August 30, 2018

Beaches, Boutiques and a Cute Bakery in Cape May

It's always a wonderful surprise when a travel destination exceeds your expectations. Such was the case when I visited the beach town of Cape May, at the southernmost tip of New Jersey. I imagined it would be a good place to relax by the sea, but not much more than that (considering that it's part of the infamous "Jersey Shore"). 

Except for a very small boardwalk area with flashy video games, touristy souvenir shops and junk food offerings, most of Cape May is quite upscale. Plus the beaches are absolutely gorgeous stretches of pristine white sand. During summertime, the warm water and gentle waves invite you to jump in! Lifeguards survey the ocean and safety conditions are posted daily.

Just steps away from the beach, the historic center of Cape May is brimming with old-fashioned charm. Quaint Victorian-era summer cottages, from Queen Annes to Gingerbread style, grace the town's pleasant tree-lined streets. 

Many of the former "summer cottages" are now luxurious bed & breakfasts and vacation rentals. Every Cape May cottage features an ornate facade embellished with alluring decorative details such as hand-carved railings, gables, turrets and stained-glass windows.

Visitors can stroll through the Historic District to admire street after street lined with these lovely Victorian-era summer cottages. The center of town boasts around 600 well-preserved historic buildings. Each house is unique and beautiful in its own way.

What really distinguishes the Cape May summer cottages are the porches and verandas, often decked out with hanging plants and wicker furniture sets. 

The porches are well designed for relaxation and socializing. Don't you just want to be here on a sunny afternoon!?

Rocking chairs are de rigueur on Cape May porches. What could be a better way to unwind? 

Chalfonte Hotel veranda

One of the loveliest verandas is found at the Chalfonte Hotel, the oldest hotel in Cape May, listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Lovingly manicured front yards and white picket fences are seen throughout Cape May, adding to the town's traditional look. If you visit in springtime, you'll see proprietaires tending to their gardens, making the flowers bloom for the season. By later in the summer, the flowers are bigger and brighter and almost tropical! 
My favorite bungalow in Cape May with a striped awning that resembles salt-water taffy!
Besides the beaches and Victorians, shopping is another highlght of visiting Cape May. The locally owned boutiques are filled with tempting merchandise. 

In the heart of the historic town, the Washington Street Mall has many cute little shops, cafés and restaurants. It's fun to browse some of the unique stores. 
The Washington Street Mall is also the place to go for an ice cream, snack or a gourmet meal.
I enjoyed browsing the clothing shops. If only money was no object, I would have bought a whole new wardrobe!

Another fun thing to do in Cape May is bike around town. It's possible to cycle anywhere... to the beach, the shops, the lighthouse, even the more rural area of West Cape May.

Mostly old farms and bird sanctuaries, West Cape May has an appealing country feel. I was also happy to discover a wonderful little bakeshop.
The Beach Plum Bakery and Café creates artisanal baked goods, made with ingredients grown on the Beach Plum Farm in West Cape May. 
Shopoholics should note that the Beach Plum Bakery and Café is attached to a mini shopping mall with a great selection of clothing, jewelry, souvenirs and vintage finds.

The bakery only offers a few types of pastries, but everything is prepared from the finest ingredients at the small on-site bakery. They specialize in homemade donuts. Yum!!
I tried the cinnamon-sugar donut, but next time I'd sample the old-fashioned or blackberry jam glazed donut.

I love the way the donuts are displayed on tiered trays as if they are ready for a tea party! 

As in most beach towns, salt-water taffy is a favorite local treat. The Sweet House on the Washington Street Mall sells salt-water taffy and other old-fashioned candies.
Sweet House at the Washington Street Mall, copyright
After the shops close at the end of the day, it's the perfect time to take a leisurely stroll along the beach. Without the sunbathers and swimmers splashing around, you can really appreciate the serenity of the Atlantic waves and the sweeping horizon. You might even spot a joyful pod of dolphins cruising through the surf. They seem to be on vacation, too! 

Path to the beach in Cape May in the early morning

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Copyright © 2018, Lisa Alexander. All rights reserved.

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