In the heart of Southern New Jersey, the secluded Batsto Village is a historic town located in the expansive Wharton State Forest, the largest in the state at over 100,000 acres. Batsto Village is a legendary rustic site with over thirty historic structures. It’s part of the Pine Barrens National Reserve and home to various nature trails and outdoor activities, such as hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and guided walks.
History of Batsto Village
Originally established in the late 1700s primarily as an iron ore works, Batsto Village was a thriving rural town that grew quickly over the next century. In fact, the ironworks here made household items and supplies for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Over the years, several homes and commercial buildings were erected on this site, as well as an impressive mansion that’s still standing today. However, about a hundred years it was built, iron production declined, and Batsto Village shifted its main focus and became known as an industrial center for glass making.
Later, in the 1900s, Batsto Village was sold (and later changed hands again). Enhancements were made to the structures, and agricultural improvements were added to the surrounding forest. Eventually, the State of New Jersey purchased the entire area in the mid-1950s and began preserving the property as a historical site—and the final occupant lived there until 1989.
Today, Batsto Village is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a spot that draws visitors over and over, as it’s a great place to enjoy nature and the outdoors—and learn a lot of the area’s history. It is overseen by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Parks and Recreation.
Things to Do at Batsto Village
Batsto Village’s tagline is “Journey into the past,” and that’s exactly what you’ll do at this quaint, rustic destination. Begin your experience at the Visitor’s Center, where you can learn about this unique area's intriguing history and plan on which tours or attractions you can see and do while on the property. A few highlights are:
- Museum: The Batsto Village museum and gallery is an ideal place to get a “lay of the land” and immerse yourself in the history of this destination. With several galleries, this museum is located at the Visitor’s Center. It features many permanent and temporary exhibits relating to the New Jersey Pinelands, how the village was founded, and milestones that occurred over the years. Stop by the small gift shop to check out some gifts and children’s items you can only purchase here.
- Library: Established during the restoration of the village (around 2004), this on-site library is bursting with books about the village and its history, as well as a great deal of information about the surrounding Southern New Jersey area.
- Post office: History buffs love to visit this post office, as it’s one of the four oldest in the United States. Although it’s been closed a few times over the years, it’s still operating today. All stamps are still hand-canceled, so it’s truly a step back in time.
- Structures on site: There are several historic structures on-site, which you can learn about at the Visitor’s Center. These include cottages, a gristmill, a nature center, a sawmill, a farm, and others and offer a glimpse of days gone by.
- Mansion tours: In the center of Batsto Village sits a 32-room mansion featuring Italianate architecture, where the town’s ironmasters resided years ago. It was later renovated by Joseph Wharton, a wealthy Philadelphian who owned the property for several years. Today, you can tour 14 rooms of the mansion with a guide, so be sure to check the Batsto website for details, as tours are only available several days each week.
- Outdoor activities: There are many great opportunities for outdoor experiences here, including hiking, kayaking, canoeing, biking, bird watching, and wildlife spotting. Some visitors love the solitude, but others say the deep, isolated woods in this area is home to the legendary “Jersey Devil.” A few of the more popular trails include the Batsto Lake trail (easy, marked, and accessible). Others are moderate or difficult and include the Mullica River trail and the Batona trail. It’s best to visit Wharton State Park’s website for details before your hike.
How to Visit Batsto Village
You can visit Batsto Village year-round, and since New Jersey experiences the four seasons, you will find that Batsto Village can be different each time you visit. Although there’s more to do in the warmer months, if you don’t mind the cold weather, it can be an especially picturesque destination after a snowfall in winter. Expect to spend a few hours here if you participate in a tour, hike, and explore the historic structures.
While at Batsto, you can explore on your own and stroll along the nature trails, go canoeing, or mountain biking. Stop by the Visitor’s Center to learn about the tours available about the history of this legendary town. Batsto also Village offers a wide array of group activities, including monthly hikes, stargazing excursions, and some events created for children. Self-guided tours are available daily and start at the Visitor’s Center. Guided mansion tours are offered on certain days.
Things to Do Nearby
This is a very rural and secluded area of Burlington County, so there aren’t many sites within a short drive. The closest town is Hammonton, about ten miles away. If you have extra time, it’s worth a stop, as there are several casual cafes and shops in the center of town.