If you enjoy Victorian architecture, beautiful sandy beaches, and not a franchise store in sight, I highly recommend you check out Cape May. The entire city is designated the Cape May Historic District, a National Historic Landmark due to its concentration of Victorian buildings. You can enjoy a Kohr’s Brothers Frozen Custard while you check out the shops on the Washington Street Mall.
Henry Hudson, an English Sea Captain, first documented the peninsula that is now Cape May. It was 1609 and Captain Hudson was sailing his small yacht, the “Half Moon”, when he came upon a small peninsula situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay. It wasn’t until 1620 that Dutch Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey came upon the same peninsula while exploring the Delaware River. Captain Mey named the area Cape Mey after himself; the spelling was later changed to Cape May. ¹
Cape May has catered to visitors since the 1600’s when Native American tribes summered here, but a community didn’t form in the area until 1685. In 1688, Quakers formed the first government based on strict moral order and Quaker piety. At this time a large whaling industry was beginning and many families from New York and New England, as well as a few original Mayflower families, were migrating to the area.¹
Often referred to as “exit zero” on the Garden State Parkway, Cape May is actually an island right at the end of the state. I especially love Sunset Beach, home of the famous “Cape May Diamonds.” What are they you might ask? Well, you may not know it, but Sunset Beach is home to piles of amazing rocks, including quartz, which are made clear by the constant motion of the water as they move down the Delaware River.
Sunset Beach is also home to the USS Atlantus – The Concrete
Ship. Due to a critical shortage of steel, during World War I, the federal government turned to experimental design concrete ships. An emergency fleet of 38 concrete ships were planned, by the United States Sipping Board. Only 12 of the concrete ships were ever put into service.² In 1926, the Atlantus was towed to Cape May. A Baltimore firm was attempting to start a ferry service from Cape May to Lewes, Delaware. During a storm on June 8th, 1926, the Atlantus broke loose of her moorings during a storm and went aground. Several attempts were made to free the Atlantus to no avail. It now sits in the water off the beach and can be seen during low tide.
At the end of each day at Sunset Beach during the summer, make sure to stay and watch the flag ceremony. All of the flags flown at Sunset Beach are veterans’ casket flags that families bring with them from their loved one’s funeral. It is a truly moving event.
As you can tell, I love going to Sunset Beach, but there are plenty of other things to experience in Cape May. Walking through Cape May is like walking through a Norman Rockwell painting. There are charming shops with lovely artwork, wonderful restaurants, and of course just walk down any of the streets full of beautiful Victorian architecture. I promise you, a day in Cape May is a day in heaven.