Introducing Cape May
Founded in 1620, Cape May – the only place in the state where the sun both rises and sets over the water – is on the state's southern tip and is the country's oldest seashore resort. Its sweeping beaches get crowded in summer, but the stunning Victorian architecture is attractive year-round.
In addition to 600 gingerbread-style houses, the city boasts antique shops and places for dolphin-, whale- (May to December) and bird-watching, and is just outside the Cape May Point State Park and its 157ft Cape May Lighthouse; there's an excellent visitors center and museum with exhibits on wildlife in the area. A mile-long loop of the nearby Cape May Bird Observatory is a pleasant stroll through preserved wetlands. The wide sandy beach at the park (free) or the one in town is the main attraction in summer months. Aqua Trails offers kayak tours of the coastal wetlands.
Cape May's B&B options are endless, though the majority lean toward overstuffed and chintzy; check out www.capemaytimes for an up-to-date listing. The classic, sprawling Congress Hall has a range of beautiful quarters overlooking the ocean, plus there's a cool on-site restaurant and bar; the affiliated Beach Shack and Star Inn offer a variety of accommodations for various budgets.
The size (and decor) of a high-school cafeteria from the 1950s, Uncle Bill's Pancake House has been drawing in crowds for its flapjacks for 50 years. Otherwise head to the Washington Street Mall, a cobblestone street lined with shops and more than a half-dozen restaurants.
To continue your journey further south without having to backtrack north and far inland, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry crosses the bay to Lewes, Delaware near Rehoboth Beach.