Walking Tour of Cape May, New Jersey, USA
The city of Cape May, at the southern tip of New Jersey, was one of the nation’s first beach resorts. It attracted the wealthy, rivaling Newport, RI in its heyday, due to its attractive location and beautiful beach. Because it contains perhaps the greatest concentration of Victorian architecture in the United States, the entire Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. There are over 600 buildings in the area which are part of this collection. Most of the properties listed in the register are commercial establishments, bed & breakfasts or hotels, because they can be visited, but there are many more gorgeous homes which can be seen on this walk, or by strolling up and down other streets, not included here.
My walk begins at the Cape May Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Information Center, located on Lafayette Street (Route 109), the primary entryway into the town. Pick up a map and other information before proceeding on your walking tour.
Walk north on Lafayette Street (the direction you came from) and turn right on Jefferson Street, and then right again on Columbia Avenue. The John Benezet Cottage, now the Linda Lee Bed & Breakfast (at #725), was built in 1872. Its Gothic windows and Gingerbread styling are particularly lovely. Nearby is Twin Gables, built in the same year.
Turn left on Franklin Street and then left again on Kearney Avenue, then right on Jefferson, to reach the beach. At the corner of Stockton Avenue, en route, is the Victorian Lace Inn. At Beach Drive, turn right, and then right again on Howard Street. The Chalfonte Hotel, at #301, built in 1876, is one of the oldest hotels in town. When you reach Columbia Avenue, turn left. Notice the Mainstay Inn, at #635, built in 1872, the Mason Cottage (#625), from 1871, the Summer Cottage Inn, at #613, an Italianate structure built in 1867, and the John Craig House, at #609.
Now, turn left onto Ocean Street. Here you will find the Fairthorne Inn, done in Colonial Revival style, at #111, the Queen Victoria, a residence built in the 1880’s, at #102, and, as you approach the water, Leith Hall, at #22.
Continue walking to the ocean and turn left, then left again onto Gurney Street. The Gingerbread, a lovely Gothic-style house, can be found at #28, and the Abbey Inn, also Gothic, is at #34. Turn right on Columbia Avenue, and then right again, on Stockton Place. When you reach the Boardwalk, turn right, and walk along Beach Avenue, all the way to Jackson Street.
Turn right at Jackson Street to find the Carrol Villa Hotel, built in 1882, an Edwardian-style Windward House, at #24, and the 1879 Virginia Hotel, across the street. Now, turn left on Carpenter’s Lane, and then right on Perry Street. The Gothic Bayberry Inn, which once belonged to a former mayor of the city, is one of the oldest homes in town. It was originally built in 1800, although the present façade was added in 1856.
At the fork, bear right onto Myrtle Avenue, to reach the Wilbraham Mansion, which dates to 1840, and the Albert Stevens Inn, erected in the Queen Anne style, in 1898.
Next, turn left on Broadway, and left again on Grant Street, and left again on Lafayette Street, then right on Perry Street, and left into the Victorian-style Washington Street Mall & Commons, the major shopping area in Cape May. After browsing through the many stores, working you way eastward, continue east on Washington Street, to find the Emlen Physick Estate, a restored 18-room mansion which dates to 1879. It is now a respected museum, displaying period furnishings and artifacts. After your visit, backtrack to Madison Avenue, and turn right, then left onto Lafayette Street, to return the origination of the walk.