“for whatever we lose (like a you or a me) / it’s always ourselves we find in the sea” ~ e. e. cummings
Recently, my friend, Layla Palmer from The Lettered Cottage traveled to Tybee Island, Georgia to decorate a cottage by the sea. Her posts reminded me how blessed I am to have spent my life living on the shore. It was not until recently that I considered many of you may never have experienced the ocean or the bliss of spending a day at the beach.
People have a misconception of NJ. They conjure images of The Sopranos, Jersey Shore (for the record Snookie and The Situation are New Yorkers vacationing in NJ, what we locals call BENNIES), Jerseylicious, or The Real House Wives of NJ. People think of Newark, Paterson, Camden or Atlantic City and consider those places a fair representation of the entire state. They’re not. So for the next few posts I am taking you on a virtual vacation to MY New Jersey.
Readers who participated in my Annual Postcard Exchange, know that Cape May, NJ is my best place on earth. I have traveled far and wide and nothing compares to this historic seashore town, regardless of the season. So, it seems fitting to start here.
Cape May is located south of Exit 0 on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway and is situated below the Mason-Dixon line. It is the southern tip of New Jersey where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic coastline. Discovered in 1620 by Dutch captain, Cornelius Mey, and later settled by English who altered the spelling. Cape May is recognized as the first seaside resort town in the country. By 1761 was considered the finest resort in America. In 1876 a five-day-long catastrophic fire destroyed thirty acres of the town center. Homes constructed after the fire were the popular structures of the time; Gothic Revivals and Queen Annes, boasting gingerbread trim, gables, turrets, carved barge boards, ornate verandas and crowned dormers. Cape May was faced with another form of destruction one hundred years after the fire–progress; tear down the old, make way for the new. Although some beautiful Victorians were lost in the building boom, the entire town was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1976. That designation requires the community to retain all structures in their original form and design. Visiting Cape May is a step back in time. The streets are still lined with gingerbread houses and magnificent Victorian hotels steps away from the ocean. It remains home to the largest collection of authentic Victorian structures in the nation.
There are no chain retail stores or restaurants, instead quaint shops line Washington Square. Many of the ‘Painted Ladies’ now serve as bed and breakfasts. Most get around the island strolling or cycling. Cars share the road with horse draw carriages and trolleys. Besides playing in the sand and surf you can go para sailing, whale and dolphin watching or play in the arcades. There’s also Victorian estate and ghost tours, golf, fishing (surf/ sea) and crabbing. After that, there’s antiquing, art galleries, and history exhibits; a spa, live theater and concerts, and a local vineyard.
I wonder what my friend Laura and I will do. Stay tuned!