This summer brought about another family day trip to the historic beach resort town of Cape May, in part for a foodie event. It was held on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate, a victorian era site I hadn’t yet visited. Finally getting to do so would be a bonus in attending the Craft Beer and Crab Festival. Not only that, but free shuttle service was available by way of a trolley from the local elementary school. Seeing the sites on a trolley tour was another bonus activity I still had to check off of my Cape May must-do list.
An event with entertainment, brews, crab and other great food was sure to be popular among locals and tourists alike. It was scheduled for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and unfortunately, took a long time getting into town. However, that did allow us to chat for a moment with veterans parked along the side of the road and buy an American flag from them while cars weren’t moving.
Between running late and the final stretch of traffic back-up, the school’s parking lot was filled upon reaching the entrance. An alternative plan kicked into action: find a restaurant and check out Washington Street Mall. We were ready to eat and while on the subject, doesn’t this shark look hungry?
On a previous visit, it was a holiday and many dining establishments were closed or serving only partial menus. Jackson’s Mountain Cafe was open and having been there once before, it was the lunch spot of choice. Since then, I found out Jackson’s had closed and back in the charming southern New Jersey town earlier this month, I passed an Irish pub in its place. With no nearby open parking space in sight yet, we kept moving slowly toward Beach Avenue.
The boardwalk was lined with tents for an arts and crafts festival at which beachgoers could stroll and shop to the sound of ocean waves. After the long drive, however, browsing artwork was bypassed in favor of getting something to eat. One parking space was available just across from Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grill and on a crowded day, that was our chance to stop for food.
Following a short wait, we were seated at an indoor table which I noticed had an unusual amenity. There was an electrical outlet in the wall along side our table; my phone was already about 100% charged by then, but I’ve often wished I could charge it up at booth seating in other restaurants. Waitstaff had shirts that read, “Keep calm and Harry on,” on the back, a tribute to the original owner.
Our orders placed, we watched planes flying by over the beach, advertising various businesses and events. At one point they were almost back-to-back, one in particular catching up and passing another.
When the food arrived, it looked delicious and well worth our long drive and unexpected change of plans. I ordered an appetizer to share, the Crab Mac and Cheese, an amazing take on classic comfort food blending several cheeses in it. For my main dish, the Monty Burger. I never had a burger topped with avocado slices, but I loved it! After that, I was too full for dessert! I’d have to come back to Harry’s again to try one of the many tempting options listed on a huge chalkboard.
On the way back toward the downtown mall, we spotted a Cinderella-esque carriage stopped outside of the Thomas Kinkade Gallery. It was difficult to get a good full photo of the enchanting means of transportation. Just imagine a white, open-air pumpkin-shaped ride with red cushions to sit upon after using onto heart-shaped steps to climb inside. Leafy swags with lavendar flowers are entwined all around the swirling design of the carriage body.
The unique teal color of one Victorian inn came into view, a marker to turn right just before it to find parking. I love the charming scenes of streetlights decorated with flowers and surrounding architectural details. The Merry Widow, for its vibrant appearance, has always been a favorite of mine.
Washington Street Mall, with all of its stores, inspires me to spend a weekend in Cape May to browse and shop in each one. I found several nice photo books at Whale’s Tale, including a book called “Gingerbread Gems,” by Tina Skinner (photos by Skinner and Bruce Waters). At Morrow’s Nut House, gummy sharks and sugar-free chunks of vanilla and chocolate fudge. Taking in views of the lovely gazebo decorated with patriotic bunting, I made my way over the a little Irish shop called All Irish Imports, which and a wide variety of nice items. I usually try to find something with my ancestors’ name of O’Dwyer on it in Irish-themed stores, but didn’t find any this time.
Just past a store called Cape May Beach Bums, I entered another part of the mall and came across pop culture memorabilia galore. These items included t-shirts of:
- “Jaws” (shark aiming for its first victim swimming on the surface)
- “Jaws” (with the Orca and Chief Brody’s “Gonna need a bigger boat” quote)
- “Save Ferris”
- “The Breakfast Club”
- James Dean
- Marilyn Monroe
- Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” and his “Bazinga” gotcha word
- The Beatles
- Jim Morrison
- Bruce Springsteen
I was mostly leaning toward buying one of the movie-themed t-shirts, but couldn’t decide on which one; they represented a lot of my favorites!
So many books caught my eye at the Cape May Book Company and after browsing with thoughts of “which do I choose,?” I picked two. “Ghost Towns and other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens,” by Barbara Solem-Stull, was perfect for my interest in history and curious sites. “Stars of the New Jersey Shore,” by Karen L. Schnitzspahn, about the area’s theater past, which was new to me. Old photos of stage actors and actresses, some dating from the late 1800s, were fascinating and another reason why I chose this book. When paying, I noticed a couple of “Lord of the Rings” posters with a vintage look. One featured a view of Rivendell, while the other had a scene in which the silhouette of a hobbit was looking out toward the shire in the background.
Before heading out of town, we decided stopped in at the Irish Pub I saw earlier, Delaney’s. This is another place I’d like to return to for a full meal, since we only had a quick bite to eat; waitstaff service and pub atmosphere were very welcoming!
One curious site did catch my attention on the way home, something I called “Doorhenge.” It was group of doors painted in various colors, standing in a large yard. I wasn’t able to get a photo, spotting it too late, but saved a dessert shop just north of it on Foursquare. If they’re still up, they’ll be easy to find, so maybe I’ll snap a photo next time around.
During the ride to and from Cape May, I spotted several abandoned homes and businesses. One appeared to be an old motel, worn yellow in color. Another was a house around a few corners from a friend of the family. I love taking pictures of these because I don’t know if they’ll be bulldozed in the near future. Sometimes I miss and figure out a way to mark their location, maybe with noting a nearby business or screen-capturing the map route on my phone. When I do get to photograph an old, abandoned structure, I stay off the property and zoom in from offsite. Anyway, it makes me realize just how much history there is to be found on any road trip.
Architecture from another time is one element that draws me to Cape May. I’d love to stay in town for a weekend, maybe gather some relatives or a few friends stay and at one of the beautiful Victorian accommodations.