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You’re unlikely to be in Cape May for very long before you find your way to the beach. Running the whole length of the town (and for some miles to the west) this is a beautiful stretch of sand that has something to offer everyone. We’re not particularly interested in a traditional seaside holiday, but clearly this would be a great place for one if you like your resorts fairly low-key and up-market. Instead we had deliberately chosen to come to the town a little after the main summer season, when the time for sunbathing and swimming had past and the crowds had departed.
Nevertheless the beach had plenty to attract us. On the sunnier mornings at the start of our stay we had several lovely pre-breakfast walks here, on one occasion spotting a school of dolphins only a short distance off shore (photo 3). On another occasion we spent a couple of hours here one afternoon, when strong winds and larger than average waves had drawn all the local surfers to the beach. We had a good time watching them and trying to capture their skill with our cameras. Although if you do the same, don’t make the same mistake that I made – keep one eye on the sea while looking through your viewfinder or you may find as I did that your shoes are suddenly very wet ;-)
Beach Drive runs the length of the sea front, but although designated a Boardwalk in parts is actually paved rather than being of wood. It’s a popular place for an early morning run or for a walk at any time. We sometimes returned to our apartment by that route in the evenings and I loved hearing the sound of the sea even when I couldn’t see it.
The town operates a “beach tags” system, with payment required before you can use the beach. However we found that by the second half of September when we were there the booths selling these were closed and the system seemed not to be enforced. However for information the 2008 charges were:
Whole season: $25.00
Week (8 days): $13.00
3 Days: $9.00
Single day: $4.00
The money collected goes towards the upkeep of the beach and the provision of lifeguards, though again when we were there we didn’t see any on duty, perhaps because it was a little too chilly for very many people to even consider going far out into the water (apart from those surfers on their wetsuits, naturally).
If you drive as far west from Cape May as you can, you will find yourself at Sunset Beach. The reason for the name is obvious – this westerly spot apparently has a great view of the sunset, and is a popular spot at that time, when locals and tourists come to watch the sun dip into the sea and the evening flag ceremony. The Sunset Beach flags are all U.S. servicemen's casket flags and the ceremony takes place every evening from Memorial Day to Labor Day. We however came to Sunset Beach during the day and had a short walk here, but without the attraction of this special ceremony found relatively little to encourage us to linger. There are several gift shops selling rather uninspiring souvenirs, a café and a stretch of pebbly beach.
Just off shore is the wreck of the S S Atlantus, one of several concrete ships (yes, really concrete!) built during World War One. Amazingly these worked, but were too slow to be economical, and were not used for very long after the war ended. The "Atlantus" was the second prototype to be built, a 3,000 ton 250 foot long freighter, built with a 5 inch thick hull of special concrete aggregate. She served for a year as a commercial coal steamer in New England, but with the end of the war, the more efficient steel ships were again available. The "Concrete Fleet" was de-commissioned, and the "Atlantus” sent to the "Bone Yard" in Norfolk, Virginia in September of 1920. A year later, she was purchased by a salvage company and in 1926 towed to Cape May. The intention was to use the hull as part of the approach to a new ferry slipway, but while awaiting positioning she broke loose of her moorings during a storm and went aground on a sand-bank. Several attempts were made to free the concrete ship but they proved futile and eventually she was just left here to rot.
Another popular activity here is to look for so-called Cape May Diamonds, which are actually just bits of quartz but which can look quite pretty – we didn’t find any during our brief walk though we did see jewellery made from them in the shops here and in town.
"On the Boardwalk"
Though not a typical "boardwalk", the oceanfront promenade is a great place to soak up the sun and do a little people watching. Virtually no building has been allowed on the beach side of Ocean Drive so you have a clear view of the water. (I think there may be one very small set of shops on the waterside.) Cape May requires that a "beach tag" be purchased (around $10) if you care to do a little swimming but you can walk on the beach on the northerly end and collect shells for gratis! The beach here is white sand, wide and clean!!
Get yourself a little bag of "saltwater taffy" candy and dream the day away. One of the great things about Cape May is the instant feeling of relaxation you get upon entering this charming little town.
Be Sure To Visit The Beach...
When touring Cape May be sure to take the time to visit its 2 1/2 mile wide, welcoming beach. Rates are $4.00 daily, $13 for the week, $9 for three consecutive days or $25 seasonally. Children under 11 are free.
There are restroom facilities along the beach, but no changing rooms. Lifeguards are on duty from 10 am-5:30 pm. A boardwalk is nearby with restaurants, arcade, fudge shop, souvenir shops, etc. You'll find metered and free parking nearby.
All of Cape May is a great, family friendly destination. We never get tired of driving the two hours to spend the day or weekend in this pretty Victorian town. There is something for everyone of every age!
- Sailing and Boating
See A Flick At The Beach
The Beach Theatre is practically an institution here at Cape May. See the latest movie after a long day at the beach, when you can wind down and relax. After the movie, walk up the street to the boardwalk and visit the Arcade. There's alot to do on Beach Avenue!
Prices are $6.25 per person at matinees before 5 pm; evening shows are $8.75 per person; children and seniors over 65 $6.25.
- Family Travel
- Theater Travel
Enjoying the Sunset
If you enjoy watching the glorious colors of sunset, you'll find a great place to do so at Sunset Pavilion. Here you'll find a small pavilion overlooking the beach, a sandy shore and the perfect setting to view the close of the day.
There is also a brief flag lowering ceremony beforehand, which is a nice family event (pic #2). A patriotic spirit is welcome!
Unfortunately, its a good place to get a parking ticket, too. We were so excited about catching this beautiful sight, that we hopped out of the car and didn't pay any attention to the meters lining the street--after all, it was after 6pm, we thought. Nabbed!
- Family Travel
Go check out the beaches
Cape May has some pretty beaches, long and wide, clean with nice views. But beware you must have a BEACH TAG to get on the beach. New Jersey has almost 127 miles of beaches with many lighthouses, ship wrecks to dive, volley ball nets, para sailing, surfing and much more.So bring the whole family and some money and have a good time at the beach in this victorian resort town.
- Water Sports
- Family Travel
Sunset Beath (before the sun set)
This beach is located at the very tip of New Jersey. Famous for its sunsets (don't expect Key West though, too much pollution) but still quite nice. There's a small rocky beach that are famed for Cape May diamonds (worthless but look pretty), a few tacky tourist gift shops and some great looking local calico cats which my husband decided to befriend. The dark blob in the ocean is a sunken concrete ship that had been in use for a while but when brought to NJ, sunk.
Soak up the sun
Goingto the beach and swimming in the ocean is the obvious activity, but it has to be mentioned. I think Cape May's beaches are some of the cleanest. They are a bit gravelly toward the shoreline, but shoes or going out to waist level solve this problem.
- Family Travel
Though Cape May is not noted for their beaches like neighboring Wildwood, on my last visit I was surprised to see the once eroded shore restored to a nice size and heading down toward the point, very much empty and peaceful.
Sunset At Cape May Point
Sunset at Cape May Point is a tradition for those who summer here, regularly. For the weekenders, they congregate at Sunset Beach, but if you want to venture slightly north on the beach, you'll find several local access entrances; some complete with picnic tables, and you'll avoid the masses. And, though it's written otherwise, cops look the other way when it comes to a bottle of wine to accompany the exquisite sunset.
Just stay off the dunes and you're set!
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- National/State Park
Sunset beach - allwos pets!!
This is not trivial! Most dog owners know the frustrations of getting to a wonderful beach only to find out that their beloved pet in not allowed. Sunset beach does allow pets :)
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Cape May Travel Guide
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