Hello Cape May, New Jersey where have you been all my New Jersey life? It’s true, I heard of Cape May for years and although I’ve heard about how quaint the Victorian homes are and the super relaxed beach culture, I never made it there. Perhaps the thought of driving on the Garden State Parkway until Exit 0 deterred me. Yes, maybe the thought of bumper to bumper parkway traffic had me visiting the other closer beaches in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Well, guess what it’s not always riddled with traffic if you can manage a week day beach day getaway.
The commute/drive time
If you’re in Northern New Jersey (Essex/Union/Passaic/Bergen counties), according to google maps expect your commute along the Garden State Parkway averaging about 2 1/2 hours without traffic coasting at 60-65 mph. That’s weekday off season time. Weekend and summer commutes add some traffic time and hey roll out your tunes, sing some songs with family and friends while stuck in traffic. Works every time to keep things cheerful. Go right ahead sing out loud to your hearts content until you reach Exit 0. That’s right, impossible to get lost and the humorous answer to the question, “How do you get there?” Answer: Take Garden State Parkway south bound until you hit Exit 0.
What’s in Cape May, NJ?
Naturally the beach is there, but not any old beach. We’re talking clean stretches of white sand and wide shore lines with ample sea shells to collect. Enjoy clean crisp ocean air with warm sand caught between your toes as you walk and gaze over the gorgeous sunset waiting for you at Sunset Beach, near Cape May point. Take it all in, yes the Jersey Shore. Be still, it’s quiet off season and it’s just the right atmosphere for reading, writing, relaxing, and whatever else you enjoy doing. Cape May is just that lovely with a simple yet clean boardwalk. The boardwalk is not known for their shops, but Washington Street Square makes up for that.
TIP #1 Head to Welcome Center
Cape May Welcome Center
609 Lafayette Street
Cape May, NJ 08204
Off of Lafayette Street
Go here first and pick up a map. Although part of the charm is stumbling along the streets.
History for the History buffs
Cape May, New Jersey was declared a National Historic Landmark City in 1976 and for good reason. Take a leisurely stroll down the streets off Washington Street and you’ll find Swain’s hardware store on 305 Jackson Street serving residents since 1896. Victorian homes central, quite possibly one of the few towns with the most amount of Victorian homes in the country. Some homes are private residences painted in true Victorian colors and others are quaint romantic inns and bed and breakfasts. So charming that you can’t help but snap a few photos for memory lane.
Park your car and forget about it
What I really mean to say is, you can park your car where you’re lodging and enjoy Cape May, New Jersey by foot or bike and even trolley!
Rent a Bike
Part of the experience beyond walking is also renting a bike or surrey (family fun) from several local bike rental shops. Couldn’t be any easier because they’ll have it delivered right to your hotel! Or for those staying at Congress Hall you can rent from their bike shop.
And if you’re wondering what a surrey is….
Food & Dining
As you stroll along Washington Square, friendly greeters over at Original Fudge Kitchen will offer yummy samples. Enticing us with free samples worked! Go for it, you’re on vacation so ditch the diet. Here you’ll watch staff serve you with a smile and see first hand how they make fudge too!
TIP #2 Get the Fudge Special!
Luckily they had a special offer (of course)! Buy 2 pounds of fudge (mix and match flavors) and get a box of salt water taffy too!
Breakfast at Mad Batter Restaurant
Tucked away in the ever charming Carroll Villa Inn is Mad Batter Restaurant with an open relaxed concept and a front cheery white porch and bright vertical striped cushioned booths, making it a perfect porch to sip on your iced cool drink.
At the Mad Batter Restaurant, brunch is served with a friendly smile, the Cape May way–relaxed beach culture. Eggs benedict with lump crab meat was my choice yet if you fancied waffles and pancakes, this place gladly accommodates.
After a full breakfast and a lazy stroll along Washington Square, not to be missed is Emlen Physick Estate, a historical home steeped with history built in 1879. Tours are held during the day, although we were perfectly happy walking the simple grounds. From the visitor center, it takes a brisk 15 minute “senior walk” as the friendly guide suggested and right he was.
As we were strolling about at a slower pace to take in the Victorian homes each with its own unique charm. Designers take note of their color combination and architectural details. As I paused to take photos, I spent a moment reflecting on its charm and the historic preservation. Mind you these homes were constructed in the 19th century.
What would a food enthusiast do in a hot bed of good food? Seek out an early bird dinner special and/or head to a restaurant running specials for mid-week dining!
TIP #3 Dine during Early Bird special and/or during weekday specials.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know I get an immense kick out of finding local spots and dining at highly rated restaurants for a fraction of the price! Avoid the weekend crowds and experience Cape May, NJ during the week. Although beach season starts right around Memorial Day weekend filling up with tourists and locals. Thanks to a regular Cape May visitor that kindly recommended us walk through and around Congress Hall, a Cape Resort group hotel. And along we went by the brick road and felt awe struck by the looming sunny yellow exterior building and lazy lawn chairs partially overlooking the beach. Get your sweet tea, curl up with a book and relax. From there The Blue Pig Tavern is just the right restaurant for when you’re ready to eat. They offer “The Blue Plate Special nightly Sunday-Thursday for $26.99. For a 3 course meal, comfort food really comforted the belly.
Outdoor dining and indoor dining with fireplace (I know this might seem odd during the summer, but boy during the winter months or on the chillier days, the fireplace is sure cozy).
Opting for the Blue Plate Special was a home run! Here’s the shrimp jambalaya with just the right crisp and flavor. Might I add, the waiter here could have passed for part time comedian, ever so funny and educated on the history of Congress Hall and The Blue Pig Tavern.
Isn’t this special? Turquoise blue pig embossed napkins carrying the “Pig” motif theme. If you look closely, notice the wait staff with a “Pig” pin as well. Details? Yes.
At Cape May, NJ lodging ranges from charming Victorian homes, quaint bed and break fast inns and beach comber motels (this isn’t your typical motel anymore) with ocean front views. Mere steps to the beach and the boardwalk is my new favorite, The Beach Shack, a Cape Resorts hotel is back with newly renovated rooms with style embracing the fun beach culture vibe.
Step inside and appreciate the pineapple motif and some beach cool design. In the living room, the sofa doubles as an extra sleeping area.
The pristine bathroom marked with super white subway tiles and flooring.
Let’s talk about the bedroom and the comfortable plush mattress set–amazing.
Drinks & Good Libations
Next to Beach Shack, is The Rusty Nail a not to be missed casual open bar joint. Want the beach closer? Doesn’t get better than this! Snack and drink on while your toes play in the sand in the outdoor seating area. Touted as one of the best bars in Cape May, NJ–one can see why with its laid back decorum.
While this quaint seaside village dotted with quite possibly the most Victorian homes second to San Francisco, great food, low key and friendly locals satiates the travel bug but how can one forget the beaches of Cape May, NJ? One of the widest shorelines down the Jersey Shore, remember this is what you originally came here for: white sandy beaches, fudge and salt water taffy and a quiet relaxing break. New Jersey residents, New Yorkers and visitors from all over can appreciate this trip.
At Cape May, NJ some signs remind you to return again.