Take a Perfect Day Trip to Cape May

Tisha’s Fine Dining in Cape May, New Jersey.

I’ve been wanting to do a series of posts about fun day and overnight trips because there are so many interesting places for short visits from wherever your Delaware home happens to be. This week I’m spotlighting beautiful and historic Cape May, New Jersey.

Getting there is a big part of the fun since you get to take a scenic 1.5 hour ride aboard the Cape May Lewes Ferry which leaves from the ferry terminal on Cape Henlopen Drive in Lewes. It has a fascinating history as a joint venture between the Delaware and New Jersey legislatures that created a mechanism for funding and building the ferry beginning in 1962. 

Its maiden voyage happened in 1964. It was a significant event, celebrated with a fly-over of jet fighter planes, sky-divers, receptions, dinners and concerts by the Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard bands, and with more than 2,000 private boats participating in a parade to escort the ferry on that first voyage.

The ferry now runs back and forth several times a day. You need to register in advance, which is very easy to do at the ferry’s Web site, and once you’re signed up you’re able, after waiting in a short line, to drive your car directly onto the boat. After you’ve parked you go upstairs to a large observation room with a restaurant, bar, Wi-fi and big screen televisions beside large windows that welcome in picture perfect bay views throughout the crossing.

Victorian Architecture at its Finest

When you drive off the ferry you’ll travel just a couple of miles to the town of Cape May. Geographically, it’s a lot like Lewes because it’s situated right where Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Settlers began its first wave of development in the 18th and 19th centuries, and by the mid 1800s it was a popular resort for well-heeled families from neighboring states and regular folks as well. From that point on builders created many grand hotels, residences and government buildings. Many were in the opulent Victorian style, which emphasized steep, gabled roofs and dormers, rounded turrets and intricate, ornate woodwork and bright colors.

Many of those homes are still perfectly preserved today as single family residences and charming hotels. Downtown Cape May is like many historic communities, with tree-lined streets and residential neighborhoods within an easy walk of the shops and restaurants at the center of the community. One notable feature is a pedestrian mall, created from what was originally a central downtown street lined with historic buildings. Today the street houses galleries, souvenir shops, and lots of restaurants including Tisha’s, which offers wonderful food in a charming dining room looking out at the historic street. 

If you love old houses you’ll love walking through the streets stretching out in all directions from that location, where several dozen are still in beautiful condition. Highlights include The Gallagher House, Morris House, the J. Stratton Ware House, the Southern Mansion, which is now a gorgeous bed & breakfast and the Emlen Physick House, which is full of grand Victorian furnishings and decorative arts and open for tours. 

Beautiful Natural Vistas

While Cape May is best known for that architecture it’s also situated amid nature preserves offering gorgeous views of beaches, marshes and forests. Highlights include the 200-acre South Cape May Meadows, a haven for migratory birds and year-round species that can be viewed from meandering walking trails.

There’s also the Nature Center of Cape May, which is run by the New Jersey Audubon Society, and the Garrett Family Preserve, where vast marshlands replete with shorebirds, songbirds and butterflies.

If you’re bringing your grandkids or just yearn for more spectacular views, visit the Cape May Lighthouse, where you’ll climb 199 steps to reach the observation post where you can see virtually all of the town from high above along with the Delaware Bay, Atlantic Ocean and surrounding beaches and marshlands.

Staying at one of the town’s lovely hotels will give you a perfect overnight or weekend trip, but if you live near the Delaware beaches or other parts of southern Delaware Cape May is also a perfect day trip if you take the 8:30 a.m. ferry from Lewes and return on the 2:30 ferry, which will get you back into town by 4 p.m.

About Christine Davis

Christine grew up in northeastern PA and served in the United States Air Force for 8+ years. She worked in the civil engineering career field and traveled to various bases throughout the world. After leaving the Air Force, she moved to Rehoboth Beach and finished her degree in Business. She became a REALTOR in 2003 and aims to make the buying or selling process as smooth and fun as possible while educating clients. Christine now lives above their downtown Lewes office with her husband and fellow REALTOR, Bill Davis, and enjoys owning the brokerage and assisting the agents and meeting all the new clients moving to the area. Christine and Bill's philosophy is to be #bettereveryday. Life is short, make it count!

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