At the southernmost tip of New Jersey lies Cape May, enticing visitors with its Victorian charm, burgeoning wine country, and esteemed restaurant destinations. Named America’s oldest seaside resort — and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1976 — Cape May often ranks high among the best beaches in New Jersey, not only for its beautiful coastline but also for its quaint and history-steeped landmarks. Book a room at one of the many bed-and-breakfasts in town or at the grand Congress Hall, and start planning your adventures now.
No trip to Cape May would be complete without climbing the 199 steps of the town’s lighthouse, a navigation aid to seafarers since 1859. An expansive view of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay greets you at the top, which becomes even more majestic during one of the monthly full-moon experiences from April to August.
To take in even more history, head to the Emlen Physick Estate. Built in 1879, it is the former home of the grandson of Dr. Philip Syng Physick, recognized as the father of American surgery. Guided tours lead visitors through the Frank Furness-designed mansion, offering a look at Cape May’s Victorian past.
A 15-minute walk south on Lafayette Street brings you to Cape May Stage, where contemporary theater performances unfold inside a former church dating to the 19th century. From May through November, find a show nearly every night of the week, whether it’s in-person or virtual.
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Little ones in your group will love the always-free Cape May County Park and Zoo, which features 650 animals — lions, zebras, giraffes, snow leopards, and more.
For tours of a different sort, check out Curious Cape May, a company dedicated to sharing unusual tales about the town’s history. Hop on a beach cruiser or set out by foot for a guided experience exploring Cape May’s hidden gems.
A visit to Washington Street Mall is a must for those looking to shop. The three-block, pedestrian-only outdoor mall features dozens of boutiques, alongside gift shops selling everything from cigars to handmade soaps to jewelry of all sorts. Several art galleries are scattered throughout.
Food and drink
Within the Washington Street Mall, find plenty of eating options, like the seafood-centric Louisa’s Cafe where fish fresh from the nearby coast is served within the bright-yellow restaurant. Supporting local food producers is important here; fruit, veggies, and herbs are from nearby farms as well.
At the popular Ebbitt Room in the Virginia Hotel, choose to relax with a cocktail on the charming front porch, or head inside for an elegant dinner featuring ingredients from the restaurant’s own farm.
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Beach Plum Farm is a four-in-one attraction complete with rentable cottages, a 62-acre farm, farm store, and a farm kitchen where sit-down meals, fresh from the fields, are available throughout the year. Reservations are required for dinners, but not for lunch or breakfast.
A block from the water on Jackson Street is Mad Batter Restaurant & Bar where people line up for its 8 a.m. opening to be among the first to savor its fresh-squeezed juices, Belgian waffles, and other brunch bites. At dinner, the menu is populated with crabcakes, filet mignon, and other classic American fare.
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West Cape May’s Exit Zero Filling Station has become a haven for foodies. The remodeled spot features a buzzing restaurant that serves savory Indian curries, memorable burgers, and drinks from a full-bar setup. Find beers from nearby Cape May Brewing Company, alongside a list of wines and cocktails that just might make you want to appoint a designated driver in advance.
Don’t let the unexpected location fool you (it’s next to the Cape May airport), this busy brewery is a favorite spot for craft beer in town. Cape May brews fill drink lists throughout the area, but here, you can sip staples and try out a few brewery-exclusive options.
Head to Cape May Court House for a pint at COHO Brewing Co., where beers are bestowed with names that fall within a courthouse theme.
📍 28 Indian Trail Road #103 Cape May Court House, NJ, 📞 609-264-6480, 🌐 cohobrewingco.com, 📷@cohobrewing
The expansive vineyards at Cape May Winery produce tens of thousands of gallons of wine every year, offering a variety of red wines, white wines, and rosé. The winery is open for tours and tastings and has a full tapas food menu.
In North Cape May, Gusto Brewing Company boasts a bright and airy space to sip on small-batch beers from a constantly changing tap list.
Spotting celebrities in Cape May
Over the years, Cape May has played host to its fair share of celebrities. Repeat visitor Oprah Winfrey has been known to dine on oysters, lobster, and chocolate lava cake at the Ebbitt Room with longtime partner Stedman Graham and best friend Gayle King.
Anne Hathaway and Tina Fey are both Cape May regulars. Fey’s been spotted everywhere from the Blue Pig Tavern at Congress Hall to Cape May Olive Oil Co. to the Cape May County Park and Zoo. Hathaway’s most notable seaside spotting was during a karaoke session, when she belted out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” at the now-closed Martini Beach.
Other celebrity sightings include Taylor Swift at the Lobster House, Ron Howard at the Harrison Bed & Breakfast, Rachel Bilson and Hayden Christensen at Louisa’s Cafe, and Harvey Keitel at Madison’s Bakery.
This article has been updated since it first published.