If your idea of the perfect beach vacation involves strolling down beautiful streets lined with Victorian buildings on your way to the shore, Cape May is just the place for you. This combination of history, beauty, and seaside ambiance is hard to find in any other location along the Mid-Atlantic coast. You can take horse-drawn carriage rides, peddle a surrey bicycle along quaint city streets, look for "Cape May diamonds", watch a gorgeous sunset off Sunset Beach, go dolphin watching, visit one of the nature centers, or just relax and enjoy the ocean breezes. For families who want the amusement-style activities found in a big boardwalk town, North Wildwood is just a short drive away.
The city beaches of Cape May can be rather narrow at high tide, but the water is clean and the surf offers good swimming. You'll need to purchase a beach tag to get onto the beach. Bay Beach offers some of the gentlest surf, and lifeguards are on duty. For sheer beauty, visit the beaches at Cape May Point State Park. The nearby lighthouse is great for a climb, and the beaches in this area are more secluded and less populated than those in town. Sunset Beach isn't particularly great for swimming, but the real attraction here is looking for "Cape May Diamonds" -- milky quartz crystals polished by the waves that can be faceted and further polished to closely resemble the real thing. You'll find two little souvenir shops nearby just in case you need to add a few purchases to augment your beachcombing finds.
If you're looking for a great, family-oriented place to stay in Cape May, be aware that the majority of the quaint bed & breakfasts in the area don't accommodate children. A few that do, as well as other types of accommodations, are listed below:
The Chalfonte: This grand dame of Cape May is the oldest hotel in the area. Staying here is an experience, but is only appropriate for those families who don't mind staying in spartan accommodations with wood floors, simple furnishings, shared baths, and no air conditioning. Ceiling fans provide breezes in the rooms at night. Prices are very reasonable, and all rates include a full breakfast and dinner, and young children (6 and under) must eat in the hotel's supervised children's dining room. This is a "love it or hate it" type of place. My daughter and I thought it was an adventure! For more information, call (888) 411-1998 or (609) 884-8409 or visit their website at: www.chalfonte.com.
The Virginia Hotel: This beautifully restored Victorian hotel offers nice family accommodations, as well as a well-run restaurant. Rooms are nicely furnished with private baths and air-conditioning. Room rates tend to be expensive, but worth it for what you receive. For more information, call (609) 884-5700 or (800) 732-4236 or visit their website at: www.virginiahotel.com.
The Queen Victoria: This lovely, well-managed Bed & Breakfast inn is one of the few in Cape May that allows children in selected rooms. The owners of this inn sincerely welcome families, and go out of their way to make children feel comfortable and at home. Rooms are nicely furnished, air conditioned, and all of the rooms include private baths. Four of the Queen Victoria's rooms can accommodate children, and some age restrictions apply. Guests are served breakfast and the inn's afternoon tea is a highly anticipated treat. This is an extremely popular B&B, so make reservations early for the few rooms that accommodate children. For more information, call (609) 884-8702 or visit their website at: www.queenvictoria.com.
The Grand Hotel: This oceanfront offers a wide variety of accommodations, ranging from standard rooms to bi-level Townhouse efficiency suites. Refrigerators have been placed in all rooms, and on-site laundry facilities are available as well. The property also has an indoor heated pool and whirlpool, which can really come in handy for families in the case of bad weather. Guest can also enjoy an outdoor heated pool and outdoor heated children's pool, three large sundecks, a beauty salon, restaurant, miniature golf, game room, and other diversions. This modern property offers family-style rooms with private baths and great proximity to the beach. For more information, call (800) 257-8550 or (609) 884-5611, or visit their website at: Cape May Grand Hotel
Atlas Inn: This 90-room oceanfront hotel pleases families with its spacious rooms and efficiency suites equipped with microwaves, as well as its complimentary breakfast by the sea for guests. All rooms come with mini-refrigerators as well. Parents and kids will enjoy the outdoor pool and children's pool, large sundeck, and barbecue grills for family cookouts. The hotel's restaurant is a hit with sports-lovers, with its million dollar display of Babe Ruth collectibles. For more information, call 1-888-ATLAS INN or visit the hotel's website: Atlas Inn.
Coastline Realty: This company specializes in serving those wishing to reserve a home or cottage at the beach. For more information or a rental brochure, call (609) 884-5005 or visit the company's website: Coastline Realty Rentals.
Tolz of Cape May: This firm also serves those looking for a beach house or cottage. For more information or a rental brochure, call (800) 444-7001 or (609) 884-7001 or their website at: www.tolz.com.
When in Cape May, don't miss the ice cream at the Gazebo Restaurant and Ice Cream Cafe, the pastries at Cape May Bakers, the crab cakes at the Chalfonte dining room, omelettes at McGlades, a meal at The Mad Batter or Mangia Mangia, and the seafood at The Lobster House. Dinners at The Filling Station and God Mother's are also great.
Families coming from points south suggest taking the Cape May-Lewes, Delaware ferry rather than driving the whole way. The ferry leaves from the charming town of Lewes, which has some wonderful beaches of its own in town and at Cape Henlopen State Park. The 70-minute ferry trip allow kids to get out of the car, walk about, get a snack, and enjoy the view of the Bay. Ferries leave at set times each day, and each ferry carries approximately 100 cars. To learn more about the schedule, call 800-64-FERRY.