Far Out and About: Cape May in Autumn

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has criticized the popular reality TV series “Jersey Shore” for giving a negative impression of life along the Garden State’s coast. Instead, he should be promoting Cape May, a wonderful example of why so many people head for the shore.

Published November 8, 2011 7:09 PM
4 min read

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aboutthumbNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie has criticized the popular reality TV series “Jersey Shore” for giving a negative impression of life along the Garden State’s coast. Instead, he should be promoting Cape May, a wonderful example of why so many people head for the shore.

 

By Paul Hicks

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has criticized the popular reality TV series “Jersey Shore” for giving a negative impression of life along the Garden State’s coast. Instead, he should be promoting Cape May, a wonderful example of why so many people head for the shore.

 

aboutinside2While Cape May is primarily a summer destination because of its beautiful beaches, we decided to go there in mid-October when the weather forecast was favorable and there were fewer people. Although the drive takes about three hours, it is a straight shot south on the Garden State Parkway to the end, made faster if you have E-ZPass.

 

Recognized as the country’s oldest seaside resort, the city of Cape May is the southernmost point in New Jersey, and is located on the tip of a peninsula where Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Among its attractions is its reputation as one of the best birding places in North America.

Both experienced birders and those who are still learning to tell kinglets from kingbirds and kingfishers head for Cape May during the spring and fall migration seasons. Many attend the annual Cape May Autumn Birding Festival, which was held this year the last weekend in October (birdcapemay.org/autumn.shtml).

 

You don’t have to be a birder, however, to enjoy walking along the many trails through the woods and wetlands and the long sandy beaches that surround the city for miles. An easily accessible place to see birds is at the South Cape May Meadows (known locally as just “the Meadows”), where we were greeted by a marsh harrier and later watched an osprey fly overhead with a fish in its claws.

 

It’s hard to believe that this 212-acre preserve of marshes and sand dunes, now owned by The Nature Conservancy, was once the site of a resort town that was destroyed by severe storms more than 60 years ago. For other Cape May birding spots see the website of the Cape May Times (capemaytimes.com).

 

farinsideIn any case, the views of egrets fishing in the shallows, sanderlings darting along the shore, and all sorts of raptors soaring through the sky are bound to add to your enjoyment of the various wildlife preserves in the area. An added benefit of being there in the cooler weather is the absence of almost all bothersome insects.

 

Many visit Cape May in all seasons because of its large number of well-preserved Victorian homes and buildings. In 1976, the entire city was designated a National Historic District. Connoisseurs of Victorian architecture will have a field day, but even ordinary tourists can’t help but enjoy all the gingerbread, gables, and turrets, as well as the colorful paint choices.

 

Walking and trolley tours are easily arranged, and a self-guided audio tour is available from the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts. Visit their website (capemaymac.org/index) for more information about tours and events. A less well-publicized option is a tour by horse and carriage, providing the weather cooperates (capemaycarriage.com).

 

There are hundreds of hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, condominiums, and cottages to suit every taste and budget. As always, TripAdvisor is a good place to start, but another very good resource is the Cape May Times website mentioned above. It has information about lodging, including photos of the buildings and links to their websites.

 

There are a number of good places to eat that stay open throughout the year. On the less expensive side are The Mad Batter and The Blue Pig. They’re both in the heart of the historic district, as is the up-scale Ebbitt Room in the Virginia Hotel. There is also fine dining at Peter Shields Inn and Restaurant overlooking the oceanfront. For value and good food combined, head to the Lobster House at Fisherman’s Wharf on the edge of town.

 

In these budget-cutting times, when trips to far-away places have to be postponed, a visit to Cape May in autumn may be the perfect alternative. You can be sure that the sun-bronzed cast of “Jersey Shore” will not be down there playing beach volleyball and slurping Mojitos.

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