The public now has a chance to peek inside American heiress and world traveler Doris Duke’s New Jersey estate.
Daughter to tobacco tycoon James Buchanan Duke, she was born into a life of luxury. Her family’s wealth enabled her to pursue many interests, including competition surfing, journalism and jazz piano. But one of her greatest passions, particularly towards the end of her life, was environmental conservation.
Upon her death in 1993, Duke left instructions that the New Jersey estate where she grew up, Duke Farms, should be used to promote conservation. After nearly two decades of deliberation, Duke Farms is finally open to the public. It’s mission: teach visitors to be good stewards of the environment.
The estate will serve the community with programs and amenities such as seed swaps for amateur gardeners, incubation space for aspiring organic farmers, and plots of land that foundation officials say will comprise the largest community garden in the country.
But what’s of most interest to travelers are the wide open spaces—perfect for a taking a stroll or luxuriously picnicking in the grass. Duke Farms is three times the size of Central Park, with fountains, lagoons, bridges, sculptures and 22 miles of trails.
The estate is also home to 30 endangered species and 230 varieties of birds that occupy 464 acres of grassland bird habitat and 810 acres of woodlands. Wildlife lovers shouldn’t forget their binoculars at home.
The Farm Barn, built in 1906, serves as the orientation center. Here, visitors can print out customized tours complete with information on everything from the property’s sculptures to the best places to spy grassland birds. Another great feature? It’s completely free.
Duke Farms is open to visitors Thursday through Tuesday, 8:30 am to 6 pm.
photo credit: Duke Farms