A few years back, Hurricane Sandy threatened many highlights of the natural features in New Jersey, especially those associated with the peaceful shoreline. Luckily, boardwalks leading to cherished lakes and reservoirs have been rebuilt and refurbished for future generations and hot summers to come. The following bodies of water make for wonderful family day trips or fishing sessions, in no particular order; remember that all New Jersey state parks prohibit alcohol from these swimming holes.


Swim In One Of These Great New Jersey Lakes!


1. Sunrise Lake, Morristown, NJ

Lifeguards present May to September

Here, the necessary ingredients for a fulfilling summer swimming hole are present: lush foliage with fun hiking trails, shallow water without a current to snatch someone up and reasonable prices for taking a dip—the highest admission price, for an adult entering on a weekend day, is only $7. Sunrise Lake, part of Lewis Morris County Park, is a recreational mecca that includes an inflatable water obstacle course, horseshoe pits, mountain bike trails and a three-acre spot for fishing trout and bass. Play to your heart’s content, then dry off in historic Morristown, a city quite relevant during the colonial days of New Jersey: Macculloch Hall Historical Museum features two-hundred-year-old furniture used by the country’s first presidents. Bite into an artisanal grilled cheese sandwich at the Melt Factory, a restaurant dedicated to variations on a deli favorite.


2. Tomahawk Lake Water Park, Sparta Township, NJ

Lifeguards present May to September

45 minutes from busy Newark, this relative puddle of a lake near the bigger Lake Mohawk is a spacious, sandy swimming hole and amusement park for the whole family, especially with a slew of paddleboats, rowboats, mini golf and other exciting add-ons. The cash-only park is smoke free; admission ($12 for adults and $11 for kids under eight on weekdays) covers every activity at Tomahawk Lake except water slides and boats. For adults only, there’s a beer garden and full bar on the premises, but please remember that intoxication and swimming do not mix! To experience Lake Mohawk and some tasty ice cream flavors, look no further than Alpine Creamery on Sparta Township’s boardwalk—easily recognizable from its medieval-seeing turrets out front.


3. Lake Marcia, Montague Township, NJ

Lifeguards present Memorial Day to Labor Day

High Point State Park lies a mere 20 minutes from the Jersey-New York-Pennsylvania border, giving its raised elevation—the highest in New Jersey—a great vantage point for a view of all three states. Lake Marcia isn’t far from the peak of the park’s mountain range; indeed, those swimming in its pristine water can view the obelisk set on High Point’s peak to mark its place. Not far from the campsite, parking lot, concession stand and restrooms is the famous Appalachian Trail; even at a fraction of its 2,200 mile length, this passage takes you along an exciting part of the park’s ridge. Visitors from within NJ will be charged $5 per car on the weekdays and $10 on weekends per vehicle, with out-of-state guests paying double for either fee. Worked up a sweat? Consider the Green Olive in Sussex if you enjoy lamb gyros, spinach pie and hearty wine, or alternatively, go right to the source and stroll around a West Jersey vineyard.


4. Parvin State Park, Pittsgrove Township, NJ

Lifeguards present Memorial Day to Labor Day

Used several times in American history as a military encampment, this idyllic state park in a farming area is a south Jersey mainstay during the summer. Its floor doesn’t go much deeper than five feet, making Parvin Lake a safe place to splash around with youngsters. Specifically, the sandy part where swimming is allowed goes by Parvin Grove; nearby; one can rent canoes or buy refreshments at the restrooom-and-first-aid facility. While traversing one of Parvin’s many hiking trails, observant visitors might catch a glimpse of the threatened barred owl or a bald eagle in the pine trees. Jersey residents see their vehicle admission price cut in half, while tourists must pay $5 per car during the week and $10 on weekends. After a colorful morning or afternoon outdoors, chow down on roasted pork and plantain mash at Landis Pig Roast, an establishment in Vineland with intoxicating meats and greasy empanadas on its menu.


5. Horicon Lake, Lakehurst, NJ

Lifeguards present June to September

A low-key place to cool off in a town not far from the coast, sparkling-blue Horicon Lake was created in the 1940s by damming part of Jersey’s Toms River. These days, all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts make use of this 63-acre reservoir; whether it’s a splash in the lake, taking in the vivid sunset or angling for bass, trout, bullhead or even eel. Parents appreciate the playground near the parking lot, sheltered in the shade but still full of thrilling structures for times when the weather doesn’t permit swimming. When the going gets extremely tough in the family caravan, end the outing by getting a table at Shut Up And Eat in Toms River (cash only), a cheerful diner that serves every kind of omelette and pancake conceivable. If you’re neither hungry nor squeamish, visit the Bugseum at Insectropolis (also in Toms River) and revel in creepy crawlies of all shapes and sizes: the one-of-a-kind museum celebrates caterpillars, aquatic insects and common bees in an air-conditioned facility. Admission is $8.


6. Hooks Creek Lake, Old Bridge Township, NJ

Lifeguards on duty Memorial Day to Labor Day

Across the Raritan Bay from Staten Island, in Cheesequake State Park, a highly accessible calm, sandy cove awaits you and your family in the summer—one turn off the Garden State Parkway, this urban oasis couldn’t be more conveniently located. The lake marks the meeting of multiple biomes and ecosystems, allowing for numerous bird species and marsh types to thrive. Besides casually swimming in Hooks Creek Lake and patronizing its snack bar, visitors enjoy trying their luck at the Crabbing Bridge near the parking lot and kayaking around the marsh (you’ll have to bring your own equipment). Cheesequake State Park also has bathrooms, first aid (bring bug spray) and a park center outlining the area’s ecological and human history. Those from New Jersey pay $5 per vehicle on weekdays and $10 on weekends, with prices doubling for out-of-towners. Once you’ve packed up for the day, dine at Matawan’s Ganga Asian Bistro, a beloved sushi restaurant with hits like the “Tuna Amazing” roll with three kinds of tuna, Chilean sea bass dumplings and tangerine-roasted duck.


7. Lake Nummy, Dennis, NJ

Lifeguards on duty Memorial Day to Labor Day

Nestled in south Jersey’s Belleplain State Forest is a former cranberry bog-turned-hotspot for camping, boating, fishing for largemouth bass and swimming on the north side of the lake (just right off of Meisle Road). Underneath pine, cedar and oak trees, enjoy the dedicated swimming area and perhaps a goose sighting while in the water. Lake Nummy goes above and beyond with amenities, providing restrooms, a changing area, first aid and a concessions stand; non-NJ-residents are charged $10 on the weekdays and $20 on weekends per vehicle. The forest is only an hour from Atlantic City and the southernmost part of the Jersey Shore, taking you through miles of marshland on long highway road. After taking a dip in the lake, stop at Woodbine Custard Ranch for not only milkshakes and frozen yogurt but also cheesesteaks and “pizzaburgers.” Dig in!



This article was written by Juliana Cohen.