1. Where to Stay
The Adirondack-style Grand Cascades Lodge (from $249) opened last April; an adjoining Reflections spa will open in the fall. Request an upstairs suite for a spacious balcony with outdoor gas fireplace overlooking the resort’s two golf courses. There’s also a 10,000-square-foot Biosphere with an aquarium and a waterslide into a glassed-in heated pool.
Book one of only five rooms at RoseMary Inn, a restored farmhouse in Columbia that opened in January. Breakfast is served on a communal patio overlooking seventeen acres of nature trails and rooms have flat-screens, Wi-Fi, bath products, and antique furniture. Ask for the Beach Room for the best views of the spring-fed pond.
The 300-year-old Stockton Inn (from $135), once a favorite retreat of F. Scott Fitzgerald and a boarding house for George Washington’s militia, offers eleven guest rooms and five dining rooms. The Federal Suite I, with a king-size bed and fireplace, is the one to book. Take in the sunset with a Pomegranate Cooler (mint, pomegranate liqueur, and Champagne) on the front porch of the Tavern, one of the state’s oldest watering holes.
2. Where to Eat
Metro Grille (380 U.S. Hwy. 206; 908-879-0051) in Flanders has a city feel with a martini bar and low-slung couches. Entrées range from interesting to over-the-top, but play it safe with the excellent sushi bar and 23 special rolls, including local favorite the Godzilla Roll—spicy tuna with eel, avocado, and fish roe.
A repurposed 200-year-old barn, Long Valley Pub & Brewery is kid-friendly and great for pub grub. Have a sampler—Best of the Wurst, a trio of German sausages; or the Ploughmans Platter, a mix of Mediterranean-style starters—out on the tiki-torch-lit patio. Order a pint of the robust, black Lazy Jake Porter, one of seven handcrafted ales made on the premises.
Seafood party joint Splash (1 West Mill Rd.; 908-876-9307), opened last November in Long Valley, is designed to look like a ship’s hull. Plasma TVs loop aquarium scenes, a huge tropical fish tank hovers behind the bar, and calypso and reggae pulsate.
3. What to Do
Crystal Springs Resort boasts seven world-class golf courses convenient to the city. Beginners, tee off at the Classic and Villages nines, while experts should start at Ballyowen, a nearly treeless, Scottish-links-style layout that welcomes walkers. Take a caddie and book a late-afternoon tee time, as the club’s bagpipers play on the course at sunset. Wild Turkey has the best views of Delaware Water Gap, but the resort’s sleeper course is 27-hole Great Gorge Country Club, a serene, unembellished layout with three distinct nines (Quarry, Lake, and Rail). Take the kids to Minerals Golf Club, a sporty nine-holer with a second, larger hole for little ones.
Ride the rapids on the Delaware River with Phillipsuburg’s Lazy River Outpost, giving tours through the fall until November. Owner Hank Snyder tailors kayaking, rafting, or canoeing trips to client’s interests, from history and ecology to wildlife and botany. Afterward, Snyder recommends pointing your vessel to Riverside Barr and Grill (5801 North Delaware Dr.; Easton, Penn., 610-258-1008), on the Pennsylvania side of river a mile south of Martins Creek.
Bike rentals are available at Diablo Freeride Park in Vernon, home of the U.S. Open of Mountain Biking. Choose from almost 50 trails, accessed by a high-speed gondola—one is a 1,040-foot vertical, others hug the hills at right angles. Novices, play it safe and take a private lesson before hitting the trails ($49 for a two-hour session).
Observe packs of tundra, timber, and arctic wolves in a natural environment at Lakota Wolf Preserve. On weekends in the fall and winter, observation tours are at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Photographers can reserve a private, guided session for $300.
Valley Shepherd Creamery, Long Valley’s Euro-style sheep dairy farm that services farmers’ markets in the city, is now booking for its 2009 cheese-making classes. Priced at $150, classes also include a private tour of the creamery, cheese tastings, and a luncheon on farm’s porch.
4. Insider’s Tip
Restaurant Latour at the Grand Cascades Resort boasts an unrivaled 54,000-bottle wine cellar. Request a tour of the cellar after dining at the excellent French eatery upstairs.
5. Oddball Day
Take a self-guided tour of “Warren Hills AVA,” New Jersey’s unexpectedly good wine appellation sprinkled with vineyards. Start off in Finesville at Alba Vineyard, a large winery that specializes in raspberry wines. Check for weekend tours, live music, and seasonal festivals on their Website’s calendar page. Down the road at organic winery Villa Milagro (“House of Miracles”) Vineyards, sample the Noche, a sumptuous red blend of Petit Syrah and Merlot grapes. Call ahead for time with owner Dr. Audrey Cross, a nutritionist who gives private talks about the benefits and pleasures of wine. North, near the Delaware Water Gap at Brook Hollow Winery, skip the tour and go pumpkin-picking through the end of fall. Take a bottle of the slightly tart blueberry wine or peach Chardonnay for the road at Westfall Winery, set on a historic farm in Montague, north of the Gap. There are free tastings on weekends from noon to 5 p.m.
Surf to the Delaware River Recreation Page for maps, water-temperature info, and camping locations.
Check seasonal festivals and events for the Skylands on the Sussex County, Warren County, and Morris County Websites.
For more information on the area’s wineries, visit the Skylands tourism Website.