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Beaches & Natural Attractions

The big draws in summer are Cape May's calm waters and wide, white sandy beaches. The beach is accessible all along Beach Drive, with concessions and public restrooms available near Convention Hall (at Stockton Place) and at various points along the Promenade. In summer, beach tags are required on all Cape May beaches; virtually all inns and motels will provide beach tags (currently $4 per day, $13 per week, free for kids 11 and under) to their guests.

Locals usually head to Sunset Beach at Cape May Point (take W. Perry St. to Sunset Blvd.), which has a nice swimming cove, easy parking, and a beach grill. It's worth visiting any time of year to see the Atlantus, one of 12 experimental concrete ships built during World War I. Needless to say, this was not a good idea; the curious ship ran aground in 1926, and its remains poke through the waves just offshore.

The area's best beach is 2 miles south of town, at Cape May Point State Park (tel. 609/884-2159; www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests), also accessible via Sunset Boulevard (turn left on Lighthouse Ave.). The quiet, noncommercial crescent of white sand has restrooms but no concessions, so pack a picnic. You can climb to the top of Cape May Lighthouse (tel. 609/884-5404; www.capemaymac.org), the second-tallest operating lighthouse in the United States, for breathtaking coastline views. It's a grueling (and very narrow) 199 steps (about 14 1/2 stories), but exhibits give you an excuse to rest at various points along the way. Admission costs $5 for adults, $2 for children 11 and under. The park also has 3 miles of hiking trails through wetlands (some wheelchair accessible), which are great for birders.

Avid birders will want to visit the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, just before the park turnoff on Sunset Boulevard. This 212-acre refuge is one of the East Coast's premier birding areas. Call the New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory (tel. 609/884-2736) for more information.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.