I wish you could see my face when I talk about how much I love Cape May. My expression is one of pure joy and I could literally speak endlessly on the topic. We all feel like our blood pressure drops a bit every time we drive over the causeway into Cape May.
For those of you unfamiliar with Cape May, it is widely recognized as America’s oldest seaside resort and has been attracting visitors for over two centuries. The entire town is on the National Historic Register and boasts over 600 Victorian buildings. The tree-lined streets carefully tended gardens and lovely homes in the historic district take you back in time.
People from virtually every age and demographic are drawn to Cape May from all over the world. It is not uncommon to walk down the Promenade that runs along the beach and hear French or Spanish or German being spoken. It is quite literally a melting pot of vacationers loving the city.
Where the heck is it? Cape May located at the southern tip of New Jersey is also at Exit 0—the last exit of the Garden State Parkway. Many a fellow Cape May addict have Exit 0 emblems displayed proudly on their cars. Fun fact, Exit Zero is also publications, a restaurant, gift shop and more.
There are so many things that I love about Cape May. I continue to learn new thing each and every time I visit making me love it even more. Here is just the “short list”:
Beaches (of course)There are 16 beaches in the City of Cape May primarily named for the streets that intersect Beach Avenue. It extends approximately 2.5 miles from end to end.
- The Cove (at the end of the promenade and also accessible from Mt Vernon Avenue)
- Grant Street
- Congress Street
- Steger Beach (Jackson Street)
- Decatur Street
- Jefferson Street
- Queen Street
- Poverty Beach (Wilmington Street)
Our favorite (and the one closest to our house) is Grant Beach. It is also where the Beach Patrol Headquarters is located. We love to stop by The Ocean View Diner at the end of Grant Street on the way to the beach. Grabbing a burger and fries to eat right on the beach is always a treat. Of course, we make sure to sit under a beach umbrella. The seagulls can be quite aggressive when fries are involved!
Cape May beaches are always well manicured. Machines sift and clean the sand each evening to prepare for the next day. Our son, Ian, loved to watch the “sand crawlers” coming down the beach in the dark when he was a toddler. It became an evening ritual on our way back home from dinner.
Several hotels and motels such as Congress Hall, The Virginia, The Beach Shack and Ocean Club Hotel (amongst others) provide beach service to their guests that include loungers, towels and umbrellas. We stayed at The Beach Shack a few times when the kids were younger and felt quite pampered by the beach service.
Where do I start? There are an incredible number of options and new ones are popping up all the time. Hands down our absolute favorite is The Ebbitt Room — the fine dining restaurant in the Virginia Hotel on Jackson Street. It is the first place we think of when we are entertaining family and friends or celebrating a birthday or anniversary. It never disappoints.
We have other favorites as well that run the spectrum of cuisine and ambiance. Also, on Jackson Street, The Mad Batter serves an amazing breakfast and, in our opinion, the best Bloody Mary on the island. The screened in front porch is a perfect venue in the summer and pleasantly heated in the off season.
Fins Bar & Grill on Washington Mall is very fun for more casual, but yummy fare with a water and fish themed décor. The glass bar is lit from underneath and large fish tanks are everywhere.
George’s is a small, but all-around excellent restaurant that was featured on an episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network . You can see where Guy spray painted his image on the wall if you look on the outside rear wall of the building.
At the other end of the spectrum is Hot Dog Tommy’s —a Cape May institution that is simply, but sublimely a walk-up hot dog joint whose patrons line up around the block for a “Bad Dog”. Of course, there are so many more excellent restaurants that I could mention, but I can cover those in later posts.
I can’t forget Shopping! Washington Street Mall is the prime location for shopping in Cape May with a variety of stores from clothing and accessories, to home décor, to bath and body, to antiques, to food -the list goes on. There are very high-end stores like Cash and Clive and Henry’s Landmark Jewelers (just a sample) to fun t-shirt and trinket souvenir shops.
When the kids were little, they had a few favorites that were must visit on the first day: Fralinger’s for old time saltwater taffy and seafoam fudge; The Toy Shop of Cape May for an unusual toy that we would not have found elsewhere (great to have for the possible rainy day); and Della’s 5&10—to walk the aisles and find interesting trinkets or sand toys.
Gerard and I have our favorites as well like the Whales Tale for pretty shells, sea inspired jewelry and Christmas ornaments; Love the Cook for unusual cooking gadgets and such; Cape May Olive Oil Company for amazing flavored oils and balsamic vinegars and Lace Silhouettes for me, because a new top or dress is a fun way to start the week.
Although Washington Mall tends to get all the press, there are so many other great little shops on Carpenter Square Mall, Washington Commons, along Beach avenue, Sunset Beach and West End Garage on Perry Street and so, so much more on many streets throughout the city. Cape May is so very walkable. Therefore, you can easily cover most of them without getting in your car. However, you will quite honestly need more than one day and very comfortable shoes. Also, many of the stores also have on-line shops that can be visited any time of the year.
Bed & Breakfasts
The plethora of Bed & Breakfasts from large to intimate each with a very distinct personality and history. From the large Southern Mansion, which is set on one-and-a-half acres, to Casablanca, a 10-bedroom boutique hotel on Columbia Avenue—there is size to fit everyone’s preference. The Mission Inn on New Jersey Avenue is a California style B&B with a decidedly Spanish vibe. The Peter Shield’s Inn is located right on Beach Avenue across from the beach and boasts an award-winning BYO restaurant. The Wilbraham Mansion on Myrtle Street actually has a gorgeous heated indoor swimming pool. Truly the list goes on. I have heard it called the Bed & Breakfast capital of the world and I believe it!
This is just a sampling of what Cape May is known for… I plan to cover all of these topics in much greater detail in later posts, but for now these are the highlights and a few of our favorites. Our family is look forward to exploring even more of what Cape May has to offer and bringing it to you as well.