New Jersey has always had a bad rap, and the recent emergence of shows like MTV’s Jersey Shore or the Style channel’s Jerseylicious have not helped matters much. They perpetuate stereotypes of gaudy, obnoxious residents who live in a homogenous collection of heartless townships that form the “armpit of the United States. ” We beg to differ. Outside of places like Trenton, Newark or Atlantic City, New Jersey is really quite lovely and picturesque. (They don’t call it the “Garden State” for nothing kids!)
Located at the very southern tip of the “Jersey shore” is perhaps its crown jewel, Cape May. The seaside beach resort community could easily be likened to the “New Orleans of the North.” There’s only one problem. The place has no vice. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Still, the overriding ambiance, created by impeccable Victorian-era architecture, horse-drawn carriages and gas-lit lamps, more than makes up for the fact that you’ll have to look a bit deeper in order to kick up your heels.
Let’s face it, thanks to its clean beach, warm waters and husky waves suitable for body-boarding, Cape May is first and foremost a “summer rental” destination. And that means only one thing: it’s a family destination! In fact, your “Set of Drifters” first visited Cape May back in October of 2005 while on the hunt for a family reunion location to rival the tackier, more run-down beach communities further north. We immediately fell in love with Cape May’s small-town turn-of-the-century charm and knew that its incredible walkability and candy-colored tree-lined streets would appeal to our electorate committee. While we have only returned twice for summertime fun, our family has been back every year since, and they have already booked a week for 2012! Don't have a smattering of tots or nieces or nephews? Make your way to Cape May for a romantic long weekend, but after the school year has kicked into gear. The drive from New York is easy in half a day, and yet upon your arrival, you will feel a million miles away from the hub-bub of Manhattan.
So what are you waiting for? Hop on a trolley, visit the historic WWII lighthouse, or grab yourself a box of salt-water taffy. This is Cape May, the “purdiest little place in Jersey you ever did see.”
Oh, and did we mention the ghosts?
The most striking aspect of Cape May, and what most certainly sets it apart from other beach communities further north on “the shore” is its architecture. This is one of those rare places where quantity and quality have met and fallen deeply in love. In fact, Cape May’s proliferation of top-notch Victorian Age edifices has awarded the city with National Historic Landmark status, and it’s easy to see why. One stroll down any of Cape May’s beautiful tree-lined streets will quickly take visitors back to a bygone era when true artistic craftsmanship lent itself to a building aesthetic that is simply not feasible in more modern times. But it wasn’t always this way...
Cape May’s boom started way back in, yes you guessed it, the late 1800’s when socialites from both sides of the Atlantic noted Cape May’s location as a perfect summer retreat destination. Hordes of people flocked here to take advantage of the more than 20 miles of coastline, and its agreeable summertime temps. The explosion of tourism transformed the once sleepy Colonial-era village into the jewel of the Victorian Age resort circuit. To keep up with the high demand, construction of hotels, guest houses, and cottages soon followed, and in varied styles of the era. (Queen Anne, Shingle and Stick, Gothic, Italianate, and Second Empire structures can be found throughout town.)
Sadly, the emergence of Atlantic City as a showy mecca of pleasure (and legal gambling) moved tourists’ attention further north, and by 1910, much of the original splendor of Cape May had been abandoned. The decades that followed ravaged the wooden and shingle buildings so badly that it seemed Cape May would ultimately end up little more than a footnote of Americana from a simpler time.
It was not until the early 1970’s, when the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities emerged with dreams of restoring the community to its original luster, that Cape May saw any hopes of redeeming its former “Queen of the Seaside Resorts” stature. “MAC’s” first feather in their cap was the purchase of the Emlen Physick Estate, an 18-room manse originally constructed in 1879 that now stands in for their headquarters. The organization’s impressive work on the house inspired others to follow suit on their own personal property, and soon a wave of re-gentrification and restoration had swept over the community. By the mid-1980’s much of the initial work was complete, and long-time residents and new investors alike were able to reap the benefits from a destination that once again attracted tourists the year round.
Visitors who come to Cape May will probably still find a run-down house here and there, though continued progress has certainly been evident in our subsequent visits. These days, the lion’s share of Cape May’s structures is in extraordinary shape, decorated in whimsical detailing and color that surprises from each and every turn. Make sure to check out the “Pink House” (aka the Eldridge Johnson House) on Perry Street which has some of the fanciest porch trim in town!
Walking tours are perhaps your easiest option to catch the “Best of the Best.” Aside from their Emlen Physick Estate, the MAC organization also offers self-guided walking tour packages that conclude with tea and treats inside some of the city’s most beautiful homes. (Call to schedule an appointment.) And of course, no walking tour of Cape May’s homes would be complete without a stop at the “Seven Sisters,” a congregation of matching homes in the Italian-Renaissance style that were built to keep the families of seven sisters as close as possible. (Don’t worry, each home is painted in individual colors to differentiate one sister from the next!)
The Colonial House Museum, part of the Greater Cape May Historical Society, offers a museum-style look in to the rich architectural history of the Pre-Victorian era, though the location is only open in the high season from June 15 to September 15. (Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM; closed Sundays and Mondays.) While the museum is also open during October’s “Victorian Week,” you may call to try and schedule an appointment at other times of the year.
Set of Drifters tip: In case you were wondering, Hughes Street is your “Set of Drifters” favorite in which to take in Cape May’s splendid architecture. The slightly off-the-beaten track destination features some of the community’s most delightful homes set along a thoroughfare that is quietly peaceful and seemingly miles away from the “tourist hell” of the Washington Street Mall located only a few blocks west.
Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities at the Emlen Physick Estate - 1048 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-5404 or (800) 275-4278, http://www.capemaymac.org/index.html
Colonial House Museum - 653 ½ Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-9100, http://www.capemayhistory.org/calendar.htm
the beach at Cape May
In general, southern New Jersey boasts very clean beaches with nearly white sand and water that is remarkably warm in July and August. This combination makes Cape May the perfect destination for a summer beach holiday. And yet, in efforts to protect the beauty of their beaches, the citizens of this Victorian-era enclave have taken things a step further, charging each and every beach-goer for daily access. For a nominal sum of $5 USD per day ($10 for three days/ $15 for the entire week), beach tags are purchased at the boardwalk and are used to designate who has the proper access (or not) from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Ultimately, the fees collected pay for keeping the environment both clean and safe. You can be assured that each evening a team of maintenance workers and sand plows scour the shoreline in effort to make it as pristine as possible for the following morning’s early birds.
Another great perk of Cape May’s beaches is that you can rent a “locker box” by the week to stash all of those annoying sandy chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards and other accoutrement that you would rather not ferry back and forth to your temporary housing. There are a number of different outfits that combine this feature with umbrella and chair rentals for the day or week. Costs are relatively cheap and include set-up, a nice feature since digging deep enough holes to accompany the umbrellas can be a challenge you are not seeking so early in the day!
The water and waves in Cape May are great! The overall temperature, cleanliness and sizeable swells make for some great boogie-boarding and/ or hours of enjoyable body-surfing. Beware though of the rock and pebble barrier that separates the beach from the ocean. In fact, the crashing of the waves seems most severe here, with the pressure of the waves almost churning up the sediment like a turbine! Any severe wipe-out near this area will sort you out with some pretty nasty scrapes. If the sea is rough, keep the kids at bay! And definitely make sure you leave your beach-tag on your towel as the Cape May beach associates will not replace them if lost at sea!
One of the best aspects of Cape May’s shoreline may just be the high proliferation of dolphin sightings! We managed to have crazy close-up encounters with pods every day of our trip. At one point, a dolphin swam so close to shore, it was only one swell away from Set of Drifter Doug! Out of concern for his safety, lifeguards had to intervene and called him safely back to shore! If you see dolphins in the distance, head under water. Chances are that you can hear their sonic chirping from here even hundreds of meters away!
Set of Drifters tip: Keep in mind that the tide rolls in rather quickly each afternoon. Watch for signs that tell the exact time of “High Tide,” and keep in mind that if you have perched yourself close to the shore, you will undoubtedly need to roll your camp back a few times once licked by rogue waves! This happened to us, and other families nearby, several times. While it’s somewhat humorous to watch from afar, carrying wet sandy blankets from the beach is a chore we would rather not soon repeat, so plan ahead! We even watched as some families created large sand berms first thing in the morning to protect them later in the day.
Cape May Beach - multiple access points along Beach Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204
Lucy The Elephant (Margate)
Unusual roadside attractions are a popular magnet for any “drifter-on-the-go.” Thus, when we heard about “Lucy,” a giant beachside elephant located directly across from Atlantic City, we immediately added it to the roster for our summer 2011 trip to Cape May.
Lucy has quite a unique history. Standing 65-feet tall, the mostly wooden elephant was built back in 1881 at a reported cost of $25,000 USD. Designed by James V. Lafferty as a landmark “billboard” to lure families to his ever-burgeoning South Atlantic City real estate venture, Lucy could be seen from eight miles away, and without the use of binoculars! The unique construction was materialized with the assistance of nearby shipbuilders, and any visit inside the “belly of the beast” today will reveal striking similarities to seafaring vessels of yore.
Regrettably, Lafferty’s real estate dreams fell short in 1887. Having overextended himself financially, he sold his South Atlantic City land holdings (and Lucy with them) to Anton Gertzen of Philadelphia. Lucy switched gears as a result of the transaction, serving more as a tourist attraction for vacationing families. (At the time, admission was only 10 cents a visit!) Eventually, interest waned and Lucy was renovated into an apartment for friends of the Gertzen’s visiting from England. (Today, you can still view the original bathtub and toilet that was used as early as 1902.) A few years later another clever transformation imagined Lucy as a tavern! What could have been a lucrative enterprise, at least until prohibition struck in 1920, unfortunately went sour when rowdy imbibers almost burned the structure down after knocking over gas lamps!
Lucy suffered additional setbacks in the years that followed. A hurricane in 1944 only added fuel to a fire already fostered by the ever-increasing popularity of nearby Atlantic City that had certainly left Lucy in the dust. After falling into a serious state of disrepair, a push to “Save Lucy” was made by the citizens of South Atlantic City (now Margate) in 1969. It was not long before enough interest pulled in the required monies to repair the faltering structure, and then relocate it two blocks away down the street to its current positioning. Six years later, the pachyderm was designated a National Historic Landmark!
These days, a healthy coat of paint - and a cutesy-poo website - suggest Lucy’s future as a tourist draw is once again bright. Visitors who enter the structure via a spiral staircase in one of Lucy’s hind legs will find an interior that oddly resembles a turn-of-the-century courthouse! The rounded plastered walls, a requirement to pass modern-day building codes, may hide Lucy’s wooden shell, yet still reveal the precarious nature of the original construction. (Water damage is a constant concern.) Lucy’s ½ hour tour boasts a bevy of original photos and artifacts as well as an informative video that documents the elephant’s history. Other highlights include the view from “Lucy’s eyes,” porthole windows at the front that faces the beach, as well as a climb up to the top of the elephant’s “howdah.” Even grander views of the fabulous Atlantic Ocean coastline can be obtained from here, and at a height that is still fairly comfortable. You can see just how proud Margate is of Lucy as she is prominently depicted on a water tower a number of blocks in the distance.
Only a hop, skip and a jump from either Cape May or Atlantic City, the “Lucy” attraction is a great way to spend a morning, particularly with kids in tow. The pachyderm is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. (Expect longer hours in the summer season.) Admission prices are $7 for adults, $4 for children aged 3-12, and FREE for tots under 3. Feeling a bit peckish? You can enjoy basic breakfast fare and coffee from the adjacent Lucy’s Grille, while more substantial meals are available later in the day at Lucy’s “Bella Luna” restaurant.
Set of Drifters tip: While Lucy is currently the only surviving elephant of her kind, she was originally joined by two others, one of which resided in Cape May itself! To grab a unique vantage point of “our gal,” make sure to head out to the lovely, and clean, Margate beach! From here, Lucy truly stands out above all the rest!
Lucy The Elephant - 9200 Atlantic Avenue, Margate, NJ 08402, (609) 823-6473
ghost-hunting in Cape May
Despite lacking its wonderful vice and wickedness, Cape May is easily likened to New Orleans with one glance at its creepy Victorian houses that almost beg for your attention. Now Cape May may not be as large or congested as New Orleans’ famed French Quarter, but it certainly seems to have enough unusual goings-ons to suggest an equal amount of paranormal activity. Here, even the street signs look as though they may be haunted!
As within the French Quarter, Cape May’s spirited spirits can be explored on a number of tours catered to “ghost hunters” of all ages. (If you are feeling a bit lazy, or hot under the collar during the balmy nights of summer, trolley tours are also an option.) During our inaugural visit to the Cape, we chose a walking tour that lasted about 1 ½ hours and tread the touristy area closest to the seafront. Funnily enough, as our guide led us from one spot to the next we were hardly surprised by which structures had seen paranormal activity. Some of these manses were so sinister-looking, you had to wonder why any living family would choose them as a home. One of our favorite spots was The Queen’s Hotel at 601 Columbia Avenue. Rumor has it that there are several ghosts roaming this former house of ill repute and gambling den. Some visitors have even reported finding their 3rd floor room ransacked upon returning for the day! Hmmmm. May we suggest always tipping the housekeeping staff?
Perhaps one of the most frightening stories we recall revolved around a young child who fell out from a window of the same building that now houses the Hotel Maycomber on Howard Street. On certain fog-laced evenings, the child’s apparition can still be seen beckoning from the window even when no one is occupying the particular room! (Kids love this story, for better or worse!) The famed Washington Inn is another house that is rumored to occupy a ghost or two. Here, a ghostly voice is supposedly heard in the dead of night! We suppose bedside alarm clocks would seem redundant after awhile? Ironically, we had our own weird experiences while staying in the annex of the Chalfonte Hotel, a property that we were also informed is haunted. (See “digs” below for more information.)
Ghost stories in Cape May are endless. You can experience all the fun - and fright - by checking out the many tours on offer. While the outfit that we selected back in 2005 seems to no longer be in business, Elaine’s “Walking Ghost Tour” seems to be a popular option. Tours leave from Elaine’s Dinner Theater nightly and cost $10 USD for adults and $5 for children. The “Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour” is also $10 USD for adults, but $7 for children aged 3-12. Depending on the day of the week, the 30 minute tour may depart one, two or three times from the Washington Street Mall Visitors’ Information booth. Call ahead for specific schedule.
Elaine’s Walking Ghost Tour - 513 Lafayette Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-1199 or 609-884-4358, http://www.elainesdinnertheater.com/ghost.html
Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour - tours begin at the Washington Street Mall Information Booth, Cape May, NJ 08204, (800) 275-4278 or (609) 884-5404, http://www.capemaymac.org/content/subpage_tours.aspx?id=146
Cape May Point
Your trusty “Set of Drifters” are normally not the type to seek out old military forts from World War II, though there have been exceptions (Montauk, NY anyone?) Still, when said military fort is abandoned out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and only accessible in low tide, we are so there!
We spotted the “Battery 223” structure out in the water on our first trip to Cape May in 2005. You cannot miss it if taking in the popular side trip to nearby Borough of Cape May Point that boasts an impressive 157-ft. tall lighthouse. (But more on that later.) The Battery was constructed out of reinforced concrete in 1942 and finished with a flat roof that was meant to mimic natural beach surroundings so that it could not be easily detected by air. Put to use in 1944 on the grounds of the Cape May Military Reservation, Battery 223 was eventually decommissioned in 1947 and laid out to rot amidst the encroaching salt water waves that thrash the nearby shoreline daily.
You can bet that the Battery is officially “off-limits” these days, riddled with “Keep Out” signage that attempts to scare away would-be teenage denizens looking for a place to drink their parents’ spoilt beer. Those looking to investigate further the six separate shell rooms, air compressor generator or the power station will most likely find only sand these days, not that it mattered to us! We enjoyed making the somewhat long trek to the structure during the sunset’s low tide and snapped multiple pictures of the crumbling façade, shadowed by alternating moments of high and low light.
The aforementioned, and fully restored, Cape May Lighthouse is the area’s other main attraction. Built in 1859 by a US Army Engineer, the lighthouse is the third, and perhaps final?, in a succession of structures that marked the beach for seafaring vessels. These days, the spot is popular for beach-side weddings and for those hearty enough to make the 199-step trip to the top of the structure. There is no better place in Cape May to watch the sunset, so if you have the time, try to squeeze this one into your schedule.
The Cape May Lighthouse is open daily, though hours vary depending on the season - and day of the week. Check the website for detailed information, though if you are visiting between dawn and dusk you should not have any problems. Admission costs $7 USD for adults and $3 USD for children ages 3-12. (Kids under 3 are FREE.) Tours of the lighthouse are also available from the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, though you will have to call ahead to arrange these.
Cape May Point - 215 Lighthouse Avenue, Cape May Point, NJ 08212, (609) 884-5404
We first noticed The Chalfonte during our first visit to Cape May in 2005. What immediately intrigued us was its seemingly “Southern appearance” that boasted architecture more akin to Louisiana than the state of New Jersey. Naturally, there is a method behind the madness! The hotel was established in 1876 by a Civil War Colonel named Henry Sawyer. He chose the location "where the South meets the North" as an homage to his career with the Union Army that later resulted in special recognition in 1875. (Cape May was technically south of the Mason-Dixon even though New Jersey and Delaware were aligned with northern states.)
The oldest continuously-run hotel in town, the 63-room Chalfonte was later taken over by a Virginian family who retained strong Confederate ties. The Satterfield’s “southern hospitality” is ever-present even to this day, regardless of the fact that the property has been expanded considerably, and changed hands three times, since their occupation in the early 1900’s.
We were so impressed by the grounds that we switched our reservations to Chalfonte on our first night in town. Since there was no vacancy in the main building, we were offered accommodations in the carriage house next door. (Large wedding party takeovers are common on weekends!) The humble decor inside our converted attic room was basic yet still comfortable. From inside, the setting’s inverted mansard roof afforded us with a slight feeling that we were not alone. A few unusual things happened during our stay (lights popping off, etc.), and yet we did not feel threatened in any way. Our guess is that with so much history attached to the Chalfonte, there’s bound to be a specter or two on-site! (In fact, ghost tour rumors suggest that it’s the former caretaker who walks the stairs of the main building by night!)
Chalfonte’s overall vibe is very relaxed, perhaps best exemplified by the sweeping veranda that wraps around the front of the building. Thanks to its collection of rocking chairs, the porch is the perfect complement to a balmy summer evening and the best vantage point in which to watch those lazy horse and buggies pass by. And did we mention the adjacent bar? Tucked away to the side of the Chalfonte’s main building is the King Edward Room, a watering hole that seems to be more of a local’s hangout. The friendly lo-key atmosphere inside is still “dressed to the nines” and is somewhat reminiscent of our favorite bar in New Orleans, May Baily’s.
Elsewhere on the property, delicious Dixieland delights can be devoured at the Chalfonte’s Magnolia Room, a dining establishment famous for its Southern Fried Chicken and a variety of similarly-seasoned side dishes. The restaurant also offers a great Sunday brunch that fills up rather quickly! Make sure you book in advance as this place is hopping by 9:00 AM!
The historic Chalfonte always seems to be some hosting some sort of gallery opening or other fun event, and with such great deals on rooms, the property is ultimately a wonderful place to introduce first-timers to all of what Cape May has on offer. Do yourself a favor and stay here!
The Chalfonte - 301 Howard Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-8409
The Abbey and Mainstay Bed & Breakfast Inn
Thanks to the well-intended restoration of so many grand homes, Cape May offers a motherlode of fantastic accommodations in which to stay. While many larger families go the “summer beach rental” route, hunkering down for a week at any one of the many resplendent Victorian manses that offer lodging during summer months, couples and smaller parties will have no trouble finding their own “home away from home” amongst a plethora of well-appointed B&B’s and cottages that are as charming as they are historical.
Your “Set of Drifters” spent our first trip to Cape May at the mighty Chalfonte (see above), while our two subsequent visits unfolded with family at a couple of the aforementioned beach rental properties. And yet, we always have our radar out, scanning for other locations that we deem interesting or potentially worthy of a future stay. Two such spots in Cape May include The Abbey on Gurney Street and The Mainstay Inn on Columbia.
With its imposing Gothic facade, “the Abbey” came to prominence in 1869 as the “summer retreat home” for wealthy coal tycoon John B. McCreary of Pennsylvania. McCreary hired celebrated architect Stephen Decatur Button to design the masterpiece. (Button had already spread his Victorian metal-frame construction magic on towns up and down the Eastern seaboard from Georgia to Pennsylvania.) The home in Cape May immediately impresses with its beautiful ruby red glass arched windows and a 60-ft. tall tower that looms large over Gurney Street. A second property was added only four years later by McCreary’s son. It debuted a Second Empire style with a striking mansard roof that, even today, makes it one of the more fascinating edifices along Columbia.
Like many of Cape May’s finest homes, the Abbey fell into disrepair at the turn of the 20th century and the properties were ultimately sold off at different times. Finally in 1986, a restoration project brought them back together and turned them into a B&B property that has only flourished in the years since. According to praise, Innkeepers Jay and Marianne Schatz are a marvelous host duo, turning up the charm a few notches with tasty breakfasts, daily “tea ‘n tidbit” get-togethers at 4:30 PM, and... a startling collection of wacky hats(?) They certainly sound like our kind of people. We will definitely make it a point to stay here in the future, if only for the sumptuous interiors, which include floor-to-ceiling mirrors, impeccably opulent furniture and evocative gas lamps!
Guided tours of the Abbey Villa are also available at 4:00 PM three days a week. Call to inquire about schedule and fees. You will not want to miss this one as the Abbey is one of only a few buildings in Cape May that has been selected as a landmark by the Historic American Building Survey.
Just down the block from the Abbey lies the Mainstay Inn, an equally exquisite property that bursts at the velveteen seams with Victorian lavishness. Its history, however, is a bit more, how shall we say... lascivious? Constructed in 1872, also by John B. McCreary, the Mainstay was originally dubbed “The Clubhouse,” and according to the inn’s brochure, was a “pleasure palace” that catered to “gentlemen” who sought out a discreet location for gambling and “other amusements.” Can you say bordello? (Shucks! We’re hooked already.)
With a sweeping wrap-around veranda, private terraces and some serious tree foliage hanging over the front yard, a visit to the Mainstay Inn comes with a bit more privacy than other B&B’s that dot Columbia Avenue. Inside, plush interiors decorate a cozy Drawing Room and Parlor with 14-ft. ceilings. It’s the perfect setting in which to meet fellow travelers. Individual rooms come with more modern features such as flat-screen TV’s, Wi-Fi and Bose radios. Some even have their own whirlpool tubs and private fireplaces! If you are looking for comfort at the beach, the Mainstay seems a safe bet, but book in advance as there are only 12 rooms!
The Abbey - 34 Gurney Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-4506, http://www.abbeybedandbreakfast.com/
The Mainstay Bed & Breakfast Inn - 635 Columbia Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-8690, http://www.mainstayinn.com/
Blue Pig Tavern at Congress Hall
No visitor to Cape May will be able to escape the beauty and magnificence of “Congress Hall,” the grand hotel that is at the center of town (figuratively if not literally). Congress Hall was originally built in 1816 as a Colonial-era boarding house for the burgeoning tourist trade. Builder Thomas H. Hughes named it “The Big House,” and it’s easy to see why as a staggering number of 55 white columns encircle the block-long edifice. Since “The Big House” was perhaps not the most savory of names for a hotel, new proprietors changed it to Congress Hall when Thomas was elected to the House of Representatives in 1828.
After a fire all but decimated the property some fifty years later, Congress Hall was rebuilt and restored to look much as it did back in the day. In the years that followed, the hotel continued to prosper, housing a number of vacationing US Presidents, and inspiring famed jazz composer John Philip Sousa to create the “Congress Hall March.”
Sadly, like much of Cape May in the early 1900’s, Congress Hall fell into a state of disrepair, shutting its doors for almost 20 years! These days, after a series of lavish renovations, the hotel is the crown jewel of Cape May, and The Blue Pig Tavern, its premiere dining option. On our most recent visit to Cape May in August of 2011, we decided to finish off the three-day trip with a dinner at one of Cape May’s most lauded restaurants.
The Blue Pig Tavern offers both indoor and outdoor seating, though one look at the pink-and-white broad stripes inside had us clamoring back out the front door for the garden! After a bit of confusion at the maitre d’ stand, we were seated smack dab in the middle of a brick-covered patio, only partially covered from the encroaching drops of a mid-summer heat storm, not that it mattered. In truth, there is no better spot at dusk to take in the local color and hubbub of Cape May’s summer scene than the Blue Pig’s picturesque garden which is lit by charming strands of old-fashioned light bulbs!
After opening the enticing dinner menu, we were immediately impressed with Executive Chef Bill Fausey’s “seaside American classic” dishes that certainly offered more than a casual nod to comfort food. While appetizing steak, seafood, and burger choices abounded, it just happened to be “Tuesday Pasta Night,” and thus, we opted for specialty selections as suggested by our waiter. A combination of little neck clams with pesto, bacon and Blue Pig Tavern ale was tasty, yet entirely filling, particularly after a one-month long respite from carbs! Our libations were equally as impressive. (If memory serves, we opted for the “Blind Pig” and the “Blueberry Caipirinha” that went down a treat!)
After all is said and done, the only aspect of our meal at the Blue Pig Tavern we did find pleasure in was the fact that our 20-something server was all too busy chatting up a nearby table of cougars! It was a “six-top” which, in the biz, usually means an automatic gratuity added to bill! The flirtatious server should have spent more time on his smaller tables to assure full tip percentages all around! Other than the annoyance of having to wait 10 minutes for our check, we truly enjoyed the experience at Blue Pig and certainly wished we had made the trek down here earlier in the trip for breakfast or lunch. There’s always next time!
The Blue Pig Tavern is open for breakfast Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM until 2:00 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 AM until 3:00 PM. Lunch is on tap Monday through Friday from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM. The dinner menu is served Sunday through Thursday from 5:00 PM until 9:00 PM and Fridays and Saturdays from 5:00 PM until 10:00 PM. No matter what time of day, the overstuffed Blue Pig Tavern menu, complete with “Blue Plate Specials” make it a must-stop for anyone visiting the Cape!
Blue Pig Tavern at Congress Hall - 39 Perry Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-8422
Those looking for a casual, but cool diner vibration while visiting Cape May have found what they’re looking for in George’s Place. In business at the corner of Beach and Perry Streets for more than 40 years now, George’s Place is small, but busy! We stumbled upon the establishment during our first trip to Cape May in 2005. Since that premiere visit, we have seen George’s cull attention from not only in a series of restaurant reviews, but also an appearance on a popular Food Network program! So, what’s George’s secret? In short, it’s the food. Hummus, Halloumi cheese, falafels and several other dishes we can’t pronounce (or spell) make up a Greek-inspired menu that prides itself on dishes comprised from fresh and healthy ingredients. Portions are decent and, yes, very tasty!
Rule #1... If you want to eat here, you will probably have to wait in line. We managed to squeeze in for lunch after about a 5-minute wait and had a duo of delicious sandwiches accompanied with fresh fruit. (The “Harvarti Panini” features grilled chicken, fresh basil pesto, tomatoes and honey!) Though they’ve got some tough competition from Uncle Bill’s across the street, breakfast and brunch are really the specialties here, and people come from around the state to taste samplings like George’s “Cinnamon Nut Pancakes” and “Tiramisu Waffles.” The staff seems jovial, if not a bit rushed, though their joking made the experience of eating here as fun as it was tasty.
According to their Facebook page, George’s is only open from 8:00 AM until 1:30 PM, though we hear dinner is also served Saturdays from 5:00 PM until 8:30 PM. Look out for extended hours in the summer season. Set of Drifters tip: Rule #2... Bring cash as George’s Place does not accept plastic!
George’s Place - 301 Beach Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-6088
Elaine’s Dinner Theater & Haunted Mansion Restaurant
Most travelers to Cape May will arrive by car via Route 9/ Highway 109 which ultimately segues onto Lafayette Street. You know you are in town once you reach the small triangular park at Decatur that showcases a true “Americana” bandstand at its center. But visitors might want to look to the right as well, for they will be passing by Elaine at just about this same time. Some days, the “piratetress,” festooned in gypsy-esque bangles and sashes, peers from behind a shuddered window, while on others, she stands more proudly at the terrace of the beautiful Victorian mansion in which she resides. But who is she?
She is a dummy, the frightening kind you might spot on sale at one of those annual Halloween stores that sell everything from adult baby costumes to mummies popping out of cauldrons. “Elaine” has been there for years, looking better and worse depending on her current coat of ghostly white paint. She is the mascot of “Elaine’s Dinner Theater & Haunted Mansion Restaurant.” Friends, if you are looking for kitsch in Cape May, your search is over.
Now, Elaine’s is first and foremost a Bed & Breakfast. Here, visitors to Cape May can enjoy a pleasant home base that is centrally located just two blocks from the beach and only one from the much-ballyhooed Washington Street Mall (see “goodies” below). But Elaine’s Bed & Breakfast also comes with a special feature that you may not find everywhere. It is apparently haunted by a young child who roams the hallways at night searching for its parents! How pleasant. It’s this paranormal association that takes Elaine’s to an all-new level.
Embracing their resident ghost, and the Victorian charm found all over Cape May, Elaine’s has transformed their ground floor into what could almost be dubbed a small amusement park, complete with gift shop thank you very much! A charming bar stands in as the waiting area for not one, but two different dinner theaters. One room showcases Victorian-era themed farces in an elegant setting just this side of utilitarian. Rotating shows mock fun at the morals of the day, and charm with their innocent attempt at bringing the authenticity of this historical time period to life. Just down the hall, a second theater caters more to families. This is the Haunted Mansion Restaurant, a black-lit dining room crammed with tables and dripping with all items of the macabre (many of which were not actually in working order during our visit.) The vibe here is definitely more “State Fair Haunted House” than “Disney’s Haunted Mansion.”
Thanks to a trying-too-hard-to-be-funny moose head that hangs on the wall near the entrance, expectations for the dinner show were lowered somewhat upon arrival. And when said moose head actually started talking as one of only three characters in the multi-act “play,” we knew we were in further trouble, particularly since the moose head’s mouth didn’t actually move! Nevertheless, this experience was one of those times where our expectations were ultimately met, albeit in reverse.
Our waitress had a little difficulty in getting our group’s orders from the prix-fixe menu, certainly not for want of trying. (We had 17 people lining the sides of our very long table). Still, once the food started flying, we were quite impressed with how well the servers handled plating the different courses in between “acts” of the play. We really enjoyed our asparagus bisque, and the 8 oz. cut of NY Strip Steak delivered thereafter was cooked surprisingly perfect! Tasty garlic mashed potatoes and Key Lime pie rounded out a meal that was ultimately better than we anticipated, yet unfortunately also better than the show itself...
Our “Haunted Mansion” mystery revolved around a typical ghostly cliché, a spirit who does not know he is dead and must find a way to pass onto the next level. While the writing of the show left a lot to be desired, the two main actors certainly tried their best to make the most of the limp material, ad-libbing here and there in accented voices that really poured on the ham. Clearly, this was a presentation meant to humor both adults and children alike, and yet the jokes were so middle-of-the-road that neither constituency really got much out of it. If you have kids in tow, they will enjoy the ambiance in and of itself, especially if they are one of the audience members singled out to participate in some of the sight gags. Truth be told, our “Haunted Mansion Restaurant” experience really hit its stride when the room erupted into a conga line set to, what else?, “Jump in Line (Shake, Shake Senora)” from Beeteljuice!
We left Elaine’s feeling that there were a lot of missed opportunities that could have enriched the presentation much further. The most obvious perhaps was the exclusion of the rickety skeletal bartender that features so prominently at the entrance. He should have been the “straight man” to the other two “live” performers rather than that silly moose head, specifically since it is bartenders who so often have such great “war stories” to tell! Nevertheless, posing at the well-decorated spot gave everyone in our group a small thrill. And you can bet it’s no coincidence that this photo opportunity comes replete with a large tip jar that the main actor joked was really for their “vodka fund.” No doubt. If we had to perform hokey jokes night after night for large families of tourists, we would certainly need a drink or two as well!
“Elaine” hosts dinner theater experiences nightly at 7:30 PM. The cost is not cheap. Adult tickets to the Victorian-era dinner cost $44.95 USD, while children can get in for $24.95 USD. Oddly, a “teen” price is also listed on their website at $34.95 USD. The Haunted Mansion Restaurant offers slightly lower costs, $34.95 for adults and $24.95 for children. (Prices do not include tax, tip, appetizers, soda's or drinks from the bar.)
Set of Drifters tip: The actors from the Haunted Mansion Restaurant also double as ghost tour hosts that take groups out onto the streets of Cape May directly following the show. This is at an additional cost that is memory serves was around $17 USD. If so inclined, make sure to let the actors know on your way out of the theater since space is limited and tours fill up quickly if the theater is busy. (See "sights" above for more information.)
Elaine’s Dinner Theater - 513 Lafayette Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-1199 or 609-884-4358
The Boiler Room at Congress Hall
As regular visitors to Cape May over the years, we have formed a few summer traditions. One of these is a visit to Congress Hall on our first night in town. The impressive Colonial-style building is omnipresent in Cape May, a historic landmark that now houses one of the most posh hotels in town. Trust us, you cannot miss it on any stroll to, or from, Washington Street Mall. (See “eats” above for more information.)
Congress Hall also just happens to be the home of the “Boiler Room,” a subterranean nightclub named after the large device that once served as the block-long building’s main source of hot water. Nowadays, with live music featuring several times a week, the refined basement attracts a diverse cross-section of imbibers. Ultimately, it’s our preferred watering hole in which to escape the balmy nighttime heat of Cape May, and yet, the Boiler Room also has another trick up its sleeve... Thanks to its proximity to Philadelphia, the bar regularly features musicians from Philly who escape the summer humidity of their city to entertain Cape May visitors by the beach. It’s a union that pleases everyone.
Our favorite of these performers from the City of Brother Love is Frank Bey, whom we have had the pleasure of seeing several times at Congress Hall, some of which were simply serendipitous. Bey began his singing career at the tender age of four while living in Millen, Georgia. In the years since, he has toured throughout the country and abroad with bands like the Otis Redding Review. Now presumably in his Sixties, Frank Bey performs classic sets of funky Soul and Blues to crowds that simply cannot get enough. But don’t let his advanced age fool you! This cat can out-funk any 20 year old hipster who sets foot in the joint. (The Boiler Room crowd grows decidedly younger as the night progresses.)
Frank and his talented band certainly have their groupies, as evidenced by the dolled up cougars who sing and sway near the front of the Boiler Room’s dropped dance floor. While his set-list is never duplicated, fans have their favorites from the singer’s magical mix of classic Blues hits and original compositions, each of which he manages to make his own. Our most beloved tune has to be “Hit The Penny,” a somewhat risqué ditty that heats up the room with both humor - and a groove.
Since the temperature inside the basement can get downright chilly in the winter months, the Boiler Room at Congress Hall is only open Mid-March through December, and even in that limited time, uncorks bottles on Friday and Saturday nights only! During the height of the summer season, expect additional events on Thursdays and Sundays. Check their online calendar to find out when Frank Bey and his band are playing next!
Set of Drifters video: For a clip from this event, check out our YouTube channel!
Boiler Room at Congress Hall - 39 Perry Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-6507, http://www.congresshall.com/content/boilerroom.html
Frank Bey - http://www.frankbeymusic.com/
The Pilot House
At times, your “Set of Drifters” have a little difficulty categorizing a location. Is this place more a restaurant or a bar? Is this shopping experience really just more an “essential?” Then there are those times when the decision is made for us. A visit to The Pilot House, a casual eatery just steps off from Cape May’s main thoroughfare, offered one of these situations.
By night, we immediately vibed off the spot, its red glow pouring out from windows that looked into a quasi-vintage seafaring themed establishment. We made a note to check back another day since we had just stuffed ourselves on “Blizzards” at the local Dairy Queen (see “goodies” below). Checking out the menu from the door later in our trip, we presumed their selection of seafood and chops would suit us just fine - particularly since we were off our beach diet for the week - and thus, we headed inside.
The ambiance inside The Pilot House is dated, a term we use to describe locations that haven’t had a renovation in a long time, and for some odd reason, do not take advantage of the “kitsch factor” that could easily bring the atmosphere up a notch or two. Let’s face it, The Pilot House is utilitarian for families by day, and local imbibers by night. Either constituency probably could care less how authentic the relics on the walls are!
Upon sitting down, our eyes immediately zeroed in on the small drink menu that stood atop our table. After glancing at the options, we had a tough time remembering that we had actually chosen The Pilot House for lunch, and sustenance in the form of food! Our no-frills waitress helped us pick out the best cocktail options from the list and then took our food order just before a table of 12 sat down adjacent to us! We knew the service would slow down from that point on.
While our drinks were absolutely tasty, the sublime “Strawberry Cheesecake Daiquiri” easily topped the “Pound Cake Martini,” a concoction perhaps a bit too dependent on pineapple juice! The cocktails were not terribly strong, though at 1:00 PM in the afternoon we were not looking to get bombed, especially in that heat! And hey, if you like your drinks sweet, you’ve come to right place!
Our food selections did not fare as well I am afraid. While the Clam Chowder was tasty, the crab cake platter and grouper sandwich platter left a lot to be desired. (Set of Drifters tip: Any time the word “platter” is used on a menu, you can bet the quality will be compromised.) Perhaps we ordered the wrong items, or maybe the kitchen was having an off-day? Either way, we suggest a trip to The Pilot House is better anticipated in terms of its charming cocktails rather than its food. Still, if you are looking to feed the kids on the cheap, you could do worse. Kids’ entries start at $5 USD.
The Pilot House is open daily for lunch and dinner. Hours vary depending on the day of the week, but a safe bet is that the spot will be open from 12:00 PM until 10:00 PM. Happy Hour runs Monday through Friday from 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM.
The Pilot House - 142 Decatur Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-3449
The Ebbitt Room at The Virginia Hotel and Cottages
At times, your “Set of Drifters” have a little difficulty categorizing a location. Is this place more a restaurant or a bar? Is this shopping experience really just more an “essential?” Sound familiar? (It’s called humor, folks!) Sometimes, we have to categorize a place as one thing since we did not indulge in it as another. Such is the case with The Ebbitt Room at The Virginia Hotel and Cottages.
We had first visited the Virginia back in 2006 when its ground floor still featured a whimsical candy store/ antique trove. A recent renovation has certainly changed the “down home Americana” vibe quite a bit, upping the ante of the landmark building originally constructed in 1897. The newly chic-ified grounds feature 24 rooms in the main building and five additional cottages out back. The spot is now one of Cape May’s most celebrated establishments, thanks in part to its well-received dining experience, The Ebbitt Room.
Now, we cannot vouch for the hotel itself, but we can sing the praises of The Ebbitt Room, or at least its bar. We had tried to get a reservation for dinner on our last night in town, but the award winning spot was booked solid! While “PLAN B” was soon solidified at the Blue Pig Tavern (see “eats” above), we still made it a priority to first check out The Ebbitt Room’s “Front Porch Bar,” named as such for the impeccably stylish veranda that wraps around the front of the hotel. The friendly bartender was a young bloke presumably from some Eastern European enclave. He immediately made us feel welcome, particularly by offering us tastes of other drinks he had just mixed for nearby patrons. The Ebbitt Room’s (lethally) inventive drink menu includes such clever selections as “The All Organic Green Tea Martini,” “Ginger Lemonade” and the “Cucumber Saketini.” Try one - try them all, but be prepared, these babies pack a punch. Luckily, most everything in Cape May is within walking distance, so you do not have to worry about the drive home!
While a more casual menu is served on the “Front Porch,” most barflies are waiting for their table inside the Ebbitt Room itself, where Executive Chef Lucas Manteca sates tummies with a variety of seafood and French cuisine-inspired meat options. The “Raw Bar” is a popular option, serving up heaps of Alaskan King-Crab, Little Neck clams and beef carpaccio to those so inclined. Make sure to save room for dessert as well. The “Sticky Toffee Pudding” sounds absolutely impossible to pass up.
The Ebbitt Room is open nightly for dinner from 5:00 PM until 11:00 PM, though the “Front Porch” serves a more standard “bar menu” during lunch hours.
The Ebbitt Room at The Virginia Hotel and Cottages - 22 Jackson Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-5700
shopping on Washington Street Mall
No matter how big or small, every city that has the goods to attract visitors will undoubtedly feature one communal spot that we like to call “tourist hell.” In Cape May, that spot happens to be the Washington Street Mall, a pedestrian thoroughfare that spans three blocks smack dab in the middle of town.
Washington Street Mall is no “3rd Street Promenade,” yet we are not sure if that is a good or a bad thing. While we did not spot any annoying singer/ songwriter buskers or clowns painted in silver, we imagine they must exist from time to time, and though there may be no deluge of brand name stores like Express or Sephora... that means there is no Express or Sephora, not even an Old Navy! Instead, Washington Street Mall collects together a series of one-off stores that purvey exactly what you might expect from an old Victorian-era town: cutesy-poo small-town Americana crap! Take a handful of shops from either side of the street and you’ll come up with the same exact items: fudge, toffee, scary dolls, lady clothes and wind chimes. No, there simply is no edge in this joint.
Our favorite spot has to be Atlantic Books, if only for the fact that the well-stocked shop offers something for everyone. Housed in an old bank building, Atlantic often features great discounts on books that just may be your next summer beach read! And if you are looking for a good place to find books on Cape May and its history, stop here!
It must be said that we are also a fan of the local Dairy Queen. There just aren’t enough of these around these days! The Cape May outpost is impossible to miss, thanks to the weird freaky mural of smiling children that adorns its exit. (Is that Maggie Gyllenhaal?) Multiple visits to DQ prove that it was our ultimate guilty pleasure, whether our passion happened to be the traditional chocolate-dipped soft serve cone or a new-fangled coffee/ chocolate chip cookie dough Blizzard treat!
Other sweet spots on Washington Street include Morrow’s Nut House and Dellas 5 & 10. While Morrow’s may feature scary child dolls in its front window, the aroma of the candy-covered popcorn and roasted nuts found inside easily sways visitors beyond the first impression. Dellas 5 &10, a price-gouging “General Store” run by the Real Estate company that has basically run the city since the 1940’s, also features a pleasant 1950’s-era soda shop in the back. While the setting is ace, take your ice cream to go. That way you can browse through Dellas and view their unintentionally funny merchandise. (The men’s underwear and women’s faux UGG boot counter come to mind.)
While there really is not much to actually purchase on Washington Street, a stroll down the mall is mandatory for visitors to Cape May, at least once during each trip. (Since there are so many restaurants and bars in the area, it will be pretty difficult to avoid the attraction no matter what your buying preferences may be.) While all shops retain their own operating hours, most are open well into the 9:00 PM hour in order to take advantage of the cooler temperatures during the steaming summer months.
Set of Drifters tip: Washington Street Mall hosts special events throughout the year (Art Walks, Antique Auto Shows, etc.) Check their website for more information, or make a stop at the Information Booth while in town. The kiosk also just happens to be the starting point for many a walking or trolley tour in town, and is located at the corner of Washington and Ocean only a hop, skip and a jump from the public “Comfort Station.” Now that’s some old-time Americana whimsy!
Washington Street Mall - 401 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-0555, http://www.washingtonstreetmall.com/
Atlantic Books - 500 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 898-9694, http://www.atlanticbooks.us
Dairy Queen - 320 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-0421
Dellas 5 & 10 - 503 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204 (609) 884-4568, http://www.Dellas5and10.com
Morrow’s Nut House - 321 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-3300
New Jersey thrifting
We have said it before and we’ll say it again. We loooove thrift shopping! Luckily for us, New Jersey offers its own unusual assortment of stores just waiting to be stumbled upon in the course of any crisscross of the vertically-aligned state. During an earlier trip to Long Beach Island in 2004, we unexpectedly discovered a number of interesting shops in Little Egg Harbor, a township that lies between L.B.I. and Atlantic City. Now, “Little Egg” is not necessarily close to Cape May’s center, but if you are traveling down from New York City or other points north, a side-trip via scenic Route 9 will be well worth the added time on your journey.
The best thrifting opportunity we had along Route 9 was at the Lighthouse Alliance shop, a community church-run spot that features a treasure trove of impeccably-conditioned vintage items at great prices. The only problem we encountered here was the result of the limited space in our small rental car that prevented us from carting off any of the cool furniture items on offer! That entire set of chairs fashioned out of barrels, and that super funky 1970’s lampshade made out of resin, would have looked perfect in our pad back home! While scouring the Lighthouse Alliance’s goods, we did manage to grab some nifty vintage “train car” glassware and assortment of other doo-dads small enough to fit inside our suitcase.
Another memorable shopping extravaganza “closer to home” can be found at the Cape May Antique Center, a consignment shop housed in a fairly large building with well over 50 different vendors. Here, an impressive collection of traditional antiquities competes with more modern collectible items like baseball cards, vinyl records and vintage action figures. It is definitely a fun place to browse around as it also gives you a general sense of the history that envelops the area. We’ve spent a few hours on multiple Cape May trips just looking at the unique objects d’art on display here that, while perhaps a bit out of our budget, are nonetheless pleasing to the eyes. Outside, a collection of rusty iron gates and pottery of all shapes and sizes may just proffer the perfect piece to complete your terraced garden back home!
Lighthouse Alliance Community Church Thrift Store - 481 US Highway 9 N S, Little Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08087, (609) 296-8738
Cape May Antique Center - 1228 State Hwy #109 (at 2nd Avenue), Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 898-4449
transportation to, from, and within Cape May
Unless one is using the the ferry system that connects Cape May to nearby Delaware, visitors to this Victorian-era enclave will most likely be arriving by car or bus. The voyage from all points north is made possible via the Garden State Parkway, which although riddled with many a toll booth, is actually quite a lovely drive, particularly as you get closer to the Cape.
The ironic thing is that once you enter Cape May your vehicle is hardly necessary, unless you have situated your clan blocks from the beach and have a horde of sand castle toys to shuttle back and forth for the little ‘uns. Cape May and its town center and main attractions are all easily walkable, and a joyous stroll they provide. Every street is so quaint and scenic that you will undoubtedly find yourself strategizing a longer way home just to hit a new block not yet examined.
Of course, the township of Cape May knows a good tourist dollar when they see one and offers you a variety of other options when your feet have had enough. Both trolley tours and horse drawn carriage rides come in an assortment of preferences. Interested in Cape May’s history and architecture? How about its storied ghosts? Hosted tours will keep you informed from Cape May Harbor all the way to Sunset Beach. Of course, if you are looking for a little more peace and quiet and just want to neck with your sweetheart, we’re sure that can be arranged as well.
Cape May Carriage Company has been offering their turn-of-the-century goodness for decades since Cape May’s resurgence in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Tours come in half-hour increments and are given daily - weather permitting - during summer months and for the week leading up to Christmas In the off-season, tours are only available on the weekends. Specific times are listed on the company’s website. If you are feeling the need to plan ahead, check it out. Otherwise, visit their outpost at the corner of Ocean Street and the Washington Street Mall to purchase tickets and arrange your trip. The price for a carriage ride is $40 USD for two adults ($12 for each additional adult or $6 for each additional child ages 2-11). A group carriage ride can also be purchased to share with other families. Again, adults are $12 USD while children are $6 USD. Tickets can be purchased in cash or travelers checks ONLY - no credit or debit cards are accepted.
Cape May Trolley Tour is a less clip-cloppity, and perhaps a fresher-smelling alternative, though arguably not as quaint. Their objective is ultimately to educate the first time visitor to Cape May on what makes the community tick, focusing on its history and struggle to remain vital throughout the decades. Tours are offered multiple times a day in the high season while a more limited schedule is available in the off months. Make sure to check their website for current offerings. Trolley rides cost $10 USD for adults and $7 for children ages 3-12.
The aforementioned Cape May-Lewes Ferry is yet another option available to those who want to maximize their surroundings while in Cape May. The port is located on the north side of town near the harbor that you’ll pass when leaving the Garden State Parkway behind. Trips leave the marina multiple times a day and carry passengers 17-miles across the Delaware Bay. On the other side, sight-seers are welcomed by a quaint village that, among other things, boasts tax-free shopping! Nearby Dewey Beach and the Rehoboth Arts League are other top draws.
If you are in Cape May for more than two or three days, this option is a great way to break up the trip! The Cape May-Lewes Ferry operates daily from 7:30 AM with the last trip back from Delaware leaving at 6:00 PM. Ticket prices vary whether you are bringing your car or not. If you just want to head over for the day, sans vehicle, expect to pay $18 USD round trip for adults in the peak season and $9 USD for children ages 6-13. (Under is 6 years old is FREE.)
Set of Drifters tip: Still looking to work off that last crab cake? Walking tours, specifically of the ghost variety (see “sights” above), are a huge hit in Cape May. We are told that guided trips through a handful of historical homes are even available on select weekends of the year. Check with the Visitor’s Information booth on Washington Street Mall for more information.
Cape May Carriage Company - 100 Stevens Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-4466,
Cape May Trolley Tour - 1048 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-5404 or (800) 275-4278, http://www.capemaymac.org/content/subpage_main.aspx?id=162
Cape May-Lewes Ferry - 1200 Lincoln Boulevard, Cape May, NJ 08204, (800) 643-3779