Known as the nation’s oldest seashore resort, Cape May captivates visitors looking for Victorian charm and coastal beauty. With white sandy beaches and waves crashing along the shore or boardwalk, the quaint town and all of Cape May County, located at the southern tip of New Jersey, beckon groups with intriguing sights and activities.
A National Historic Landmark, the entire town of Cape May is a showcase of Victorian architecture. Walking down the streets, visitors can gape at the “painted ladies”—large, colorful painted homes embossed with gingerbread trim, wraparound verandas, stained-glass windows, gables and turrets that represent the Victorian era.
The Emlen Physick Estate, the only Victorian house museum in Cape May, is an 18-room home with period-authentic furnishings. The Estate is headquarters for the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, a local arts organization that organizes many festivals and celebrations.
Take a stroll down the paved, two-mile stretch of the Promenade, Cape May’s boardwalk. Pop into candy shops, ice cream parlors and other shops while enjoying the oceans views. At the end of the boardwalk is a postcard-perfect gazebo.
At Sunset Beach be sure to leave with a few “Cape May diamonds,” clear quartz pebbles that wash in from the Delaware River. These souvenirs can be found by combing the beaches or in gift shops.
Also at Sunset Beach be sure to notice the sunken ship, the SS Atlantis, a World War I-era concrete ship that broke loose in 1962.
Cape May Point State Park offers more than 230 acres of beaches, dunes, hiking trails and bird-watching sites. Cape May Lighthouse, a 157-foot-high beacon of light that continues to guide ships to shore, is open primarily through April to November for self-guided tours. Visitors can climb the 199 cast-iron spiral staircase steps to the Watch Room Gallery for a panoramic view. On the “Stairway to the Stars” tour, guests are taken on a trolley ride from Cape May to the lantern room of the lighthouse for a panoramic view of the night sky.
Cape May County Park is best known for the Cape May Zoo, which houses more than 500 animals representing almost 300 species. See flamingos, bald eagles and a snow leopard, just to name a few of the inhabitants.
The Cape May peninsula is a prime spot for birding enthusiasts, known as the Birding Migration Capital of North America. Some famous locations are the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge and the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area, where visitors can watch raptors, shorebirds and songbirds passing through the area.
Whale watching tours are available through Cape May Whale Watcher, sailing from Miss Chris Marina aboard the new 110-foot, air-conditioned Spirit of Cape May.
Wine enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the area’s four vineyards. Stop by Hawk Haven Winery and Vineyard in Rio Grande, Turdo Vineyards, Natali Vineyards and The Cape May Vineyard and Winery for wine tastings and tours. (capemay.com)