway in New Jersey and one of the first in America.” Allamuchy State Park is a highly visited site along this byway, popular for its 14 miles of hiking trails and lakes and rivers perfect for fishing.
Western Highlands: A 23-Mile Road Trip For The Outdoorsy Type
A drive on the Western Highlands, where the countryside meets the mountains, is unlike any other part of New Jersey. This road trip will take you right up to the New Jersey/New York border and offers activities for both active and passive travelers. Those who wish to stretch their legs and hit the trails can do so at the 35,000-acre Wawayanda State Park. Pro tip: the “Stairway to Heaven” trail is a must. Interested in a less arduous detour? You’re sure to drive past plenty of local farm stands where you can pick up fresh flowers, produce, dairy, meat and more.
Need more inspiration?
Check out this fly-over drone footage from the Delaware Water Gap: