The Nation’s Oldest Seaside Resort

The Jersey Shore gets a bad rap.

Whether it’s an Ocean Avenue full of bennies, Seaside Heights full of rowdy, drunken teenagers, or Asbury Park’s dirty, needle-ridden beaches, everyone has something bad to say about the famous coastline ruling the East Coast. However, when we think of the biggest cities of the Shore – Wildwood, Belmar, Atlantic City – one place that tends to escape the list is Cape May.

Why is this? Probably because Cape May doesn’t really fit the mold of the typical Jersey Shore beach town. There’s no insane florescent-lighted clubs, bungalows stuffed full of wild college kids or action-packed boardwalks. But this isn’t a reason to avoid the town – hell, if you want those things you can save yourself some Parkway driving and stay more north. However, if you’re bored of the typical dirty Shore beach (not that they aren’t wonderful) then get comfortable in the driver’s seat and find out why Cape May stands apart from every other boardwalked beach on the coast.

1. The entire city is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Sound lame? Well, unlike the “historical landmarks” your parents dragged you to on the edge of your town to learn about how colonial people made bread or something, the entire city is designated as a National Historic Landmark because of the outrageous concentration of Victorian buildings. Instead of being roped off from tourists with entrance fees tacked on, people live in these 600-or-so homes and they make it count. Wandering through the shady, laid-back town, especially near Washington Street, you’ll quickly notice that these colorful Victorians are adorned with elaborate gardens, eccentric details and people casually enjoying their tea on wrap-around porches. This makes the city feel very comfortable, lived-in, and real. 

IMG_5801

Strolling down Beach Avenue

2. The Cape May Lighthouse, over 100 years old, stands noble and dignified. Climbing lighthouses always seems like an activity you do because your parents make you, but climbing the Cape May Lighthouse is a highlight of the city experience. At the top of the lighthouse, built in 1869, you have a great view overlooking the end of the state (and the beginning of the next) where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean and you can check out the surrounding marshlands, where outdoor fanatics bird watch.

IMG_5837

View out of a 100+ year old porthole at the Cape May Lighthouse over the Atlantic

3. It’s a quiet, low-key and romantic beach town. There aren’t too many Jersey Shore towns that can call themselves “romantic” or “low-key” – instead, most are a little cheesy, equipped with their own theme songs, and are muddled with franchises and sticky kids. Cape May, however, with the quiet undertones of Savannah, Georgia or Charlotte, North Carolina, is a hotspot for stately weddings and, thankfully, is fit for adults. A town with pastel Victorians, quiet and cool streets, weeping willows and bed and breakfasts is made for romance. Embrace the sentimentality by going on a beach bike ride down Beach Avenue or going for a $6 wine tasting at the Cape May Winery.

IMG_5838

An afternoon wander down Washington Street

4. The city boasts the cleanest beaches around. It’s probably in part because the neat and tidy beaches, such as Higbee Beach or Poverty Beach, cost $6 a day, but nonetheless, the Natural Resource Defense Council has designated the 24 Cape May beaches one of its 38 locations of “Superstar Beaches” due to the quality of the water. You won’t run into any plastic bags or trash on Cape May beaches and, a rarity on the Jersey Shore, you won’t have to worry about any gross contamination here. Cape May feels very clean, luxurious and exclusive not only due to the beautiful homes and hotels, but also because the star attractions of the town stay neat and tidy.

IMG_5741

Cape May Point beach is one of the city’s most residential beaches

5. Cape May has got some great dining, shopping and staying. No need to rent a room at the Marriott around here – instead, take advantage of the many antiquated bed-and-breakfasts that ooze regality and charm. Most have their own legends, ghosts, themes and quirks. The same goes for Cape May restaurants in shops – you won’t find too many chains or franchises, but instead, lots of family-owned places that have been run by the same families for decades where you can find some interesting stuff and stellar seafood.

IMG_5766

Lunch at A Ca Mia, Italian restaurant and bakery at the Washington Street Mall

Where to Nest

When you’ve lived in pretty much the same place for your entire life, a funny thing happens… you really start to absolutely, positively loathe it.

And, at the same time, every place I basically have gone ever I have wanted to move to, which I do not hesitate to tell my mother about. Her eyes get glossy for a second before she realizes that I’m probably full of shit, when then she says, “Well that’s nice, honey” before going back to finishing her dinner and I’m stuck there feeling like a little kid who says they want to be an astronaut when they grow up.

However, by no means is New Jersey an unpleasant place, despite the things you have heard me say and the rumors you have undoubtedly heard. (If you want the truth, the reason we make fun of Jersey is because we want everyone else to stay the hell out). In actuality, it is the garden state (shocker) and is full of green forests, beautiful beaches, bustling towns, and life.

Driving down Ocean Avenue to work is always a pleasant reminder of this. Yes, to me, New Jersey may be a little overdone, and I wouldn’t mind eventually finding a new place to set up camp and move on to bigger and better things. At the same time, I try to look at these beautiful beaches as an outsider and that’s when I remember…

This is the most beautiful place in the world. Long Branch