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Reset Your GPS for Uncharted Family Fun

Don’t miss these "off the beaten track" adventures on the way to your favorite shore destinations.

Summer has unofficially kicked off and it’s time to plan for some family fun. The Jersey Shore is and always has been a popular choice for family outings. Have you read Patch’s ? There’s some great information there to help plan your days by the sea.

I love the beach, but did you know there are so many other attractions in and around the Jersey Shore? So don’t just head down the Parkway with sand and surf on your mind. You might miss taking a different path for some uncharted family fun.

Here are some spots you might not know about that could make for a memorable day trip or an added bonus to your beach vacation:

Cape May Zoo is not really "off the beaten track," but definitely a family-friendly outing. It’s perfect for those on a budget because it's free. It’s a beautiful zoo where you can literally see giraffes run and baby leopards play. If you haven’t been, make plans this summer. It’s definitely worth the drive.

A lighthouse tour is a unique way to spend a day or evening. There are 11 lighthouses to see at the shore. Click here for a map of New Jersey’s lighthouses.  A few that might be convenient to visit include Old Barney, the Barnegat Lighthouse in LBI; the Absecon Lighthouse, one of the tallest in the United States, which can be found in Atlantic City; and the Cape May Lighthouse at Cape May Point.

If you have a little bit of splurge money in your budget, why not try whale watching? I’ve never done it, but it’s on my bucket list. Check out some dolphins and whales in their natural habitat on a Cape May Whale Watching cruise. They also run dinner cruises, so you can dine and dolphin watch at the same time.

Tuckerton is right outside of Long Beach Island and makes for a fun seafaring family day. Crabbing, kayaking, shopping and dining are a few of the highlights drawing visitors to this seaside town. You can take in some Jersey Shore history at Tuckerton Seaport, a 40-acre working maritime village and dine on some local seafood.

Many holiday celebrations and events are planned for this summer. Visit here to find out about Tuckerton’s Privateers & Pirates Festival sponsored by Radio Disney this summer. It sounds like an event your little pirates will love.

Wharton State Forest, the largest tract of land in the New Jersey State Park System, boasts many attractions that will appeal to every member of your family. Wharton State Forest runs through Atlantic, Camden and Burlington counties and encompasses various parks and attractions. History buffs will enjoy Batsto Village, where you can step back into an 18th-century village, and Harrisville, an actual ghost town from the 1800s, which was abandoned when the town’s paper mill business closed down.

Active families can camp, hike, bike, boat, swim, relax and observe various wildlife at Wharton State Forest. Atsion Lake is a pleasing family spot with a lake and park amenities. Hikers and those who like to explore will appreciate the Batona Trail connecting Wharton Forest to nearby Brendan T. Byrne State Forest and Bass River State Forest.

Historic Smithville is a short distance away from Wharton State Park and is the perfect place to spend a leisurely family day enjoying waterfront shopping and dining. Smithville is home to more than 60 shops and restaurants, including an antique arcade, specialty shops, distinctive restaurants and fun family activities like paddle boats and remote-operated cars and boats. Take a train ride, ride the old-fashioned carousel and enjoy some old-town charm while bonding with your family.

If you need a little more than the sand and the surf for your family trips this summer, recalculate your GPS for some "off the beaten track" sights at the Jersey Shore. You never know what you might find.

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