This quaint little town was settled by whalers and fisherman in colonial times and has been a destination for vacationers for many years since, making it America’s oldest seaside resort. In 1878 Cape May City nearly burned to the ground, but the reconstruction of the city has left many Victorian era buildings like no other in America. Many U.S. Navy facilities were located in Cape May during World War II, and still to this day the Coast Guard Training Station continues to be an essential part of Cape May. In 1976, Cape May was declared a National Historic Landmark City.
Experience Cape May’s Victorian architecture during your Trolley Tour and see one of the homes up close as you take a tour inside. In the 1800’s, Cape May had a collection of classically designed seaside hotels, but the fire in 1878 destroyed 30 blocks of the seashore town including some of the resort’s major hotels and also the original Congress Hall. After the fire, the town rebuilt new buildings in the modern style of the day. Later known as the Victorian style with lots of gingerbread trim, gables and turrets, they include everything from Gothic Revival to Queen Anne design. These homes were often called “painted ladies” because of their colorful appearance and received a protected status when the entire town was listed as a National Historic Landmark. Since then, many of the Victorian seaside cottages have been turned into bed and breakfast inns, guest houses and restaurants.
Cape May Point & Cape May Lighthouse
Cape May Point is located at the tip of Cape May Peninsula in Cape May, which includes the famous Cape May Lighthouse that is a big attraction for many visitors. The lighthouse is located in Cape May Point State Park with its constantly changing shorelines, dunes, freshwater coastal marsh and ponds. In the Cape May Point Natural Area wildlife can be viewed from the observation platforms and it is known for its great numbers of migrating birds.
The Cape May Lighthouse is 157 feet high and is still a navigational aid for mariners. This is the third lighthouse built in Cape May. The first was built in 1823 and was lost to erosion and the second was built in 1847, but was poorly constructed and had to be dismantled. The current lighthouse used the original bricks of the 1847 lighthouse. For those who choose not to climb the 199 stairs to the top of Cape May Point Lighthouse, the Oil House on the lighthouse grounds contains a fully accessible visitors’ orientation center and museum shop that carries maritime accessories and souvenirs.
Shopping & Dining
There are many small shops & antique stores to wander through on Washington Street Mall, many of which have been owned and operated by the same family for generations. The awnings on the stores are still cranked down to shelter the merchandise from the morning or evening sun and you can still see merchants out sweeping the sidewalks in front of their stores. The Washington Street Mall has art galleries, book stores, candy stores, clothing shops, jewelry, toy stores, Cape May Souvenirs and much more. There is a large variety of merchandise at great prices you will discovers Cape May’s charm.
Cape May offers many cuisines for any food lover. You will have a chance to venture off on your own for lunch. This is your time to try out a restaurant or just have a snack.
- Make sure you bring your camera for many photo opportunities. It’s a great way to remember the time you spent in the quaint town of Cape May.
- Cape May’s Public Restrooms are called “Comfort Stations” and can be located on the Washington Street Mall. They are heated/air conditioned buildings with running water, soap & electric hand dryers.