Romantic Shore: Cape May

Jersey’s southernmost beach town has drawn a crowd since “sea bathing” became popular in the 1800s, and still defines beach vacations today. Its wide, clean beaches are among the best in the country. A bustling harbor, one of the largest commercial fishing centers on the East Coast, assures fresh catch at area restaurants. Above all, a collection of late Victorian architecture gives this National Historic Landmark town an ageless charm.

Guests enjoy the pool at COngress Hall, the grandest of Cape May's beachfront hotels.
Guests enjoy the pool at Congress Hall, the grandest of Cape May's beachfront hotels.
Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

WHERE TO STAY: In a town awash in great places to stay, the Mission Inn (609-884-8380) stands out as a romantic destination. Trip Advisor rated it the top B&B in Cape May and number 3 in the country last year. Two blocks off the beach, this upscale, Spanish-Mission-style inn exudes California chic and casual elegance. The eight guest rooms with fireplaces are luxuriously appointed; lavish breakfasts are served on the inn’s outdoor veranda. Room rates: $230–$330.

ROMANTIC EATS: Many Cape May restaurants boast water views, an ideal backdrop for romance. The fine-dining Peter Shields Inn (609-884-9090) occupies a 1912 mansion overlooking the ocean. Other top choices for upscale ambience and fine food include the Ebbitt Room (609-884-5700) and the Washington Inn (609-884-5697). For a more casual evening, the Iron Pier Craft House (609-884-1925), across Beach Avenue from the ocean, is a gastro-pub featuring great tapas and a full line of craft beers.

WHAT TO DO: Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the Historic District, a haven for architectural gingerbread, with Cape May Carriage Company (609-884-4466), or harbor-hop on Tiny Cruise Line (609-602-1118). You can also climb the 199 steps to the top of Cape May Lighthouse. Nearby Sunset Beach is the place to be—at sunset, of course.

ALTERNATIVE VENUES: Congress Hall is Cape May’s oldest, most celebrated hotel. Wherever you stay, be sure to pay a visit to this grand establishment and check out the Brown Room for cocktails and nightly entertainment. It’s required relaxing after a day in the sun.

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