Cape May is a special place. Sitting on the tip of a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, it's a true, historic beach town. Cape May was one of the earliest vacation resorts and you instantly know why. The immense sandy beach is the finest I've seen and the town's well-designed retail area is inviting.
Although technically in New Jersey, Cape May is so far south that it's actually the same latitude as Washington, D.C. (meaning it's at the same North/South level). That location matters. As you approach the town you can viscerally sense change in the environment; about 30 miles away, suburban foliage disappears and you smell the scent of ocean air. Being near the water lightens one's mood and transports you to a higher plane. In New York, we call this "going to the beach;" in New Jersey, however, their odd expression is "going down the shore."
The vibe is friendly and modern with a touch of nostalgia. Victorian architecture and retro advertising are everywhere. The commercial center of town is a five-block outdoor street mall which is open to pedestrians and closed to cars; it overflows with fun stores. Shopping is a major attraction here. The huge beach has a long boardwalk and plenty of refreshment stands.
I wandered away from the heart of town and found a delightful thrift-shop (The Ladies’ Room Consignment Boutique) where I snagged a pretty Liz Claiborne dress for only $16. Win!
The streets are largely empty now but I hear Summer attracts over 50,000 visitors. I have no idea where they put that big crowd and since there's only one road in and out of town, traffic must be bad then. Timing your visit to avoid the hoi polloi would be smart.
Here are some scenes from my visit...