Not all New Jersey exits have numbers, and some of the state’s greatest attractions are found of the lesser known “rural” routes through its southern and western areas. After exploring the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike in past years, in 2019 “By the Exits” is taking detours along east-west highways and looking “down south” to the Pinelands and beyond.
A fun fact about Upper Township, situated at the very top (heading South) of Cape May County: it was once named New Jersey’s best place to live by “New Jersey Monthly” Magazine! Another fun fact – it’s the eastern terminus of Route 49, a lazy 50-mile spur that crosses through several small-town treasures on its way from the Cape May Wildlife Refuge to the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
Millville. About half an hour up from Route 49 from Upper Township, Millville’s Wheaton Village Arts and Cultural Center is home to the Down Jersey Folklife Center. Anyone who thinks “Jersey” is all Sopranos and Seaside Heights needs to pay a visit to this spot that celebrates South Jersey’s crafts and folk-art traditions like fur trapping, pine needle basket making, boatbuilding, glass blowing, and more.
Bridgeton. Not far from Millville, to the west on Route 49 is the city of Bridgeton, which houses the state’s largest historic district. Stop by the Woodruff Indian Museum in the basement of the Public Library or visit Cohanzick Zoo - one of the last free zoos in the country.
Greenwich Township. Not pronounced “Grennitch,” the town that started as “Green Witch” still maintains a great deal of its colonial charm by keeping names like Ye Greate Street. Along Ye Greate Street is the Teaburners Monument, that celebrates the Revolution’s “other” tea party. Roughly a year after Boston’s Party, 40 New Jersey colonists disguised themselves as Native Americans, broke into a storage site and torched crates of tea bound for Philadelphia. Here you’ll also find Greenwich’s Maritime Museum, featuring tributes to the Delaware Bay’s shipbuilding industry and maritime history.
Historic Salem. The last major town along Route 49 before the Delaware Memorial Bridge comes into view, Salem is home to important New Jersey historical sites like Fort Mott State Park, which dates to America’s post-Civil War military buildup, and Finns Point Range Lighthouse. (A quick trivia note – Finns Point is literally named for the Finns. Not a family, but the Finnish people who settled the area around Wilmington, Delaware and branched out from there.) This month, you can even witness an authentic Lenni-Lenape Pow-Wow when the Nanticoke tribe presents its annual demonstration of Native American singing, dancing and artistry at the Salem County Fairgrounds (in nearby Woodstown)!
You never know what you’ll find when you get a little off the beaten path and explore our state’s smaller, out-of-the-way roads. Fire up your map app and get hunting!