With Memorial Day Weekend rapidly approaching and the summer not far behind, now is the perfect time to start planning your warm weather getaways. We’re a bit spoiled in New Jersey, having so many beautiful beach destinations to choose from, but there’s one island you absolutely can’t miss. Of course I love LBI, and you can’t deny the vibrancy of Absecon Island, home to Atlantic City, but there is no other town in the world quite like Cape May.
Cape May has been honored with many accolades over the years including being named one of America’s Top 10 Beach Destinations by the Travel Channel, the Third Most Popular Wedding Destination in the US by the Philadelphia Inquirer and one of the 10 Coolest Small Towns In America by Budget Travel. Cape May is a truly charming town filled to the brim with gorgeous Victorian architecture. For the purposes of this article, Cape May will refer to the collection of small towns on Cape Island including Cape May, Cape May Point and West Cape May.
Originally inhabited by the Lenni Lenape tribe, Cape May was later a popular place for pirates to drop anchor and is believed to be the final resting place of Captain William Kidd's treasure. The town often bills itself as America's first beach resort, and it has certainly been a popular summer destination for hundreds of years. The first hotel was built in Cape May way back in 1791. The Atlantic House attracted wealthy businesses owners from the Philadelphia area, looking to beat the summer heat.
Where To Stay
When it comes to exquisite lodging loaded with history and charm, no place does it better than Cape May. One popular place to stay is Congress Hall, pictured above. The stunning resort is celebrating its bicentennial this year and offers the finest in luxury accommodations. Congress Hall has hosted many notable guests over the years including presidents Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Harrison. The property has won numerous awards, recently being named one of Condé Nast Travelers best hotels in the Northeast.
The Virginia Hotel, pictured above, is a fantastic boutique hotel built in 1879, located just a half block from the beach and offering a complimentary continental breakfast. While a historic gem, the hotel provides modern conveniences including charging stations for electric vehicles.
This bed and breakfast built in 1872 got its start as a private gambling club. Rooms are impeccably decorated and breakfast and afternoon tea are included in your stay. Other amenities at the Mainstay Inn include a refreshment center and "bottomless" cookie jars.
Where To Eat
Just over a decade ago, the New York Times called Cape May the culinary capital of New Jersey. With all of the incredible restaurants you can find on this island, the title certainly seems fitting. The Mad Batter at the Carroll Villa Hotel is one of the most popular options for breakfast or brunch and never fails to delight guests. You'll find a relaxed atmosphere, inventive menu and live music at select times. Enjoy indoor and outdoor dining, and some of the best Bloody Mary's around.
Pictured above, The Washington Inn is ranked among the Top 100 Restaurants in the US by OpenTable users. You'll find steak, seafood and fine American cuisine at this historic restaurant, along with five distinct dining areas. Breathe in the sea breeze on the patio or cozy up by the fireplace on cold nights. Enjoy exceptional service and an extensive wine list.
The Union Park Dining Room is housed in the Hotel Macomber and offers a romantic atmosphere well suited for date night. You'll find rich mahogany hues and the most exquisite cuisine here, along with magnificent desserts - you've never had an ice cream sandwich quite like theirs. Each dish is artfully crafted and prepared to be a feast for both the eyes and the palate.
What To Do
There's so much to do in Cape May, you'll want to spend more than just a weekend here. Start with the unique Cape May Trolley Tours, hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities. This fun, relaxing ride introduces visitors to the city's history and attractions. The cost is $12 for adults and $7 for children.
The Emlen Physick Estate is a Victorian house museum which immerses visitors in Cape May's past. Enjoy spectacular architecture, artifacts and period furniture, preserving life in the 1800s. If you're a believer in the paranormal, this stunning spot is said to be haunted.
Cape May Point State Park, pictured above, is home to the Cape May Lighthouse, hiking trails, beaches, a gallery of exhibits and several hawk viewing platforms. The park is considered one of the best bird watching locations in North America.
Being a beach resort, you'll most definitely want to check out Cape May's beaches. There are several stunning options to choose from including Higbee Beach, Windsor Beach, The Cove and Congress Street. Head to Sunset Beach to see the wreckage of famous "concrete ship," SS Atlantus. Visit historic Poverty Beach for a more laid back experience in the location where "the help" enjoyed the shore.
The thriving Washington Street Mall is the heart of Cape May. A charming collection of shopping and dining opportunities, the center is bustling in summer months. Visit unique shops including A Place on Earth (bath products), Hello Gorgeous (jewelry), Galvanic (men's clothing), and The Original Fudge Kitchen (candy).
Cape May County Park and Zoo is located just minutes off the island in Cape May Court House. Open 7 days a week, all year round, from 10-4:30, this fantastic zoo is a free attraction. Enjoy over two dozen wildlife exhibits, a birds of prey show and the Honey Bee Haven.
Where do you stay in Cape May? What are your favorite attractions and restaurants? Most importantly, are you as in love with this island as I am?