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Cape May

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Cape May

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Cape May [1] is in the state of New Jersey, in the United States. It lies at the southernmost point in New Jersey, on the Cape May Peninsula, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. On the other side of the Delaware Bay lies the state of Delaware.

The Victorian Mainstay Inn on Columbia Ave. in Cape May


Cape May, located at the very southern tip of New Jersey, is a Victorian resort town. It was the country's first seaside resort and much of the original flavor still exists in the properties and other sites within the city. Settled by whalers and fishermen in colonial times, the town suffered a devastating fire in 1878 and was rebuilt during the Victorian period. As a result, Cape May is known for its concentration of Victorian era architecture. It was declared a national historic landmark in 1976.

A canal, dug from a natural shallow creek, runs from Cape May's harbor to the Delaware Bay, which makes Cape May an island. In fact, historically, it's known as Cape Island.

The two main industries within Cape May are tourism and fishing. Cape May is second to Atlantic City for tourism in the state of New Jersey. Being at the confluence of the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean allows Cape May full access to many types of fishing opportunities.

Cape May is also home to the Coast Guard Training Station.

Get in

By plane

The nearest large airports to Cape May are Baltimore-Washington International (BWI), in Baltimore, Maryland, Philadelphia International and Newark International. From these airports you will either have to fly to the smaller airport in Atlantic City and drive for about an hour, or drive directly, which will take approximately three hours. For those with private aircraft, there is a small airport (WWD) just a few miles out of town.

By train

The closet rail terminal is Atlantic City, NJ (about 45 minutes by car or two hours by bus to the North). This station is served by NJ Transit's Atlantic City Line from Philadelphia and is connected to Cape May by NJ Transit bus, see below.

By car

Drive time to Cape May is about three hours drive from the New York City metropolitan area and from Baltimore, Maryland.

If you fly into Philadelphia, it only takes about two hours (assuming you hit good traffic).

If you're able to fly into Atlantic City, you can make it down in about 45 minutes.

By bus

New Jersey Transit runs the 552 bus route from Atlantic City to Cape May.

From the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal, take New Jersey Transit bus route 319 to Atlantic City. A Few 319 buses wiil terminate and begin in Cape May, check the schedule.

Note: New Jersey Transit runs a summer schedule on these two rooutes when school is out for the summer. So pick up a printed schedule when in doubt. The Web site for New Jersey Transit publishes the normal schedule.

By boat

Cape May has complete harbor access from the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean. It is on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, so it is accessible to boaters from Key West, Florida to Boston, Massachusetts. It is also possible to take a ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May.


Get around

Cape May is a relatively small town, compared with other mid-atlantic and southern United States resort communities. While cars are allowed on the island, it's best to park it and walk or take a bike. The flat terrain makes biking ideal.


  • Cape May Bird Observatory 701 East Lake Drive, tel: (609) 884-2736. Daily 9AM-4:30PM. If birds are your thing, Cape May is the Mid-Atlantic answer to the Everglades. The wind currents carry migratory birds out over Cape May, so it is one of the best birding spots on this part of the East Coast. Everything from ospreys to herons, to gulls, plover and sand pipers, birding in Cape May is an attraction all by itself. Spring Weekend Festival in May.
  • Cape May Lighthouse, Cape May Point State Park. The third lighthouse built on this spot, the current lighthouse is now owned and operated by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC), and is being restored to its former glory. 199 steps will take you to the top of the lighthouse where you can see views of Cape May and beyond. The light from this one hundred fifty-seven and a half foot lighthouse can be seen from twenty to twenty five miles out to sea.
  • Cape May Point Flag Ceremony -- There is a poignant flag lowering ceremony, daily at sunset, at the Cape May Point (the southern shore of the peninsula) in honor of service men and women.
  • Cape May County Zoo -- actually located 10 miles away from Cape May in the small charming town of Cape May Court House, drive to the zoo and see lions, tigers, bears, giraffe, zebras, and many other animals.
  • Dolphin and Whale watching -- some of the boat owners guarantee aquatic mammal sightings on every trip. Dolphins seem to be the normal sighting, as hundreds of dolphins summer around Cape May. Whales? Bottle-nosed dolphins are part of the whale family, so I guess those count as whale sightings. Two or three hour boat rides are common.
  • Salt Marsh -- Take a tour of this Atlantic coastal Salt marsh aboard one of the area's boats. For example, aboard the Skimmer, tel: (609) 884-3100, [2] which will take you on a journey in search of one of the many creatures that live within the salt marsh. The Skimmer is named after one of the many shore birds that live in the area.
  • Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, 1048 Washington St., tel:(609) 884-5404 or (800) 275-4278, [3].


  • Parasail -- See cape May from the air. It is extremely safe and fun. Try East Coast Parasail (609) 898 UFLY [4] or Hang Loose Parasail, (609) 522-WILD, in Wildwood [5]. You'll love the relaxing view of the whole island from 500' in the air.
  • Bike -- Cape May is still a relatively small town (in diameter) so biking is a very practical way of getting around. There are a number of bicycle rental places within Cape May, where you can rent everything from the average one-speed two-wheeler to a four-wheeler that seats four and includes a basket for your beach toys or shopping bags.
  • Fish fresh water fishing can be had in the river, and the surf and open ocean allow for many more (surf and deep sea) fishing opportunities.
  • Kayak -- take a sea kayak on a ride, and explore the many nooks and crannies of the salt marsh.
  • Surf -- Wildwood, just to the north, is known for big surf. Ocean City, about 45 minutes north, has a section of beach reserved for surfing.
  • Swim -- in the ocean along the long Cape May beaches
  • Walk -- the boardwalk, or throughout town. Lots of Cape May can be reached by foot. Walking is the preferred method of travel for many Cape May residents and visitors.


Restaurants, bars & hotels are undeniably the largest employers on the island. Much work available here is seasonal only.

Employment opportunities are offered by members of the Washington Street Mall association.


One of the shopping areas in Cape May is the Washington Street Mall, located in the heart of the town. This three-block outdoor mall features a variety of family-owned shops unlike any others, although many are not open during the week in the off season. Call ahead.

There are also many one of a kind shops throughout Cape May and West Cape May. Among them:

  • The Flying Fish Studio, [6].
  • Bath Time, [7]
  • Bird House of Cape May, [8]


There is a wide variety of dining available in Cape May, from family and elegant to seafood and pancakes. However, many restaurants operate on a seasonal basis. Most restaurants are open seven days a week from Late May through early October. After that, it's best to call ahead.

Lunch and Casual Dining

There are good places to eat on nearly every corner. Good pizza and lots of good italian food. Seafood and burgers are easily found at budget prices, though it might be wise to search for seafood at mid-range prices and above.

  • Carney's
  • The Mad Batter (excellent breakfasts)
  • The Pilot House
  • The Ugly Mug
  • George's Place Restaurant (609)884-6088


There are many places where it is possible to get very good food (esp. sea food) at reasonable prices. One can buy fish right off the boats coming in from the day's fishing.

  • Godmothers Restaurant, Broaday & W. Perry St., (609) 884-4543, [9]. Southern Italian
  • Black Duck Restaurant, 1 Sunset Blvd., 609-898-0100, [10]. American Contemporary
  • The Lobster House
  • Gecko's
  • McGlade's Backstreet Cafe
  • The Bar and Restaurant at Martini Beach. Mediterranean/tapas.


Cape May is known for its many fine restaurants. The town's been dubbed the Restaurant Capital of New Jersey.

  • Cucina Rosa, 301 Washington Street Mall , toll free: 866-345-7672, tel: (609) 898-9800, [11].
  • 410 Bank Street, 410 Bank Street, tel: (609) 884-2127.
  • Freda's Cafe, 210 Ocean Street, tel: (609) 884-7887.


  • The Pilot House, 142 Decatur Street, tel: (609) 884-3449, [12] on the Washington Street Mall has a full bar serving all day, every day of the year. Happy hour with free appetizers Monday-Friday from 4PM-6PM. Friendly vibe, plus a full restaurant.
  • Carneys, 401 Beach Ave., tel: (609) 884-4424. located just steps from Cabanas, is great both day & nighttime. Step over from the beach for a frozen drink.
  • The Ugly Mug, 426 Washington Street, tel: 609-884-3459, [13], a Cape May institution on the Washington Street Mall. Cozy, pub-like atmosphere.
  • Merion Inn, Decatur Street. Adult atmosphere with piano music.
  • The Pier House, 1327 Beach Av., tel: 609-898-0300.
  • The Schooner Bar, at the Lobster House.
  • Lucky Bones Backwater Grill, across from the Lobster House.
  • Cabanas & Martini Beach, corner of Decatur and Beach, [14] are casual & fun. Martini Beach [15] is located on the second floor and has a quieter, more intimate feel. Cabanas features a club atmosphere with live music.
  • The Brown Room and The Boiler Room at Congress Hall [16].



  • Montreal Inn, 1025 Beach Ave., Toll-free: (800) 525-7011, [17].
  • Mount Vernon Motel, Beach and 1st Ave., (609) 884-4665, [18].
  • Madison Motel, 601 Madison Avenue, (609) 884-4838, [19].


  • Bayberry Inn, 223 Perry St., (609) 884-9232, [20].
  • Victorian Lace Inn, 901 Stockton Ave., (609) 884-1772, [21].
  • Albert Stevens Inn, 127 Myrtle Ave., (609) 884-4717, [22].


  • Congress Hall, 251 Beach Avenue, Tel: 888.944.1816 or 609.884.8421, (Fax: 609.884.6094), [23]. Beautifully restored building in operation since 1816.

Get out

  • Wildwood. The town on the other side of Cape May Harbor (up the peninsula) has a long boardwalk and several large areas with amusement park rides. There are at least four roller coasters. It all gets busy later in the evenings, especially on Friday.
  • The Cape May-Lewes Ferry takes about 75 minutes to go back and forth from Cape May and Lewes, Delaware. From there, you can drive or take a shuttle (check for availability) to Rehoboth Beach

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