As autumn sweeps across New Jersey, painting the region with color and activity, there is something inviting about the season’s charm. All of New Jersey gets treated to the incredible changing leaves, so it’s a great time of year to explore the Garden State outside of Essex County. Located in the northwestern corner of the state, about a one-hour drive from Montclair, Sussex County, New Jersey is a place that evokes a unique departure. One can spend a day exploring its quaint towns, rolling hills, and rustic farms where the nature of fall comes to life. Whether it’s picking apples or pumpkins, antique shopping, or savoring farm-fresh foods, here is a guide to a one-day trip to Sussex this season. Read on for details about taking an autumn day trip in Sussex County, New Jersey.
History of Sussex County
Gaining some historical context before venturing off into a new area can add meaning to the experience. Just like every place in New Jersey, Sussex County has a rich history of its own. The history of Sussex County, New Jersey dates back to colonial times when European settlers, including the Dutch and English, began to arrive. It played a role in the American Revolution and later became known for its agriculture, iron mining, and dairy farming in the 19th century. The arrival of the railroad boasted its growth, and today remains a picturesque region known for outdoor recreation and its historical heritage.
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Things To Do
Stop By Local Farm Stands Or Markets
Sussex County’s rural charm will be a meaningful change of scenery. In every corner, there is a farm, some of which are local or work on a commercial scale. Along the way, it’s easy to spot local farm stands and markets lining the roadside that are often operated by local farmers, contributing to the region’s dynamic and agricultural atmosphere. For those who love locally grown produce, expect to find everything from tasty treats like homemade jam and honey to seasonal baked goods like pumpkin pies and cider donuts. The stands are usually decked out in fall decorations for a festive fall experience.
Visit A Farm
One of the most popular activities to do in the fall is the traditional farm visit for pumpkin and apple picking. For those looking for a more serene experience, local quaint farms can be an alternative to the hustle and bustle of commercial ones. With a diverse range of preferences, here is a list of some of the well-known farms to choose a visit to within the area:
Beemerville Orchards | 73 Lusscroft Road, Sussex
This U-pick-apples orchard appears reminiscent of something in the movies The Cider House Rules or Little Women, which capture the backdrop of a charming fall orchard. Family-owned since 1976, the farm’s ‘U-Pick Apples’ hang on a variety of trees featuring fan favorites like the Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, and Gala apples. The farm also features a pumpkin patch where guests can choose a pumpkin to add to the experience. Unlike commercial orchards, this farm doesn’t feature all of the bells and whistles like pumpkin slingshots, apple canons, or face painting. Instead, the farm immerses guests in an authentic farm experience while still providing exciting fall-themed activities. Fun fact: the farmers also press their apples during the season to create fresh apple cider to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
Heaven Hill Farm | 451 State Route 94, Vernon
For those looking for a more commercialized farm that features carnival foods and activities for children to enjoy, consider visiting Heaven Hill Farm. This farm is catered specifically for pumpkin picking, where the gourds are plucked directly from the vine. This farm is also widely known for fall-themed events and festivities such as year-round pumpkin festivals, costume contests, and trick-or-treating trails to be enjoyed by children. The farm’s two-story wooden cottage is the central attraction and ideal for making memories and experiencing a fall feel with the spooky and colorful decorations. Then stop by the garden and farmers market on the way out to try some local and homemade produce.
Hillcrest Farm Orchard + Dairy | 2 Davis Road, Branchville
High up in the mountain with a gorgeous view of a vibrant green landscape, Hillcrest Farm Orchard + Dairy feels like a place where time slows down. The 60 Jersey cows who call this place home would probably agree. This pick-your-own apple farm is famously known for its Jersey Girl Cheese sourced from its cows. The Jersey cows are the secret to making the farm’s milk rich and creamy which is ideal for producing fresh and aged Italian-styled cheeses reminiscent of traditional methods used in Southern Italy. Following a long day of picking apples and pumpkins, visitors line up to sample the diverse range of the farm’s dairy products, including burrata, ricotta, and mozzarella, with a choice between cow’s or goat’s cheese.
Tranquillity Farms | 47 Decker Pond Road, Andover
Tranquility Farms has every fall-themed activity or item anyone can possibly think of. Much like other apple-picking farms in the area, one will discover that many of them provide a range of activities associated with the pumpkin and apple-picking season. These include corn mazes, a scenic hayride often accompanied by informative commentary on the farm’s history and operations, and on-site interaction with animals. Tranquility Farms has just that with pumpkin picking, a hay ride, activities for children like a cow train and giant slide, scenic views, fall-themed backdrops for Instagram pictures, and a wide selection of produce from fresh vegetables to homemade honey. One sweet treat that visitors keep going back for is the fresh homemade ice cream locally sourced from the farm.
Where to Shop
When planning a day trip to Sussex, one must discover the charm of its towns and local shops. One particular gem within close proximity of the rustic farms is the quaint town of Lafayette. Conveniently located just off Route 15, the town is home to a handful of antique shops and small businesses tucked away on the corner of Morris Farm Road, all within the confines of a strip mall and neighboring streets. The hours are Thursday through Sunday from 10AM to 5PM.
The Mill | Route 15, Lafayette
There’s something truly enchanting about antique shopping in a quaint, rustic town — it’s like a step back in time and The Mill embodies the experience. The Mill is an antique mall housed in, well, an old mill. For 197 years, this shop has redefined the antique shopping experience with affordable, high-quality items from furniture and collectibles to essential outdoor gear like fishing and hunting supplies. One can find a collection of fine art, delicate china, vintage toys, accessories, and jewelry. Not to mention how easy it is to get lost in there with each room filled with diverse items to stumble upon, and the creaking wooden floors add to the ambiance, reminiscent of an old barn.
Bogwater Jim Antiques | 12 Morris Farm Road, Lafayette
Whether a seasoned collector or simply in search of distinct finds, this antique shop carries pieces that are a link to another era. The selection features art and paintings, furniture, vintage sailboats, and chandeliers. The nautical vintage pieces create a sense of nostalgia and adventure from eras of the past. These pieces often hold a special appeal for those captivated by the ocean, sailing, and romance of maritime history. Every visit will reveal something new.
Carriage House Antiques | In the Old Mill
One of MG’s favorite shops inside the Old Mill is The Carriage House Antiques. Owner Kim Peruggia sources items from all over for her shop. Some highlights from a recent visit included some classic Americana-styled pieces like dressers and dining tables that would look just as at home in today’s modern homes as they would have with their original owners. Kim’s styling also adds to the appeal, with seasonal florals and other accents around the light and airy space.
Black Dog Books | 103 Route 15 South, Lafayette
For those who prefer to steer clear of antiquing, venture into the bookstore that carries new and used books, inviting one to be lost in its cozy wooden interior. This bookstore is within the same strip of antique stores but is a little tricky to spot. One can easily lose track of time while browsing the wide selection of books with its comfortable couches and affordable prices. There’s also something particularly inviting about the cozy ambiance of a bookstore on a crisp autumn day.
The Chocolate Goat | 130 Route 15, Lafayette
No visit to Sussex County would be complete without a stop at The Chocolate Goat. This charming shop sits on the corner of Morris Farm Road and is owned by two sisters with a love for chocolate. One can expect to savor the Neuhaus Belgian chocolates, a chocolate connoisseur’s dream. This homemade chocolate store features everyone’s classic favorites including peanut butter cups, chocolate-covered Oreos, salted caramel, and buttercrunch, just to name a few. The best way to taste the homemade chocolate is to try the shop’s signature goat-shaped chocolate since it really gives a boost to its cocoa flavor and texture. The goat-themed shop also has gifts, goat-milk beauty products, furniture, home accessories, and even clothing.
Places to Eat
Andre’s Lakeside Dining | 112 Tomahawk Trail, Sparta Township
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There’s something truly enchanting about lakeside dining on a crisp, fall day. This restaurant is situated on the patio of the picturesque shores of Seneca Lake. The menu takes inspiration from French cuisine with an Asian twist for dishes such as moo shu duck with scallion crepe, roasted plum cake with cinnamon crumble which is a great fall-themed dish, and fine cheeses. Hours are from 5PM to 9PM from Wednesday through Saturday.
Arturo’s Pizzeria + Restaurant | 55 State Route 15, Lafayette
For some reason, pizza can be a staple after a long autumn day spent exploring local farms and shops. There’s no better way to fuel up after a long day of exploring than a slice at the local pizzeria. The atmosphere at Arturo’s Pizza is unpretentious, so there is no need to dress up in the fanciest of attire. The menu has appetizers, fresh salads, dinner entrees, subs, calzones, wraps, paninis, and seafood options all made with fresh local ingredients. The restaurant is open daily from 10AM to 10PM.
Cloveberry | 21 Main Street, Sparta
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Any fall favorite coffees that can be imagined are at the Cloveberry brunch spot. It has signature fall-flavored drinks like the pumpkin, maple, and salted caramel spiced lattes. The menu items have local organic, vegan, and vegetarian options like chia seed pudding and overnight oats plus gluten-free options. The brunch spot’s interior and exterior provide a cozy ambiance, influencing guests to long their stay to chat and relax. It is open weekly until 5PM. The hours at Cloveberry are Monday through Saturday 8AM to 5PM and Sundays 9AM to 3PM, with breakfast ending at 11AM on weekdays and brunch available all day Sunday.
The Barnyard | 1 Wantage Avenue, Branchville
For those craving a burger and interested in dining within a barn-like setting, the restaurant’s comedic pictures of cattle inside contribute to the overall scene. The menu mainly focuses on American food so the typical french fries, burgers, and BBQ is everything to be found at the Barnyard. The affordable, laid-back dining experience is also decked out in fall decorations to enhance the autumn vibe.
The Millside Cafe | 12 Morris Farm Road, Lafayette
Tucked along the shops of Morris Farm Road in Lafayette is Millside Cafe, where breakfast and lunch are served daily. The cafe has a charming and rustic ambiance that transports diners to a bygone era. The interior design features an assortment of tables and chairs, all painted black with natural wood tops and black legs. One of the special features of the cafe is the outdoor seating area, where guests can enjoy their meals as they watch people walk by antique shopping. For breakfast, the menu features pancakes, omelets, and avocado toast. The Millside Cafe is open from Wednesday to Friday 8:30AM to 4:30PM, and Saturday and Sunday from 8:30AM to 3:30PM.