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Cape May County

An iconic American seashore resort destination still shimmers with Atlantic Coast charm

At the southernmost tip of New Jersey between the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay, Cape May County's classic coastal towns are the ultimate seashore retreats. The "Jersey Cape" covers a 30-mile strip of sandy beaches that effectively connect the chain of resorts in Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, the Wildwoods and Cape May.

If your dream vacation includes boardwalks, sand, saltwater swimming, fishing poles and lighthouses, this is your kind of place. If Victorian tearooms, floral gardens, gift shops or zoos are your ideal getaways, this is also your kind of place. All styles of vacation dreams come true on the Jersey Cape.

Explore Cape May County Outdoors
Have you heard that the entire city of Cape May, New Jersey, is a National Historic Landmark? The town contains more than 600 wooden Victorian structures. In fact, the Historic District's multicolored Victorian homes and splendid gardens are the focal points of popular tours that may be taken on foot, by narrated trolleys, or via horse-drawn carriages. After you've completed the home tours, you can continue sightseeing in style on the nostalgic Seashore Lines Railroad or on a breezy, narrated offshore cruise to watch for whales, dolphins or lighthouses.

While you're in Cape May County, visit Historic Cold Spring Village in Lower Township between Cape May and Rio Grande. Cold Spring is a recreated South Jersey farming village reminiscent of the 1850s. The village's 25 buildings are originals relocated from around the county. You can see blacksmiths, weavers, potters and quilters in authentic costumes demonstrating old-world skills at the open-air living history museum. When you arrive at the village, pop into the welcome center to ask about complimentary wagon rides and Sunday afternoon concerts.

If you like to keep your eye on the sky and your head in the clouds, stop by the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum. It's housed in a World War II-era airplane hangar at the Cape May County Airport. The museum contains 26 vintage aircraft including a jet-powered F-14 Tomcat, gyrocopters, a V2 Rocket and PT-17 Boeing-Stearman. Visitors can inspect a collection of aircraft engines, play a flight simulator game, sit in a real cockpit or climb an air traffic control tower.

The Wildwood's By the Sea Doo Wop Experience pays tribute to the coastal town's '50s- and '60s-era rock n' roll heritage. Wildwood's offbeat pop culture museum features an up-cycled neon sign garden, vintage lamps and funky dinette sets like the ones you probably used at Grandma's house. Visitors can even step back five or six decades to order a cool drink at the museum's retro-style malt shop.

At Cape May County Park and Zoo, you can drop a fishing line in a pond, play volleyball, hike or pedal a bicycle on the 128-acre grounds. The zoo is home to more than 100 species of engaging animals. While you're there, you can meet and greet a giraffe named Jerome, zebras, wallabies, tigers, reindeer, Charlie the camel, a houseful of monkeys, an aviary with fluttering birds and all the rest.

A Jersey Cape vacation simply isn't complete without some lighthouse, beach and boardwalk time. Constructed in 1859, the Cape May Lighthouse in Cape May Point is the second oldest continually operating lighthouse in the United States. A climb of 199 steps affords you a bird's-eye view of New Jersey's southernmost point, where the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay come together.

At Sunset Beach, you can hunt for Cape May diamonds, quartz pieces that shine brightly when they're cut and polished. Atlantic and Delaware Bay beaches are good for seaside hikers and beachcombers in search of empty shells. Clams, scallops, moon snail-sand whelk shells are common finds, especially after heavy storms.

With the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Delaware Bay to the west and Tuckahoe River to the north, fishing is a popular pastime in Cape May County. Saltwater angling brings in bounties of bluefish, flounder and stripers while freshwater fishing yields catches of crappie, sunfish and largemouth bass.

Ocean City's 3-mile wooden boardwalk is a favorite spot for early-morning bike rides. During daylight hours, folks tend to shop, eat and play games on the OC walkway, while nights are spent watching Music Pier performers or spinning and twirling on carnival-type rides. Wildwood's two-mile oceanfront boardwalk was built in the late 1880s. Today, it bustles with seven different roller coasters, three water parks and countless special events throughout summer months. Cape May and Sea Isle contain quieter promenades with restaurants and specialty shops that appeal to every taste and style.

Explore Cape May County Indoors
Don't miss seeing the authentically restored and furnished Victorian house at the Emlen Physick Estate on Washington Street in the city of Cape May. After wandering through the 18-room, circa 1879 mansion, be sure to venture outside to see flowers and herbs growing in lush Victorian gardens on estate grounds.

Is shopping on your to-do list? The biggest challenge in Cape May County is deciding where to begin (and end) your consumer spree. Try Whale's Tale or Della's 5 & 10 for ocean-themed gifts and souvenirs. After shopping, you can order an old-fashioned float or sundae at Della's in-house Soda Fountain. Historic Morrow's Nut House in Cape May's Washington Street Mall is a good choice for purchasing edible treats like saltwater taffy, fresh-roasted nuts and irresistible handmade fudge.

Cape May County is no slouch in the way of restaurants. Every dining variation, from gourmet elegance to candlelit romance to casual family-style fare, is represented on the Jersey Cape. Choose Washington Inn for upscale American and French cuisine, Trisha's Fine Dining for tasty seafood, Freda's Café for affordable local specialties and Hot Dog Tommy's to participate in a long-standing Cape mealtime tradition.

Cape May County is separated from Lewes, Delaware, by a 17-mile expanse of Delaware Bay waters. Travelers approaching Cape May County from the south usually opt for a ferry ride across the bay. The Lewes/Cape May Ferry system offers 80-minute cruises on boats with enclosed passenger decks, food courts, and comfortable lounges. Specialized cruises that include kids' activities, fireworks or musical entertainment are available, too. Keep your camera in hand, as dolphins are frequently sighted swimming and cavorting alongside ferries. RVs are readily accommodated and ferry fees vary depending on the season, vehicle size and passenger count. Be sure to secure reservations at least 24 hours prior to sailing.

Cape May Birding
If you're a bird watcher, you've come to the right place. Cape May is home to thousands of migrating bird species, many of whom roost in the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, comprised of 16,700 acres of protected habitat.

For More Information:
Cape May Chamber of Commerce
609-884-5508
www.capemaychamber.com

New Jersey Tourism
609-599-6540
www.visitnj.org