Things to Do in Cape May
Only a 10-minute drive from downtown, Cape May's Point's Sunset Beach is the only place along the Jersey Shore where you can both watch the sun rise and set over the Atlantic Ocean. It's also home to Cape May diamonds, tiny chunks of collectable quartz exclusive to the region. Hunt for them in the sands and = have one polished at an area jeweler, or purchase them pre-polished at the Sunset Beach Gift Shop. The beach hosts a flag-lowering ceremony every evening at dusk.
Cape May Point State Park
Home to one of New Jersey's 11 lighthouses: a whitewashed, still-active tower that's more than 160 years old. Climb its 199 cast-iron steps to the top for 360-degree views, then spend some time exploring the park's freshwater marshes, sands and woodlands. It's also a great place for birdwatching.
Cape May-Lewes Ferry
This car and passenger ferry offers a fun alternative for travelers arriving to or departing from the Cape May area. The ride is about 85 minutes each way between North Cape May and Lewes, Delaware—7 miles north of Rehoboth Beach.
Emlen Physick Estate
Emlen Physick Estate is a stunning 18-room Victorian house museum and four-acre estate that once belonged Dr. Emlen Physick—the descendant of a prominent Philadelphia family. Today the Stick-style mansion is home to the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, a non-profit organization responsible for the city's Victorian revival. The property is a highlighted stop on trolley tours and a base for some of the city's top festivals and events. Embark on a guided tour of its interior filled with original furnishings, or linger over a leisurely afternoon tea at the onsite Carriage House Cafe.
Washington Street Mall
Cape May's popular three-block pedestrian walkway is the city's central hub and the perfect place for shopping, dining and afternoon drinks. It's also home to a information kiosk where you can purchase tickets to everything from historical walking tours to Christmas candlelight tours. The pick-up point for the Cape May Carriage Company—which offers half-hour horse-drawn carriage tours through the city—is just across the street.
A paved beachfront walkway separating the beach from Cape May's Ocean Avenue, the Promenade provides endless breathtaking views. In the summer, day-trippers and locals set up colorful beach umbrellas along the sand, while winter offers stark yet spectacular ocean scenery. Keep an eye out for dolphins as you stroll.
Cape May Whale Watcher
Meander the local backwaters and Atlantic Ocean searching for local sea life aboard a 110-foot-long boat. Cape May Whale Watcher's sunset dinner cruise includes complimentary pizza.
Elaine's Famous Dinner Theatre
Theatre shows run the gamut from original Sherlock Holmes productions to creative comedies, all served during a three-course sit-down meal in a restored Victorian. Elaine's also hosts occasional Murder Mystery weekends.
Restaurants and Nightlife
The Lobster House
Enjoy seafood broiled, baked, fried and sauteed while overlooking Cape May Harbor. For a truly authentic Cape May experience, request a table in the Raw Bar, modeled after a historical boathouse. The Lobster House is ideal for take-out, too.
Louisa's Cafe has been a frontrunner in the farm-to-table movement since 1980. Dine on simple, well-spiced dishes made entirely from regional ingredients, including fresh fish from the nearby Delaware Bay.
Black Duck on Sunset
Linger among tropical palms and black-and-white images of old Cape May in a crisp, clean setting that evokes a Key West feel. Cuisine at this BYOB ranges from Asian-inspired appetizers like edemame dumplings and blue crab spring rolls to a honey roasted half duck entree served oven smoked bacon and risotto. Black Duck on Sunset is only open on weekends until summer.
The Ugly Mug
A local institution along Washington Street Mall, the Ugly Mug serves casual American food and has a full bar with outdoor seating that offers ideal people watching on warmer days. The ceiling of its main interior is covered with hanging mugs belonging to its members—those facing seaward honor the deceased.
Festivals & Events
Sherlock Holmes Weekends (March and November)
Join Britain’s favorite private detective and his faithful assistant Dr. Watson in solving a Cape May mystery. Sherlock Holmes Weekends unfold Friday night, with Saturday spent in your best period costume (optional) roaming the local streets and B&Bs in search of clues.
Cape May Film Festival (November)
Cape May Film Festival features a mix of juried films including shorts, documentaries and local shoots, along with meet-and-greets with the actors, directors and composers. The festival also hosts one-off events—such as a one-day film retrospective in April—throughout the year.
West Cape May Strawberry Festival (June)
Strawberries are served in all forms—think jams, jellies and the ever-decadent strawberry shortcake—and plenty of crafts and a crowning of the strawberry king and queen happen at the West Cape May Strawberry Festival in June.
Victorian Weekend (October)
Step into Cape May's Victorian past with everything from historical house tours of restored inns to 19th-century fashion shows. Antique and craft shopping opportunities abound during Victorian Weekend.
Where to Stay
The Virginia Hotel
The Virginia Hotel is a luxury boutique space with 24 comfortable well-appointed guestrooms and one of the city's most iconic restaurants—the sustainably minded Ebbitt Room—all in a fully restored 1879 Victorian. Perks include valet parking and private beach tents.
The Harrison Inn
An Italianate Victorian originally intended as a family summer cottage, the Harrison Inn is now home to 15 guestrooms—each one elegantly styled with lush furnishings, crisp white linens and modern amenities such as flat screen TVs. Spend a lazy morning in one of the veranda rocking chairs, peruse artisan jewelry and upcycled furniture at the onsite shop or take the inn's bicycles out for a spin.
The Queen Victoria
Choose from 35 guestrooms and suites, all of them sporting a mix of period furnishings and contemporary touches (though for a more unplugged experience the innkeepers will remove the TV before you arrive). Ready to splurge? Book the Queen Victoria's two-story Crown Jewel room, complete with a whirlpool tub, private patio and gas stove.
Choose from thirteen guestrooms split between the Bacchus Inn's main house and cottage. Enjoy complimentary wine and cheese in the evenings. The cottage's billiards table makes for an ideal rainy day activity, and fireplaces in most rooms offer cozy warmth during shoulder seasons.