1. Where to Stay
Request a room with a working fireplace at the Apple Valley Inn (from $145), an 1831 colonial mansion in Glenwood, where the country-home décor includes needlepoint quilts and four-poster beds. Adventurers should head to the Appalachian Trail, less than a mile away, but you can also while away an afternoon on the handsome veranda or roaming the gardens. Nearby attractions include the Warwick Drive-In Theater and a ten-acre corn maze at Lentini Produce.
Take note of the cast-iron tools and artifacts on display at the Glenwood Mill (from $160), a 200-year-old grist mill that’s been gutted and converted into a modest, four-room B&B with wood-beam ceilings and gas fireplaces. Outside the main house you can explore meandering trails on the well-kept grounds or sit with a book and a drink near the eighteen-foot waterfall that dominates the landscape.
Hop on one of the complimentary bikes at the Whistling Swan Inn (from $165) to get to nearby orchards and cruise country roads. Located in Stanhope, this Victorian guest house offers nine rooms, the most impressive of which is the High Point Suite in the third-floor turret thanks to its twenty-foot domed ceiling. Antique-hunters should head over early to the outdoor flea market (held the first Sunday of the month) at Scranberry Coop in Andover.
2. Where to Eat
Make a reservation for dinner in Newton at Andre’s Restaurant, where the menu changes every two weeks to reflect what’s in season. Past the copper bar lie two brick-walled dining rooms where you can have a five-course meal ($50 to $60) or order dishes like veal paillard over goat-cheese orzo ($36) and pan-roasted chicken with sweet corn and foie gras pudding ($25) à la carte.
Head to Berta’s Chateau in Wanaque for old-school Italian-American cuisine served in portions that won’t leave you hungry. Open since 1927, the restaurant caters to loyal locals who have been coming here for decades to enjoy plates of handmade pastas—try the tajarin with porcini mushrooms ($23)—and veal sweetbreads with Madeira ($29).
Treat yourself to a three-course meal ($75) at Restaurant Latour, part of the sprawling Crystal Springs resort and likely the most formal dining option in the Highlands. Cape May oysters, Hudson Valley foie gras, and other local items fill the seasonal menu, while the award-winning wine cellar boasts more than 9,000 labels and more than 100,000 bottles.
3. What to Do
Take part in the harvest at some of the dozens of “pick your own” farms and orchards in the Highlands. The farthest south in the area, 250-year-old Riamede Farm (open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) offers up to 30 varieties of apples as well as pumpkins (starting September 28), plus free hay rides on weekends. Call ahead to ask about opening hours atWindy Brow Farm (359 Ridge Rd., Newton; 973-579-9657), which offers seasonal fruit and vegetable picking year-round; aim for mid-September to coincide with its apple-centric fall festival. The Beemerville Orchard (73 Lusscroft Rd., Sussex; 973-875-1029) is a family-run operation where you can pick apples and drink homemade cider on Fridays and Saturdays, but for cider doughnuts you’ll need to go to Pochuck Valley Farm (open daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), where you can also hand-pick winter squash, zucchini, pumpkins, and gourds.
Let the farmers do the work for you by skipping the picking and heading straight for the roadside farm stands. In addition to seasonal produce, the Farmer’s Wife (383 Rt. 519; 973-702-7614) sells a locally popular mix of jams including standard flavors as well as lemon-blueberry and white cranberry. Peach lovers, meanwhile, should go to Brook Hollow Farm (Rt. 94 Frog Pond Rd.; 908-496-4577). And if you’re looking for ideas for utilizing your apples, look no further than the Ralston Cider Mill ($5 admission) for inspiration. The 150-year-old working cider mill offers tours as well as step-by-step demonstrations on making the fall favorite.
Take in the stunning foliage on horseback at the Spring Valley Equestrian Center ($40 per hour; call ahead to reserve) in Newton, which has more than 30 miles of trails for beginning and experienced riders. If you prefer to stay on foot, the New Jersey Botanical Garden is an ideal place to see nature uninterrupted, including the hundreds of species of birds and butterflies that pass through during their seasonal migration.
4. Insider’s Tip
Autumn leaf-peepers will be satisfied no matter where they are in the Highlands, but for truly stunning scenery, take a trip to the Allamuchy Mountain State Park, which spans more than 9,000 acres. Hidden away inside the park is historic Waterloo Village, an uninhabited nineteenth-century canal town whose abandoned buildings make for great photography subjects.
5. Oddball Day
Take a break from picking apples and pumpkins to enjoy the area’s other charms. Start the day in Lafayette with a stack of banana pancakes at the quaint Millside Cafe (12 Morris Farm Rd.; 973-383-1611), then browse the selection at Sweet Pea’s in the neighboring Lafayette Antiques Center. Afterward, head over to Yards Creek Soaring for a thrilling glider flight over the Kittatinny Mountains ($120 for one person, $220 for a couple). Back on the ground, have lunch in Augusta at the Chatterbox Drive-In, a retro-looking spot where locals show off their vintage hot rods. For a one-of-a-kind afternoon, see some true gentleman-farmer sport at the Windy Hollow Hunt (check the schedule in advance), where riders get decked out, Downton Abbey style, in wool hacking jackets and vests—they take the dress code very seriously. After a long day of flying and admiring dressage steps, have dinner at the Mohawk House in Sparta. Ignore the tables in the dining room and seat yourself at the bar, which has more then 30 beers on tap, and order tacos or burgers while a local band plays onstage.
See the PickYourOwn.org guide to New Jersey for maps and more information on selecting your own produce.
Weird NJ features offbeat news and little-known local information.
The first annual Highlands Festival at Waterloo, being held September 21 and 22, will feature local music, food, and art.
New Jersey’s official tourism website offers a host of useful information, including more ideas for fall-centric activities.