Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Cape May, New Jersey

cape may new jersey shore sunset beach

We visited Cape May with some friends who've been going there at least once a year with their kids for many years. I wasn't sure if it would live up to all their hype, but this gem of a beach town actually did. Cape May feels more New England than Jersey Shore. It's charming and laid back, with many dining options and a great beach that somehow never gets too crowded. I loved that people biked everywhere and that almost every popular lodging or restaurant was situated in a quaintly remodeled Victorian house.

Where to Stay

We stayed the weekend at the Montreal Beach Resort, which provided beach access across the street that included a set of chairs and an umbrella. The hotel had a decent pool and a great restaurant downstairs, Harry's. The biggest drawback was the location, just a little too far from town square to walk to with small children (about three-quarters of a mile). It can be done, but would be difficult in the heat or after a long day at the beach.

Our friends are regulars at the Carroll Villa Hotel, a bed and breakfast right off town square. We ate breakfast at its restaurant, The Mad Batter, and loved the location, but would probably stick with the Montreal for the pool and beach access.

What to Do

The first thing we did in Cape May was drive out to Sunset Beach to look for the famous Cape May diamonds along the shore. The diamonds are actually quartz pebbles that have been worn by the ocean to the point where they're translucent. It was no easy feat to gather this handful of "diamonds"! They're small and hidden among the millions of other small pebbles found along the beach.

cape may diamonds new jersey shore sunset beach

Cape May's Washington Square Mall is a town square of sorts, about three blocks long, with a ton of shopping, food and activities packed into that outdoor space. The pedestrian mall is charming and lively in the evening, and definitely worth a stroll. We even stumbled upon the a big band concert at the Rotary Park Bandstand nearby on a Saturday evening and stopped to listen to the lively swing music.

cape may rotary park bandstand jersey shore

Something that a lot of visitors seem to do is bike from the center of town to the Cape May Lighthouse, just a few miles away. We drove up to the lighthouse to admire it, but didn't climb to the top to take in the view because it was such a hot day.

cape may lighthouse new jersey

We spent one afternoon at our friends' favorite place in town, the tasting room of the Cape May Brewing Co. Here you're welcome to try beer flights while hanging out at oversize picnic tables under a tent. We munched on the crab guac and chips from the Taco Shop next door and sampled our beers while the kids sipped root beer and ginger ale, and played giant Jenga.

cape may brewing company tasting room new jersey

We only spent a long weekend in Cape May, and probably could've used one more day to see it all. Some things I had on our itinerary but we missed out on were the Cape May Zoo, biking the promenade along the beach, and the Cape May Winery.

Where to Eat

The dining scene in Cape May is quite varied, offering everything from breakfasts on wraparound porches to takeout for the beach, to fine dining. We sampled a little bit of everything. My favorite meal was the lobster roll I got from Quincy's, which I devoured on the beach. The kids and my husband got hot dogs from the popular Hot Dog Tommy's.

hot dog tommy's cape may beach jersey shore

For breakfast, we ate at the aforementioned Mad Batter, with its trendy, brunchy vibe, as well as George's Place (diner-style breakfast) and Harry's (breakfast with a beach view). For dinner, we had two fabulous meals at Younger Brother and 401 Bank Street; reservations are highly recommended for both during the high season.

What's Nearby

About 20 minutes from Cape May is Wildwood, another beach town that's got a proper boardwalk and all the things that come with that: carnival games, an amusement park, a water park, even Zorb on the beach. We spent a brief afternoon there playing the carnival games.

wildwood new jersey shore boardwalk

Wildwood is also apparently where all the Cape May locals go to grab fresh seafood. Some place we wanted to check out but ultimately didn't have time to visit were Crab and Seafood Shack and Sun Dog on the Beach.