Summer at Cheesequake State Park: Matawan, NJ

Rating: 5 out of 5.

We were on the hunt for a beach-like experience without the crowds and stumbled upon Hooks Creek Lake at Cheesequake State Park. Open for swimming from 10:30am-6:00pm daily with 2 lifeguards on duty, Hooks Creek Lake is shallow enough for babies to enjoy, doesn’t have waves, and is a great place to teach young kiddos to swim. If you’ve been to Lake Welch in NY, this is the NJ equivalent.

We planted ourselves under the shade of a tree and listened to the sounds of crickets chirping in the grass and a flock of geese honking overhead while the boys busily dug in the sand to their heart’s content. This park is huge with 5 easy to moderate trails, a camping site, nature center, playground, and picnic areas, but our kids were satisfied to just dig and dig and dig some more. I found it to be peaceful and secluded and would happily return again.

The Park Mama Tips:

  • The admission fee for NJ residents is $5 on weekdays and $10 on weekends per car (not per person). However, it’s cash only at the entrance. If you’re paying with a card (which I did and regretted), you have to park, exit your vehicle, and stand in line outdoors to pay. If you’re traveling solo with kiddos, that means unloading and reloading into car seats unnecessarily, so just bring cash and save yourself a headache.
  • Parking is reduced to 50% capacity to allow for adequate social distancing. Staff told me that weekdays are uncrowded, while weekends are peak visiting times. Friends recently visited at lunchtime on a Saturday and found it uncrowded though.

For more info:

Looking for more places to swim in NJ? Here’s what open.

Published by TheParkMama

Hi, I'm Janet, a city dwelling nature lover and mama bear of toddler and preschool aged explorers. We love discovering uncrowded green spaces within a short drive of Hoboken, NJ that are little kid-friendly - from botanical gardens and nature preserves to arboretums and parks - there's something magical about adventuring together.

One thought on “Summer at Cheesequake State Park: Matawan, NJ

  1. Definitely a new favorite of ours. coming from JC, the park is only 35 min away. Our 4yo had no problems with the short hike around the lake and parking is free post Labor day! Looking to explore the other trails next

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