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Best Things To Do in Cape May

You may be surprised to learn that there's more to Cape May than the beach. When you need a break from the sand, spend your days wandering through

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You may be surprised to learn that there's more to Cape May than the beach. When you need a break from the sand, spend your days wandering through the quaint shops of the Washington Street Mall or touring the Victorian-era Emlen Physick Estate, which is said to be haunted by its original owners from the 1800s. Or, if you're looking to get some cardio in (with scenic views as a reward), head to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse or the World War II Lookout Tower. Even oenophiles will be at home in Cape May, as the area boasts popular wineries like the Willow Creek Winery and Cape May Winery and Vineyard.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated September 29, 2020

  • #1
    Things to do in Cape May
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    #1 in Cape May
    Beaches
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    For many travelers, the allure of Cape May has much to do with its plethora of spacious, white sand beaches. The entire Jersey Cape (which stretches through 10 communities) boasts 30 miles of shoreline, and Cape May itself offers up 2 1/2 miles' worth. Across the various beaches, vacationers can swim, skimboard, surf, fish, kayak and play volleyball in designated areas. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer and all of Cape May's beaches are family-friendly. Alcohol is prohibited at all times and dogs are only welcome on the sand between November and March. Metered parking can be found along the main strip and you may also find free parking on side streets. Restrooms are located at every half-mile, as are open-air showers to rinse off sand.

    Recent beachgoers said Cape May's shores were clean and easy to access. Many noted the stretches of sand were especially picturesque at sunrise and sunset, and some even spotted dolphins during these times. To enjoy fewer crowds, a few travelers recommended Poverty Beach, though families preferred to stay on the main promenade for easier access to bathrooms, umbrella rentals and restaurants. Keep in mind that some visitors reported the surf could be a bit rough at times, which may be dangerous for young children.

  • #2
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    #2 in Cape May
    Free, Shopping
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Shopping
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Situated in the heart of Cape May, the Washington Street Mall is the place to go for one-of-a-kind retail, including local clothing stores, home goods shops, bookstores and more. The three-block outdoor shopping district is open all year and sits less than half a mile from the beach. Along the quaint stretch, you'll find restored Victorian storefronts and brick pathways, as well as whimsical fountains and benches throughout. When hunger strikes, patrons will have their choice of more than 25 restaurants and sweet shops, including the Cape May Fish Market, an Irish pub and a fudge shop.

    Past travelers called the Washington Street Mall a must-visit, highlighting the unique stores and pleasant atmosphere. Some said this was the place to be in the evenings for dinner, while others remarked they spent the entire day at the mall wandering in and out of stores.

  • #3
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    #3 in Cape May
    Zoos and Aquariums, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the most unique attractions in the Cape May area is Jersey Shore Alpacas, a small farm located about 10 miles north in Green Creek, New Jersey. The farm is home to around 20 friendly alpacas, as well as a store where patrons can purchase clothing, capes, socks, sweaters, gloves and more items made from alpaca fleece.

    Recent travelers provided virtually no complaints about the alpaca farm, reporting that they loved their experience interacting with the gentle animals. Many felt it was a great place to take kids, though visitors of all ages enjoyed the attraction.

  • #4
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    #4 in Cape May
    Monuments and Memorials
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Built in 1859 and opened to the public in 1988, the Cape May Lighthouse has welcomed more than 2.5 million visitors to date. Travelers who scale the 199 steps to the top of the lighthouse will be rewarded with panoramic oceanfront views. Those who would rather stay on solid ground can enjoy the Oil House, which contains a visitor center and a museum shop with souvenirs.

    The majority of recent vacationers recommended a trip to this Cape May landmark. Even visitors who didn't climb to the top of the lighthouse were fond of the beachfront location and peaceful surroundings. Those who did make the journey up enjoyed the 360-degree views. Still, some families with young children said climbing the stairs was a challenge and recommended admiring the structure from the outside for free.

  • #5
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    #5 in Cape May
    Historic Homes/Mansions
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Take a step back in time at the Emlen Physick Estate, the only Victorian-era house museum in New Jersey. Completed in 1879, the house belonged to a wealthy Philadelphia family, the Physicks. After surviving a proposed demolition in the 1960s, the grounds underwent a full restoration. Today, visitors can take guided tours to admire the architecture and period decor of the house, as well as learn more about the Physicks' lives. Travelers looking for a more heart-pumping experience should opt for the Historic Haunts house tour. The grounds are said to be inhabited by the spirits of the Physick family (and their many dogs), earning itself the nickname "Cape May's original haunted house."  

    Recent travelers loved learning about the rich history of the property from the museum's guides, who dress the part in Victorian clothing and stay in character through the entire tour. Some recommended visiting over the holidays to see the house fully decorated for Christmas – though many said the estate was worth a visit no matter the time of year. After touring, patrons recommended stopping for high tea at the Carriage House within the estate.

  • #6
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    #6 in Cape May
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Naval Air Station (NAS) Wildwood Aviation Museum is located inside a former World War II hangar that dates back to 1943. It was originally used as a training facility for dive bombers to practice takeoffs, landings, night flying and target practice. After the war, the hanger was used for incoming and outgoing charter and commuter flights until about 1990, when it began falling into disrepair. The 92,000-square-foot building was purchased for $1 in 1997 by a doctor and his wife, who fully restored the space, converted it into a museum and began welcoming visitors from near and far. Today, the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum boasts a variety of historic planes, helicopters and WWII memorabilia. Travelers can view medevac helicopters, a large collection of military jets and more than 20 propeller aircraft, in addition to other automobiles and 1940s artifacts like retro soda machines. 

    Recent travelers were impressed by the large collection of planes, cars, boats and other vintage items. Some exhibits allow visitors to climb inside of various trucks and Jeeps, which many found exciting. Though complaints were few and far between, a few patrons felt the prices were a bit too high – especially for large families – considering the relatively small size of the museum.

  • #7
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    #7 in Cape May
    Monuments and Memorials
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Part of Cape May Point State Park, the World War II Lookout Tower – officially known as Fire Control Tower No. 23 – was built in 1942 and is New Jersey's last restorable tower from World War II. Opened to the public in 2009, the tower played a major role in defending the coast during the war and is part of the Harbor Defense of the Delaware system (known as Fort Miles), which stretched from North Wildwood, New Jersey, to Bethany Beach, Delaware.

    Today, travelers can climb six flights of stairs to the top of the structure and learn about the historical significance of the area during WWII – as well as how the tower was used to spot enemy ships. Visitors said scaling the tower is a great activity for history buffs and families alike, but noted that it is closed in the offseason and there is no restroom on-site (aside from a portable stall in a nearby parking lot). The bottom floor of the tower contains a small shop with water and souvenirs.

  • #8
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    #8 in Cape May
    Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    New Jersey is home to more than 50 wineries, and some of the biggest producers can be found in Cape May. Fan favorites include the Cape May Winery and Vineyard and the Willow Creek Winery, but oenophiles should check out all options before picking a spot (though there's no harm in hopping between a few).

    Cape May Winery and Vineyard is a family-owned business that got its start in 1989. As of 2020, the winery grows 11 different varietals across four vineyards covering 26 acres of land. At the property, patrons can enjoy wine tastings at the bar, indulge in tasty tapas on the deck overlooking rows of grape vines and tour the vineyard or production facility. Tastings cost $10 per person for a flight of six wines, and reservations are required for groups of seven or more. Recent visitors praised the quality of wine and food, as well as the excellent service and scenic outdoor seating. For more information, including seasonal hours, see Cape May Winery's website.

  • View all Photos
    Historic Homes/Mansions
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • View all Photos
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free, Hiking
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free, Hiking
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • View all Photos
    Museums, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

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