A little more than a week into summer 2019, young and old alike have many expectations as to what the new season will bring. As an adult in the tourism industry, each year is measured by visitor growth, spending and sunny days. As a child growing up in the Wildwoods, summer was a very special time for making memories that are still with me 50 years later.
There wasn’t one that wasn’t filled with fun and life lessons, and one of the biggest decisions was Mack’s pizza or Nate’s hot dogs for lunch everyday on the beach. Summer jobs were a rite of passage and changed the daily routine, but not the memories. For most of us in that generation, we learned the value of hard work, and more importantly, a strong work ethic. For four summers I worked at a beach grill in North Wildwood. The windows opened at 10 a.m. , and while it faced the beach, we only saw a sea of humanity until 5 p.m., when the beach closed. There were no breaks and no sick days. I learned mutlitasking long before it became a word, and with that came hospitality, customer service and making change, compliments of on-the-job training.
The Fourth of July was and still is a magical time, with parades, fireworks, cook-outs and beach time. While some things have changed, the magic is still here, and life-long memories are being created for new generations of families visiting the Jersey Cape. Children lucky enough to live in the coastal communities from Ocean City to Cape May never fully realized how special it was to have within walking distance one of the most special places to grow up.
The summer of 2019 on the Jersey Cape will not disappoint, and there are more memories to make that will add to the experience beyond the beach and boardwalk. The Cape May County Zoo continues to grow and entertain families. The zoo is free and a great way to spend a day among the animals, gardens and wooded areas.
Historic attractions bring history alive to educate and entertain families. Museums are interactive and make for great rainy-day activities. A visit to Historic Cold Spring Village, Naval Air Station Wildwood, the Ocean City Life Saving Station, the Cape May and Hereford lighthouses or Victorian Cape May are just a few must-see attractions.
Environmental- or nature-based attractions are found throughout the county and showcase the diversity found in Cape May County. The Wetlands Institute in Middle Township, outside of Stone Harbor, is celebrating 50 years of conservation of the wetlands. Birding is world renown and found along the coastal communities as well as the rural areas along the Delaware Bay. New Jersey Audubon and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have protected areas for those interested in watchable wildlife. Spring and fall migration includes not only birds but butterflies, dragon flies and fish. Nature and whale or dolphin cruises are scheduled daily, and patrons are guaranteed to see a variety of wildlife.
Shelling along the beaches provides hours of family entertainment, and hunting for Cape May diamonds is not something you will find any place outside of Cape May Point.
Long known for our farms and Jersey Fresh produce and products, the Jersey Cape has been on top of the agri-tourism trend and is a foodie’s paradise. Farm-to-table menu options are found at most restaurants, and farm markets are featured in each resort town, in local grocery stores, as well as roadside stands on the mainland.
Seafood is a staple, and recreational anglers can fish from piers, rock piles, some beaches and boats. Charter and party boats are available for four-, six- and eight-hour trips.
For those who prefer the catch of the day prepared as an entrée, you will find fresh seafood on most restaurant menus from Ocean City to Cape May
The ports of Wildwood and Cape May are among the top 10 in the nation and supply restaurants and seafood markets. Fresh shrimp and scallops are plentiful along with a variety of local oysters, including Cape May Salts. Eat it raw, on the half shell or fry, bake or barbecue, just don’t leave without sampling our Jersey Fresh seafood, and remember it pairs well with our Jersey Fresh produce.
For those looking for something different, a visit to one of our wineries, breweries or distilleries is an experience that will bring you back year-round. The Jersey Cape has the perfect climate to produce a variety of grapes and award-winning wines. Tours and tastings are conducted daily, and bottles of your favorite are available for sale. Special events are held at many wineries, including Rootstock at Hawk Haven winery, Wine Down Wednesday at Natali Winery in Middle Township, Grill Night at Cape May Winery in Lower Township and Fire Pit Friday at Willow Creek in West Cape May.
Breweries are growing in numbers and are producing a variety of micro-brews and becoming favorite gathering places for visitors and locals. Cape May Brewing Co. at the Cape May Airport, Slack Tide Brewery in Dennis Township and the Bucket Brigade in Cape May Court House along with Coho and Gusto in Lower Township are a few of the breweries that dot the local landscape. Cape May, Lazy Eye and Nauti Spirits are local distilleries that produce a variety of spirits made from local produce and products, with each having a specialty and fun vibe.
Summer in Cape May County is like no other, from some of the best beaches to incredible nature and unique history. It is easy to make new memories every time you visit. Spend a day, a week or longer and experience the local life on the Jersey Cape.