Summer Staycations in South Jersey

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.J. — For a day trip or even for a string of adventures to make up a “staycation,” a vacation at home, here are local treasures to add to this summer’s list of places to go.

Our family favorite is Wheaton Arts in Millville. It is rich in history with a large glass museum, yet it is also interactive with a great demonstration of glass blowing, pottery, and more. The kids will love the games set up along the walkways and also visiting the general store. Bring a quarter for the player piano and another few to buy marbles. It is also a good place to shop as local artists’ glass and pottery is available at all price levels.  

Also, be sure to visit the Millville Army Air Field Museum, where you can learn the history of how Millville played a major role in WWII as “America’s First Defense Airport.” It is good for all generations; my young boys toured it with their grandfather.

Downtown Millville has plenty for the art and nature lover. There’s the newly opened Millville Arts and Innovation Center, which has two galleries and is the new facility for Clay College. Enjoy a tour or even a class with a little planning. There are galleries up and down High Street, including La Bottega of Art, the Village on High with little shops and a vegan café. 

Penny Murray, an art teacher at Rossi School, was shopping at Bogart’s Bookstore with her son, Brett, 8. “We just turned in our old books and got new books.” Brett found a stack of Goosebumps books. “We like to come for Third Friday. There are beverages, wine and cheese. They’re relating it to the Philadelphia scene, but you don’t have to go so far. We go to the Riverfront Renaissance Center. The Oar House is good for food. They’re famous for their beers on tap.” She cites some of their Irish specialties like Corned Beef and Hash.

“They have live music there, too. That’s a neat thing to do.” Some other dining options are El Guacamole, Andrea’s Trattoria and Winfield’s, all of which offer incredible meals in locally owned establishments. Earning Trip Advisor’s five stars is the Maurice River Cruise. Plan it right and your staycation can include that and a show at the Levoy Theatre. 

New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) is a tourist destination in itself for both watching races and participating. It has several professional race courses, kart courses, and paintball. Motor(less) Nights, every third Thursday of the month, opens up the park’s world-class road courses free to bicyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers, runners, and parents with strollers. This summer’s lineup promises motorcycle races, monster truck shows and more.

“We like to go outside,” says Kim D’Aquilante of her husband Mike and her three children. “We like to incorporate a historic site along with hiking, two for the price of one. We also like birds, and eagle spotting.” The budget? “Free or super cheap,” laughs D’Aquilante. These family activities influenced their eldest, Katie, who is a history buff and is interning at Batsto Village, Winterthur, and Williamstown’s Ireland Hoffer House.

“Some of the places I love to go are Parvin State Park, because of the hiking trails, the camping, and the lake in the summer. You can’t beat $2 for a really nice day at a lake.” Parvin State Park has a variety of trails. The beach has lifeguards Memorial Day to Labor Day. You can fish or rent a boat at Al & Sam’s Canoe and Kayak. 

“The Cohanzick Zoo in Bridgeton is always a fun place. New baby tigers, a splash pad for kids and walking trails too. Century Bakery is one of our favorite bakeries in South Jersey and we always have to go get an icing cookie after the Zoo. The new Tall Pines Nature Reserve in Sewell is one of my new favorite hiking spots. There’s a ton of wildlife to be seen like foxes and blue herons and a million rabbits. It’s right near RCGC.” 

“Downtown Salem has adorable antique stores and is very close to Fort Mott which is a great day trip.” D’Aquilante says it has both pleasant hiking trails and great history. “Pea Patch Island is a really cool trip and the ferry runs most of the day.” 

Downtown Salem has adorable antique stores and is very close to Fort Mott which is a great day trip.

“Batsto is a great day trip. The little village is adorable and a lot of times there are people there to tell you the history of the place.” She says tour the mansion, visit the museum, learn about different industries of the area and talk with a blacksmith and logger. “Hiking trails and picnic area are nice too and afterwards we usually go to Royale Crown on the White Horse Pike in Hammonton for the best ice cream and blueberry custard in South Jersey.” In fact, most of D”Aquilante’s hikes end with a sweet treat as a reward.

Our area is rich in natural beauty. Jane Galetto, president of Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River (CUMR), quickly rattles off a dozen trails. “I have a different group of recommendations because it is summer,” she explains, opting more for paved paths to avoid ticks. The Maurice River Bicycle and Walking Trail, is about two miles. “It has a lot of distinct habitats—the actual river, which is an estuary system, wetlands or fresh water, tidal, hardwood swamp, upland forest, manmade habitat. You can see great wildlife, flora and fauna. We have a brochure at our office of what you might see. Our birding checklist is for South Jersey. We also have a reptile, amphibian and mammal list. Frogs you hear them rather than see them. For mammals instead of a description of a skunk, possum or deer, we have facts about them. For reptiles and amphibians we have descriptions of snakes, turtles, so you can have a pretty good chance of identifying it.” 

“At Wheaton Arts, we have an interpretative walk. You can enter free of charge.” There are signs for this one mile loop, for which Galetto recommends spending about an hour. 

Two additional walks in town Galetto recommends are Natural Lands Trust’s Peek Preserve on the east side of the Maurice River and the Maurice River Bluffs on the west side, off Silver Run Road on the west side. D’Aquilante loves the Maurice River Bluffs in Millville: “It’s a pretty awesome hiking trail with gorgeous scenery and amazing for bird watching, too.”  

 The Cumberland County region offers families day-trip adventures. CUMR also offers guided possibilities, like a trip to Mt. Cuba Center, a botanical garden, in Delaware on June 28. Another is a Community Nature Walk on July 15. “There will be interpreters along the walk, standing to give you a narration of the area you are in.” In August, they host Purple Martin cruises.

The A.J. Meerwald will be out sailing most of the summer, but Galetto says, “there are lots of cool things at the Bayshore Center—the restoration of the shipping sheds they used in the heyday of oystering. You don’t want to miss the upstairs in the museum. They have a little restaurant down there, the Oyster Cracker Café.

"There are three great possibilities for walks at Bayshore. The PSEG is the largest restoration site on the Delaware. On Robbinstown Road you can walk around the dike and it is less ticky. You go up above the Maurice and get really nice views.”

A second one is accessible off Thompson’s Beach Road. “Or go off Turkey Point Road. There are two there, Eagle Trail and Maple Avenue. At the end of Turkey Hill, those are the best sunsets in the world. That’s a whole lot to do in that five mile stretch. Check it out, there’s cool stuff.”

At Wheaton Arts, we have an interpretative walk. You can enter free of charge.

Galetto says not to miss the east side of the River. “Head down Matts Landing Road. Buy your crabs there. Go see Mrs. Donna Haas. Or go out and catch your own.” You shouldn’t miss East Point Lighthouse.

“There’s fishing at Union Lake and Menantico Ponds and crabbing at Turkey Point, Heislerville, or Beaver Dam Boat Rentals.” 

Galetto also recommends Cox Hall Creek in the Villas.

“It used to be a golf course. It’s a good place to take the binoculars. Go early and beat the heat. Or catch the Osprey Cruise in Cape May or see birds off the Cape May Lighthouse. There is the Nature Center in Cape May near the Coast Guard station. There are beachcombing activities for kids and family right near the lighthouse. The Wetlands Institute has interpretative things. Go over to the Edwin B. Forsythe (National Wildlife Refuge). They have a new interpretive exhibit. The way they’ve done it holds so much information. See the skimmers, magnificent birds and so fascinating to watch.”

Galetto is a big fan of the area.

“This is how we spend a lot of our time—taking advantage of what’s right here.”   

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For More Info:

WheatonArts & Cultural Center wheatonarts.org/

Downtown Millville glasstownartsdistrict.com/

Millville Army Airfield Museum co.cumberland.nj.us/millvillearmyairmuseum

Parvin State Park state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/parvin.html

Cohanzick Zoo cohanzickzoo.org

Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River cumauriceriver.org or 856-300  -5331

NJ Wildlife Trails njwildlifetrails.org

Harold N. Peek Preserve southjerseytrails.org

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/edwin_b_forsythe/

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