Cape May County in New Jersey is one of many amazing stops my family and I have made. It is a beautiful place with adorable, colorful houses, exciting boardwalks, and of course, gorgeous beaches. People flock to the area during the summer months to splash in the ocean waters, leaving it still and virtually empty—save for the residents—during the fall and winter.
However, although the summer is a wonderful time to visit the Cape May area, paying the area a visit during the cooler fall or early spring months would not be a waste of time and could be even more wonderful—provided you are okay with only dipping your toe in the tide — due to the lower crowd levels.
Cape May County consists of a number of small townships, many of them beach towns. We chose to stay in the small township called Swainton, but visited Cape May Courthouse, Avalon, Stone Harbor, Wildwood, and of course, Cape May itself.
While we weren’t in love with the tacky, touristy sights we came across in Wildwood, every other little town we visited was absolutely adorable, neat as a pin, and nothing like what you might see on the popular television show, Jersey Shore.
So whether you are planning a trip to the shore today or waiting until the bustling summer months to pay the area a visit, Cape May County is one place you will want to be sure to stop at during your RV adventures.
What to Do
Have a beachy day — The most obvious thing to do when you visit the Jersey shore is go to the beach. During the summer months, a nice dip in the cool waters of the Atlantic is nothing short of heavenly, but even if the weather is a bit on the chilly side, you can still enjoy a lovely beach day.
Though you may not want to go swimming in the late fall or early spring, putting your feet in the water, playing in the sand, and soaking up some sun while enjoying the view are all lovely and relaxing ways to spend an afternoon, no matter what the temperature might be.
Some of our favorite beaches in the area were found in the towns of Avalon and Stone Harbor. These beaches are clean and well-kept, and there is plenty of free parking along the residential streets that are right on the beach.
Both towns do require all beach goers to display beach tags if they visit at any point between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but during the rest of the year the beaches are free to visit (though parking on the beach is not allowed during the off-season). Beach tags are $6 for a day pass and can be purchased from an attendant strolling the beach.
Go wild — For a free and fun day for the whole family, consider checking out the Cape May County Park and Zoo. This centrally located fun spot is free to the public, and is definitely worth a visit. The zoo offers amazing views of a wide variety of animals, but is still small enough for even the shortest of legs to walk. www.cmczoo.com
The adjacent park provides children with a few different play structures to choose from, and a lovely place for a picnic. All around, my family gave this outing an 8 out of 10, and probably would’ve rated it higher had the temperature not been so high.
Step back in time — The Museum of Cape May County is the perfect place for history lovers of all ages. While it is a smaller museum, it is packed full of interesting artifacts and bits of information about the history of the Cape May area, beginning in the times before English settlers arrived. cmcmuseum.org
Admission to the museum is $8 for adults and $7 for kids ages 6–16. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free of charge. The museum does close for the winter beginning Nov. 18th, and will reopen April 11th.
Take in the sights — The lighthouses that dot the Atlantic coast are truly a sight to see. If you’d like to get really up close and personal, you may want to take a tour of the Cape May Lighthouse. Tours are available all year for $8 per adult and $5 per child aged 3–12.
The tours take you up 199 steps to the top of the lighthouse, built in 1859. After the climb, visitors are rewarded with an incredible view of the surrounding beaches, something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. www.capemaymac.org/attractions/capemaylighthouse.html
After your lighthouse tour, be sure to check out the nearby hiking trails where you are sure to see some local wildlife. Walking the trails is a perfect way to admire the beauty of New Jersey’s plants and animals.
Stroll the streets — As mentioned before, many of the beach towns lining the Jersey shore couldn’t be cuter, and most of them have a small shopping district available for the entertainment of visitors and residents alike.
Both Avalon and Stone Harbor have such shopping districts, and both offered a cute collection of boutiques and food stops that made everyone in our family feel as though they were stepping into the beach towns of a bygone era, and somehow gave us a sense of nostalgia for something we never even experienced.
Other notable attractions
Morey’s Piers —This collection of Oceanside amusement parks is pricey, but great fun for the whole family. However, the parks do close during the cold season, so be sure to check their hours before heading that direction. http://www.moreyspiers.com
Wetlands Institute — This wonderful attraction is open year-round and gives visitors a chance to learn about beach and ocean life in a hands-on environment surrounded by employees to answer questions and give directions. www.wetlandsinstitute.org
Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary — The Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary is a free attraction that gives guests a chance to stroll along some lovely nature paths while viewing and learning about the local birds. stoneharborbirdsanctuary.com
Where to eat
Vegas Diner and Restaurant — This local, casino-themed diner surprised us. It was affordable and delicious—with an amazing salad bar, awesome chowder, and surprisingly good pasta—and the staff was some of the friendliest out there. In fact, we loved Vegas Diner so much we even considered going back for a second round. Next time for sure. www.facebook.com/vegasdinerandrestaurant
Seven Mile Pies — If you are in the mood for pizza, Seven Mile Pies is the place for you. This isn’t just the best pizza in Cape May County, it is likely the best pizza to be found in Jersey. Seven Mile Pies is family-friendly, and is even a favorite of the locals, which is a pretty good indicator of just how tasty it is. www.facebook.com/sevenmilepies
Back Bay Seafood — Of course, you have to have seafood when you are visiting the seaside, and Back Bay Seafood is the place to do it. This simple take-out restaurant really knows how to cook up some fresh fish, crab, and shrimp, as well as a variety of other seafood. The only downfall is the price, as each entree costs about $20–$25. However, the food is so good, Back Bay Seafood is worth a visit despite the pricey menu. www.backbayseafood.net
Where to stay
Thousand Trails Sea Pines RV Resort — This is where we stayed. It was a wonderful stay, and we quite enjoyed the location—which was near all of the attractions mentioned above—as well as the full hook-ups, splash pad for the little ones, pool, and playground. We also made good use of the laundry facilities and the clean showers and toilets.
Unfortunately, this resort closes during the winter, but if you plan on visiting in late spring, summer, or early fall, and have a Thousand Trails membership, it is a great option. Without a membership, it is a bit pricey at about $50–$75 a night. www.rvonthego.com/new-jersey/sea-pines-rv-resort-campgound
Thousand Trails Lake and Shore RV Resort — Unlike the Thousand Trails resort mentioned above, this Cape May-area resort is open year-round. However, it is quite popular, so you will want to book early. Once again, this is a lovely resort with a lakeside beach, water park, clean restrooms, and onsite store, but it is pretty expensive for anyone without a Thousand Trails membership. The cost is usually in the $50–$75 range. www.rvonthego.com/new-jersey/lake-shore-rv-resort
Belleplain State Forest — If you are looking for an inexpensive place to stay and you don’t mind boondocking, Belleplain State Forest is the place for you. While they don’t have RV hook-ups, they do allow RVs and they provide showers, flush toilets, a laundry room, and a seasonal dump station. This campground is open year-round, and the sites are only $25 a night. Additionally, it is within 30 minutes of most attractions listed above. www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/belle.html
Arrowhead Camp and RV Resort — Another year-round, budget-friendly option, Arrowhead Campground is a bit far from the activities mentioned in this article, but if you don’t mind driving an hour to get to and from your fun for the day, it could be a good fallback option. The base rate is only $35 and they have full hook-up sites available. They also offer their guests hot showers, toilets, a laundry room, and a camp store. www.newjerseycampgrounds.com/index.php/find-a-campground/2013-11-30-01-17-40/shore-region/25-arrowhead-campground
Ocean View Resort — If you are looking to live in the lap of luxury, Ocean View can help you out there. This resort has countless amenities, including a waterpark, mini-golf, basketball and tennis courts, and an onsite store. Of course, they also offer full hook-ups, hot showers, and a laundry room.
It is located near all of the Cape May County attractions, and the cost can run anywhere from $42 to $98. Unfortunately, this resort does close during the off-season, so that is something you will want to be aware of before booking. https://ovresort.comwww.ovresort.com