Cape May, New Jersey

While most people associate the state of New Jersey with concrete, toll roads, and views of the New York City skyline from the west side of the Hudson River, there are actually a few areas of the state with spectacular natural vistas. To the west is the Delaware Water Gap, formed by the 1000s of years of erosion by the Delaware River, the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To the northwest is the rural, more sparsely populated maple and spruce forested mountains that used to include the first destination Playboy Club at Great Gorge Ski Area. and to the south are a string of beautiful sand dune – lined beaches, collectively called the Jersey Shore.

A study of the map above will reveal the village of Cape May at the southern -most tip of the state. Cape May was selected by Mrs Bear and her two sisters for a brief family getaway … In part, because the three came from different directions for about the same four hours of travel.

We arrived after a four hour drive from the west that took us through Philadelphia. Youngest sister lives about as far north in New Jersey as is possible, just a couple miles from the New York border. She got on the Garden State Parkway and drove its entire length … The tollway ends two miles from Cape May. Middle sister made her way north from Washington DC. The last part of their journey was a car ferry across Delaware Bay that cruised to a terminal about five miles from our destination. Lots of ways to arrive in Cape May, but they all involve paying tolls.

Cape May is one of the USA’s oldest vacation destinations. Despite being only a few miles from the glitz and gambling of Atlantic City, Cape May has a permanent population of about 4,500. The town thrives on its tourism, hosting various festivals during the year.

There were a few people who were seen heading to the beach, despite October’s less hospitable air and water temperatures. the photo above is as close as we got … Walking along the dunes to our dinner reservation each night. But even from this distance, it was easy to see the potential of this seacoast as an escape for the urbanites from Philly, Washington, and New York.

We asked a local bicycle shop vendor about the length of the tourist season in Cape May. While my assumption was the length of warm ocean temperatures and school vacations, he surprised us by saying that people visit Cape May pretty much the entire year. He attributed this to various offseason festivals, great restaurants, and the laid back, cozy lodging. There are beautiful gingerbread and victorian homes along quiet lanes that have been converted into home rentals and B&Bs.

Mrs Bear and I brought our bikes down and spent the afternoons peddling over inlet bridges and along quiet residential communities. We caught up with kin folk at afternoon tea and over clam chowder at outside dinner settings. And we said goodbye on Sunday and drove back to our Pennsylvania ridgeline home. Visiting this New Jersey seaside town for a quick family retreat was a great idea. Mrs Bear and I would love to come back but will probably avoid the more crowded months of summer.

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