Aerial view of Cape May, New Jersey.

7 Picture-Perfect Towns In New Jersey

New Jersey, like its fellow states in the mid-Atlantic region, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, is home to dozens of beautiful small towns. Many of New Jersey’s postcard-pretty communities have histories that stretch back more than 200 or even 300 years, with ties to the American Revolution and other key events. Exploring the seven lovely New Jersey towns listed here serves as both a history lesson and a feast for the eyes.


Swede's Inn in Swedesboro, New Jersey.
Swede's Inn in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Image credit: Jerrye & Roy Klotz via Wikimedia Commons.

Swedesboro is now a suburban town that sits about 25 miles south of Philadelphia, but it has held onto its unique history as a remnant of the short-lived New Sweden colony in the mid-1600s. Swedesboro’s historic highlights include the 1600s Nothnagle Log House, possibly the oldest log structure in the nation, and the 1784 Trinity Episcopal “Old Swedes” Church. The historical museum in the town hall is a great starting point for a walking tour any time of year, but especially in September when the town holds its annual Swedesboro Day festival. Additonally, Swedesboro is surrounded by Woolrich Township, which includes wineries, farm markets, 150-plus acres of public parks, and walking trails (such as Tranquility Trails) that offer great birdwatching.

South Orange

South Orange, New Jersey, in fall.
South Orange, New Jersey, in fall.

The first colonial settlers arrived in what is now the northern New Jersey town of South Orange about 350 years ago. While South Orange’s oldest historic landmark, the circa 1680 Old Stone House, is unfortunately in a seriously dilapidated state, many well-maintained 1800s structures still line the streets of the Prospect Park and Montrose Street historic districts. The turreted 1894 Village Hall is one of several architectural highlights that is well worth a photograph. In addition to looking postcard-pretty, South Orange maintains a lively arts and culture scene. The South Orange Performing Arts Center regularly hosts live shows, while the Baird Center offers numerous arts, culture, and community programs, such as the Giants of Jazz concert series.


Aerial view of Morristown, New Jersey.
Aerial view of Morristown, New Jersey.

Morristown is a pretty little town with many old buildings to admire, but it is also a place where you can truly experience history. George Washington buffs can visit the 1774 Ford Mansion and the Morristown National Historical Park, where Washington (in the mansion) and the Continental Army (in the field) spent two long wartime winters. Meanwhile, Alexander Hamilton fans can visit the Campbell House, where he wed Elizabeth Schuyler. Or, if you prefer the history of technology, check out the 1838 Speedwell Ironworks, site of the world’s first successful telegraph system. After exploring the area's history, you can enjoy a live show at the Mayo Performing Arts Center or take a nature walk around Speedwell Lake.


Aerial view of Cranbury, New Jersey.
Aerial view of Cranbury, New Jersey.

Cranbury has been called one of the best-preserved historic towns in New Jersey, with some 200 structures from the 1700s and 1800s included in the Historic District surrounding Main Street. The town has been an important midway point between Philadelphia and New York City for centuries, with famous Revolutionary War era figures like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Marquis de Lafayette, and Aaron Burr making stops in Cranbury. Take a walking tour to explore the buildings connected with these luminaries, along with architectural gems like the Old Cranbury School and Silvers Mansion. You can also take a 25 minute drive to experience the thrills of the Six Flags Great Adventure theme park.


Main Street in Chatham, New Jersey.
Main Street in Chatham, New Jersey. Image credit: Stephen Rees via

Chatham’s history stretches back more than 300 years, and it is one of New Jersey’s wealthiest communities, so its tree-lined streets contain an ample supply of lovingly restored and maintained homes from the Victorian era. Two of Chatham’s most famous historic homes are even older: the 1780 William Day House, and the Morrell House, which was George Washington’s headquarters shortly before the decisive 1781 Battle of Yorktown. Meanwhile, Chatham's Main Street business district has a timeless look and feel (and lots of great shopping). Additionally, Chatham is less than 10 miles away from Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which offers unparalleled wildlife sightseeing.

Cape May

Aerial view of Cape May, New Jersey.
Aerial view of Cape May, New Jersey.

New Jersey is well known for its beach towns, but Cape May stands alone on the Jersey Shore when it comes to historic beauty. Set at the state’s southern tip, at the meeting point of Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Cape May has managed to retain street after street of picturesque Victorian homes, interspersed with cute beach cottages and charming shops. The elevated beach promenade offers spectacular views of the ocean to one side and the town to the other, while the open-air Washington Street Mall is a picturesque and pedestrian-friendly shopping destination. Nearby Cape May Point is one of the best birdwatching spots in the United States, especially for migratory birds and songbirds such as the Cape May Warbler.


Beautiful historic homes in Burlington, New Jersey.
Beautiful historic homes in Burlington, New Jersey.

The town of Burlington was settled by Quakers back in 1677, and holds several interesting historic footnotes, including a home visited by Benjamin Franklin (the 1685 Hutchinson-Revell House), James Fenimore Cooper’s childhood home, and General Ulysses S. Grant’s family home during the last year of the Civil War. Another Burlington must-visit is the High Street downtown area, home to lively and eclectic shops like the century-old Burlington Antiques. Additionally, Burlington's riverfront includes a charming waterfront park, shops and restaurants, walking paths, the historic Oneida Boat Club, and lovely views of the Delaware River.  

Some people picture New Jersey as being nothing but sprawling suburbs of New York City and Philadelphia, making its nickname of “The Garden State” feel like a real misnomer. However, New Jersey actually has plenty of agricultural land, as well as some of the loveliest small towns found anywhere in America. So book your trip to the Garden State today and be prepared to have your New Jersey preconceptions busted!

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