Traveler: Cape May, New Jersey

Forget the images conjured up by the words “Jersey Shore.” Cape May, New Jersey, makes for a relaxing family getaway more akin to Cape Cod than the boardwalking dance party you’ve seen on MTV.

Cape May, New Jersey, is America’s oldest seaside resort, and probably not what most people picture as the Jersey Shore. I’m a longtime fan of this peaceful island at the Garden State’s southern tip—it might be little-known to Hoosiers who prefer ocean getaways in Florida, but its historic charm and family-friendly feel make it a truly serene beach destination.

While the supple sand gets a little too hot for me at midday, it makes great padding for ambitious dives during sunset volleyball games. The next morning, a dip in the pleasantly numbing waves soothes any aching muscles. The beach is never too crowded, even around noon, when a pod of dolphins might pass by close to shore.

The entire city of Cape May was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976, so the oceanside streets lined with Victorian homes have been preserved for tired travelers to rest, laugh with relatives, and nurse sunburns. I visited Cape May in late June for a family vacation, where we rented out an entire nine-bedroom house. This is pretty standard in the family-oriented town, but couples and smaller groups can crash at one of the antique homes now used as hotels.

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