Relaxing Things to Do in New Jersey

Your guide to the Garden State's most peaceful pursuits.

The Biosphere Pool at Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg.
The Biosphere Pool at Crystal Springs has a tropical vibe year-round. Photo courtesy of Crystal Springs Resort

Are you striving for more relaxation?

We’ve rounded up New Jersey’s most peaceful pursuits—from self-reflecting in a labyrinth to de-stressing at the Jersey Shore to visiting gorgeous secret gardens and luxuriating in top spa experiences.

On the flip side, if you seek adrenaline and adventure, check out our guide to the Garden State’s greatest thrills.

Get out there and start unwinding!


In Wharton State Forest, the Batsto and Mullica Rivers are in fact gentle, winding streams that get their tea color from the tannins in cedar and pine needles and the iron soil dissolved by the water’s slightly acidic pH. From April through October, you can rent a kayak or canoe ($50-$80) and mosey along. “It’s pretty tough to get lost,” says Allison Hartman of “You just paddle downstream.” From the parking lot, the company buses you to and from drop-off and pick-up points. The placid streams played a role in winning America’s freedom. “The iron in the water,” Hartman says, “was used for cannonballs in the Revolution.” —Eric Levin
1005 Atsion Road, Shamong


There are few things more restorative than a walk in nature. Add to that the circular maze-like pathways of a labyrinth, and you’ll find strolling these simple trails is an exercise in meditation. Designed to encourage contemplation, all paths lead to the center, representative of a journey inward. Unlike mazes, labyrinths offer only one way in and out, but with no dead ends. Whether you have something on your mind or just want some peace, visit the brick- and moss-covered paths at Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, listen to the wind chimes, enjoy the shade of mature trees, and breathe. —Deborah P. Carter
21 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown

The cover of New Jersey Monthly's May 2022 issue.

Buy our May 2022 issue here. Photo by Rebecca Handler


As technology has nudged reading onto computers, phones and tablets, libraries have added digital programming to keep up. But don’t discount the power of the in-person experience. In many a Jersey town, these bastions of information are free, public showcases of classical architecture and artwork—and then, of course, there are the books. Take the Newark Public Library, modeled after a 15th-century Italian structure. It was built circa 1899 of brick and limestone and features sweeping arches, sculpted medallions and fluted pillars. Inside, a grand center court soars four stories and is capped by a stained-glass window. Throughout the library, which has holdings of 1.6 million items, mosaics and arch-framed nooks with murals take book browsing to a new level. —DPC
5 Washington Street, Newark


Slip into your own period drama with a visit to a tea room. After all, there is something very civilized about a cup of fragrant tea accompanied by a crumbly biscuit slathered with thick clotted cream. Surrounded by remnants of gentility like bone china, polished silver and yummy sandwiches, a visit to a tea room slows everything down to a pleasant shuffle. The old-timey vibe of Sally Lunn’s Tea Room and Restaurant (15 Perry Street, Chester) or Teaberry’s Tea Room (2 Main Street, Flemington) is as laid-back as a porch rocker on a warm Sunday afternoon. —DPC


Today, there are more than 800 salt-therapy facilities across North America, but when William and Eva Dunai opened the Salt Cavern in Clifton in 2010, they were one of the few offering this restorative treatment. Halotherapy, or salt therapy, involves breathing in air with tiny salt particles, which is said to relieve symptoms of respiratory and skin ailments. At the Salt Cavern, relaxing sessions in the spa-like Himalayan salt caves last 45 minutes and cost $40 for one person and $70 for two people. —Shelby Vittek
658 Allwood Road, Clifton


Flowers bloom in the lush Cross Estate Gardens in Bernardsville.

At Cross Estate in Bernardsville, garden tours are held Wednesdays at 10 am for $10. Photo courtesy of Cross Estate Gardens

When you live in a place nicknamed the Garden State, checking out a garden or two should certainly be on your to-do list. Some of our favorite secret, out-of-the-way spots include Montclair’s Avis Campbell Gardens, the Gables in Beach Haven, Cross Estate Gardens in Bernardsville, and Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown. Pack a picnic and prepare to find peace among the flowers.


Experience a light show as nature intended it at a nearby firefly festival. At Tall Pines State Preserve in Gloucester County, your free, two-hour journey begins at the trailhead on June 25 at 8 pm. A three-quarter-mile self-guided loop dotted with lanterns and educational stations takes you through forest and field. Then, on June 26, enjoy lightning bugs from 4-9 pm at Terhune Orchards in Princeton. While it’s still light out, enjoy music and more at this family farm and winery. As darkness descends, stroll the trails along pastures and orchards, taking in the wonder of nature’s fireworks. —Monica Cardoza


Is that really a straw hut cruising on the water? Actually—yes. A growing fleet of mobile tiki bars for cruising and boozing on waterways from Point Pleasant to Cape May offers a terrific chance to chill out this summer. It’s also a great option for any summer reunion, bachelor/bachelorette party, birthday or team-building excursion. Trips are usually two hours and can be booked in advance for morning coffee, day drinking, sunsets or after-dark parties. Cruisin Tikis is one top option, with trips in Sea Isle City, Margate, Long Beach Island and Point Pleasant. You bring the booze. Your captain does the rest. —Jon Coen


Boats pass by in a steady marine parade, from hulking scallop dredgers to buzzing Jet Skis, plowing along the narrow channel of the Manasquan Inlet, a busy gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. It is calming, almost hypnotic, to watch them from land—whether leaning over the fence, settled onto a bench, or just sitting in one of the front-row parking spots, wondering where they’re going to or coming from, and what they caught or didn’t. You might catch sight of something (or someone) else, too, on the Manasquan side—it’s a favorite haunt of Bruce Springsteen’s, as it was for his father before him. —Kevin Coyne
Riverside Drive, Manasquan, or Inlet Drive, Point Pleasant


Lavender has an aroma known for its therapeutic properties. It can enhance your mood, calm your nervous system, improve your sleep, and even lower your heart rate. Nowadays, you can find the purple plant in the form of essential oils, soaps, scrubs, balms, teas and pastries, all of which are available for purchase at New Jersey farms, where you can see the real thing growing. Lavender thrives in warm weather, so there is no better time to stop and smell the scent. Check out Mad Lavender Farm in Milford, Pleasant Valley Lavender Farm in Morganville, Princeton Lavender Farms in Princeton, or Orchard View Lavender Farm in Port Murray. —Falyn Stempler


Two goats at Readington Brewery and Hop Farm.

Enjoy craft beer while making farm pals at Readington Brewery and Hop Farm. Photo courtesy of Readington Brewery

Sip craft beer in an Adirondack chair beneath a 200-year-old oak tree or alongside the hops, barley and wheat fields that helped produce your beverage at the 25-acre Readington Brewery and Hop Farm. Schedule a farm tour, or just kick back and relax while the firepits get going and you’re greeted by the newest staffers—five friendly goats. Check the website for food trucks and live music on weekends. —MC
937 US Highway 202 S, Neshanic Station


Want to zone out? Schedule a screen-free day of immersive artwork. At Glassworks Studio in Morristown, arrange colorful glass of all shapes and sizes into mosaic-esque masterpieces. From coasters and suncatchers to picture frames and platters, the possibilities are endless. Or craft your own jewelry, accessories or stitching projects at Just Bead It in Long Beach Island. Workshops, tutorials and hands-on happy hours happen throughout the year. Meanwhile, the Painter’s Loft Art Studio in Pennington offers a medium for everyone: pottery making, painting, candle carving and more. Walk in, sign up for a class, or even plan a private party. —Jennifer Finn


Experts say the best time of year to go fishing for trout is late spring, making this the perfect time to plan a Ramapo River fly-fishing trip. The river, which extends from southern New York into northern New Jersey, is known for its ideal fly-fishing locations all across its 30-mile stretch. The wooded landscape is a sure treat for nature enthusiasts, and the river is a great spot for expert and beginner fly fishers alike to catch some New Jersey–native brook trout. If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life for a while, learning this lightweight, luring fishing technique can be a very calming experience. —Thomas Neira


Instead of partying down the Shore over Memorial Day Weekend, treat yourself to a wellness beach retreat. The four-day Sole to Soul Retreat, led by yoga instructor Cheryl Lovelace of Twisted Sister Yoga in Wall, includes activities for yogis at all levels. Participate in sunrise beach yoga or goat yoga classes, guided meditation and breathwork, mountain biking at Allaire State Park, stand-up paddle yoga, and spa days. The retreat, scheduled for May 27-30, costs $250, not including lodging. If you’re looking for hotel accommodations, Lovelace recommends the Breakers on the Ocean Hotel. —SV


Shanghai Jazz Restaurant & Bar has been a prominent pillar of Madison’s Main Street since 1995, but its newest addition, Encore Bar & Lounge, is a slightly more secluded destination. The intimate (though often buzzing) speakeasy underneath Shanghai boasts an away-from-it-all ambience: romantic lighting, eclectic décor and, of course, music. Patrons can unwind with specialty cocktails and small plates of Asian fare at the bar, on high-top tables, or amid cozy sofa seating (packed with pillows aplenty). Secret, password-required events may or may not take place, too—follow @encorebarmadison on Instagram for updates. —JF
24 Main Street, Madison


Get in some light exercise while paddling a swan boat at the serene South Mountain waterfront. Surrounded by tall hardwood trees and hiking trails, it feels like a sweet escape from the busier suburban streets off of which it resides. There is a 1.7-mile walking path adjacent to the reservoir, as well as a children’s playground, pavilion picnic area, and a fun American-cuisine restaurant, McLoone’s Boathouse, with a waterfront view—making it a perfect destination for families. Boats are available on weekends in spring and fall and daily from mid-June to Labor Day, ranging from $17-$21. —FS
Cherry Lane, West Orange


Duke Farmsone of New Jersey Monthly’s 52 Things You Must Do in New Jersey—is the perfect place for a scenic and peaceful bike ride. With 12 miles of bicycle trails across the 1,000 acres open to the public, riders pass through a variety of natural landscapes—from an orchid range to century-old preserved barns, to a seven-lake system including the Great Falls, a tiered waterfall. No matter your age or ability, Duke Farms has bikes for you, including child- and adult-size bikes and accessibility-friendly adult tricycles available to rent for $7 per two hours of riding, with free helmets available. If you work up an appetite, there is a café on the premises with local, farm-sourced ingredients. Bikes are available from April 1-October 31, says William Wilson, public engagement manager at Duke Farms. —FS
1112 Dukes Parkway W, Hillsborough


Normal life may still seem like a mirage; eager as we may be to fully get back to normal, some of us may want to take it slow. How about a staycation? The recently reopened Hilton Short Hills is a close-to-home escape. Book an overnight stay, embrace a change of scenery, and relax with a cocktail at the pool or rooftop lounge. Located across the street from the Mall at Short Hills, stores and restaurants are steps away. Or after your shopping trip, drop your bags in your room and head down to the Dining Room, the hotel’s signature eatery. —DPC
41 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Short Hills


File the biosphere pool complex at Crystal Springs Resort under the chill category for its tranquility. Total relaxation comes easily here: Park yourself on a lounge chair with a gelato from the onsite café and take in the waterfalls, cave, exotic fish and imported tropical foliage. The 10,000-square-foot pool complex includes indoor and outdoor options; the indoor pool, parked under a high-tech roof, allows light to enter for year-round tanning, if that’s your thing. You can get a day pass to the pool and spa facilities if you indulge in a spa treatment of $160 or more, or if you are staying at the resort as an overnight guest. —Tammy La Gorce
1 Wild Turkey Way, Hamburg


Few places in New Jersey can transport you so quickly back to an earlier, quieter age than the deserted—and then meticulously restored—ironworks villages at Allaire State Park in Farmingdale and Batsto State Park in Hammonton. Set amid bucolic woods, the blacksmith shops, general stores, chapels, workers’ houses and dozens of other buildings look as if their inhabitants might return at any moment. Wander among them and contemplate the lives once lived there and the communities that thrived there two centuries ago, before we became the densest and most hectic of all states. —KC


Korea’s spa culture is as bracing as its cuisine. At King Spa in Palisades Park, men and women each have their own very hot pools and saunas. The saunas, igloo-shaped, are wood fired, which adds aroma and atmosphere. The $90 body scrub is a merciless half-hour rubdown with a nubby exfoliating mitt. After a while, it feels good, and your flesh emerges silky. You can add a massage ($95 and up), in which you’re pounded the way Neapolitan chefs tenderize scungilli. It works for conch, and it’ll work for you. A day pass covers the bathhouse and saunas; weekdays are mellow. —Karen Tina Harrison
321 Commercial Avenue, Palisades Park

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