Sometimes life can throw curveballs. That’s exactly what happened when my family had a vacation planned in Florida the same time a hurricane decided to arrive. We canceled our flights to Tampa and instead packed our bags for a beautiful resort town we hadn’t been to in almost a decade: Cape May, NJ.
My family and I came here several times throughout my childhood, so we have so many memories of this charming small town. I always remembered it as a lively place and even though we arrived in October, it felt just the same.
Our Stay at the Beach Shack
For our Columbus Day weekend vacation, we ended up taking a further trip down memory lane and staying at the same motel we roomed at years prior. Back in the day, this place had a different name and a different look. We heard that it underwent a large renovation, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
Today, it’s known as the Beach Shack. It changed from the boring, typical motel room into a luxurious and modern room. The two queen-sized beds were replaced with a king bed and two bunk beds on the opposite side of a half wall. The bathroom had a beautiful granite countertop and tiled walls. The small kitchenette area featured a mini fridge, a Keurig with four complimentary K-Cups a night, wine glasses and coffee mugs. We even received free make-up wipes, which is something I’ve never seen offered at a motel.
The outside featured two chairs in between two divider walls so you could have your privacy as you watched the sun go down.
The motel also allowed dogs, which was a big plus for the guests who just wanted to get away for the weekend and bring their four-legged friends along.
Another bonus of staying at the Beach Shack was that the Rusty Nail was part of the property and the renovation. Featuring a rustic look with garage-styled doors, it was the perfect place to relax by a fire, have a few drinks and listen to a band.
To start off your visit, you have to visit Washington Street Mall. Known as the heart of Cape May, it is home to various shops, restaurants, and more. There are pretty fountains placed along the walkways and since we were there in October, it was beautifully decorated in fall fashion and Halloween.
I also can’t forget to mention the amazing homes, some of which date back to the 1860’s. My mom and I decided to do a horse and buggy ride, probably the most touristy thing we could have done there. It was $50 for 30 minutes, which was a little steeper than we expected. However, our guide, Sandy, was very knowledgeable about the history of the town and made it a fun experience!
What we learned (which I found extremely interesting) was that you could tell by the intricacies of a house if it was a casino or a *erm* place for men to seek “services” from women. If you look closely on the various houses, you’ll notice a few symbols peeking out of the porch railings – a spade, heart, diamond and club. That’s how you knew it was a gambling house. Interesting, huh?
You’ll also notice small balconies on some of the upper levels of the houses. We learned that this was where wives would stand each morning in an effort to get a glimpse of their husband coming home from sea. If after several weeks of your husband not returning, you were deemed a widow. Thus the term “widow’s watch” was born.
Once the ride is over, don’t be afraid to venture off yourself. There’s so many houses to see that it’s best to jump in the car and go for a quick ride. I’d recommend starting off at the intersection of Madison Ave and Cape May Ave. Go east and continue to loop around onto streets parallel to the main drag, Beach Ave, until you eventually end up there. You won’t be disappointed by the gorgeousness and enormity of many of the houses.
Looking for a unique and historical experience place to stay during your visit? You’ll find many bed and breakfast inns on Beach Ave and on surrounding side streets. Or stay at the grand Congress Hall, America’s oldest seaside resort.
Stop by Avalon Coffee for a quick bite. Between the coffee, baked goods and breakfast sandwiches, you’re sure to find something good here. I’d recommend the bacon, egg and cheese on a sesame bagel…can’t go wrong there!
I’m a big fan of New England clam chowder and sadly, I’ve never tried the Manhattan version. But of the three New England clam choweders that I did taste in Cape May, my favorite (hands down) was from Delaney’s Irish Pub & Grill. It wasn’t too light or too heavy and the clams were easy to chew — nothing bothers me more than rubbery clams. Be aware, though, that the restaurant is BYOB. Don’t let that stop you from going — Collier’s Liquor Store is not even a three minute walk around the corner.
We ended up eating at the Rusty Nail for breakfast, lunch and dinner over the course of our four night stay. Here’s what I’d recommend for a quick bite:
- Lobster bisque
- Deep fried mac-n-cheese balls
- Nail nachos with guacamole
Can’t get enough of the seafood? Before you leave Cape May, stop at the Lobster House to pick up a pound of your favorite seafood or a pint of your favorite chowder.
Check out more restaurants in Washington Street Mall here.
Where there’s a brewery or winery, I’m so in. I love trying local beers and wines. While in Cape May, we ventured about 15 minutes from the motel to Cold Spring Brewery. We each sampled four beers (the bartender made a mistake with mine and gave me a fifth beer on the house — no complaints there). My favorite was the Cold Spring Red, which I ended up ordering after the tasting. I’m finding that more recently, I’m loving red beers.
During the summer, the waves can get fairly large here; not large enough to surf, but they can have a strong undertow. In October, however, the waves were pretty calm. It didn’t matter much as the water was FREEZING and I couldn’t get more than the lower part of my legs in the water. But it was still hot and sunny, which made for a couple perfect beach days.
Take note that the Beach Shack has a free rental service of chairs, towels and umbrellas. The hotel employee brings everything out to where you want to sit on the beach and sets everything up for you. Super convenient!
**This post is not an advertisement and I did not receive compensation for writing this. I just wanted to share my positive experience with others!
Have you been to Cape May before? What’s your favorite experience? I’d love to hear!
Author: Lauren Taylar
Lauren Taylar is a digital marketer and blogger. She is a graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations. When she’s not volunteering her time with Make-A-Wish, you can find her reading a travel magazine and sipping a glass of hard cider or wine.