The latest season to start: Southeast New Jersey
Why go: A good rule of thumb is that the leaves change later the more south you go and the closer you stick to the coast. "This is because these areas are lower in elevation and tend to stay a bit warmer than inland," says Marek D. Rzonca of the Foliage Network. If the weather cooperates, leaf season in southeast New Jersey—near Wildwood and Cape May, for example—can continue through early November.
When to go: Late October through early November
Where to get the best view: Belleplain State Forest, home to Lake Nummy, a 26-acre lake that was once a cranberry bog. These days, you’ll see oak, cranberry, sweet gum, red maple, and black gum, with a backdrop of evergreens. "The forest comprises colorful deciduous species such as oak, cranberry, sweet gum, red mapl,e and black gum set against a backdrop of lush evergreens, which makes for a spectacular variety of colors," says Abbie Tang-Smith, communications associate for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. "Belleplain's proximity to the bay and ocean also helps moderate the temperature, providing a longer leaf season."
Insider tip: Though the Jersey Shore is best known as a summertime destination, it's almost more pleasant to visit its coastal towns once the crowds have departed for the season. Cape May's historic past gets put on full display during its Victorian Weekend (October 11–15), where you can attend events such as tea luncheons, historic homes tours, and antiques shows.