Fine dining is nice, but sometimes all you need is to grab a picnic basket, plop down in the grass and enjoy the comforts of a ham and cheese sandwich.
The birds chirp around you, as the evening sunlight is gradually painted over with swirls of purple and pink clouds. You take a bite of one of Jersey’s sweet peaches, as the juice drips down your chin and you’re washed over with child-like excitement that summer is here.
Whether you’re with family or friends, there’s something so rejuvenating about eating a meal outside and taking in nature.
And there’s no better time to plan, as International Picnic Day is Saturday, June 18. Luckily, Monmouth and Ocean counties offer plenty of scenic spots. Here are 15 worth checking out:
Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown
Located in Middletown, Deep Cut Gardens is 54 acres of gardens that can be viewed free of charge all year. As koi and goldfish swim throughout the lily pond and 52 varietal blossoms in the Rose Parterre, Deep Cut Gardens is a must-visit place to enjoy a picnic.
“I love Deep Cut Gardens”. It’s really awesome,” said Suzette Louis-Jacques, founder of luxury picnic company La TAS Events.
Whether you’re one to spread out a blanket and picnic in the grass or you prefer a picnic table, Deep Cut Gardens allows either option. It is open daily from 8 am to dusk.
Deep Cut Gardens also offers walking tours, gardening lessons, the Elvin MacDonald Horticultural Library and has a home-composting demonstration site.
Go: 152 Red Hill Road, Middletown; 732-842-4000; monmouthcountyparks.com/page.aspx?Id=2518
Funtown Beach, Seaside Park
Not only is Funtown Beach Seaside Park’s only BYOB beach, but it’s also a private beach that can be booked in the evenings for any sort of event or celebration.
Offering cabana rentals, live entertainment and a tiki hut, Funtown is not your ordinary beach.
“It’s a different experience from anywhere else,” said Brielle Roche, co-owner of Jersey Shore Picnic Company.
Funtown Beach is also one of the few handicap-accessible beaches, and it features accessible bathrooms along the boardwalk. Being able to combine the comforts of a private beach with the ability to bring alcohol on the beach and enjoy performances by various DJs, a picnic at Funtown Beach is bucket list worthy.
On Monday, June 20, Funtown Beach opens full-time.
Go: 30 Stockton Ave., Seaside Park; 732-660-8694, funtownbeach.com/
More:Looking for an extra-special way to celebrate? Consider a luxury picnic
With picnic areas, 10 miles of trails, fishing, playgrounds, tennis courts and the David C. Shaw Arboretum, Holmdel Park provides a variety of activities to enjoy on top of scenic spots to picnic.
The rolling hills and lush greenery of Holmdel Park’s 618 acres is accessible to the public from 7 am to 9:30 pm every day.
“It’s a lovely park to walk around,” said Monmouth County Park System spokesperson Karen Livingstone.
It’s also a popular place for families to go, as Holmdel Park features the Historic Longstreet Farm, where you can see animals like pigs, cows, sheep, horses, mules and chickens. The staff re-creates life like it was in the 1890s, and offers educational events throughout the year.
Alongside the farm sits the Holmes-Hendrickson House, which was built in 1754. Visitors can tour the exterior of the house and admire the Dutch and Georgian vernacular architecture.
Go: 44 Longstreet Road, Holmdel; 732-946-9562; monmouthcountyparks.com/page.aspx?ID=2526
Island Beach State Park
Located in Lanoka Harbor, Island Beach State Park is one of the few beaches at the Jersey Shore that you don’t have to pay to get on. The gates to get on the island are open from 8 am until 8 pm on weekdays, one hour earlier on weekends.
The 10 miles of sand and wildlife that this island has to explore makes it a great contender for a place to picnic this summer. Surrounded by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the historic Barnegat Bay, Island Beach State Park has a variety of birds and wildlife among its vegetation.
In addition to its scenery, Island Beach State Park offers swimming, surfing, windsurfing, boating, canoeing and kayaking. There are also education programs, where visitors can learn more about the island’s ecosystem.
Go: Island Beach State Park, Lanoka Harbor 732-793-0506; islandbeachnj.org/ParkFacts/index.html
Ocean County Park
If you’re looking to make a day out of your picnic, Ocean County Park checking in Lakewood is definitely worth out.
The park offers bike trails, walking trails, playgrounds, pickleball courts, softball fields, a golf course and a driving range. There’s also a lake where visitors can swim and fish.
Ocean County Park’s picnic facility is available for rent. It can hold as many as 600 people.
The park is open from 7 am to 5:30 pm
Go: 659 Ocean Ave., Lakewood, 732-506-9090; oceancountyparks.org
Colorful Victorian houses line the shore of Ocean Grove, making this quiet beach town a beautiful spot to escape from the summer rush to the beach and enjoy a picnic.
“The best kept secret is Ocean Grove,” Louis-Jacques said.
Founded in 1869, Ocean Grove is a historic gem at the Jersey Shore and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also the longest-active camp meeting site in the entire country.
Rich with history, Ocean Grove is a great place to gather the family together and have a picnic in the sand. Afterwards, there are plenty of mom and pop shops, checking homemade ice cream parlors and family-owned bakeries worth out.
Go: 81 Main Ave., Ocean Grove; 732-774-1391, oceangrovenj.com/
Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold
Nestled on a winding road in Freehold sits more than 2,000 acres of woodland that make up Turkey Swamp Park. Numerous trails, campgrounds, playgrounds and an archery range surround the 17-acre lake that’s the focal point of the park.
“That is just such a great park … It’s a terrific place to go picnicking,” Livingstone said.
Throughout Turkey Swamp Park, there are plenty of tables and gazebos to picnic at, with grills available for public use. There are also benches alongside the lake, and empty fields that can be used for picnics.
In addition, Turkey Swamp Park offers kayak, canoe and paddleboat rentals for visitors, which are available daily from Sunday, June 19, through Labor Day.
Go: 200 Georgia Road, Freehold; 732-462-7286, monmouthcountyparks.com/page.aspx?Id=2540
Here are some other places to picnic:
Asbury Park Beach: 1300 N. Ocean Ave.; 732-502-8863, cityofasburypark.com/185/Asbury-Park-Beaches
Brick Reservoir: 811 Herbertsville Road, Brick; 732-262-1000, bricktownship.net/
Cattus Island County Park: 1170 Cattus Island Blvd., Toms River; 732-270-6960, oceancountyparks.org
Dorbrook Recreation Area: 353 Route 537, Colts Neck; 732-542-1642, monmouthcountyparks.com
Island Heights Boardwalk: Island Heights Boardwalk, Island Heights; 732-270-6415, https://islandheightsborough.gov/
John C. Bartlett, Jr. County Park at Berkeley Island: 399 Brennan Concourse, Bayville; 877-627-2757, oceancountyparks.org
Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park: 221 Ocean Ave., Long Branch; 732-229-0924, monmouthcountyparks.com
Thompson Park: 805 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft; 732-842-4000, ext. 4312, monmouthcountyparks.com
Intern Kaitlin Balasaygun is a senior at Ramapo College and expects to earn degrees in journalism and photography in 2023. She is captain of the school’s NCAA Division III swim team. Reach her at email@example.com.