Author’s Note: My next installment related to a previous post called “How Do I Get Naked in America?” Long-time readers know that my wife and I have developed quite an affinity for naturist travel to international destinations, with a particular fondness for those in France and Croatia. But in this most unusual summer of 2020, the immediate prospects for getting on an airplane to go anyplace are somewhere between dicey and impossible. And thus, the Meandering Naturist has adopted a new mission of becoming more familiar with naturist places within driving distance of the greater New York Metropolitan area. This post is another chapter in a quest that seeks to encourage family naturism here and abroad, based on the presumption that knowledge is power – and the more you know about where you’re going, the more likely you are to have an enjoyable experience once you get there.
SKY FARM: A Living, Breathing part of America Nudist History
I’ve been reading about Sky Farm since we first moved to the east coast in the mid 90s, but we just managed to get there a few weeks ago. Deeply rooted in its history dating back to the 1930s, it is the quintessential American Nudist Club. Given that context, they have found a niche and a marketing angle that not only seems to be working, but could well serve as a prototype for other social nudity venues in the US.
Bear in mind, we’ve been visiting east coast “naked places” all summer, as I’ve earnestly been trying to get a pulse on the current status of naturism in the United States in the year 2020 – during COVID, no less. It is in that context that it’s worth noting that while most places for clothing optional recreation advertise themselves as “resorts,” Sky Farm is most decidedly a “membership community,” with explicit language that makes it clear that DAY VISITS ARE NOT POSSIBLE, other than your very first visit, of course, which is actually a membership orientation of sorts.
Despite the rants of a few critics, I would remind my readers that a major part of our exploration this summer has been focused on an effort to contextualize American naturism in comparison to its European counterpart, which I acknowledge is largely futile and unfair. We became enamored with French naturism over twenty years ago as the options there are so many and varied, along with the spa culture in Germany where you can get naked within 30 kilometers of nearly anyplace you happen to be at the moment, even in the dead of winter. In both cases, naked places in Europe are open to the public at large, and are enjoyed by a wide demographic of the population, even on a “walk-in” basis.
I find this particularly intriguing when you read the history of a place like Sky Farm, especially when it alludes to what I’ve come to refer to as a “legacy club.” At my estimation, there remain someplace between one and two dozen nudist properties in the United States that were founded before World War II, as a direct outgrowth of the European (especially German) free-body movement. Sky Farm’s place in that chronology is particularly intriguing as the founders tried to make a go of it at first by meeting in the heart of New York City, which led to a police raid, subsequent group arrest, and eventually, the acquittal of the founding members. It seems that’s what led them to find a new place in the rural countryside (now at the edge of a suburban industrial park just off I-80) about 45 minutes west of New York City.
But back to our visit… Sky Farm has a reasonably modern website including a “Schedule a Tour” interest form, which I dutifully filled out, hitting the obsequious SUBMIT button, wondering if that would constitute the end of our Sky Farm adventure while awaiting a reply. It’s amazing to me how many emails and phone messages I’ve initiated, and how frequently those inquiries are left dangling in cyber-space, unanswered. Not even an email auto-reply. Nothing!
Such was not the case at Sky Farm. Within a couple hours of submitting the form, my cell phone was lighting up with a call from Basking Ridge, NJ. It was a member of the visiting committee eager to ask a few questions, which in turn, led to an invitation to visit the club the following Saturday morning. “The first visit is free, and you’re welcome to stay until 4:30 or so. We’ll tell you about our various membership plans should you decide you’d like to come back.”
While I’m not particularly fond of the “members-only, make a commitment and pay your dues” approach, I’m also of the mind that if you’re going to commit to a way of doing business, then embrace the model and really go for it. Sky Farm does that! We were given a very specific arrival time, instructions for entrance to the gate, then met in the parking lot by one of their ambassadors who would essentially be our sponsor for the day. She made it clear that this was a private club and that while we were most welcome to stay and enjoy the facilities after our brief orientation, we were not to go wandering off amidst the cabins, as this is a close-knit community where everyone knows each other, and conversely, knows when someone doesn’t belong. Personally, I would have enjoyed meandering a bit up the paved roads circling the rustic little cabins in the woods, and our guide most graciously offered to accompany us if we desired to do such a thing, but that seemed like a bother for everyone involved, so once “oriented,” we planted under a tree near the pool and enjoyed the day.
The members were friendly and welcoming, and seemed to represent exactly the cross-section of folks you’d expect to meet in a suburban area of NYC. We learned that their summer membership drive had been quite successful in edging their numbers up as they were nearing the desired club capacity of around 300 dues-paying members. (And, in fact, the pricing structure for membership was quite reasonable compared to some other legacy clubs on the east coast.) They have a very enthusiastic social media campaign where images from Sky Farm pop up daily on my Twitter and Instagram feeds advertising themselves as the Best Nude Pool Club in New Jersey. I think that claim is fair and substantiated, (though nearly uncontested). Interestingly, they’ve found an interesting angle in presenting themselves as a more accessible option than Gunnison Beach, the famous – if not a bit wild and crazy – nude beach on the Jersey Shore just across from Manhattan. Testimonies on their website quote people who have given up those long, onerous treks on the hot sand, having now found this little slice of heaven right in their own back yard.
You can get a sense of the place from the images, noting that the pool and hot tub complex is particularly well maintained, the bathrooms were modern and wonderfully clean, there were several grills for common use should we have come prepared with burgers in our rucksack (which we did not), and the clubhouse (closed due to COVID) looked lovely, adorned with a flowery landscape that is tended to by devoted members. It seems that many of the regulars own those cabins in the woods – mostly simple and smallish, but tidy and kept-up in appearance, unlike some other east coast nudist clubs where you feel like you’re walking through an abandoned boy scout camp. There’s apparently a lodge for overnight stays as well, but a few regulars talked about a nearby hotel, literally around the corner, that offered a bit more space and additional amenities, such as indoor plumbing.
By the end of the day, my wife gave the place highest honors, “If we were going to join a club, I think this would be the place!” And we actually gave it serious consideration, especially when receiving a follow-up message from our membership ambassadors that if we joined this season, we could enjoy the rest of the summer and all of next year for the price of one year’s dues. Clever strategy, and largely successful it seems, but we weren’t done exploring for the season, and the over two-hour drive up the New Jersey Turnpike is a bit less than alluring under the guise of establishing a relaxing weekend retreat.
The other takeaway from our visit to Sky Farm? My new fixation on legacy nudist clubs scattered around the United States that essentially document the history of social nudity over the past one-hundred years. I find myself particularly fascinated with these clubs that put down roots in secretive, rural locations and remained as such until just the last couple of decades. Many of these clubs are simply disappearing. Others are still inhabited by the original owners (or the descendants thereof) while gasping their last collective breath. (Properties and inhabitants, alike.) But a few, like Sky Farm, have found a way to reinvent themselves, attracting a new demographic of locals who didn’t even know there was a naked place just down the street.
If you’re reading this post at the time of publication, and you’ve been thinking about visiting Sky Farm, you might want to click through to their website and contact them right away. Maybe it’s not too late to get the “end of this summer for free” if you sign up for the next year. It is, after all, the best nude pool club in New Jersey!
Images for this post are from the Sky Farm website and related social media threads, assuming those are open to the public domain. I trust if any of those should be removed, someone will let me know, and I will do so immediately.