Visit Bavaria—An Hour from New York City
November 22, 2013

Driving west on Route 80, the landforms around you begin to change the closer you get to the Delaware Water Gap. Flat masses of interconnected interstates give way to a hilly and mountainous road that makes wide arcs to accommodate the land’s natural contours. Taking Exit 34B, to Route 15 North, as we often do, we are always struck by the immediate alteration in landscape as well: tall pines shoot high in the air, heralding the arrival of the … German Alps? That’s what it looks like anyway.

At about 6 square miles, Lake Mohawk is a Bavarian-style getaway nestled between Sparta and Byram townships in Sussex County. Its centerpiece is the largest manmade lake in New Jersey, named after the tribe that once thrived in the area. The lake is private, which means we visit in any season but summer so we aren’t tempted to try to sneak onto the beaches that dot the shoreline. The picturesque boardwalk along the northern rim is always open to the public, and in fall, winter, and spring, it provides beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and plenty of space to wander around in.

After the hour-long drive from the city, our children love a good romp on the boardwalk. And this year, having been to Disney World (though not Germany, as yet), Riley, who’s 10, remarked, “Hey—this looks just like Epcot!” Eventually the boardwalk crosses over the dam that created it from the Wallkill River in 1928. Mr. Kochey, our dear family friend and tour guide who has resided in the area for about a half-century, told us an unusual fact: the Wallkill River flows north rather than south.

Castles and Cottages

The small and walkable town center—called White Deer Plaza—features Tudor- and alpine-style buildings in all shapes and sizes. Along the boardwalk, the Lake Mohawk Country Club resembles a small castle, but the town center features quaint and highly individual buildings with pitched slate roofs and eaves. The New York Times reported that the New Jersey Register of Historic Places labeled the architectural style fanciful when awarding it a spot on the list in 1998.  But more importantly to us, Mrs. Kochey—who happens to hail from Germany—confirms that it is as close as you can get to the motherland without leaving New Jersey.

Given the idyllic setting, it is perhaps predictable that the town center boasts a number of independent clothing and gift stores, a bakery and ice cream parlor, and a couple of great child-friendly restaurants.

Weihnachtsmarkt (Translation: Christmas Market)

Each year for the past decade, Lake Mohawk has hosted a Christmas Market whose proceeds benefit the community. Again, relying on the Kocheys’ insights and expertise, we take it as fact that the German singers, bratwurst, and warm gluhwein are as authentic as they get! This year the market will start at 10 A.M. on Saturday and Sunday, December 7 and 8, and end at 10 P.M. and 5 P.M. respectively. If you want to stay close to home but still show your kids the old world, mark your calendar. 

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