Island Hopping: Cape May

Cape May County is a treasure trove of thrills, games, specialty seafood, happy hour specials, traditional family-style restaurants, beach gear, breakfast spots, sweet treats and relaxing rituals. Yet with its 620-square-mile span, this Jersey Shore county can be quite daunting. With all this ground to cover, where should you even begin? We’re here with our sixth edition of Island Hopping for the season, offering some of our favorite places to “do the shore.” This week we’re hopping to the island of Cape May, a historic seaside gem known for its charming Victorian architecture.

Join in on the fun at the Rusty Nail for breakfast! Experience the exciting atmosphere of this iconic surfer bar and restaurant, located on Beach Avenue, and wake up with sand between your toes and the sight of crashing waves. Try unique dishes such as “The Nail” Eggs, poached on top of a crab cake on an English muffin with Old Bay hollandaise sauce, or the fluffy Macadamia Nut Pancakes, topped off with butterscotch cool whip and coconut or classic maple syrup. It’s a taste of the islands!

Another great breakfast spot that the whole family will love is Harbor View Restaurant on Ocean Drive. With sights of the Cape May Harbor, here you’ll find the Cape’s best restaurant views! Enjoy classics such as pancakes, French toast, waffles, omelets and eggs, or go for one of the house specialties.

Spend your afternoon on the water with Utsch’s Marina, located off Route 109. Utsch’s Marina is home to the Utsch’s Marina Charter Fleet, offering various types of fishing trips to all. Want to fish on your own? The Bait & Tackle Shop can get you “hooked up” with the right bait and equipment needed, setting you up with a modestly priced rod ‘n reel combo along with live bait including eels, minnows and frozen squid.

If you want to hit the water in a different way, Cape Kayaks, located on the Cape May Harbor, offers direct water access to the peaceful estuaries of the Cape May Salt Marsh. Paddle through the pristine waters, exploring this natural habitat with an experienced guide. For the more adventurous, rent a kayak and discover the flora and fauna as you paddle at your own pace; or rent a surf kayak and have a blast at the beach!

When hunger strikes, Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grille on Beach Avenue can help. Pull up a stool at Cape May’s largest indoor/outdoor bar, or grab a booth in the dining room or panoramic ocean patio. Wherever you take a seat, you’ll love the delicious lunch options, unique cool cocktails and beautiful views of Cape May’s sand and surf. From sandwiches to seafood, the diverse menu will surely satisfy any midday cravings. Try a famous Harry’s crush, available in orange, grapefruit, strawberry, mango or creamsicle flavors!

Next, it’s time to learn all about Cape May’s past. The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) offers multiple tours, both walking and trolley, throughout the summer. This weekend, consider a visit to the Cape May Lighthouse. Climb this 1859 structure’s 199 steps to the watch gallery and see gorgeous views of the Jersey Cape and Delaware Bay. Or, hop aboard the trolley and tour Cape May’s Historic District while hearing entertaining and enlightening stories about the nation’s oldest seaside resort and how it survived.

For dinner, cast your anchor at Hemingway’s Restaurant at the Grand Hotel and indulge in modern American cuisine with a variety of delectable culinary creations. Enjoy locally caught fresh seafood, mouthwatering U.S.D.A. prime steak and so much more. The “classically casual never stuffy” vibe at Hemingway’s makes it the perfect place to unwind after a “hard day” of vacationing.

For an elegant dining option, visit the Washington Inn on tree-lined Washington Street. Set in a circa 1840 plantation house, the Washington Inn has become synonymous with elegant dining in Cape May. Five unique dining rooms await you, as well as a menu with an appetizing selection of eclectic American dishes, extensive wine selections and unbelievable sweet treats!

In the mood for Italian cuisine? Experience the taste of Italy in the Heart of Cape May at Iccara Italian Bistro! Here, the staff knows that that delicious food is equally as important as a warm, welcoming atmosphere surrounded by family and friends. Come laugh, dine and enjoy in the charming restaurant, located on Mansion Street, bringing you the fresh, unique flavors of Italy. ​

What’s dinner without a show? Witness true theatrical talent at Cape May Stage, now presenting “Chapter Two.” Filled with the humor that made Neil Simon famous, this semi-autobiographical story of a recently widowed writer, his press agent brother, soap star love interest and her neurotic best friend explores what it means to take a second chance on romance. Witness all of this and more at the Robert Shackleton Playhouse. “Chapter Two” runs through Aug. 3, Tuesdays through Sundays at 8 p.m.

For a different kind of show, head down Beach Avenue to Cape May Convention Hall to see Wynonna & The Big Noise! Wynonna & The Big Noise bring country star power to the Jersey Shore on Wednesday, July 25 at 8 p.m. Wynonna’s new sound is described as “vintage yet modern” and a “return to the well,” encompassing country, Americana, blues, soul and rock.

Late night drinks are a must at the Boiler Room at Congress Hall, Cape May’s coolest underground spot for hot pizza, craft beer on tap and the best live entertainment around. The distinctly urban atmosphere feels worlds away from the quaintness of Victorian Cape May, giving a one-of-a-kind, big-city-establishment vibe.