It is unfortunate that the Garden State frequently receives a bad rap and is regularly the butt of jokes such as Woody Allen’s quip: “I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and it was New Jersey,” or the inevitable “You are from New Jersey? What exit?” or the alleged state motto: “You have the right to remain silent…”
In reality, there is a whole different region of New Jersey that is perhaps one of the East Coast’s best kept secret: Cape May. Proudly located on the southern point of Cape May Peninsula, the town of Cape May is a delightful seaport featuring abundant Victorian architecture and picturesque inns, and several places of interest. Cape May is unique in historical sites and museums and home of one of the country’s top ten beaches, with more than a few beach vacation rentals from which to decide on.
Of course, with a lengthy maritime history that comprises a prosperous fishing industry as well as residence to both the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, it goes without saying that boating and sailing is excellent. Competitive sailors often use area waters as a rehearsal ground for the famous Nantucket Race.
Cape May was named for the area’s earliest European tourist, Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mej of Hoorn, Netherlands, in 1620. The city’s significance as a principal seaside destination resort predates the founding of the United States. It was well-liked with wealthy Philadelphians from about 1750 forward, and was a top holiday spot by the mid 1800s. All of that early colonial structure burned in the great fire of 1876, which in effect leveled the town. This is why the Victorian style of architecture is predominant today. In fact, Cape May has the biggest assembly of Victorian architecture of any metropolis in the nation aside from San Francisco with Port Townsend Washington being a close third. Much of this great Victorian architecture can be found in the various lovely bed and breakfasts located through out Cape May.
While it can be great to lodge right on the beach, you will find that a rental can be a great deal less expensive if you are agreeable to walk even a few blocks. That said, the owners of these rentals are exceptionally conscientious about repairs and maintenance, so even if you have to reserve it long distance over the internet, you can be assured of first-rate lodgings for your Cape May holiday.
If you plan on doing any fishing, your first stop ought to be the South Jersey Marina in order to get the gear you need to reel in the big ones. If going to sea on a boat is not your wish, you may be surprised to learn that the Hidden Valley Ranch is right in the vicinity. This is where you can go horseback riding and birdwatching and it is one of the best birding locations in the country and see the scenic, rural segment of New Jersey that is faraway from any freeway exit.
Theater lovers have several options while staying in Cape May; Elaine’s Dinner Theater, the East Lynne Theater Company and Cape May Stage, all impart fine theatrical productions throughout the year. And, to get a genuine sense of Cape May history, do not miss the Cape May Gingerbread Tour by Trolley.