Island Hopping

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? “Blast” is here with our first edition of Complete Island Hopping, our map of suggestions for a great week of Cape May County fun.

A day at the beach is a classic luxury offered by our county’s coastal Atlantic location. Whether loyal to the dune-adorned shores of Sea Isle, the Cove in Cape May, Diamond Beach, or the Wildwoods, the best day at the beach starts with a hardy breakfast. Celebrating their 50th anniversary this 2012 season, Uncle Bill’s Pancake House & Restaurant, with locations in Wildwood, Cape May, and North Cape May, has been satisfying Jersey shore diners season after season. Kick off a beach day with a made-to-order omelet or choose from one of their many pancake dishes. For the indecisive, the Ferry Special includes one egg, one pancake, and a choice of breakfast sides. There is no better way to gear up for a day in the sun than a complete first meal.

From there, slip into a bathing suit, grab a towel, and head out for the beach. But in these first few weeks of the summer season, it’s important to do an equipment check-up. When your beach chair appears to be on its last life, or you realize you’ve been sporting the same bathing suit for one too many summers, look for one of the county’s many specialty beach gear stores. Kona Sports of Wildwood has a large and complete selection of name-brand men’s, women’s and children’s bathing suits. If you’re a big fan of water sports, Kona is the perfect one stop shop. From stand-up paddle boards, surf wax, and rashguards, to a variety of used and new long, short, and foam surfboards, Kona has everything a surfer could need this summer season. More casual beach-goers can find a great selection of quality sunglasses or beach bags and backpacks. Don’t forget to visit the Kona Outlet for discounted gear and rentals located down the street from the main store at Arctic and Rio Grande avenues.

Follow up a day in the sun with refreshing cocktails or appetizers such as those served at North End American Grill’s Happy Hour event. This new casual family dining restaurant of North Wildwood serves up $5 appetizers from 4-7 p.m. and offers the perfect outdoor/indoor ambiance to cool off before dinner. After appetizers, head home for a shower or straight to dinner at one of Cape May County’s many exceptional family-style restaurants. For authentic Italian dining at the shore, visit Little Italy of Wildwood Crest. Diners can create a personal pasta dish with a choice between six or more pastas and five homemade sauces. The early bird or night owl specials at the Merion Inn of Cape May are also a delicious great-value option. Take a seat at the Merion’s beautiful turn-of-the-century bar, the oldest in Cape May and a must-see, and enjoy the live jazz entertainment. For the more fast-paced, North Wildwood has a number of bars featuring live entertainment until early hours of the morning. Casey’s On Third features cheap imports and pints of Guinness plus great live entertainment in an authentic Irish pub setting. Check out our review of Casey’s-own “Irish Bernie”, bartender of the week, in this edition of “Blast”. Residents of the Seven Mile Island and Sea Isle prefer late night haunts such as Jack’s Place.

After a long day in the sun, a big dinner, and a few cocktails, it may be time to turn in for the night. But fear not, there’s tons more to do and see. If another beach day seems like a bore, be sure to check out Morey’s Piers of the Wildwood Boardwalk. To cool down on a hot day, Morey’s Piers features two water parks, Raging Waters and Ocean Oasis, which both debut new attractions this summer season. Raging Waters presents River Adventure, a renovated incarnation of the Lazy River, which features rock facades, cascading waterfalls, and a beautiful grotto. Ocean Oasis celebrates the opening of WipeOut!, a new six-lane racer slide for park-goers with a competitive spirit. After drying off, be sure to sample some boardwalk cuisine such as fried oreos, funnel cake, freshly squeezed lemonade, or crispy French fries from Curley’s.

Before dinner, saddle up at the Country Club Tavern of Cape May Court House, featuring Happy Hour Specials Monday through Friday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6:30 p.m. Coors Light drafts are only $1 and all other drinks are $1 off and go well with one of their great pub-style dishes. For dinner or drinks, head over to Ice House Restaurant and Bar, located on Park Boulevard at Davis Avenue in Wildwood, and watch the sunset on the harbor with a seat on the deck. The creative menu features a Fresh fish sandwich and frozen drink special of the day. Not in the dining-out spirit? Cape May County is the perfect setting for a laidback night of barbecue. Stock up on hot dogs, hamburgers, and corn on the cob and fire up the grill. Stop by Joe Canal’s of Rio Grande and pick up a bottle of white zinfandel for post-dinner drinks. Joe Canal’s has monthly sale specials on a number of wines and when purchased online, your bottle is shipped free of charge. Invite a few friends, crank up the Springsteen, and enjoy the sea breeze.

By Megan Kummer