Time and again, Cape May beaches are ranked among the top ten in the US and top 25 in the world. Yes, TripAdvisor ranked Cape May beaches as one of the best IN THE WORLD. With that in mind, here is our guide to the beaches of Cape May, NJ. Because we know that no two beaches are the same, you will want to know which beach fits your personality.
Spending the day on the beach is the ultimate in fun and relaxation. For many of our guests, coming to Cape May is a bucket list trip! As the tides ebb and flow, the scenery changes all day long. Build sandcastles in the sand, jump in the surf, and catch up with friends and family. You’ll see folks swimming, boogie boarding, surfing, and more. In addition, the ocean beaches are lifeguard protected and are open daily during daytime hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Those who know Cape May know that it’s not just beaches–there is also historic architecture, world-class restaurants, and year-round festivals. But the beaches are the pristine jewels, particularly during the summer months.
A Little Geography
To understand the peculiarities of each beach, you need to know where it is situated. Cape May is a hoof-shaped peninsula of land resting at the southern tip of New Jersey. The western edge faces Delaware Bay, while Cape May City faces the Atlantic Ocean on the southeastern side. The Cape May Canal cuts off the mainland from the island on the northern side. The canal was built during World War 2 by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the area from German U-Boats. Let’s start on the bay side and work our way around.
Higbee Wildlife Management Area
The state of New Jersey owns Higbee Wildlife Management Area, which represents over 1,000 acres of dunes, scrubland, salt marsh, and beachfront. National Geographic Magazine has named it one of the top ten birding destinations in the world. This is a beach for walking, not swimming (there are no lifeguards and lots of former industry partially buried). There are no amenities, and don’t be surprised if you run into some people bathing au naturel (although it is technically illegal). But it is quiet and usually not crowded.
Sunset Beach adjoins Higbee and is best known for spectacular sunsets and Cape May diamonds. What are they? Small pieces of quartz crystal that can be polished to look like a diamond. You can park for free, fly a kite, take photos, and look at the remains of the SS Atlantus, an experimental concrete ship resting offshore.
Cape May Point
As we hit the point and cross over to the Atlantic side, the beaches from here on will require beach tags during the season (Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day). This small residential area has a beach for walking and sunbathing, but NOT swimming. It is quiet and flat, and family-friendly.
Cape May Point State Park
Cape May Point State Park is the home of the iconic Cape May lighthouse. There are nature programs, bird-watching, more Cape May diamonds, and fishing. The Park was once a military base, so there are the remains of a gun battery.
City of Cape May Beaches
The City of Cape May Beaches are the beaches that are more typical of the Jersey Shore. Expect skimpy bathing attire, plenty of bars nearby, shopping, and restaurants. Each beach’s shape and slope change from year to year due to erosion and wind, but some nuances may only matter to locals and beach aficionados.
These beaches require beach tags; go to the city website for details about getting your tag, guard schedules, fees, and ordinances. If you stay with us at the Carroll Villa Hotel, we provide towels and beach tags (during the summer season) for Steger’s Beach.
The Cove Beach is known as the King of Cape May Beaches. It has a gentle slope and soft sand. The landscape changes from year to year, showcasing tidepools and buried jetties. It is open to surfers all day.
Broadway Beach is wide, even at high tide. This is the beginning of where the locals (particularly younger folks) hang out. You may see dolphins playing out on the ocean. It is well-patrolled by lifeguards. The one negative is limited parking. Surfing here is only permitted before and after lifeguard hours.
Grant Street, Windsor, and Congress Street
Grant Street is the home to Cape May Beach Patrol Headquarters. Windsor is a favorite neighborhood beach. Congress is the home of Congress Hall. If you are staying there, expect personalized towel and beach chair service. Surfing is only permitted when lifeguards are not on duty.
Steger’s has Victorian-style beach cabanas for rent, as well as chairs, umbrellas, and surfboards. Surfing, however, is only permitted before and after lifeguards are on duty.
Poverty Beach has a long history; supposedly, it was the beach where the “help” mingled. It now has showers and other amenities. Surfing here is for experts only.
What Follows a Day at the Beach
Our guide to the beaches of Cape May, NJ, has shown you that the beaches here are home to shorebirds, sand crabs, and the best sunrises and sunsets around. Time spent here will bring memories to last a lifetime. After a day at the beach, spend some time shopping at Washington Street Mall or exploring all of the unique Victorian architecture all around town.
Located just minutes from the beach with spacious suites and luxurious amenities, our hotel is a winning choice for accommodations in Cape May, NJ. The beach is a top destination for visitors looking for what the Jersey Shore is famous for — the surf, the sand — you just can’t beat it! It is not too late to reserve a suite at our hotel for an amazing summer getaway. Book direct online for best rates or contact us at any time for assistance or questions.