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May/2007 * 05/30/2007

 

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The shoreline of Cape May : Photo by Margaret Montet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying a Kite on the Beach : Photo by Margaret Montet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cape May Lighthouse : Photo by Margaret Montet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cape May - Your Last Chance
By Margaret Montet

Cape May is your last chance. Driving south on the Garden State Parkway, you pass plenty of exits for shore towns (Atlantic City, Ocean City, Avalon, Wildwood), but Cape May is the last at Exit Zero. Located at the southern tip of New Jersey and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay and Cape May Canal, this shore town calls itself "America’s Oldest Seashore Resort.”

 

On warm days in non-summer months, a few visitors will sit on blankets and chairs to relax by the crashing Atlantic waves. Some draw, some take photographs, some picnic, and some fly kites. Fishing boats, sightseeing boats, and the occasional yacht cruise by. The dune grasses wave in the wind signaling kite flyers it is time to launch their new kites. The sand-colored lighthouse stands guard yards away.
This is Cape May, known as Cape Island to the Dutch whalers who settled this spot in the seventeenth century. Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey was the first recorded visitor in 1621. In the eighteenth century, wealthy citizens from Philadelphia vacationed here, and later vacationers from Baltimore, New York and Washington joined them. The candy-colored Victorian architecture from this era still dominates the town’s landscape and gives it a distinctive flavor.

Once the throngs of tourists leave around Labor Day weekend, the town remains vibrant. Bike rental shops rent big and little bikes, tandems, and surreys for touring. Horse-drawn carriages carry guests around the island. Whale and dolphin watching boats still explore the waters. There are two professional theater companies in this town, and frequent concerts. World-class bird-watching is a big draw in nearby Cape May Point. Many casual and gourmet restaurants remain open through the winter holidays.

Known as the Bed and Breakfast Capital of the World, Cape May boasts hundreds of inns, hotels, bed & breakfasts, and apartment or house rentals. Many of these are the popular Victorian style, but occasionally an unusual architectural style will appear. The recently-renovated Mission Inn was once visited by popular Hollywood stars Tyrone Power, Erroll Flynn, and others. The innkeeper at this California Spanish Mission style inn is Susan Babineau-Roberts. Susan recommends a walk on the beach no matter what the season: “There is nothing as relaxing, interesting and beautiful as a walk along the beach from Poverty Beach to the lighthouse.” She goes on to paint a picture of the landscape: “the awesomeness of the sea, the constantly changing shore line, wildlife, friendly beach strollers and the ‘sun’sational sunsets. “

The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC) is responsible for the amazing selection of walking, boat, and trolley tours through town. Besides its rich Victorian history, due to its peninsular location Cape May also played a key role in World War II, and claims to be home to some mysterious ghosts. All of these and more are themes of MAC tours. There are house and inn tours galore during the popular Victorian Week in October, and there is always a mystery to solve during Sherlock Holmes Weekend in November. For music fans, there is the annual Cape May Music Festival in May, and Jazz Festival in April and November. Convention Hall, situated on the Promenade with an ocean view, offers many events including antique and craft shows, ballroom dancing, and roller skating.

Shopping here is grand: clothing, antiques, nautical-themed souvenirs, hand-made candy, artisan jewelry and fine art seem to be everywhere. Most shops are concentrated on the Washington Street Pedestrian Mall and Beach Avenue. Elegant restaurants featuring seafood and Italian cuisine, and casual pub-style eateries populate Washington Street Mall and the surrounding area.

The most unique shop here would be the thirty-year-old Whale’s Tale at 312 Washington Street Mall. Tucked into this cozy store are distinctive studio jewelry, toys, local interest and children’s books, shells from around the world, bath products and a great selection of the coolest greeting cards around. Chuck and Hilary Pritchard started this shop in 1974, and it has changed little because it works so well!

Cape May is so much more than the average shore town with its rich history, world-class ecotourism, and creature comforts. Yes, the entire town is listed since 1970 on the National Register of Historic Places, and commonly referred to as the Bed & Breakfast capital of the world, but did you know it is also the home of the annual Tomato Festival in September and the Lima Bean Festival in October?

GETTING AROUND
Information:
Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May: 609-884-5508 or www.capemaychamber.com
Request a visitor’s guide at: request@capemaychamber.com

Find out about events from www.capemay.com or www.capemaytimes.com

Lodging:
The Mission Inn Bed & Breakfast rates range from $150 to 350. The inn is one block from the ocean and has been visited by Erroll Flynn, Tyrone Power, Gloria Swanson, and other famous movie stars.
800-800-8380 or 609-884-8380 or www.missioninn.net

Congress Hall Hotel rates range from $115 to 395. Some rooms have private balconies with ocean views.
888-944-1816 or 609-884-8421 or www.congresshall.com

The Inn at 22 Jackson Bed & Breakfast rates range from $125 to $365. A full breakfast buffet is served every morning.
800-452-8177 or 609-884-2226 or www.innat22jackson.com

Dining:
Mangia Mangia (family style, BYOB, dinner)
609-884-2429 or www.mangiamangiacapemay.com

Stumpo’s (casual BYOB, lunch & dinner)
609-898-9555 or www.stumpositaliangrill.com

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (casual breakfast & lunch)
609-884-7199

The Lobster House (fine dining, lunch & dinner)
609-884-8296 or www.thelobsterhouse.com

Attractions:
Whale’s Tale
609-884-4808 or www.whalestalecapemay.com

Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts; trolley, walking and boat tours, and the Emlen Physick Estate
609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or www.capemaymac.org

Cape May Stage
609-884-1341 or www.capemaystage.com

East Lynne Theater Company
609-884-5898 or www.eastlynnetheater.org

Cape May Bird Observatory
609-861-0700

Cape May Whale Watcher
609-884-5445 or 800-786-5445 or www.capemaywhalewatcher.com



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