The Best Gardens and Nature Centers in New Jersey


New Jersey has some of the best gardens and nature centers around—and that’s one reason it’s called the Garden State. Our lush state is full of beautiful grounds, landscapes, and nature centers where the entire family can learn about different environments and species and marvel at the beauty around them. Walk among the blooms on the trails at New Jersey State Botanical Gardens in Ringwood, learn about bamboo at Rutgers Gardens in New Brunswick, or visit the beautiful roses at the Essex County Rose Garden in Brookdale Park. Read on for the best places to appreciate the beauty of the Garden State. (featured photo credit: New Jersey State Botanical Garden & Skylands Manor)

14 of the best nature centers and gardens in New Jersey

New Jersey botanical garden skylands

The Azalea Garden at New Jersey State Botanical Garden. Photo Credit: New Jersey Botanical Garden & Skyland’s Manor

New Jersey State Botanical Garden & Skylands Manor

The New Jersey Botanical Garden and Skylands Manor range across 96 acres of gardens and about 1,000 acres of woodlands—there are plenty of spaces to explore and home to unusual plant species from around the world. Stroll around the carefully crafted formal areas or through walking paths that are a must-see for budding botanists.
Ringwood State Park, Ringwood, NJ 07456

Cora Hartshorn Arboretum & Bird Sanctuary

Open during daylight hours year-round, the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum & Bird Sanctuary is a fantastic spot to enjoy nature and make new friends with birds. The 16-acre forest was once degraded woodland, so this Arboretum wants to achieve its goal of sustaining a healthy, diverse woodland habitat. The building and trails are open, and the Arboretum has an interactive scavenger hunt you can download on the trails to keep littles busy and learn about nature.
324 Forest Hills Drive South, Short Hills, NJ 07078

duke farms

A visit to Duke Farms will feel like a mini-escape to another place. Photo Credit: @thecornerflemington

Duke Farms

You’ll spend a peaceful afternoon at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, home to over 1,000 acres of gorgeous land. Walk or bike through the paths and stop by the Orchid Range for tropical and subtropical species. Take advantage of their bike rental program, see the tiered waterfalls, grab a bite in their farm-to-table cafe, and go geocaching (a treasure hunt using GPS on your phone) with the fam.
1112 Dukes Parkway West, Hillsborough, NJ 08844

Rutgers Gardens

Rutgers is one of the unique gardens in NJ that is entirely self-sustainable. The students and workers at Rutgers hope to bring together curious minds and inspirational gardening on these grounds, which include a sun and shade garden, a pollinator garden, a holly collection, herbs, and ponds. They also host farmer markets and other fun events.
Rutgers University, 112 Ryders Lane, New Brunswick, NJ 08902

Greenwood garden

The flourishing grounds of Greenwood Gardens. Photo Credit: @greenwoodgardens

Greenwood Gardens (Reopens May 3, 2024)

A former private estate, Greenwood Gardens will delight kids and adults. The grounds and mansion feel like you’ve stumbled into an enchanted hideaway graced with terraced grounds, woodlands, meadows, caves, fountains, statuaries, and winding paths. The grounds are open from May through September, and special events, bird walks, plant walks, and guided tours are offered during that time.
274 Old Short Hills Rd., Short Hills, NJ 07078

The Willowwood Arboretum

The Willowwood Arboretum began as a passion project for two brothers interested in horticulture in the late 1800s. There are several formal spots to wander through and informal walking paths to stroll around. You’ll see plants for shade and sun, subtropical plants, bulbs, ferns, and shrubs. New to this Arboretum is a Cell Phone Tour, which guides you around using your phone. Make sure you check out the events page for all the fun things happening.
300 Longview Rd., Far Hills, NJ 07931

Deep Cut Gardens

Take in the beautiful sights at Deep Cut Gardens. Photo Credit: istock/andykazie

Deep Cut Gardens

Deep Cut Gardens is dedicated to the home gardener. There are 54 acres filled with cultivated varieties and native plants and flowers in NJ. You won’t get lost in this location – everything is easy to see and pretty low to the ground. Kids will love exploring the grounds, looking at the hundred-year-old bonsai trees, and observing the small-scale replica of the Italian volcano, Mt. Vesuvius.
152 Red Hill Rd., Middletown, NJ 07748

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Though the Reeves-Reed Arboretum is one of the gardens in NJ that’s famous for its spring Daffodil Bowl (filled with thousands of blooming daffodils), there’s plenty to admire here. Take a hike through the trails, explore outdoor sculptures, and relish the history of the grounds and display areas. There are also kid-friendly crafts and events all year.
165 Hobart Ave., Summit, NJ 07901

Essex County Rose Garden 

The Essex County Rose Garden at Brookdale Park started in 1959 and has grown to 1,500 bushes of over 100 varieties of roses, including hybrid tea, floribunda, hybrid musk, rugosas, and antique roses. Did you know roses are more than pretty colors and lush fragrances? Learn how they resist disease and more when you stop by to see the thousands of beautiful roses in bloom. For peak times, check their Facebook page for updates.
Brookdale Park, Montclair, NJ 07043

van vleck house and gardens

The beautiful greenery and flowers adorn every inch of the Van Vleck House and Gardens building. Photo Credit: @vanvleckhouseandgardens

Van Vleck House & Gardens

Van Vleck House & Gardens is a formerly private estate now owned by The Montclair Foundation and is a beautiful spot to visit in all seasons, especially spring and summer. The grounds and walking paths are open to the public 365 days a year (unless a special event is noted on their website), and there are seasonal events, like nature walks, crafts, and plant sales throughout the year. As you take in the beauty of the estate and the villa, you can check out their bloom list to see what flowers are blooming—there are over 60 kinds of trees alongside shrubs, rhododendrons, and perennials. 
21 Van Vleck St., Montclair, NJ 07042

Grounds For Sculpture

Nearly 300 contemporary pieces of art cover 42 landscaped acres, where you can view sculptures such as Walter Dusenbery’s Damascus Gate or Seward Johnson’s Daydream. As you wander through this unique attraction, you’ll see ponds, wildflowers, and architectural reflecting pools in these gardens in New Jersey. Kids will love seeing larger-than-life art and all the hidden spots to view.
80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton, NJ 08619

Sayen House & Gardens

History buffs, nature lovers, and garden enthusiasts will get their fill at the historic Hamilton Square Sayen House and Gardens. Spring is the perfect time to visit their beautiful display of color and beauty with more than 250,000 flowering bulbs and dogwoods, heirloom azaleas, and rhododendrons. Throughout the year, annual and perennial displays are on display, and they highlight the walking trails, fish ponds, and pavilions on the grounds.
155 Hughes Drive, Hamilton, NJ 08690

cattus island county park

Stunning sunsets are a frequent occurrence at Cattus Island County Park. Photo Credit: @mattbaronphoto

Cattus Island County Park’s Cooper Environmental Center

Cattus Island County Park features 530 acres and 7 miles of trails, filled with beautiful paths surrounded by Barnegat Bay. It’s one of the unique gardens of NJ, offering a cool mix of trees and watershed, as well as sand and shore. The Cooper Environmental Center has been recently renovated and includes hands-on activities for kids, like a live osprey cam, habitat tree, tunnel, children’s activity corner, and live reptiles and fish. Also, check out the Butterfly Garden, with native plants and lots of butterflies all around.
1170 Cattus Island Blvd, Toms River, NJ 08753

NJ Audubon Nature Center of Cape May

The NJ Audubon Nature Center of Cape May is worth a stop when you are vacationing at the shore. Kids will love following the nature trail, which showcases a diverse area of habitats and plants. At the Nature Center, your kids can get their hands wet in a touch tank and climb the three-story observatory tower to see native bird species and beautiful views. 
1600 Delaware Ave., Cape May, NJ 08204

More nature centers and gardens in NJ to check out

Frelinghuysen Arboretum
Leonard J. Buck Garden
Morven Museum & Garden

Linwood Arboretum
Barton Arboretum and Nature Preserve
Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center and Gardens
Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden
Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
Georgian Court University Gardens and Arboretum
Smithville Mansion Courtyard Gardens
The Cross Estate Gardens

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