Natural Wonders

The grand reveal: Meet N.J.’s 2022 Destination of the Year

The Jersey’s Best editorial team has had it pretty tough these past few months. If you think it’s easy to pick one “best” from the rest of all the Jersey Shore bests, you best believe it is not. 

After an exhaustive review of countless charts, graphs, Venn diagrams, photos, stats, menus, things-to-do lists, maps and surveys, one town has bested the competition, practically charming its way to the top. 

Our editors’ pick for the Jersey’s Best 2022 Destination of the Year is … Cape May! 

A National Historic District in its entirety, Cape May is characterized by its lovingly restored and maintained Victorians. Photo courtesy of Cape May MAC

The announcement was met with humble gratitude by Diane Wieland, director of tourism for Cape May County. 

“To win is a source of pride for everyone! Whether you live in Cape May or in the surrounding Cape May County, it is an honor. Everyone works to make this county shine, and Cape May is a shining star for us.” 

Here’s why Jersey’s Best agrees: 

A National Historic District in its entirety, Cape May is characterized by its lovingly restored and maintained Victorians — many of them transformed into bed-and-breakfast accommodations. Romantic, gracious, hospitable and cozy, these locales of Cape May offer an experience to savor and celebrate in any season and for any reason. Each of the more than 20 inns welcomes guests in a unique embrace, furnishing private quarters amid shared spaces for dining and leisure, particularly on grand porches that invite folks to sit and relax over afternoon tea or a cocktail. And the breakfasts? Divine. 

There are other breakfasts — and lunches and dinners, too — to be had in Cape May, where dining options are abundant and exceptional. From casual delights at the Mad Batter to elegant flavors at Provence, every culinary wish is granted. And seafood lovers are treated to the freshest catch here in New Jersey’s largest commercial fishing port. 

Beyond the bed-and-breakfasts, there are plenty of places to stay in town, including the majestic and historic Congress Hall. Photo courtesy of Cape May MAC

Beyond the bed-and-breakfasts, there are plenty of places to stay in town, including private rentals and more than 40 hotels, like the majestic and historic Congress Hall, the amenity rich Grand Hotel and the pet-friendly Marquis de Lafayette Hotel 

Cape May’s location brings early warmth and a delayed autumn chill, serving up summers that stretch beyond the calendar’s expiration date. Beach days are sublime, whether you’re simply soaking up the sun or taking a plunge in the ocean for swim and sport.  

Birds of a feather flock to Cape May, home to spring and fall migrations of waterfowl, raptors and Monarch butterflies; visitors come from around the world to witness its natural wonders. Eco-tourism is booming at Cape May Point State Park, where you can hike the trails along the dunes and marshes, observing wildlife along the way.  

Cape May Point State Park is a major destination for spring and fall migrations of waterfowl, raptors and Monarch butterflies. Photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media

Less “outdoorsy” but still outdoors and accomplished on foot is a shopping stroll at the Washington Street Mall. Not just an activity to be saved for the occasional rainy day, a trip to this quaint town square with dozens of independent and specialty shops filled with apparel, accessories, gourmet treats and treasures made by local artists and crafters is not to be missed. 

If the spirit moves you, take a tour of Cape May’s wineries, breweries and distilleries. Visit on your own or book a bus, trolley or bike tour for safe passage as you sample and savor Jersey-made wine, beer and liquor — any time of year, often with live music as a chill backdrop. Nearly every stop along the “booze trail” offers its own schedule of special events to add to the fun. 

If the spirit moves you, take a tour of Cape May’s wineries, breweries and distilleries to savor Jersey-made concoctions in a beautiful setting. Photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media

Cape May’s calendar of events spans the seasons, with music and craft festivals, parades, car shows and more taking place throughout the year, drawing thousands. The beachfront Convention Hall is a centerpiece for community events, including the Cape May Music Festival and Movies on the Beach. The Exit Zero Jazz Festival, held in the spring and fall, is a huge celebration, with three stages for performances at both Convention Hall and Exit Zero Ferry Park. 

All this, and we haven’t even mentioned the beach, which stretches for two picturesque miles with the Atlantic on one side and the paved promenade on the other. Cape May’s beaches are considered among the best on the coast.  

Yes, Cape May has it all. From the silky sands on its pristine beach to the tips of the turrets that adorn its Victorian streetscape, everything about Cape May beckons you to visit and compels you to keep coming back. The nation’s first and oldest seaside resort makes history, once again. Congratulations on another first: the inaugural winner of the Jersey’s Best 2022 Destination of the Year! 

Susan Kronberg is a freelance writer and Jersey girl. A married mother of two, she’s worked in insurance, transportation, marketing, newspapers and private education. Writing is but one thread that connects the patchwork of her professions.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Jersey’s Best. Subscribe here for in-depth access to everything that makes the Garden State great.

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