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Greetings Internet Stranger! Sometimes it can feel like a million people are throwing different balls in our face all day! Give me this report! Pick me up at the airport! Catch this bowling ball! Think fast? Want to escape all those balls in one of the loveliest seaside resorts in the country? Then this Cape May tour is absolutely for you!
Cape May Tour
Where to Stay?
In some American cities like Minneapolis or Phoenix, I prefer to stay at chain hotels. Cape May is not one of those cities. You need to lean into Cape May’s quaint charm and stay at a bed and breakfast. I could not recommend the Angel of the Sea Bed and Breakfast more highly. I got an amazing breakfast made to order every morning, plus wine and cheese in the evening AND cakes and tea at teatime. A traveler on a budget would basically never need to go out for a meal if they stayed here! And it has a flawless location right by the beach.
Plus it looks like the sort of the place Glinda the Good Witch would go on a beach vacation. Keep in mind that during high season, Cape May requires people to purchase affordable beach tags to go on the beach. So ask at the front desk for information about how and where to purchase these passes. No one wants to get kicked off the beach.
Cape May Tour
Morning: Cape May Lighthouse
In some cities, the biggest monument is a skyscraper or a war memorial. But in adorable Cape May, NJ, the most notable monument is the Cape May Lighthouse. So we’ll start our Cape May tour here. Like everything else in Cape May, the Cape May Lighthouse is run with a fist of iron by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, or MAC for short. I believe they’re a top-secret branch of the Illuminati or something.
You’ll need to take a car or rideshare over to the Cape May Lighthouse because it is a bit too long to walk from the Angel of the Sea. Fill yourself up with a fortifying breakfast, and you’ll be all set to learn…
Three Fun Facts: Cape May Lighthouse
1) Why is the Cape May Lighthouse Important?
So many reasons! First of all, it’s beautiful! Just look at that noble column climbing into the sky! It reminds me of something, but I can’t think what. Maybe it’s the Washington Monument. You can learn more about hours and prices here on the official website.
The Cape May Lighthouse, which is still functioning, is one of the oldest lighthouses in New Jersey. It was built all the way back in 1859, which is crazy old for America. I know in Europe that’s nothing. It’s also on the National Register of Historic Places. Friendly MAC docents will be around the premises, happy to teach you about the lighthouse and induct you into their cult.
The winds in Southern New Jersey can get very strong, so the lighthouse was designed to be wider at the base and narrower at the top. This helps protect the structure in case of a storm/whacking from Tony Soprano.
2) What Are the Views Like?
Pretty sweet, Internet Stranger! But be prepared for a bit of a walk to the top. There are six different landings on the Cape May Lighthouse and 30 steps in between each landing. I could do the calculation for you about how many steps that makes, but I was told that in travel blogging there would be no math.
Once you get to the top, you are rewarded with gorgeous views of Southern New Jersey. (I’m from NYC, so that sounds like I’m being sarcastic because New Yorkers LOVE making fun of the Jerz. But actually Southern New Jersey is pretty fab.)
If you look carefully you can see the World War II Lookout Tower. During WWII, the Cape May Lighthouse was darkened just in case the Nazis could see it all the way in Germany. But New Jersey was prepared for anything! The brave men guarding the lookout tower weren’t going to let the enemy through! The man who relaxes is helping the Axis!
Actually Germany never made it as far as invading New Jersey. But it’s good to know that the citizens of Cape May were prepared, just in case. Actually, I think The Nazi Invasion of Cape May would make a great alternate history series for Netflix. And I only ask ten percent of the gross!
3) What Else is There at the Cape May Lighthouse?
After you leave the lighthouse, you can stop in the nearby nature center and see some local beasties. If you’re “lucky”, a ranger will be in there and take one of the snakes out so you can pet it. Don’t worry! The snakes are no more harmful than Snookie from Jersey Shore. When I was there, the ranger even fed a snake a beautiful snack of dead mice. It’s times like this I’m very glad that I’m not a snake…or a mouse.
If snakes make you squeamish, never fear! I’ve got you covered. You can take a look at the famous Cape May diamonds in the Nature Center instead. There are no blood diamonds in the state of New Jersey. These are quartz pebbles that have been worn down by their trip on the Delaware River. They’re easy to find in Cape May souvenir shops. Just don’t steal the ones they have at the Nature Center! That’s a crime, even in New Jersey.
When you’re done with the nature center, stroll down the beach and follow it back to the main part of Cape May. Just face the water and turn left. You can’t miss it! Take your time strolling because we have a busy afternoon of walking ahead of us!
Cape May Tour
Afternoon: Cape May Food Tour
I just love a food tour. You get to see the city with a local, learn tons of fun facts, get exercise in an enjoyable and scenic way, and eat more food than you’d get to sample if you were on your own. Sometimes people ask me why I don’t marry food tours if I love them so much, and I say, “I would if that were legal!” And maybe it is in New Jersey. I mean, if Snooki can get married, probably food tours can too.
Anyway, that’s why the Cape May Food Tour is the perfect addition to our 24 hours in Cape May tour. You can check the hours and prices on their website here. The tour begins in a secret New Jersey garden and takes you around some of the most beautiful buildings in Cape May. I’m not going to spoil all the fun facts on the tour because I want you to take it yourself. But I can show you what we ate with…
Approximately Top 5: Cape May Food Tour
1) Freda’s Cafe
Our first stop was at Freda’s Cafe for some amazing crab focaccia. The crab was so fresh, and the focaccia was rich and warm. I can see why this is one of their most popular dishes. Freda’s Cafe has a real homey vibe, almost like you’re a guest instead of a customer. This was a filling and satisfying way to start the tour.
I need to mention that I was very impressed with the tour guide because there was a woman on the tour who didn’t eat seafood or dairy, and she hadn’t warned the tour company in advance. Now, as Cape May is on the ocean, there’s going to be a lot of seafood on this tour! But our guide, whom I shall not call Snooki, helped accommodate this woman and her dietary restrictions. But I encourage you to be responsible and tell the tour company in advance if there’s something you can’t eat.
Next up it was more seafood at Fins Bar and Grille. The decor here is really chic and more modern than you expect to see in Cape May. Don’t miss the chance to check out the bathroom. I won’t say why! You need to be surprised. But I promise it’s a good surprise, not an evil clown kind of surprise.
Our dish here was fried calamari paired with a local-ish beer from Dogfish Head. (Dogfish Head is from nearby Delaware.) The calamari was probably my favorite dish on the tour. Sometimes calamari is tough and gross, but this was melt-in-your-mouth tender squid. Paulie Walnuts would approve!
3) Coffee Tyme!
That’s not a typo, Internet Stranger! We’ve had two heavy dishes in a row, so it’s time for something lighter. That’s why we got decaf mochas at Coffee Tyme at the Beach. (There’s another Coffee Tyme at the Mall.) This store is run by a local couple, and our guide, whom I shall call Rosalita, said they serve the best coffee in Cape May. It was pretty tasty, and it sure hit the stop on a sunny New Jersey day.
And they definitely have the best sign in Cape May. Christopher Walken is always funny—unless he’s breaking into your house in the middle of the night.
4) Time for Dessert!
And on the Cape May Food Tour, we’re very lucky because we get two different desserts. The first was a peanut butter cannoli at the Cape May Peanut Butter Co. Rosalita said that this is the best specialty food store in Cape May. I can’t endorse that statement until I sample the goods from all the Cape May food stores. It’s necessary for me to suffer like that for this blog.
But I can promise you that the flavored peanut butters were all delicious. You can sample as many different kinds as you like. It’s like being a kid and eating peanut butter straight from the jar! My favorite was the creamy butterscotch peanut butter.
Our second dessert was at the Fudge Kitchen. They make fudge the old-fashioned way here with copper kettles and whipping by hand. We even got to watch a demonstration. This stop was well thought out because we could take our fudge with us and eat later when we weren’t so stuffed with crab and calamari. We got three different kinds of fudge, and they were all tasty but my favorite was the salted caramel. Keep them in a safe place so they don’t melt in your pocket and you’ll have a yummy treat for the trip home after your Cape May tour.
Gecko’s was the final stop on our Cape May tour. It’s run by a lovely couple, and we got to meet both of them. The husband is from Utah, and the wife is from Bavaria, so naturally they decided to cook Mexican food. (I kid, the menu is Southwestern, and the Southwestern food in Utah is quite good.)
I’m sure glad they did because this quesadilla with housemade guacamole and salsa was as tasty to me as those mice were to the snakes in the Nature Center. This was a surprising and satisfying way to end the tour. If you’re still hungry, you can snack on your fudge. (But you won’t be hungry.)
Cape May Tour
Evening: Dinner at Peter Shields
You might be wondering how we can possibly have dinner after that amazing food tour. But the three best things to do in Cape May are eating, walking, and shopping, so we can’t have a Cape May tour and skip dinner! Just head on over to the beach, relax with a good book, or take a nap. That’s the way to work up an appetite!
Then we’ll walk literally around the corner from Angel of the Sea to the Peter Shields Inn. (You can make reservations online here.) Just be aware that, though Peter Shields Inn is a fine dining experience, it’s also BYOB. That’s because in Cape May it’s extremely hard to get a liquor license. You can order off the menu, but I got the seven-course Grand Tasting Menu for the full Peter Shields experience. Allow me to walk you through the magic with…
Approximately Top 5: Peter Shields Inn
This tasting menu truly gives you an appreciation of the bounty of Cape May seafood. We began with local sweet oysters with marinated cucumber. It was a briny and refreshing way to start the meal.
Next came day boat scallops with English peas. Day boat scallops are a special treat, fished from boats that are required to return to shore within 24 hours. That makes the scallops extra fresh, which is definitely what you want when it comes to seafood.
Even the pasta course has seafood: plump and tender rock shrimp. This pasta shape is known as radiatore because it is shaped like a radiator. I think the Italians will turn anything into a pasta shape: ears, snails, shoes, and now radiators. I highly approve of this tendency.
I don’t think we’ve had enough seafood on this menu, but fortunately there is a fish course. It’s halibut served with potato gnocchi, asparagus, and truffle foam. Many fine dining restaurants lean on the French influence, but I was really pleased with the Italian touches in this menu. After all, what would New Jersey be without Italian food? (“A landfill!” I can hear former New York Governor David Paterson yell.)
Our first non-seafood course, and it’s a doozy. Ready for tender lamb with warm barley salad and golden raisins? This lamb had more of a Middle Eastern vibe than an Italian vibe to me, but that’s certainly not a complaint. Look at the gorgeous colors on the dish! That medium-rare lamb and the golden raisins are as beautiful as a New Jersey sunset. (“NEW JERSEY SUNSET IS THE NAME OF A LANDFILL!” David Paterson keeps yelling.)
You know you’re at a classy restaurant when you get a cheese course and a dessert course. The Gouda on this cheese plate was really extraordinary, so flavorful and pungent. (I can hear David Paterson getting ready to make another joke, but I won’t let him.)
After all that food, we’re going to want a light dessert. And the Peter Shields Inn provided the perfect choice with strawberry panna cotta and green tea ice cream. Ah, there’s that Italian influence again! I thought it wasn’t going to come back after the Gouda. (Also why does autocorrect keep thinking I want to type “panda cotta”? Panna cotta is delicious and panda cotta sounds like a horrifying crime against nature.)
That’s a Perfect Cape May Tour!
What would you do on a Cape May tour? Would you rather eat a dead mouse or panda cotta? And will I ever stop making New Jersey jokes? (Prob not.) Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while this article is about how to have a perfect 24 hours in Cape May tour, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have 24 hours in Cape May tour. If you have time for another Cape May tour in 24 hours, click here.