Cape May, New Jersey

21 February 2021


Notes and impressions from our many past and present visits to Cape May, NJ.

Cape May Past…

Our family made many trips to the shore while we were growing up in Bound Brook, NJ. Most of those trips were to the beaches and marina at Belmar. However, on a few special occasions we made the longer trip down to Cape May.

Back then as I remember, my father would park in the lot in front of the Congress Hall resort hotel which is right across the street from the beach. Before heading to the beach, we would rent lockers from Steger Beach Service so that we could change after spending the entire day on the sand and in the ocean.

On the way home, we would anticipate my father taking the scenic Ocean Drive all the way from Cape May to Atlantic City.

Ocean Drive is a series of local roads in southern New Jersey, connecting Atlantic City to Cape May along barrier islands on the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of several roads and includes all five toll bridges owned by the Cape May County Bridge Commission.

My mother would often reminisce about the time we pulled off on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere to eat the rest of the food from the cooler we brought with us for the beach.

Like many others in those days, we were “day trippers” or as I call them now “day weenies,” visitors who would only stay for the day primarily on weekends. But that was then, in nineteen hundred eighty-three I started bringing my own family to Cape May but instead of staying for just the day, we would spend a few days at a Motor Inn, Hotel, or Bed & Breakfast such as the Summer Cottage Inn pictured in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Gerry, Putae & Jennifer–1983

Times change but for the most part, Cape May has still managed to retain its unique character and charm that has made it a highly desirable New Jersey shore destination since the 1800s. Once you’ve become hooked on the area, you tend to return year after year like those pictured in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2. Gerry & Putae—2010

As it turned out, for the next 15 years or so we made yearly trips to Cape May from Upper Black Eddy, PA. However, we only made one trip back to the cape since moving to Florida and that was in 2010.

The Cape May peninsula is the Jersey Shore. A peninsula yes, but Cape May is also an island comprised of Cape May city, West Cape May, and Cape May Point—all locations which make up what is commonly referred to as Cape Island.

So, what is it about Cape May that tends to attract visitors from many surrounding states including Canada? Well, simply put, Cape May is “America’s Original Seaside Resort” as proudly proclaimed on the website which says it best:

Cape May distinguishes herself in many ways. We have the pristine beaches, promenade, and all the amenities that make any seashore town worth visiting, but we also have a rich history and an architectural diversity equal to none.

Okay, so now you’ve decided to make a trip out to the New Jersey Cape, but where to stay? Cape May has many options especially for those who want to try a bed & breakfast inn. During our first trip in 1983 we stayed at the Summer Cottage Inn (now operating as The Harrison) on Columbia Avenue one block from Beach Avenue and three blocks from the Ocean Street and Washington Street Mall corner. We decided on the Summer Cottage Inn because the iconic Abbey & The Breakers were booked.

The other well-known B&B on Columbia Avenue is The Mainstay Inn. We were sort of spoiled at the Summer Cottage but one year we decided to try The Mainstay. As it turned out, we never really felt comfortable at The Mainstay, maybe because the owner/innkeepers came across as a little too pretentious for our liking.

Following our one-time sojourn at The Mainstay we searched for alternatives and found the seemingly unassuming Mooring Bed & Breakfast located on Stockton Avenue right across from the beach. The Mooring has large rooms and cooked to order full breakfasts. We became repeat guests there for many years although now this B&B seems to cater mostly to couples. Nevertheless, The Mooring is still one of the most reasonably priced B&Bs in town.

One year during the Labor Day weekend, we stayed at The Grand Hotel on Beach Avenue instead of at one of our usual B&Bs because we booked our reservations late in the summer, so naturally all the B&Bs were full.

Over the years, we’ve also stayed at low-cost motor inns (motels) and Congress Hall before it was renovated in 2002.

As far as restaurants go, many of our old favorites are gone namely the Filling Station across from the Acme Market on Lafayette Street. Also gone is the Top of the Marq restaurant at the Marquis de Lafayette Hotel where I had a birthday dinner one year. On the other hand, many familiar restaurants remain such as: 410 Bank Street, A Ca Mia, Aleathea’s, The Lobster House, Mad Batter, Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, Washington Inn, Blue Pig Tavern, and Cape Orient (now operating as New Cape Orient).

The New Cape Orient is good for a quick Chinese lunch and Uncle Bill’s, another iconic Cape May landmark located on Beach Avenue and Perry Street, is well known for its extensive pancake menu. For dinner, I highly recommend 410 Bank Street, Aleathea’s, and Blue Pig Tavern.

Unlike many beaches in North Carolina and Florida which seem to experience all too frequent rip currents and unwelcome marine life, the beaches of Cape May have been kept reasonably safe due in no small measure to the outstanding efforts of the Cape May Beach Patrol.

Cape May Present…

I’m taking a different approach to writing this travelogue in that I’ve decided to make it a living document. That is, I plan to include updates based on our currently planned trip and those we hope to make in the future.

2021: {Dates TBA}


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