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The Nature of Atlantic City

Atlantic City is much more than just a cosmopolitan escape. Venture into the surrounding area and you’ll find unique natural treasures that don’t get the recognition they deserve. If you’re looking to add a bit of the outdoors to your AC trip, check out these awesome spots for great views and recreation.

For true outdoor experiences near Atlantic City, parks throughout the area offer something for everyone. Whether you love to hike, bike, paddle, fish or just observe some of the region’s wonderful wildlife, you’ll find plenty to do here.

Lake Lenape Park in Mays Landing has a two-mile paved hiking and biking trail with plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings and gorgeous lake views. The park sometimes offers guided hikes, which provide an overview of the park’s local flora and fauna.

Atlantic County Park at Estell Manor spans roughly 1,700 acres and includes facilities for just about every type of outdoor recreation. Roll or stroll along the 20 miles of hiking trails, paved exercise trails or the unique Swamp Trail Boardwalk--when it snows, these trails become cross-country skiing routes. Show off your athleticism on the soccer field, softball field or sand volleyball courts. Take to the water with canoeing and kayaking on Stephen’s Creek or the South River. Try your hand at fishing (licenses are only required for the freshwater ponds). Or you can simply relax all day with a picnic and spend the night at a campground.

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge is a stunning natural retreat that’s ideal for wildlife watching, fishing and walking. The 11,000-acre area is particularly suited to birdwatching and many interesting species are found here, including the peregrine falcon, American woodcock and piping plover.

Corson’s Inlet State Park packs a lot into its 340 acres--a stretch of pristine untouched oceanfront, diverse wildlife, sand dunes, estuaries and more. Boating is a popular activity at Corson’s Inlet--watercraft of all types are permitted, but all users are subject to New Jersey Boating Regulations. The sand dunes harbor nests for piping plovers, least terns, black skimmers and other shorebird and waterfowl, making for an excellent birding destination. Other outdoor activities include fishing and hiking.

The Southern New Jersey Pinelands are forested treasures that are ripe for exploration.

Wharton State Forest is the largest state forest in New Jersey, with more than 115,000 acres of woodlands, bogs, hiking trails and unpaved roads perfect for horseback riding, mountain biking or just cruising. Just 30 minutes from Atlantic City, this gem features cozy cabins as well as campsites that range from well-appointed to primitive. Hikers should ascend to Apple Pie Hill for sublime views. Boaters will find Mullica River enjoyable, especially by canoe or kayak.

Belleplain State Forest is a gorgeous 21,000 acres of pine, oak and cedar woodlands and swamps. A former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) site in the 1930s, Belleplain also features some interesting architecture. Outdoorsy folks will find more than 40 miles of hiking and biking trails to enjoy within the forest, as well as hunting, fishing, boating and swimming opportunities. Visitors can spend the night in a cozy cabin or yurt, or choose from more than 150 tent camping and RV sites complete with flush toilets, showers and laundry facilities.

For a more structured experience, check out Leaming’s Run Gardens at the Cape May Courthouse. Shaded paths wind through vibrant flowers and lush greenery, and the various ponds and nooks offer complete relaxation.

No matter how you want to enjoy the outdoors, Atlantic City’s surroundings have a nature experience you’ll love.