With some 25 botanical gardens and arboretums in the Garden State, New Jersey offers an abundance of natural retreats. Residents in search of beautiful outdoor ecosystems and nature preserves will have many to choose from, and when visiting, they will discover a plethora of interesting flora and fauna. Arboretums differ from gardens in that arboretums always have a variety of woody plants in their collection of flora, so they are more specialized gardens. Like gardens, they offer educational programs, hands-on learning opportunities and are often accessible to the public. In our area, arboretums provide visitors the opportunity to hike, bird-watch, exercise, or learn about different habitats and species of wildlife.
If you are looking for a nature excursion, here are 5 of our favorite arboretums to visit in New Jersey:
1. Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit, NJ
The Reeves-Reed Arboretum has 13.5 acres of natural landscapes. The grounds and gardens, listed on national and state registers of historical places, have been open to the public for over 40 years and feature an outdoor sculpture exhibit, woodland trails, and notable artifacts dating back to the Lenni Lenape Indians. Visitors can also enjoy seasonal activities like catching the first spring blossoms at the Daffodil Bowl or visiting the goats at the annual Celebrate Fall event. This year, the Arboretum will also kick off the return of its summer concert series, Sounds of a Summer Night, on June 16.
2. Cora Hartshorn Arboretum & Bird Sanctuary in Short Hills, NJ
Nestled behind the Short Hills train station, the 16.5-acre Cora Hartshorn Arboretum & Bird Sanctuary offers a vibrant collection of flora and fauna. Visitors can marvel at its unique natural features, including kettle moraines and an amphitheater formed by glaciers. For the animal enthusiast, the arboretum also includes a small collection of live animals in the Stone House as well as several species of migratory birds that dwell on the grounds. To learn more about the natural abode, residents can join interactive scavenger hunts, sign up for environmental education programs and camps or embark on guided hiking tours.
3. Florence and Robert Zuck Arboretum in Madison, NJ
The 45-acre Drew Forest Preserve contains the Florence and Robert Zuck Arboretum, situated on the southwest side of the Drew University campus. The arboretum and two small ponds serve as natural laboratories for Drew students and house various wildlife, including turtles, goldfish, catfish, and muskrats. Visitors (and pets!) can meander along a half-mile trail around the ponds to observe the natural forest ecosystem that incorporates a mix of native and introduced trees. Visitors can download a complete self-guided nature trail guide. Across from the entrance, a second woodland trail can also be found tucked away in the Hepburn Woods Ecosystem Restoration Area.
4. Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township, NJ
The 127-acre Frelinghuysen Arboretum revives a former English country estate built in 1891. Residents can participate in leisurely pastimes like the Get-to-Know-Us stroll, which introduces them to serene spots like the award-winning Marsh Meadow Garden, thematic collections of plant life, and Waterwise Deck. In spring, the arboretum is known for its beautiful, expansive display of tulips that number into the thousands. Among the vast woodlands, meadows, and gardens, visitors can picnic on the Great Lawn, tour the historic Carriage House or take a deeper dive into horticulture with one of the educational programs. The Labyrinth Walk also serves as a local favorite.
5. Willowwood Arboretum in Far Hills, NJ
The Willowwood Arboretum serves as New Jersey’s most comprehensive and longest continually operating arboretum. The public park—open 7 days a week—enjoys 136 acres of rolling farm and 3,500 variations of native and exotic plants. Willowwood also holds a historic residence (dating back to 1792) that inspired the beautiful wrought iron gate, Pan’s garden statue, and gardens aligned with the estate. Visitors can follow paths dotted with evergreen, deciduous plants, field wildflowers, and ferns or recline in chairs scattered along the property. The Arboretum also offers a tour you can easily access with your cell phone that covers the highlights of the gardens and structures.