Basto Village

If you dare to venture far enough into the Pine Barrens you will come across a jewel from history. A village that seems practically untouched since the day it was built. It's rich history and wonderful landscapes provide eye candy for all. A lake, river, and rich forest surround the village, bringing to life the richness that once was. It's a diamond in the rough waiting to be explored.

A quick little history lesson:
Located in Wharton State Forest in the south central part of the Pine Barrens, you will find one of New Jersey's most historic villages, Basto Village. It was founded in 1766 by Charles Reed who built Basto Village Iron Works along the river. He mined the bog ore found all around and used the forest for charcoal from the surrounding area to smelt the ore. By 1773, John Cox bought the place and manufactured plenty of supplies for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. In 1779, the manager, Joe Ball, bought the works and his uncle would buy controlling interest in 1784. William Richards was the man, and it would stay in the family for 92 years. During this time much of the village you see now was erected. By the mid-1800s demand for iron from Basto slowed and they turned to glass making, without much success. This didn't last long and it soon went bankrupt. In 1876, a well-known man by the name of Joseph Wharton purchased the village along with numerous other places in the area. He improved many of the buildings in the village after the purchase. When he passed away it was handed over to the Girard Trust Company in Philadelphia. By 1950, the state of NJ took control and started to develop in the area, letting few people remain in the houses that existed. By 1989, the last owners vacated their houses and log cabins that stand there now.

As of now, there are more than forty sites and structures in the village. It consists of a wonderful mansion that housed the owners, a sawmill, a charcoal kiln, ice and milk houses, a carriage house and stable, a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, a gristmill and a general store. There is even a Post Office along with Methodist Episcopal Church that are still in operation.

Even though more than 200 years of history have passed over Basto, it's still in pristine condition and a wonderful attraction for tourist and those looking for a little break from it all. There are numerous ways to enjoy yourself at Basto. The lake offers a great view along with other sorts of ways to occupy oneself. Visitors can go kayaking and canoing as well. Although I haven't had the pleasure to see the village during seasons other than fall, I will have to say there is no better time to visit the place. The foliage during autumn is breath taking accompanied by the colonial style buildings. There is a much better place to take in and enjoy during this time of year. Colors of fall give visitors that special kind of feeling as if you are visiting time itself.

A glimpse into the past is a perfect reason to visit Basto but if there need be any more of a reason, there are wonderful landscapes, a certain richness that appeals to almost anyone who is interested in history, and stuff to do for all ages. Batso is a great park for all to enjoy. The bridges, old style feeling, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, trails, and tons of lost architecture are great to take in and enjoy. Antiquity and nature make this place twice and nice.


Wildwood's Boardwalk

Wildwood's boardwalk is a true hidden treasure. After traveling to numerous coastal locations, I've come to the conclusion that this boardwalk is one of the best in New Jersey. Sure, it may not seem like much of a secret, but if you never travel to Wildwood you are missing out on something truly special. During any given night in the middle summer your senses can become overwhelm with delightful pleasures. From fudge to funnel cakes to curly fries, you better make sure you have some pepto bismal for this adventure. The sights and sounds are even more pleasing.

This boardwalk is one of the longer ones in New Jersey, spanning over 1.8 miles running from 16th Avenue in Wildwood to Cresse Ave in Wildwood Crest. Aside from just a few hundred feet of plain boardwalk, there's always some interesting attraction on the side trying to grab you attention. It started out at 150 feet but now this 38 long block boardwalk actually has more rides than Disneyland. It was also moved closer to the ocean, twice. It's vast amount of arcades, pizza shops, and carnival games will keep you amused for however long you plan on staying. Each block offers unique shops with new ones added every year.

A huge smile can be seen across any kids face as they see that famous Ferris wheel when they come over the bridge into Wildwood. It's a Wildwood landmark along with numerous other places on the boardwalk. There's Douglas Fudge, Mack's Pizza, Gateway 26 Arcade, Morey's Piers, and New Jersey Thunder Sports. The fun doesn't stop there. The Wildwood Convention Center plays hosts to numerous events all throughout the year. Wrestling matches, car shows, film festivals, and kite shows are four of over 60 events that happen there each year. The boardwalk also consists of three water parks, four roller coasters, and three piers with a 4th pier on the way.

The boardwalk is right on top of the beach. Waves crash along the shore only a few hundred yards in the distance. Most nights you can just walk along the boards and take it all in, or you can take a ride on the tram car. I have no proof, but it probably is considered the most annoying ride in all the world. "Watch the Tram Car," will run through your head months after your first visit to Wildwood, and has haunted visitors in their sleep since it's introduction in the 1950s. After awhile though it becomes almost second nature, kind of like a mother saying, "Don't do that." Before noon each day people are welcomed to ride their bikes, roller blade, and jog along the boardwalk in the summer sun.

Overall this place is a jackpot for anyone seeking something out of the ordinary. It's family oriented but also boast numerous places that adults can enjoy too. Every year there is something different. Recently they put up a huge Wildwood Hollywood esque sign along the boardwalk that has quickly become a famous photo destination for many tourists.

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Navesink Twin Lights

Even if your not a lighthouse fan, this one will surely catch your eye. At one of the highest points on the East Coast stands, not one, but two lights overlooking Sandy Hook Bay. This huge lighthouse stretches over 230 feet vertically with the towers standing 40 feet into the sky. It's vantage point allows a perfect view of New York City and numerous surrounding towns in New Jersey.
The picture to the right is of the backside of the north tower.

Navesink Twin Lights are 200 feet above sea level. A lighthouse had existed their since 1828, but the current set of lights were constructed during 1862. The two nonidentical lights are about 228 feet apart The towers are linked together by a keepers place and first assistant quarters in the middle of the two towers. The wings were for the second, and third assistants quarters, along with workshops and storage rooms. Unlike many lighthouses in America this one has a good amount of living space. The northern tower is an octagonal shape and the southern one is square. Brownstone from the area was used for construction of this castle-like building. Fresnel lens were put in place in the towers and were capable of producing 8,000 candlepower, which made them the most powerful lights in America at the time of completion in 1862. To the left is the north tower front view.

After a few decades some guys were like, "Hey, the French lights are so much better and stuff." So the Americans would have none of that, and they ordered an electric arc lamp. A wooden house was built on-site to host a generator for electricity to support the new light. This huge seven ton lens was activated in the south tower on June 20, 1892 with a blinding 25,000,000 candlepower. Yet again claiming the thrown of most powerful lighthouse in the country and first to use electricity. The light on the revolving lens went off every 5 seconds and could be seen 22 miles away. Supposedly their were reports of the light reflecting off of clouds seen up to 75 miles away. Either way the townsfolk weren't very happy with this ridiculous power and showed up with torches and pitchforks. Luckily for the keepers not many of them were radical Christians who would probably had proclaimed this was the work of some devil. They let the keepers live to see another day and put up some boards around the light on the land side. Funny thing though, the keepers also had to get some awesome looking Oakleys to work on the light because it was that damn powerful. The picture up top is the backside of the living quarters, south tower. On the right side of the picture is the electrical generator station.

Eventually the power of south would outshine the north and cause it to shut down. With a few other things happening and the townspeople getting really cheap, the candlepower was then downgraded to 710,000 candlepower because they didn't update their generator. Finally with commercial electricity available the light was back to only a pointless 9,000,000 candlepower in 1924. It would be reduced yet again for World War II to prevent those Nazis from sneaking around and spying on us at night. Front view of the south tower

Due to it's height on the East Coast, Guglielmo Marconi used the front lawn to erect a massive antenna for sending the first commercial wireless telegraphs. In 1917 the first radio beacon was placed near the lighthouse, and just before World War II the first radar experiments were conducted right next to the north tower. Ironically enough with all these new innovations taking place at the location of the lighthouse, it become useless in 1949 and was shut down completely in 1951.
North tower window.

The most interesting thing about the lighthouse is it's unique structure. It's two lights that extend the building 228 feet make it quite a luxurious lighthouse. Brownstone used for construction from the surrounding area also give it a strong castle like feel. It's vantage point allows visitors to see New York City on a clear day and play imaginary games in their heads similar to Sim City. It's a sight to see and can't really be explained with words. It's history is rich but the architecture of the building is one-of-a-kind.
View from the front lawn on a smoggy day. The bridge connects New York and Staten Island. You can also see two other lighthouses. The tall one is Sandy Hook and the other is to the right of it.

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Fort Delaware

For over 150 years there stood a huge Civil War fort in the middle of the Delaware River. At the time of its completion in 1859 it was the largest fort in America. It was built on a huge island that played host to 40,000 Confederates POWs. Sadly with the advent of missiles, satellites, and a bunch of other gizmos, it's been rendered obsolete for over 60 years. Presently it's the setting for legally insane people who play make believe in the 1860s. Aside from being every paintballer's dream come true, it just sits there begging for more attention and a battle that it never got. It is known as Fort Delaware. Now before we get into the details, it's not exactly New Jersey, but you can access it from the New Jersey side by a little ferry, so I'm going to count it.

Now if you're crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge on a clear day and look down the river you will notice a huge island with a large building on it about 8-10 miles away. This large island is called Pea Patch island and was home to many Confederate POWs and silly southern sympathizers during the Civil War.

The history goes like this; after a bunch of mumble jumble and large mishap on the island the building that is standing there now was finished in 1859 and was the crown jewel of all forts in America at the time of completion. Not a single enemy boat dared to sail up the Delaware with that menace of a fort staring it down. Especially considering there were two more forts. One on each side of Fort Delaware forming a sort triangle defense against any daring invader.

Most of the POWs who surrendered at Gettysburg ended up at Fort Delaware or at least the surrounding area of it. Presumably there were around 40,000 prisoners by wars end and 3,000 would eventually die from boredom. Those fellows were all buried in a little cemetery that is kept quite nice, considering some of the cemeteries that I have seen in my short lifetime. The cemetery is on the New Jersey side, next to Fort Mott. It was actually the setting of a famous murder, how about that for irony. I believe the killer of the famous clothing designer Versacci decided to take a breather in the middle of no where, and killed the grounds keeper for his car. I honestly don't know how the hell he found this place. Most people wouldn't even be able to find the place with a GPS system in hand. Yea, it's that out of the way. If you do manage to find it though, you will be surprised by the interesting upkeep of this historic cemetery.

With that said, Fort Delaware can be reached by ferry from Pennsville, NJ. It is quite a unique place. This castle like structure is probably as close to medieval Europe most people in NJ will ever get. There is even a huge moat around it. Kind of interesting, because it's already on a damn island as it is. The best part about the fort is the huge draw bridge and cannons on the sides and top of the roof. It's pretty much every Dragons and Dungeons player's dream headquarters. Yea, it's that cool of a place. I have no idea why it took me so long to hear about this place, but when I did, I just had to check it out. Aside from all the history, architecture, moat on an island shenanigans, it's also a huge hot spot for ghost hunters. It's haunted by numerous ghosts, as one should suspect considering the horrible end many of the Confederates probably ended up meeting there. If you are brave enough to sneak away from the tour and not get noticed you will get to see the side of the fort that is off limits and really cool. The whole South side of the fort is pretty much dilapidated. Checking out this place is definitely worth the trip.

This sweet little gem of history is definitely worth a visit. The ferry isn't exactly cheap, coming around 11 bucks and there isn't much food on the island. Aside from that, you can explore most of the fort on your own along with the entire island. Keep in mind the island is also a bird sanctuary, home to numerous wildlife.