Although today’s large agricultural endeavors may resemble factories more than family farms, there is a place where yesteryear’s bucolic landscapes still exist—and that spot is Franklin, New Jersey.
The city was settled in the 17th century and became known for its luminous mineral mining and major company Franklin Furnace, named after Benjamin Franklin. The mines gave way to farms, and the community began to draw a diversity of residents while still retaining its quiet charm.
Start a Franklin tour with a leisurely drive around the outskirts to take in views of rolling hills, grazing sheep and picturesque barns. Vistas of growing corn and vegetables over the remaining 6,500 acres of farmland encourage a stately pace that is perfect for wandering.
For more focused sightseeing, hone in on the greens at one of two 18-hole golf courses near Franklin. Spooky Brook Golf Course is a fairly flat playing field known for lush fairways. Quail Brook Golf Course, a few miles east of Spooky Brook, is one of the most popular public courses in Central New Jersey. Its 18 holes are heavily wooded and known for a hilly back nine that presents a challenge for any player.
Junior golfers might want to try the putting course at Colonial Park, near Franklin. It differs from amusement-centered mini-golf, treating players to abundant gardens and long fairways instead of obstacles. In keeping with the tranquil vibe of Franklin, the putting course boasts wildflowers and native grasses. Colonial Park also offers paddleboat rentals for those who want to explore Powder Mill Pond, another picturesque spot inside the park grounds.
Although Franklin does not have an established downtown area, there are several charming small-town eateries to help fuel a day of sightseeing. Near the city center, Granny's Country Store and Deli whips up comfort food choices, while Allies American Grille and Bar in the northern part of town is a neighborhood favorite.
South of the city’s center point, Six Mile Run provides an opportunity to tour Franklin history. The historic district features 18th-century houses, a quaint Reformed Church and hiking trails.
After taking in Franklin attractions, nature lovers head about 12 miles west to Sourland Mountain Preserve, a sector of craggy rocks and forest that draws hikers and rock climbers. Birdwatchers are particularly fond of Sourland for its array of bird types, including barred owls, savannah sparrows and upland sandpipers.
For an ocean view instead, Perth Amboy is 20 miles east of Franklin, and looks out over Raritan Bay. The town offers a revitalized historic waterfront with art galleries, shops and museums. Summer concerts are often in swing at the public band shell.
Rich with natural vistas and relaxing pursuits, Franklin area attractions invite visitors to slow down and de-stress. Collectors still sometimes come to dig luminous minerals at night. Their ultraviolet spotlights illuminate amazingly colorful rock faces that seem ordinary by daylight. That is an apt metaphor for Franklin itself—a small town that boasts surprisingly beautiful views, if given a close look.