Cape May County is a treasure trove of thrills, games, specialty seafood, happy hour specials, traditional family-style restaurants, beach gear, breakfast favorites, and relaxing rituals. Yet with its six hundred and twenty square-mile span, this Jersey shore county can be quite daunting. With all this ground to cover, where should you even begin?
How about in Cape May County’s own Victorian, glimpse of the past? For almost two centuries, Congress Hall has offered hospitality to locals and visitors alike. It began its life in 1816 as a simple boarding house for summer visitors to one of America’s earliest seaside resorts. Having hosted four sitting presidents, Congress Hall is the perfect place for a history buff to begin his or her day. There is no better place to enjoy classic American breakfast than Congress Hall’s Blue Pig Tavern. Executive Chef Jeremy Einhorn has implemented a delicious farm-to-table menu featuring fresh produce, herbs and eggs from their very own Beach Plum Farm, located less than 2 miles from the restaurant. Try a freshly pressed juice from their new juice bar located on the veranda of Congress Hall.
Rather start your day with a bit of everything? Head for Marq’s Pub of the Marquis de Lafayette Hotel on the oceanfront. Fresh cut fruits, yogurts, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, breads, pastries, make-your-own Belgian waffles, and omelets to order are just a few of the delights that wait to greet you in the morning at our breakfast buffet. Included complimentary with hotel guests’ stay, Marq’s morning buffet is open to the public as well. Bonus – it’s free for kids under age 4.
Pre-beach, get moving with a stroll down the Washington Street pedestrian Mall. From galleries to souvenir shops and jewelry boutiques to eateries, the mall offers a unique “find” for any visitor. One of the mall’s most recent additions, Galvanic, is a lifestyle apparel shop offering mainly men’s clothing but a number of women’s accessories, Herschel backpacks, and sunglasses. Galvanic also now features Penny custom skateboards.
When the beach routine is seeming monotonous, hit the water at Utsch’s Marina. Utsch’s allows patrons to charter “party” boats for a day of fishing or even parasailing. Or if you already have a fishing spot in mind elsewhere on the peninsula, stop by Utsch’s bait and tackle on the way to pick up the bait you need for that big catch. After reeling in a big one, take the edge off at the Crab House of Two Mile Landing, located off of Ocean Drive in Wildwood Crest. The Crab House features ample boat dockage and its very own harbormaster. Arrive by boat or by car and enjoy lunch, dinner, happy hour, or a night out at the newly renovated Two Mile Crab House, offering the same great taste in an awesome atmosphere. Local Crab House diners are invited to enjoy “In the Biz” night every Tuesday with 10% off their check after showing a local pay stub.
The next day, keep the Wildwoods momentum building. Hit the links at Wildwood Golf & Country Club. Wildwood Golf features a traditional course with pristine greens and a setting along the salt marshes with views across the bay to the barrier islands. The Down the Shore Membership provides unlimited play in season. It’s like becoming a full member, but just for the summer. The Five Play Membership allows you access to this private golf course, playing 5 rounds of golf at any time during the year.
If cycling is more of your sport, take a leisurely ride compliments of Smitty’s Bikes. Smitty’s provides bike rentals for as low as $8 an hour for a single bike, making bicycling affordable for any budget. For additional savings, they also offer a two-for-one special, where you can ride two hours for the price of one hour available any time after 11 am daily on all bicycles. All bikes are rented on an hourly basis, so you won’t find yourself paying for an entire day if you only plan on riding for a short time. Turn your cruise down Pacific Avenue into a mini shopping trip with a quick pit stop at M.S. Brown Jewelers. Check out their custom Wildwood bead encased with real sand from the island’s beaches. It’s the perfect addition to a Pandora or Chamilia bracelet. Or reward your active self with a sweet bite at Laura’s Fudge of Wildwood & Ocean Avenues. Laura’s uses only pure and natural ingredients such as real dairy cream, 100% natural chocolate liquor, and pure vanilla.
Later that evening, grab dinner at Ice House Bar & Restaurant in their cool dining room or atop the casual, open-air deck. Ice House’s downstairs bar has debuted its very own brand new menu this summer season. Served exclusively at Ice House’s indoor granite bar, this menu features Crab Cake, Shrimp Cocktail, and Tuna Sashimi starters. The Seafood Caesar has been the menu’s biggest hit, featuring grilled shrimp, scallops, crabmeat, and fresh locally caught fish of the day served over Ice House’s delicious Caesar salad. But the true talk of the town revolves around the bar’s ever-changing Flatbreads of the Day and Chef’s Choice Burgers. You can also never go wrong with the “Hideaway on the Waterway”. Sample one of the Wharf’s several options at the raw bar. Only the freshest local clams, local oysters, steamers, spicy shrimp, Alaskan snow crab legs, whole lobsters, and mussels keep raw bar patrons coming back for more.
For a taste of Italy, the island offers quite a gamut of choices. In the Crest, Little Italy of Atlantic Avenue replicates the sights, sounds, and overall experience of an authentic Italian piazza. When the shore atmosphere has you craving cuisine of the sea, Little Italy offers ultra-fresh seafood combination platters featuring local catches of flounder, scallops, shrimp, crab cake, and clams casino topped lightly with breadcrumbs and baked to perfection. For the best of the seafood and pasta worlds, opt for one of Little Italy’s ten pasta with seafood dishes such as Shrimp Alla Panna or Carne Di Granchi Al Pomidoro, lump crabmeat in marinara over a bed of pasta. A couple miles north up Atlantic in Wildwoods downtown, Pasta Pesto Italian Grill also offers a uniquely authentic Italian experience with its own mini marketplace. On the way out, diners can take a piece of homemade Italian cuisine home with a selection from Pasta Pesto’s display of pastas, oils, balsamic vinegar, pizelles, sauces, and Italian toast imported from small Italian producers.
Offshore, shop for just about any and all odds and ends at Swainton Station variety store. They truly offer variety…sterling silver, 18K gold & white gold jewelry, Christmas items year round, crafts, games, knife sets, light bulbs, and 40 varieties of green, white, black & herbal loose-leaf teas, plus much more. This pink, 1,500-square-foot 1960s-style variety has a look all its own, similar to classic Vermont country stores. Several miles north, get your fill of free family activities at Ocean City’s Public Library. This Saturday afternoon, they will host a 2 pm movie showing of “Admission” starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. Sunday features a live jazz concert.
P.S. We’ve got an Island Hopper’s heads-up. Morey’s Piers will host their own Battle of the Bands on September 1st. Calling all rock stars! Regional musicians, ages 21 years, or younger are invited to audition for spot at Morey’s Piers’ first-ever amateur band competition held at artBOX. Up to 25 bands will rock out in front of a live audience and panel of judges for the chance to be crowned “The King of the Boards” and win $1,000 cash and $500 in prizes. Runners up will also be awarded prizes.
By Megan Kummer