When one thinks of New Jersey and travel opportunities, one of the spots that might come to mind is the Cape May Peninsula. If you are aware of the resort town that bears the same name, it is quite likely that you associate it with the beach rather than viticulture. Based on the quality of the local wine the tasting venues, the region is emerging as a wine tourism destination as well.
The Peninsula and Its Wine
Geographically, the Cape May Peninsula is further south than Northern Virginia. The moderating effects of the proximity to the ocean also mean cooler evenings and breezes that protect against frost. Furthermore, the sandy soil provides exceptional drainage. So the conditions for grape vines are as good or better than most other parts of the east coast.
Southern New Jersey is home to more than 30 wineries, but only a half dozen are located on the Cape. That handful, however, are disproportionately wineries of note.
Cape May Winery is one of the state’s oldest and largest producers. The modern, and spacious guest facilities can accommodate and displace crowds even on a busy day. The wines are also exceptional with something for nearly every palate. It is absolutely one of the Garden State’s most iconic wineries.
A small, but important winery, Turdo Vineyards & Winery is just a few miles from town. There are no palatial guest facilities, but the wines are arguably among the best in the Mid Atlantic. Sal and Luca Turdo do not source any fruit and they are small producers. Italian varieties are their strength, but the are also doing great things with some French and Austrian varieties. Call ahead, because when they run low on wine, they will close for the year.
A relative newcomer is Willow Creek Farm and Winery, which is also very close to town. In addition to fine wine, this producer hosts a variety of public events and their facilities are some of the nicest you will find at any winery.
Other must-visit producers, from south to north, include Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery, Jessie Creek Winery and Natali Vineyards.
Historic Cape May
The Atlantic Coast town of Cape May is without doubt a tourist destination in its own right. Its stately Victorian homes have largely been converted to business use and now serve as lodging and dining venues. Nevertheless, they do preserve the historic feel of the of the lovely old neighborhoods and they are within a few minutes walk of the beach.
The town’s pedestrian shopping area on Washington Street is just a short hike from Beach Avenue. It is very tourist oriented, but a fun stroll and a great spot to pick up a local souvenir or stop for ice cream on a hot summer evening.
Congress Hall, a historically significant 19th century hotel that has hosted several presidents, anchors one end of the pedestrian mall. It is still a lodging and dining option along with many others at a wide range of price points.
Other Points of Interest
Located in Lower Township’s Cape May Point State Park, the 19th century Cape May Lighthouse is still in operation. The park contains historical exhibits, guided tours and adjacent wetlands are home to a wide variety of waterfowl.
In addition to the beaches, there are opportunities for a full range of other water related activities including board sports and paddling. Whale and dolphin watching are family-friendly options.