Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Cape May, NJ

  • Published 2023/08/06

As the coastal breezes sway the sea oats and the vibrant beach sunset paints the sky, I’m reminded of how much I love living in Cape May, New Jersey.

With its vintage charm and natural beauty blend, this quaint seaside town holds a special place in my heart.

Every day is an adventure, uncovering hidden gems and creating cherished memories.

From historic sites to wildlife encounters, there’s always something new to discover.

I’m excited to share my unique perspective on this charming town and help you explore Cape May as if you were a local yourself.

Welcome to the best things to do in Cape May, New Jersey!

**About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it’s important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Enjoy an Unforgettable Encounter with Nature at South Cape May Meadows

The waters of South Cape May Meadows

Jon Bilous /

Birdwatching has always been a cherished hobby of mine, and there’s no place I enjoy more than the South Cape May Meadows.

This 200-acre coastal birdwatching sanctuary is a haven for nature lovers with its pristine beaches, lush wetlands, and towering dunes.

It’s home to many wildlife and plants, making every visit an absolute delight.

You can access a variety of trails that wind their way through the diverse ecosystems.

The well-maintained paths offer an immersive experience that brings you up close to nature.

Whether you take the loop trail around the wetlands or the connector trail to the state park, the stunning surroundings will captivate you.

One of the Meadows’ favorite features is the front’s interpretive signage.

Wetlands of South Cape May Meadows

Jon Bilous /

Not only does it provide insightful information about the area, but it also features a whiteboard where yesterday’s bird sightings are posted.

It’s always exciting to check the board and find out which species have been spotted recently.

South Cape May Meadows is a real treat for the senses.

From the flowers’ vibrant colors to the birds’ soothing sounds, there’s something for everyone to appreciate.

I’ve even seen many turtles on my walks, which is always a pleasant surprise.

However, beware of the poison ivy along the trails – it’s a small price for such a beautiful sanctuary.

Moreover, South Cape May Meadows is an excellent place for families.

I’ve taken my young child there numerous times, and we’ve always enjoyed exploring.

Explore the Natural Beauty of Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area

There’s something special about waking up to the sounds of chirping birds and the whispers of the wind through the trees.

And that’s everyday life here at the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area, an impressive 1,100-acre habitat home to diverse birds and wildlife.

On a typical morning, I walk through the dense forests, feeling the crunch of leaves beneath my feet.

It’s a magical experience to walk towards the sound of waves crashing and suddenly find yourself standing on the beach.

Looking closely, you might spot tiny snail shells scattered in the sand.

Different trails await exploration, each with its unique charm.

Some are short and sweet, perfect for a quick stroll, while others span longer distances, offering an adventurous hike.

Along the way, bird lookouts provide a panoramic view of the area and the occasional glimpse of feathered friends.

The small bodies of water scattered around the area are a sight to behold, reflecting the beauty of the sky above.

But remember, the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area is not a park.

It’s an untouched haven for wildlife, so you won’t find restrooms, water fountains, or other amenities.

But that’s part of its charm.

It’s a place to disconnect from the rush of modern life and reconnect with nature.

The coastal scenery is stunning, even in winter.

I remember one early December walk when the foliage was still dense and vibrant.

And the best part? No beach tags are needed. You can relax and enjoy the serenity.

Even my friends from abroad love it here.

One of them, visiting from Bulgaria, particularly enjoyed the freedom and tranquility.

Besides the natural splendor, there are a couple of shops at Cape May Point.

After a long walk along the shoreline or a rewarding hike, exploring local businesses and maybe even finding a hidden gem or two is nice.

And if you’re a dog owner like me, the hiking trail is a great way to spend quality time with your pet.

Explore the Ocean with Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center

There’s nothing like feeling the ocean mist on your face and spotting a whale from the deck of a boat.

That’s why I, like many locals, find myself drawn to the Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center.

Located in my hometown, it’s an experience that always makes me appreciate the beauty of the natural world surrounding us.

The boat ride is a thrill, taking you far from the shore to the deep abyss where these majestic creatures dwell.

We were fortunate to see many dolphins playfully chasing the boat, including a mother-baby pair.

Various birds also graced us with their presence, and we even spotted a horseshoe crab!

The boat was clean and spacious, with plenty of seating options.

And it’s not just a boat; it’s like a mini-exploration hub.

There’s a small restaurant and bathrooms, and they even let you walk freely.

Plus, there’s a bonus for dog owners – they allow well-behaved leashed dogs!

We took our eight-month-old puppy, Maevie, who seemed to enjoy the boat ride and ocean scent as much as we did.

The excitement was capped off with her featuring on their Instagram page!

Oh, and if you’re a fan of Bloody Marys, take my advice and add a drink package – you won’t be disappointed.

Spend a Peaceful Afternoon at Cape May Rotary Park

Water fountain at Cape May Rotary Park

Marge Sudol /

There’s something wonderfully tranquil about lounging in the grass at Cape May Rotary Park on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The rhythmic splash of the park’s large centerpiece fountain always has a calming effect on me.

This is where I often find myself, sprawled out on the green turf under the shade of large trees, with a book in my hand.

During the mild summer afternoons, the park’s bandstand is a hub of activity.

You never know what might be happening.

One day, you might stumble upon a lively jazz trio, then the next, a local school’s end-of-year performance.

I remember, once, a person in a Ghostbusters costume was sitting there, amusing kids and adults alike.

It was quite the sight and a good laugh for all of us.

Benches at Cape May Rotary Park

Rosemarie Mosteller /

As the day turns into evening, the park transforms.

The fountain lights up, creating a beautiful reflection against the darkening sky.

It’s a popular spot for people to make wishes, with a cascade of coins glittering in the water.

I, too, have added my share of wishes to that collection.

The park becomes a cozy little haven during the evenings.

The atmosphere is serene and relaxing, with whispers of conversation blending into the natural soundscape.

The benches scattered around the park provide a perfect place for a quiet rendezvous or to sit and enjoy the tranquility.

Uncover History at the Harriet Tubman Museum

Just around the corner from my house stands a beacon of resilience, a testament to the human spirit – the Harriet Tubman Museum.

You step through the doors and feel an instant connection to a woman who shaped history with her bravery and determination.

Walking through the museum is like stepping back in time; each artifact and exhibit is expertly curated to immerse you in Tubman’s world.

You get to stand in the very home of this tremendous woman, soaking in the power and strength she embodied.

Tubman’s story serves as a beacon of bravery, resilience, and faith in a world that often feels lacking in genuine role models.

A guided tour is a small fee, but it’s an investment worth making.

The tour guides are personable and knowledgeable, offering insights and stories that bring Tubman’s legacy to life.

If you think you know her story, I assure you, there is much more to learn.

Each visit leaves me a little more enriched and inspired.

Stroll Down Washington Street

People walking around Washington Street Mall

EQRoy /

If there’s one place every visitor in Cape May eventually finds themselves, it’s Washington St.

Just look at this vibrant street, and you’ll understand why it’s the town’s showstopper.

Starting from the Washington St. Mall shopping area, the street leads to the marinas at Schellenger Creek.

It’s a thoroughfare of delight, brimming with boutique shops, quaint cafes, and souvenir stores with something for everyone.

Every visit feels like a new treasure hunt, with unique finds waiting at every corner.

Sure, it might be a little more expensive than your average street market, but the quality of goods more than makes up for it.

Souvenir shops in Washington Street Mall

EQRoy /

The cafes dotting the street offer a cozy refuge when you need a break from shopping.

Their warm, inviting ambiance and delicious drinks and snacks are the perfect pick-me-up on a tiring day.

One thing that’s always on the ball here is the parking.

The meter police don’t miss a beat, so make sure you’ve got your parking covered.

It’s a small price to pay for the pleasure of spending a day in the heart of the town.

No visit here is complete without a stroll in the early spring.

The crowd buzzes with anticipatory energy, and the old buildings lining the street bask in the sun’s soft glow, creating a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere.

People at Washington Street

George Wirt /

Spend the Day at the Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek

The Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek is like my little slice of heaven tucked away in Cape May, where the city sounds fade into the background, and I’m left with nothing but the sweet symphony of nature.

Every stroll through the preserve is like embarking on a new adventure.

The trails wind through lush greenery, splashed with a riot of color from the blossoming flowers in the spring and the vibrant foliage in the fall.

I’ve often spotted a couple of turtles basking along the creek, and the birdsong is simply soothing to the ears.

One of the reserve’s highlights is the annual Butterfly Event, a touching reminder of our responsibility to protect these delicate creatures.

A beautiful butterfly statue stands at the entrance, a testament to the park’s commitment to conservation.

It’s heartwarming when butterflies begin their migration journey here, transforming the area into a kaleidoscope of colors.

The preserve is perfect for unwinding, even on a regular day.

Cleanliness is top-notch, and you can always find an empty bench or gazebo to sit and enjoy a peaceful picnic.

A certain kind of magic in the air stirs creativity – the park has even placed easels out for visitors eager to capture the beauty around them.

Uncover the Beauty of Cape May Point State Park

People strolling around at Cape May Point State Park

quiggyt4 /

Every morning, I cherish the delight of waking up to the refreshing breeze of Cape May Point State Park.

It’s not just a state park with a lighthouse and environmental center. It’s also my sanctuary and playground.

Here, each day is a new adventure, a chance to explore the wonders of Cape May.

The park is home to countless bird species, making it a paradise for bird watchers.

During the migrating season, an array of vibrant, exotic birds take a pit stop at the park, presenting a spectacular sight for the spectators.

The thrill of spotting a rare bird is an unparalleled joy that keeps me looking forward to my routine walks.

I love fishing by the serene waters, my favorite way to decompress, especially after a particularly taxing day.

There’s something about the rhythmic ebb and flow of the water that brings peace to my mind, and the occasional tug on the fishing line adds a touch of excitement to the serene setting.

Sign board of Cape May Point State Park

EQRoy /

Hiking is my weekend ritual.

The park offers various trails that meander through the lush greenery, each offering a unique view of the stunning landscape.

I often bring my dog along for these hikes, and we both enjoy the refreshing change of scenery.

At the heart of the park stands the majestic lighthouse, an iconic landmark that has stood the test of time.

Anyone can climb the 199 steps to the top for a small fee and enjoy a panoramic view of the seascape.

The lighthouse also houses a quaint gift shop where one can pick up souvenirs or learn about the rich history of Cape May from the friendly hosts.

Lastly, the park has an environmental center that offers educational tours and workshops about local flora and fauna.

It’s an excellent resource for kids and adults alike to learn about the ecosystem and understand the importance of conservation.

Hikers walking on the dusty trail in Cape May Point State Park

Fadeela Khan /

Spend an Afternoon at Cape May Winery

Sometimes, the best way to spend a weekend afternoon is to visit Cape May Winery.

You’re greeted with the warm and welcoming aroma of fermenting grapes when you step inside.

The winery offers an intimate tasting presentation where you can sample 6 distinct wines.

Each wine is a story, a testament to the art and science of making each bottle.

The presentation is not only about tasting but also about learning.

You understand the winery’s history, the vineyards, and the cellars.

It’s a unique and immersive experience that deepens the appreciation for local wines.

And the experience doesn’t end there.

You can also enjoy live music and a variety of tapas after the presentation.

They even have vegan options.

I remember the hummus – beautifully presented and delicious.

This can all be enjoyed in the taproom or outside their covered area.

I particularly enjoy spending time outside, especially on a beautiful spring day.

The ambiance is perfect, with lovely lighting fixtures and an appealing water feature, while the winery offers a small but thoughtful menu of tapas and cheese plates.

Moreover, the dishes are carefully chosen to pair perfectly with the wines.

One of my favorite things is to sit in their garden, a glass of wine in hand, a cheese plate in front of me, and take in the surroundings.

Uncover History at the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

Display at Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

EQRoy /

I still remember the first time I stumbled upon the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum.

It’s a grand old WWII training site home to a fascinating collection of historic aircraft and engines.

The interactive displays are a treat, especially for history buffs and aviation enthusiasts.

It’s best to visit the museum slightly later in the day, maybe around 10:40 a.m. or so.

The cleaning crew usually wraps up their work by then, so you won’t have to worry about dodging leaf blowers or extension cords.

It’s a much more pleasant experience when the hangar is quiet, and all the exhibits are ready for viewing.

One of the standout features of this museum is that it allows you to climb into a fighter jet cockpit.

Exterior view of Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

EQRoy /

I’ve been to many museums, but this is one of the few places where I’ve had the chance to experience such a unique interactive exhibit!

It’s a real thrill, stepping into the cockpit and imagining what it must have been like for the brave pilots who flew these planes during WWII.

As a history enthusiast, I appreciate that the museum also shows the story of WWII life in Cape May.

It’s fascinating to learn about the local history, especially when it’s so closely tied to the global events of the time.

In addition to the museum, you’ll also find the Flight Deck Diner just across the parking lot.

It’s a great place to grab a bite after exploring the museum.

The food is delicious and reasonably priced, perfect for a casual meal.

Display of a military helicopter at Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

EQRoy /

Visit Turdo Vineyards & Winery

It’s hard to believe that such an oasis of fine wine, right in our backyard, could fly under the radar, but Turdo Vineyards & Winery does just that.

Nestled in the beautiful landscape of Cape May, this winery is a charming retreat, a gem that specializes in all the old-world charms.

Everyone knows Cape May Winery; it’s always bustling with tourists.

But just around the corner, there’s Turdo Vineyards & Winery, a little less crowded and every bit as delightful.

Imagine savoring a glass of robust red or a crisp white with the sun setting over the vineyard. It’s like a slice of Sicilian splendor right here in New Jersey.

While the winery is known as a bastion of dry wines, I assure you, there’s something for everyone.

Each visit is a new journey of discovery.

Whether you’re a wine novice or a seasoned connoisseur, every sip will tantalize your taste buds.

It’s not just about the wine. The place itself is charmingly quaint.

The vineyard sparkles like a green jewel under the sky on a sunny day.

The indoor wine tasting is an experience, but since I prefer the open air, I often buy a bottle and head outside.

There’s plenty of shade, perfect for a lazy afternoon of sipping and picnicking.

And if you’re worried about keeping the kids entertained, there’s a great playground next door so they can run around while you unwind with a glass of wine.

Step Back in Time at Emlen Physick Estate

Exterior view of Emlen Physick Estate

EQRoy /

Just another stormy weekend in Cape May, I was transported back to 1879 at the Emlen Physick Estate.

Nothing like a little spooky history to stir up a Saturday afternoon!

Ticket in hand, I joined the group on the porch, waiting for the tour to begin.

The atmosphere was electric, with a tornado warning in place.

Then, the sky darkened as we huddled together, adding to the eerie ambiance of the Estate.

Divided into smaller, manageable groups, we entered the Victorian splendor world.

Gazebo at Emlen Physick Estate

EQRoy /

The house is a testament to the craftsmanship of the era.

Each room exudes character and charm that’s missing from contemporary architecture.

The intricately carved woodwork, the ornate wallpaper, the vintage furniture, every detail echoes a bygone era.

A peculiar sight was an Ouija board perched delicately on a chair – a bit theatrical, but it added to the overall ghostly charm.

Despite seeming flustered, the tour guide expertly navigated us through the first and second floors.

As a lover of historic homes, I was enchanted.

There’s a certain appeal to these old houses – the creaking floorboards, the smell of old wood, the slightly uneven floors – which newer buildings can’t replicate.

Garden at Emlen Physick Estate

EQRoy /

Enjoy Cultural Enrichment with Cape May MAC

The other day, I went on one of the Candlelight Home Tours organized by Cape May MAC, a non-profit promoting cultural enrichment in our beautiful town.

It was a delightful experience, getting a glimpse into the interiors of homes, each with a unique atmosphere and story.

The tour was a bit chilly, taking place on open-air trolley shuttles, but the frost in the air only added to the holiday charm.

For instance, the Candlelight Home Tour was a well-attended event, bustling with visitors from all walks of life.

The evening had a wonderful community feel to it, thanks to the efforts of the Kiwanis Club.

They served cookies, cider, and hot chocolate, welcoming us all warmly.

Enter Seafood Heaven at The Lobster House

Signage of The Lobster House

EQRoy /

Nothing encapsulates the essence of our harbor-front lifestyle like the Lobster House.

Let me take you on a little voyage to this seafood haven, where the full bar, dockside seating, and casual ambiance take the dining experience to another level.

A rugged exterior veils the culinary delights that await inside.

I’ve been a regular for years, and it always amazes me.

Its nautical decor and intriguing menu items add to the charm.

You can always count on the friendly wait staff to enhance your dining experience.

One of my favorites is the Snapper Turtle Soup, a delightful concoction of rich and pleasingly spiced ingredients.

Follow it up with the Crab Imperial – it’s hot, creamy, and decadent, a treat for the palate.

People at The Lobster House

EQRoy /

If you appreciate a good piece of fish, the Charred Board Swordfish is a must-try.

Served with fluffy mashed potatoes and a colorful array of grilled veggies, it’s a feast for both the eyes and the stomach.

I’ve been bringing my family and friends here for years, which never disappoints.

Whether the tantalizing candlelit dinners or the fresh bread with that distinct seasoning, The Lobster House never fails to leave a lasting impression.

It offers an exquisite dining experience that justifies the cost of the food.

And let’s not forget the delightful tradition of grabbing a martini at the Schooner after putting your name down for a table.

The sunset view with an Orange Crush or the luxurious lobster roll for lunch on the dock, every visit is an event to remember.

Nothing compares to a perfect Lobster House evening, complete with a 1-pound steamed lobster, house salad, red roasted potatoes, a vegetable of the day, and a glass of champagne.

Final Thoughts

I always find a renewed appreciation for the many gems that Cape May has to offer.

So, here’s to the lovely Cape May, a place that never stops giving, a place that I’m lucky to call home.

What are you waiting for? Visit our town now!

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