Secrets of the Shore- New Jersey Beaches Pt. 3

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It’s been a cause for celebration lately, it being summer and my family and friends being in town at the same time and all, which means, lucky you—an influx of postings! Shortly after my best friend Colleen came into town for the month, we headed to none other than the Jersey Shore. She had never been there before. I have been to a few beaches a few times, and it was time to check out a place I have only been to once, late at night for a horseshoe crab survey.

Part III: Cape May, New Jersey

Getting there: The route getting to Cape May from Philadelphia differed slightly from other beaches on the shoreline. Since Cape May is located at the southernmost tip of New Jersey, the drive was a tad bit longer (think 1 hour 45 minutes). But with good company, conversation and music, the drive is a breeze! You want to take the Atlantic City Expressway East and The Garden State Parkway South for most of the drive. For logistics, I won’t insult you. You know to Google Map it or use a GPS.

Getting around: Like many of the shore towns, driving is relatively easy. The “main drag” as I like to always call it is Beach Avenue (not surprisingly) where you find all the beach access points. Beach access for the day is $5, and unlike Long Beach Island, they do patrol, so bring your cash! Bikes are for rent from many different shops, if you prefer to get around that way. Or do like the locals do and skateboard the streets in your bikini! If you get tired of the crowds along Beach Avenue, head in your car about 3 miles NW down New England Road and discover the quiet, untamed New Jersey wilderness that is Higbee Beach.

Enter the wild and exotic Higbee Beach

Higbee Beach: Once a hot spot for nudists, Higbee Beach is the sort of place only locals know about. You have to hike through a wooded area to get there, and there are no amenities, no lifeguards, and best of all no rules! Don’t sunbathe nude, because you will run into the occasional dog walker or sunbather. They say you shouldn’t swim there because there are sunken docks and old boat remains near the shore. If that doesn’t scare you away from taking a dip, maybe the epic sized Jellyfish and Horseshoe crabs will! Whether you gain the courage to take a dip or not is up to you, but one thing’s for sure: you won’t be battling for space on this remote stretch of beach. 

Pastel-colored homes in Cape May

Atmosphere: Cape May is the sort of place young, affluent families vacation. Hardly a hard-knock in sight, yuppies abound here. Not that it’s all bad. The beach town reminded me of Destin, Florida and Key West combined, just without all the drunken debauchery of Key West. Imagine the small-town feel you get in the Truman Show and match that with some of the playfulness you see in Key West and you have an about right image. Restaurants could be a little pricey for the young and struggling, so don’t discount packing lunch before you go or checking out a cheap deli/sandwich shop for grub. After the beach, it was hard to find a beach bar with live entertainment or even good drink specials. The most party-friendly place we could find was giving away tables to families with highchairs and providing them crayons. While there’s nothing wrong with children, it definitely was not the beach-town atmosphere I was looking for as a young person. If you want a little bit of a party scene, Cape May (at least the main drag) might not be the place for you.

Good times: We all enjoyed swimming out past where the waves broke in the Atlantic, letting the larger waves carry us to and fro while floating on our backs. We also snuck some beer onto the beach and enjoyed those until the midday sun threatened to dehydrate us. Higbee Beach was an awesome find, and having your own piece of paradise is always great!

Whatchu Say?! Moments: While on the main beach, the lifeguard whistled at us and made us come back into shore, saying we had swim out to far, and that, in fact, we were in a designated non-swim zone, even though the actual swim zone was about 20 feet away. Also, at Higbee Beach, the Jellyfish and Horseshoe crab population might be enough to make you run for the hills, not the water. Since you technically aren’t supposed to swim there anyway because of the debris, I can’t knock on the wildlife too hard.

Horseshoe Crabs not your thing? Mine neither

In a nutshell: A great getaway for the day or a couple of days. I would definitely come back, although I might stay for a night or two since the drive is almost 2 hours in each direction. Also, I must say, a lesson to be learned from the trip is to trek the road less traveled! Without doing so, we would have never found the best part- Higbee beach. There is a reason why Cape May is often praised for having some of the best beaches in the world. As far as accessibility, value, beauty and location is concerned, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend an afternoon-or week!

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