From water play in a sparkling lake to a picnic under a canopy of leaves, there are endless opportunities for outdoor experiences in New Jersey. That’s why we filled this article with Bridgewater’s top six nature-filled destinations you have to see. Get ready to be inspired with our list of places where everyone can get in touch with their wild side in this wonderland we call home. 

Round Valley Recreation Area

A kayak on the shore of the Round Valley Recreation Area in Bridgewater, NJ

Kayak on a lake” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by Happiness Without

Gather the kiddos and experience nature firsthand at Round Valley Recreation Area. Located on Stanton Lebanon Road, this 2,000-acre setting is the ideal spot for water lovers of all ages. Spend your leisurely summer days at the reservoir boating. You’ll find the public launch just north of the day-use area. All aboard your canoes, kayaks, and motorboats — they’re all welcome here. You can also cast your line from your boat and angle for 19 different species of fish that call the lake home.

Don’t forget to bring your bathing suits. Round Valley is the perfect nature spot to cool off on a hot day. Lifeguards are on duty regularly, plus the beach complex features showers, changing rooms, two playgrounds, volleyball courts, beachfront picnic areas, and a first aid station. It’s also one of the best freshwater lakes in New Jersey for snorkeling and scuba diving. Imagine what you can discover just under the surface!

Take a hike on one of four walking paths, such as the challenging 1.5-mile Cushetunk Trail. You can even extend your adventure in the wilderness and camp out overnight. Round Valley is one of the only parks in the area where you can sleep under the stars.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Get in touch with New Jersey’s wild side at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. From toddlers to teens, everyone will love all the nature-filled experiences here. Congress established this preserve in a suburban portion of Morris County back in 1960. It’s our country’s first federally protected wilderness area and features various landscapes, including grasslands and mature forests, plus wetlands and streams.

These 7,800 protected acres serve as a resting place for 244 species of birds. It’s a prominent area for waterfowl to feed during their migration. Visit the refuge during the spring, and you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of baby animals, such as foxes and deer. This preserve is a terrific spot where you can photograph critters like turtles, fish, and frogs. Leashed dogs are welcome along Pleasant Plains Road. However, they are not permitted on any of the refuge’s trails or near the Wildlife Observation Center. 

Duke Island Park

Duke Island Park is a prime example of New Jersey’s rich natural beauty. This 343-acre oasis on Old York Road is the jewel of Bridgewater. Residents can enjoy a range of nature-filled recreational activities, including walking, hiking, cycling, and fishing on the Raritan River. In addition, there are five picnic areas to have lunch with the kiddos, three of which feature a covered pavilion for rainy days.

This destination is open year-round and is a scenic place to partake in outdoor winter fun, like ice skating and cross-country skiing. Stop by the visitors center and get the information you need to enhance your family’s experience at this unique city park.

Washington Valley Park

Washington Valley Park is one of Bridgewater’s most popular spots for outdoor excursions. It sprawls across more than 700 acres at the base of First Watchung Ridge. The focal point of the park is the 21-acre reservoir. It’s the ultimate place close to Bridgewater for shoreline fishing and boating.

A vast network of trails, ranging from easy to moderate difficulty, wander more than 7 miles through this delightfully undisturbed setting. Whether you decide to go hiking or mountain biking, you’ll discover one of the best spots for your nature-based hobby in the state. Consider planning your visit to Washington Valley Park between August to November. Join other bird watchers who observe thousands of migrating birds, including bald eagles.

Johnson Park

The 473-acre Johnson Park touts a modest zoo, several ball fields, picnic areas, a pond, and fitness trails. The Johnson family, founders of the Johnson and Johnson company, donated the park’s original 100-acre plot to Middlesex County, located on River Road. As a result, many local families enjoy spending their leisure time with planned activities here all year long.

You’ll find a little bit of everything at this beloved park, including a restored 18th-century village, eight tennis courts, a 2.5-mile walkway, and a pair of cricket pitches. The pirate playground is a wonderful area to explore after school, and then everyone can walk over to the zoo and meet the animal residents.

Domestic and exotic species, such as deer, goats, llamas, and a miniature horse, are on display inside the park’s animal haven. This charming zoo is open from dawn to dusk daily. Old and young alike enjoy visiting this facility, and thanks to loads of interpretive signage, this free nature-filled experience is educational, too!

Darby Tract

If you and the kids enjoy being close to nature, spend an afternoon at Darby Tract. Located on Steeplechase Lane, this particular local recreational area is just the place to go when you want to relax with a stroll through the woods.

Farmers likely used the land Darby Tract is situated on for crops as late as the mid-20th century. This means the trees here are relatively young, although they do provide a pleasant shade from New Jersey’s summer sun. Go jogging, listen to the sounds of nature, and enjoy a breath of fresh air. You can also take some Instagram-worthy pictures of the tract’s abundant wildflowers.That concludes the Crème de la Crème of Bridgewater’s roundup of extraordinary nature-filled experiences. Which outdoor locations in New Jersey does your family look forward to visiting? Did we leave out a destination that you and the kids love exploring? Drop us a line so we can add your recommendation to our list and share it with other locals.