Only a 60-90 minute drive from Center City Philadelphia and Manhattan, upper Bucks County is a favorite retreat for tens of thousands of city dwellers and inner ring suburbanites each year. The fresh air, lovingly maintained parks and natural areas complement the region’s rich assortment of small villages, which boast charming inns and excellent restaurants. Hop on River Road (PA 32) around the lower Bucks commuter suburbs of Morrisville or Yardley and head north. The route clings to both the Delaware River and what’s left of the Delaware Canal – once the artery by which hundreds of thousands of tons of coal were moved from northeast Pennsylvania’s anthracite mines into Philadelphia where it powered the city’s industrial era boom.
The gateway to upper Bucks is the pastoral town of Washington Crossing, the launch point from which George Washington headed east along the Delaware River to surprise the redcoats and win the Battle of Trenton on Christmas day in 1776. A bit further down the road you’ll find New Hope, the busiest riverside village in the area and an antiquing and B&B mecca. Once a sleepy mill town, New Hope is a magnet for weekenders who appreciate the variety of dining options, a small but lively music scene and a bevy of independently owned shops.
After New Hope, the villages get fewer and farther between, with the riverside scenery interrupted by only the occasional general store or cottage. The upper Bucks region fans out from around Point Pleasant, home base for inner tube rental giant Bucks County River Country and the unique home and garden wares of F.P. Kolbe. Next up is the small village of Erwinna, where the main attraction is memorably whimsical Sand Castle Winery – constructed to resemble a sand castle and a fine place to take in the scenery from on high.
Further up the road is beautiful Tinicum Park, wedged between the riverbanks and a mountain ridge. Tinicum becomes a bit of a hotspot every Saturday afternoon from May to October, when it plays host to bona fide polo matches, replete with smartly dressed spectators lounging under tents and play-by-play broadcasters calling the action. Well worth checking out.
Another ten minutes down the road is the village Upper Black Eddy, where you’ll find 12 room Bridgeton House on the Delaware – just the right blend of rustic and luxurious for most tastes. The location is also perfect. Perched on the riverbanks, Bridgeton is steps from the Upper Black Eddy-Milford Bridge, connecting upper Bucks to amiable Milford, New Jersey and its restaurants. The Ship Inn is an excellent choice for fresh brewed beer and English pub food. Continuing along River Road gets you to Kintnersville and Rolling Pin Pastries – a genuine find for its freshly baked pies, sticky buns and Hungarian poppy rolls.
Of course, man does not live by pie alone, so a little exercise may be in order. Fortunately, upper Bucks offers visitors some of the region’s most unique, chronically underused recreational opportunities. Avid cyclists and distance runners love the towpath that runs parallel to River Road and the canal. There’s also a companion path on the New Jersey side, which goes through the appealing villages of Frenchtown and Stockton. The beauty is that with four small bridges connecting Pennsylvania and New Jersey between New Hope and Upper Black Eddy, you can easily devise your own loop.
In the heart of upper Bucks (eight miles south of Kintnersville) is beautiful Nockamixon State Park. Nockamixon offers all recreational activities known to man, including warm water bass fishing in its 1,450 acre lake, canoe rentals, hiking, wooded biking trails and even deer and turkey hunting at the adjacent state game lands on the north side. For something completely different, pay a visit to Ringing Rocks Park, back near Upper Black Eddy, a couple miles off River Road. Find the boulder field and strike any of the basalt rocks with a hammer to see if you can draw out their famous high-pitched ringing sound.