WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, BURLINGTON COUNTY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "Here we are in between Philadelphia, New York, and Atlantic City, and you can literally go out in the woods and not see people for days on end if that's what you choose," said Rob Auermuller, Superintendent of Wharton State Forest.
The 1.1 million acres of South Jersey land nested in the Pine Barrens leaves much to the imagination. But sure enough, hiking, mountain biking, and canoeing are all fan favorites in the area surrounding Batsto Village.
"The history started here with an iron town and iron furnace," said Auermuller. "Ultimately, it ended up as a gentleman's farm."
That farm was purchased by the State of New Jersey in the 1950s. Since then, the protected land has offered a sanctuary for nature and history alike.
Loosened pandemic restrictions have allowed for the reopening of Batsto's nature center and on-site mansion, which boasts more than 30 rooms for guests to tour. Historians like Sean Kane Holland and naturalists like Ally Horan are able to interpret all there is to know about the village.
"To think that people had to come, build, and then also provide for not only themselves but for their animals and all, it's just amazing," said Margaret Gallagher from Washington Township.
Gallagher and her husband took advantage of a beautiful day and revisited the village where they once went canoeing on the Mullica River.
"We were hysterical because it was just so much fun," she said.
Locals looking to cool off can also venture to the nearby Atsion Recreation Area, which is a popular swimming spot in the summer.
In addition to guided mansion tours, guests can look forward to demonstrations by real blacksmiths who visit on the weekends. For those who can't visit, the Batsto Village website offers live views from the top of the mansion.
With more restrictions loosening, Batsto hopes to bring back in-person events such as its Fall Glass and Bottle Show and Country Living Fair. Both are set to take place this September and October.
Batsto is just one of many State Parks in New Jersey open for visitors. In fact, state residents have the unique opportunity to have their entry fees waived through the "Vax and Visit" campaign. Those who receive at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccination by July 4, 2021, are eligible to sign up at this webpage.
To learn more about Batsto Village, visit their website.