Beachcombing in Cape May, New Jersey

sunset beach cape may new jersey

by Rachel Shubin

Cape May, New Jersy, has a je ne sais quoi that brings visitors back, year after year. Perhaps it is the charm of the quaint town, from its Victorian architecture, pedestrian mall or fine dining; but it just might be the sandy beaches and the treasures that lie just under the low tides.

Beachgoers will find that Cape May’s beaches are well cared for and the fight against beach erosion is strong. During the summer, the beaches are combed by tractors at night, churning sand up for those early morning tourists and locals alike.

The beaches of Cape May are primarily the Atlantic oceanfront, however the Delaware Bay beaches have their own special charm. Shells and rocks are in abundance on the bay beaches, especially at low tide. The well-known Cape May diamonds are also easy to spot. The diamonds are quartz, and they can be shined and cut to resemble diamonds.

wwii watch tower cape may nj

Cape May is known as America’s Oldest Seaside Resort, and is named for Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey. Captain Mey was a Dutch explorer for the Dutch East India Company. He discovered Cape May in the 1620s. A misspelling of Captain Mey’s name led the town to spell May over Mey.

Cape May is an island as there is a canal that goes from the Cape May Harbor to the Delaware Bay. In the Colonial era, Cape May was prominent among fisherman and whalers. Before the European explorers claimed the town for their own, Cape May was previously home to the Lenni-Lenape Indian tribe, so it is not uncommon to find arrow heads on the bay beaches.

Looking for sea glass on the ocean beach has changed in the last decade. Perhaps it is due to the beach combing by tractor at night, but finding glass on the ocean beach is difficult in the summer. The winter bodes much better for beachcombers, especially once the hustle and bustle of the season winds down.

cape may new jersey beach

The Delaware Bay beaches are the hotspot in town for beach glass. Sunset beach and the light house beach are two well-known glassing spots. Sunset beach is a beautiful spot, especially for those who enjoy watching the sun go down over the water. Sunset beach is home to the SS Atlantus, a World War I boat also known as the Concrete Ship, which wrecked off the coast in 1926. With rocky spots, visitors can spend hours combing and sifting through the many piles, looking for glass. The winter months are kind to beach glass lovers, especially after storms.

Sunset Beach Gifts is a great place to pick up souvenirs, they even have various bottles to display your beach glass treasures. There is a World War II watch tower across the street from the beach, which visitors can climb. Sunset beach is also the place to see the railroad tracks, reminding visitors of what once was an industrial township. Over 100 years old, these train tracks are occasionally exposed when the sands shift, showing rusted rails and dilapidated wooden ties. The tracks were once used to transport sand. The tracks are not always visible and were last seen in winter 2016.

The train tracks were owned by the Atlantic City Railroad Co. and leased to the Cape May Sand Co, per the Press of Atlantic City. 10,362 feet of rail connected tracks between Cape May, the Delaware Bay and Sewell’s Point Railroad Co. in 1907. In 1942, on the site of the old sand plant, Harbison-Walker Refractories built a Magnesite Plant, where they used magnesite extracted from the sea water to make fire bricks.

Cape May is a town with a rich history and continues to grow. Cape May is family friendly and there is something to do for every day one spends in the town. The oldest seaside resort is the place to be, just waiting for you to visit.

Where to stay:

The Victorian Motel – Located centrally to the Washington Street Mall and a block from the beach, The Victorian is the perfect place to stay. The motel has very reasonable rates and exceptionally clean rooms. Just a short drive to Sunset beach, this motel is the best deal in town.

Cape Resorts Group – With multiple properties in towns, Cape Resorts Group offers a luxurious travel option. Visitors can choose to stay in the beautifully restored Congress Hall, or one of their five other properties. The Beach Shack even has dog friendly rooms. There is fun to be had for the entire family, between beach glass walks, enjoying a meal in the Blue Pig Tavern, and do not miss a trip to Beach Plum Farm.

The Queen Victoria Bed & Breakfast – Cape May is known for their Bed and Breakfasts, which is a pleasant way to enjoy a visit to Cape May. The Queen Victoria B&B encompasses three restored 1880s homes, with porches, parlors with fireplaces, and a breakfast buffet as well as afternoon tea. Situated one block from the ocean, historic tours, and the mall.

Where to eat:

George’s Place – A favorite spot among locals and tourists alike, George’s is the best brunch and dinner spot in town. American fare served with a Greek spin, is sure to delight everyone’s taste buds. Try their banana French toast.

Fins Bar & Grille – One of the coolest spots in town, is Fin’s Bar, which lights up and has large tropical fish tanks that are sure to delight all ages. Their menu includes salad, seafood, flatbreads and burgers. The crabcakes are out of this world.

The Lobster House – If you visit Cape May, you simply must try The Lobster House. Right on the harbor, their specialty is fresh and local seafood. Guests can dine in the restaurant, take out from the fish market or order from the raw bar and eat on the schooner, with a waterfront view.

This article appeared in the Glassing Magazine November 2017 issue.

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