There’s an easy day trip in the Garden State for nature appreciation, environmental awareness, birding, leisurely strolls, biking and so much more. Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey is free and open to the public. The current hours until November are Tuesday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Note that reservations are required on busy Saturdays and that pets are not permitted.
Farnese Bull Statue
Duke Farms is a privately owned parcel of open land with a vast terrain, spanning 2,740 acres with over 1,000 acres available to the public to explore and 18 miles of well-maintained roads and trails. James Buchanan Duke, the American entrepreneur who founded Duke Power and the American Tobacco Company, originally established it as an estate. In 1925, his only child and heir, Doris Duke, inherited the property and lived on the sprawling estate for many years. Doris Duke passed away in 1993 and her deep commitment to the environment was evident in her will. She had a vision that the New Jersey property should protect wildlife and be used for agriculture, horticulture, and research. Today, the continuing mission of Duke Farms is environmental stewardship and to inspire visitors to become better informed.
Orientation Center in the Historic Farm Barn
Start your visit at the Orientation Center, housed on the first floor of the historic Farm Barn. There, you can acquaint yourself with the history of the Duke family, tour interactive exhibits, view a short film and even borrow an “Eco-kit” to take along as you explore Duke Farms. There’s also a charming eatery, Farm Barn Café where you can enjoy light meals and refreshments.
The terrain of Duke Farms is generally flat, allowing guests to take long walks, leisurely strolls and bike. You can bring your own bicycle but there are also rentals at a reasonable cost available between April and November.
There are fascinating historic elements to Duke Farms, beautifully preserved with original structures that date back to the times of James Buchanan Duke. Of particular interest is the signature Coach Barn. Completed in 1903, it has a working clock tower. With a stable for horses at one end, the other side of the Barn once served as an office for J.B. Duke and his estate manager. The Coach Barn is now used for educational programming and conferences relative to the Duke farms mission.
For all those who love the beauty of flowers, the Orchid Range is a must. This stunning greenhouse, built between 1899 and 1901 houses a variety of gorgeous orchids, a subtropical coastal plant garden, and support greenhouses for orchids and other flowering plants.
A variety of Orchids on Duke Farms
A Field of Wildflowers
There’s something to see around every corner with fields of wildflowers, lakes that accent the property, exquisite outdoor statues, and an extensive arboretum. Birder and butterfly alert! Bring your binoculars. The natural splendor of Duke Farms is a haven for songbirds, raptors and water birds. On a recent visit, we observed birds such as Goldfinches, Sharp Shinned Hawks, Eastern Mountain Bluebirds, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds and more. Butterflies that include Monarchs, Black Swallowtails, and Easter Tiger Swallowtails are easily sighted.
Want to know more? Get the Duke Farms app and visit their web site, www.dukefarms.org or call 908.722.3700. The property is located at 112 Dukes Parkway West, Hillsborough, New Jersey 08844 a little over an hour drive time from NYC.
Featured photo: Central Way Leading to Orchid Range
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Marina P. Kennedy