After a week spent in Manhattan, we rented a car to drive to Cape May. We picked up the Hertz car, a Ford Fusion, from Newark Liberty Airport, having pre-booked it on a special deal through Expedia (£158 for 8 days all in). The rental office was on the airport and easily reached by the free monorail, the Airtrain, and the whole process was handled very quickly and efficiently so we were soon on our way.
Our route took us down the Garden State Parkway, a toll road that runs along the whole of the New Jersey coast and terminates at the northern edge of Cape May itself. The first stretch was very busy, despite the fact that no trucks are allowed on the Parkway, but the further south we went the quieter it got (though never actually what I would call quiet!) Being designated a parkway appeared to mean that the area surrounding the road was landscaped with grass and lots of trees. This sounds a good idea in theory but in practice made for a very boring drive. As it’s a toll road we had to pay at several points along the road. At the first of these we were unprepared – although we’ve driven quite a lot in the US we’ve only rarely been on toll roads. Not knowing what the toll charges would be, I’d saved some single dollar bills towards the end of our week in New York, but these proved unhelpful as the charge was 70 cents at most of the tolls (and only 30 cents at one). We failed to spot the sign indicating that you could get change only at the extreme right-hand booths, so found ourselves at an automatic one with no means of paying! So if anyone from the appropriate enforcement agency is reading this, I owe you 70 cents! After this first toll plaza experience we worked out the system and from then on used the “change given” booths without any problems.
Another thing we were unprepared for was the limited access system. We decided to come off the Parkway at one point to get a glimpse of the shore and a bite to eat, only to find that we couldn’t rejoin at the same point. We ended up doing about 20 miles of our journey on slower parallel roads before we could get back on. This didn’t matter too much as we weren’t in a particular hurry, but we thought it a shame that our Rand McNally map didn’t indicate these “no entry” junctions. It was only when we got home that I discovered a useful list of them on the New Jersey Turnpike website – worth checking out if you’re going to be making a similar trip.
The whole journey took us about five hours, with the detour and lunch break, but would be a lot less if you drive the c. 150 miles non-stop.
If you’re driving to or around Cape May you’ll find the town quite well provided with places to park. Away from the centre there is free parking on many of the residential roads – we were able to park close to the front door of our accommodation (just one block from the sea) throughout the week, apart from Saturday when day-trippers meant that space was a little harder to find, but by no mean impossible.
In the centre of town there are three blocks of parking behind the shops of the Washington Mall, on both sides. This is free until 10.00 AM when most of the shops open, and after that costs $1 per hour for a maximum of three hours. Only a short distance away is a large car park in the area known as Washington Commons (by the supermarket). Here you can park for free for a short period (long enough to pick up some groceries or go to the bank), otherwise similar charges apply.
Along Beach Drive, right by the sea, there is metered parking. The charge is similar to in town I think (we never needed to park here ourselves) but there’s no three hour limit, so beach goers can park all day!
Cape May/Lewes Ferry transports you to Delaware and beyond. We've used it three times. Be sure to make your reservation by phone before you leave your home! Once you arrive (30 minutes before departure time) you will be directed to a particular lane. At this time, you are free to leave your car and grab a bite in the restaurant or visit the gift shop. KEEP AN EYE ON THE TIME because cars will begin to fill the ferry pretty much on time.
WORD OF ADVICE: After you park on the ferry, our experience is that you need to immediately go to the restaurant or seating areas because they fill up very quickly! One time we all had to sit on the carpeted floor for the duration of the trip because no seating was available. Cost for vehicle and driver:$20 (Nov.-Mar); $25 (Apr.-Oct.). Passengers under 6 are free; 6-13 pay $3 (Nov.-Mar) and $4 (Apr.-Oct.); 14 and older pay $6 (Nov.-Mar.) or $8 (Apr.-Oct.)
For reservations on the ferry call 800-643-3779 or book online.
It also serves as the "Welcoming/Tourist Center"
Both express and local buses from New York to Cape May / Wildwood. Pay attention to the schedule to make sure you get an express..
Express stops: New York (Port Authority), Toms River, Atlantic City, North Wildwood, Wildwood, Cape May
NJ TRANSIT BUS SCHEDULE TO CAPE MAY
Atlantic City 641-3833
Philadelphia Airport 215-937-6937
Tags are required from Memorial Day Weekend through Mid-Septemher.
$17.00/season (discounts available if purchased before May 1st.)
New Jersey Transit 800-582-5946
Hertz - 522-0049
Enterprise - 522-1119
Lion Tours - 522-3734
Go as far South as you can go on the Garden State Parkway (New Jersey).
You can rent these fun bicycle cars at many bike rental shops, and there are quite a few. They come in 2 and 4 seaters and actually have a steering wheel for steering. Cape May is pretty small so you can go almost anywhere in town with these, except for the lighthouse.
Attention Coast Guard families coming to Cape May for Coast Guard graduation every Friday. There is no public transportation in Cape May. You'll need to reserve a taxi cab to get from bus terminal to base. Call A Plus Cab at 609 889-9595
Take the Ferry if you can. It gives you the opportunity to start the trip off relaxing and visiting. Have a drink at the bar and sit topside or inside. Enjoy the view and the ride. Make reservations if possible. It's worth it. More to come...
Take the Garden State Parkway south and you can't miss Cape May - the Parkway ends there!
If you get a chance, try the Cape May-Lewes,DE Ferry. This ferry cuts across the mouth of Delaware Bay, connecting the Beach towns of New Jersey with those on the DelMarVa Peninsula (that's Delaware, Maryland, Virginia for those who didn't know)
As with most places in he US, you need a car to easily get around a place. You may be able to get to it, but getting around properly is not so easy.
If you can make it to Cape May most places are located close enough that you can walk. This especially comes in handy when you decide to imbibe.
The trolley can be a fun way to see Cape May. I always forget the details, and sometimes its free but if you feel like investigating further its something to look into.