Beachfront Promenade; Cape May, New Jersey

The Jersey Shore is more than overly tanned reality stars getting black-out drunk on a nightly basis.

Cape May is a great place to enjoy family-friendly beaches, a lengthy beachfront promenade, wildlife viewing, and shopping.  Drop your stereotypes of Jersey and see for yourself.

First Stop in Cape May

Your first stop in Cape May should be the Welcome Center located at 609 Lafayette Street, across from the Acme Shopping Center.

Local volunteers can help you plan your visit with recommendations on dining, activities, and shopping.  Be sure to pick up some discount coupons and ask for their personal advice, not just what a magazine or pamphlet says.

Cape May Promenade (aka the “Boardwalk”)

Running parallel for two miles (3.25km) along Beach Avenue is the Cape May Promenade that offers access to many of Cape May’s beautiful beaches.  Most people enjoy a nice stroll along the promenade with the occasional stop for candy, ice cream, or a fun arcade game.

Bicycling is only allowed before 10:00 am.  Rollerblading and dogs are not permitted.

Cape May Promenade
Source: wfyurasko

Beaches

All beaches in Cape May require a beach tag that can be purchased at any beach entrance point from a patrol officer.  They cost $5 per day, $10 for 3 days, or $15 for the week.  These tags help fund lifeguards during the summer months, public restrooms, and beach cleaning.  Be sure to leave your valuables at your accommodations.

No dogs, alcohol, or fires are permitted on the beach.

Here’s a brief (very brief) summary of the beaches.

  • The Cove is a family-friendly beach with lifeguards, but it can get a little crowded.
  • Broadway Beach attracts a mixed crowd of young hooligans and old hippies.
  • Grant Street Beach is where the beach patrol headquarters are located.
  • Windsor Beach is quieter neighborhood beach.
  • Congress Street Beach hosts the annual 4th of July firework display.
  • Steger’s Beach is another beach there the young party-goers frequent.
  • Decatur Street is great if you’re not an all-day beach lover.  There are restaurants and bars to take a break from the sand and surf.
  • Higbee Wildlife Management Area is not a swimming place, but great for wildlife viewing… including the occasional nudists.  Please note, it’s illegal and people are frequently arrested.
  • Sunset Beach has some of the best sunsets and free parking.  It’s a favorite among families.
  • Cape May Point is a local favorite and a great spot to relax.
  • Cape May Point State Park is a great spot for birds and dolphins viewing and walking.

Bird Watching

Cape May is an excellent spot for birdwatching.  The Cape May Bird Observatory helps keep bird-watchers up to date with recent sightings, forecasts and weekly walks that meet at the Cape May Point State Park near the Hawkwatch Platform on Saturdays at 8:00 am.  The cost is only $6 and helps fund the program.

Be sure to print out their birding map and checklist to help you in your hunt.

Shopping

The best place to pick up a few souvenirs or grab a bite is at the Washington Street Mall, a pedestrian-only street lined with trees, fountains, and quaint shops.  Walk down to the 400th block of Washington Street to access the enclosed shopping centers of Washington Commons and Carpenter’s Square Mall.

There are also cute beachfront stores within Cape May and at West Cape May (W. Perry Street and Park Boulevard).

Cape May Shopping Mall
Source: shinya

When To Go

The best time to visit Cape May from June to September when the summer activities can be enjoyed.

Climate

From June to September. , the average high temperatures range from 78 to 86°F (26 to 30°C), low temperatures range from 57 to 65°F (14 to 18°C), and precipitation ranges from 3.5 to 5 inches (90 to 128mm) each month.

Getting There & Around

Cape May is located along the Atlantic coast in southern New Jersey.

The best way to get to Cape May is to fly into Atlantic City International Airport located 45 miles (72km) from Cape May.

Another option is to fly into Philadelphia International Airport located in Pennsylvania and 97 miles (156km) from Cape May.

The best way to get around is to walk or drive.

Average Costs

  • Mid-range accommodations: $100-150
  • Meals: $10-20
  • Bottle of beer: $3

Do’s

  • Go wine tasting at Hawk Haven Winery, Turdo Vineyards, Natali Vineyards, and Cape May Winery.
  • Check the Cape May calendar for events such as wine tours, concerts, children’s activities, and more.
  • Visit the free zoo located just north of Cape Bay off the Garden State Parkway.

Don’ts

  • Forget to visit The Cape May Bird Observatory to see roughly 400 bird species that migrate through the area in fall.
  • Miss the works of local artists at the SOMA NewArt Gallery.
  • Miss a day trip to the casinos of Atlantic City.

Fun Facts

  • Cape May was named after Dutch captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey who explored the area from 1611 to 1614.
  • During the early days of Cape May, men and women had designated swimming times at different hours. Women would swim in dresses and shoes and had hold on to safety ropes.
  • Cape May is located at mile marker zero on the Garden State Highway.