I am pleased to introduce my son-in-law, Ken McCarron, who is an enviromental consultant, and the author of this post. He lives in Denver, Colorado with my daughter, Becca. They have two dogs, Konza and Lexi.
The wind it blew from Sou’sou’east,
It blew a pleasant breeze
And the man upon the lookout cried:
“A Light upon the lee!”
They reported to the Captain and
these words did he say –
“Cheer up my sailor lads,
Its the light on old Cape May.
(Traditional sea shanty from late 1800’s to early 1900’s)
Cape May, New Jersey is well known as one of the country’s oldest vacation resort destinations and claims to be America’s first seaside resort. Known for its rich maritime history, Victorian style architecture, restaurants, and beautiful beaches, Cape May attracts visitors from all over the world. In a county with only about 95,000 permanent residents, but with summer weekends where the population can grow to 800,000, finding places to escape and walk among the wetlands and trees and enjoy solace from the crowds can be difficult. However, Cape May is also a favorite destination for many birdwatchers and there are many natural hideaways just a short drive from downtown that can help soothe the weary vacationer. The locations that are presented here are ones with easy access and well marked hiking trails, with the farthest being only about 25 minutes travel time from the beaches, with most much closer.
South Cape May Meadows
A very short drive (1.4 miles/2.25 km) from downtown off of Sunset Blvd, is The Nature Conservancy’s 212 acre (0.86 Km2) South Cape May Meadows. With an estimated 90,000 visitors a year and the close proximity to town, this may not be the least crowded location, but the ease of access and convenience allows for a nice easy side trip from shopping. There are two miles of trails, scenic overlooks, observation platforms, and other places to relax and explore the nature of the Cape May Peninsula. However, this is a preserve for wildlife and not a park, so there are no provisions for picnicking or recreational activities (no swimming, bikes, or pets) other than observing nature. Information about the refuge area and a trail map can be found at the Nature Conservancy website
Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek
Another short drive from downtown is another The Nature Conservancy site, the Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek. Located about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from downtown, take Seashore Rd north until you come to Wilson St and take a left. There is a parking area just over the railroad tracks on the west side of the property. Unlike South Cape May Meadows, this preserve does have provisions for picnicking and recreational activities such as biking, although trash containers are not provided so please carry out what you carry in. This 180 acre (0.73 km2) area of recovering farm fields (now wildflower meadows), upland forests, and wetlands was originally slated to be developed but was protect in 2013 through the generosity of the Garrett family. There are about 4 miles (6.4 km) of hiking trails that take you through the different ecosystems to picnic tables and shelters, bird blinds, arbors, and wildflowers, to help you escape and relax from a day at the beach or shopping. Information about the refuge area and a trail map can be found at the Nature Conservancy website
Cape May National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
Part of the national wildlife refuge system for the United States, Cape May NWR was set aside to preserve key habitats for wildlife, but they also provide an opportunity for recreational use such as hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, environmental education, photography, and hunting. The Cape May NWR system is made of up of multiple land tracts broken up into three units and encompassing over 21,200 acres (86 km2): the Delaware Bay Division, the Great Cedar Swamp Division, and the Two Mile Beach Unit. The Two Mile Beach Unit is located just a short drive east (5.4 miles / 8.7 km) from downtown near Diamond Beach. This is a nice place to spend an afternoon, especially on weekends during the summer when the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge often present Free Family Nature Walks including special walks to observe the ghost crabs and mole crab beach habitats. Information can be found on the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife webpage along with other activities
The headquarters office and visitor contact station Cape May NWR is a longer drive from Cap May, about 14 miles (22.5 km), however, there are more opportunities for longer hikes and a chance to see more of the county as you drive some of the less traveled roads. The Cape May NWR website provides details about hiking trails and activities within the three units. In addition, the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge also present some activities and walks at Kimbles Beach near the visitor contact station
Directions to Two Mile Beach Unit: Go north on Lafayette St (109) and turn right at Ocean Dr., then in about 4.7 miles (7.6 km) turn right at USCG Entrance St. and follow this road until you see the Two Mile Beach Visitor Center on the left; the parking lot is on Two Mile Beach Access Rd. Watch your speed as you travel on Ocean Dr. towards Diamond Beach, the police like to park just before the entrance to the preserve.
Directions to Cape May NWR headquarters office and visitor contact station: It’s about a 14 mile (22.5 km) drive from Cape May to the visitor contact station (24 Kimbles Beach Road, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210); take Seashore Rd north for about 7 miles (11.2 km) and turn left at South Delsea Dr., go another 6.6 miles (10.6 km) and turn left at Kimbles Beach Rd. and the headquarters will be on the left in a few 100 feet.