Motorcycle Classics

Rides and Destinations: New Hope, Pennsylvania

  • What: New Hope, Pennsylvania, a delightful and historic village on the Delaware River.
  • How to Get There: From central New Jersey, pick up CR 518 and follow it to Lambertville. From anywhere else, find your way to the Delaware River and follow it.
  • Best Kept Secrets: The famous folks who have lived in New Hope and the area’s rich history. I visited the area for years without knowing these things. Knowing this now seems to make the ride even more enjoyable.
  • Avoid: Trying to get a bridge photo while standing in the road (there’s a not-readily-visible police officer above the bridge who will gently correct your errant behavior; don’t ask how I know this).
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I grew up in New Jersey, and I’ll confess: I forgot just how great the riding can be on the East Coast. When I was a teenager, my favorite motorcycle ride was New Jersey’s CR 518 to New Hope, Pennsylvania, and on a recent visit to the Garden State I made that ride again. The ride and the destination are as grand today as they were 50 years ago.

The speeds along this scenic stretch rarely exceed 50mph, and anything from a 250cc bike on up will work just fine. County Route 518 is a bucolic 20-mile New Jersey road that runs from Franklin Township in central New Jersey (where CR 518 intersects with SR 27, near Princeton) to Lambertville. County Route 518 ends at the edge of the mighty Delaware River, and it’s a short hop on SR 29 in Lambertville to a most interesting bridge (don’t worry about getting lost; you can see the Delaware River, the bridge, and New Hope when you reach the end of CR 518). The bridge is cool, an iron-grated, low-on-the-river experience. You can see the water below through the iron grating and when you’re moving the road disappears; the sensation is one of flying above the water.

The ride along CR 518 is a delightful cruise through New Jersey’s Revolutionary War country, a place alive with a rich history. You pass through beautiful little towns like Kingston, Rocky Hill and Hopewell, and woodlands, stunning farmland and rolling low hills line the road. Charles Lindbergh lived in Hopewell, and it was here that the Lindbergh kidnapping occurred. George Washington led the American Revolution, crossed the Delaware, and fought the good fight in this region. The ride is magnificent, the speeds are low (not because of traffic, but due to the nature of the road and the views), and the experience is just plain fun.

County Route 518 used to be part of a main thoroughfare called the Old York Road between Philadelphia and New York City. Today, the trip between these two cities is a 2.5-hour freeway jaunt. Back in the day, it took two full days on the Old York Road. Our destination (New Hope) was the midway point where folks would spend the night. In those early days, there was no bridge; folks crossed on Coryell’s Ferry (the dominant business and New Hope’s original name). George Washington crossed the Delaware just 7 miles downriver in 1776; he burnt the ferry down to prevent the British from following. It worked, but the British knew something was up and they shelled the town (some of New Hope’s buildings still have British ordnance in their beams). The ferry burned again in 1790 (along with the town) and when the village was rebuilt, folks called it New Hope in anticipation of better times.

Presumably, the name worked. Today, New Hope sports some of the highest real estate values in Pennsylvania. With a population of just 2,500, New Hope is small, but the place abounds with restaurants, art galleries, shopping and photo ops (it’s been called the perfect “anti-mall” experience). Shows destined for Broadway are fine-tuned in New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse, scenically situated in the center of New Hope where Aquetong Creek flows into the Delaware River (“Aquetong” is the Native American Leni-Lenape word for “spring in the bush”). Like nearly everywhere in New Hope, it’s a great spot for a photo.

More to the point for us, New Hope is a favored regional motorcycle destination, and the ride here from any direction is a great one. It’s been that way for at least 50 years that I know of, as it was that long ago that I first rode to this delightful destination. The riding in this region is magnificent and any size bike will do nicely. A relaxing and enjoyable ride, it’s one of my favorites.

  • Published on Aug 8, 2018
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