Aside from the Jersey Shore, many people think of New Jersey as just a cluster of tightly packed towns, rivers of concrete and asphalt interstates, and toll booths. But there is another side to the state that many people miss.
Get off the interstate, parkway, or turnpike and discover a whole new world. New Jersey is called the Garden State for a reason. Farmlands dot the landscape on rolling hills, and one crop the state is known for is the apple.
Ever since I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for apple picking season, when my parents would drive me and my sisters out to the orchards to pick a bushel. The scene hasn’t changed much after all of these years as families pack up the car on weekends and drive out into the country to one of the many family-owned orchards that are just waiting for you to stop by and pick your own.
Before we head out and discover eight of the fantastic places for apple picking in New Jersey, there are a few tips you should know about apple picking.
First, in May 2022, New Jersey passed a law banning food services of any kind to sell or provide single-use plastic bags. It’s better for the environment, and you will feel better that you are doing your part. Remember to bring a reusable bag or purchase one at the orchard.
As you are all aware, prices at the grocery store fluctuate due to unforeseen issues on the farm. The same thing happens at the orchard where you pick the fruit yourself. Prices will vary.
Most orchards will have a designated picking area. Stay in that area.
And keep in mind that there is a technique to picking an apple. Just grabbing one and yanking it off a branch damages the tree and drops other apples to the ground. When you find a ripe apple, grasp the stem between your index finger and thumb and give it a slight twist and gentle tug.
And that’s it! Let’s get picking at these fantastic New Jersey orchards!
1. Eastmont Orchards
When I lived near Asbury Park, it was a real treat to head just a few minutes northeast to the town of Colts Neck and visit Eastmont Orchards. The first tree was planted here in 1911 by Fred Lerch, but having no experience in farming, Lerch failed, and the orchard was soon sold to John Barclay. The fortunes of the orchard turned and the farm has been a successful family operation ever since.
Pro Tips: Dos And Don’ts
You may be tempted to bring a backpack to haul your apples in. Eastmont does not allow backpacks in the orchard. The orchard charges a modest entrance fee on weekends and charges per pound for pick-your-own fruit.
2. Demarest Farms
One of the busiest areas of the state is the northeast region, but you wouldn’t know it when you visit Demarest Farms in Hillsdale.
Located only 20 miles northeast of Manhattan and 5 miles south of the New York-New Jersey state line, Demarest Farms is a diversified orchard. Not only can you pick apples in the fall, but delicious, juicy peaches in July and pumpkins in the fall. They also host a wine festival in mid-August.
And when you have finished picking your share of apples, stop by the farm market for delicious baked goods including the farm’s amazing apple cider donuts.
Pro Tip: Make A Reservation
Apple picking time is from September through October, and you must book a reservation in advance. Each reservation allows you 90 minutes in the orchard to pick those apples.
3. Russo’s Fruit And Vegetable Farm
Talk about farm-fresh fruits and vegetables — it doesn’t get much better than Russo’s Fruit and Vegetable Farm.
The farm opened in 1940 and has been growing literally everything from A to Z (apples to zucchini) ever since. In the farmer’s market, you will find local New Jersey honey, jams, jellies, and freshly baked pies.
Of course, we’re here for apple picking. Take the free hay ride out to the orchard to pick fresh Red Delicious or Winesap apples.
Pro Tips: Open For Business
The farm is open from April 1 to Christmas Eve with apple picking season generally starting in mid-September.
4. Battleview Orchards
Located directly across Wemrock Road from the historic Monmouth Battlefield State Park, Battleview Orchards is New Jersey’s oldest pick-your-own orchard. The farm was purchased by Charles and Carrie Applegate in 1908 and has been a family operation ever since.
You have a wide selection of apple varieties to choose from at Battleview Orchards. Of course, there are the traditional Macintosh and Red Delicious, but they also grow the incredibly sweet-tasting Honeycrisp as well as Fuji, Jonagold, Empire, and more.
It’s not only apples you can pick at Battleview. In spring, it’s strawberries. In summer, pick the freshest New Jersey peaches, nectarines, and sour cherries around. And in the fall, it’s pumpkins. You can find the picking schedule online.
Pro Tip: High-Hanging Fruit
Remember that you can’t walk to the picking area; you must drive your own vehicle. Sometimes low hanging fruit has already been picked. If that is the case, pole pickers are provided. There is no fee to enter the orchard, but there is an entrance fee for strawberry picking.
5. Terhune Orchards
Only minutes from Princeton University is Terhune Orchards, a family-owned farm that not only specializes in apples, but also a variety of pick-your-own fruits and vegetables including asparagus, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and strawberries. Check out their picking schedule for dates.
When it comes to apples, the sky is the limit. They grow everything from Ginger Gold to Jonathan and Pink Lady. And it wouldn’t be an apple orchard without serving up delicious hot apple cider donuts and cider.
Battleview Orchard also has its own winery with weekend tastings of their award winning red, white, and fruit wines.
Pro Tip: Two Locations
The winery and farm store where you can get fresh fruit, vegetables and baked goods is located at 330 Cold Soil Road. The apple orchard for pick-your-own is located about 1.5-miles south of the store at 13 Van Kirk Road.
6. Johnson’s Corner Farms
Johnson’s Corner Farms is more than just a pick-your-own orchard. Their motto is, “Planting Seeds…Making Memories.”
Young and old alike will have a blast at the farm as they host many special events throughout the year. There are petting zoos and rides for the kids. In the summer, the farm hosts the Friday Night Cruise and Barbecue where you can see classic restored cars and get messy with delicious barbecue. In the fall, it’s the Fall Festival Weekends with corn mazes, hayrides, and live entertainment. Their complete calendar of events can be found online.
And then there is apple picking. As of this writing, if you want to pick apples you have to make a reservation online for the Fall Harvest, but be quick — they book up fast. The orchard will only accept walk-ins if online reservations haven’t sold out.
Pro Tip: Saving Money
If you can, make a reservation for the weekday Fall Harvest. Admission is 25 percent less than weekend admission.
7. Stiles Farm And Nursery
Cape May Court House
Once again, Stiles not only has delicious apple varieties like the sweet-tart tasting Pristine and the hint of vanilla flavored Gala, but also pick-your-own strawberries, blueberries, pome, pears, and more.
The owners are welcoming and will give you a tour of their operation.
Pro Tip: Keep Up To Date
The farm regularly updates its daily schedule of what is available to pick and its hours on its Facebook page.
8. Melick’s Town Farm
Oldwick / Califon
Even though they are the largest apple grower in New Jersey with over 650 acres of land and 20,000 apple trees, Melick’s Town Farm still keeps it down to earth and local and has been producing locally grown fruits and vegetables for over 300 years!
Melick’s has three locations. The first is the Oldwick Farm Market on Oldwick Road, where spring through summer you can cut your own beautiful bouquet of zinnias, gladiolas, and sunflowers and pick up farm fresh locally produced vegetables, baked goods, jams, and jellies.
Then there is Cider Mill on King Street, where in the fall you can take a hayride through the orchards and then visit the 150-year-old cider mill barn where the press makes cider from 100 percent apples. The cider is cold pasteurized, giving it a unique flavor that you have to try.
Speaking of cider, be sure to sample their Semi-Dry and King Street Hops hard ciders. The ciders were Double Gold Medal Winners in the 2019 Fifty Best competition.
And finally, you can pick your own apples at the Califon Farm Market and Orchard in the town of Califon. It is also where you can pick peaches, pears, and pumpkins.
Pro Tip: Make Reservations Early
Apple picking usually begins the first weekend of September. The orchard is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but reservations are required.