My mom grew up in Ocean City, NJ, living the beach life you may imagine one would live. She and my dad raised us in Upper Township, NJ, just over the 34th Street Bridge. Saying I was “from the Jersey Shore (but not that Jersey Shore!)” was a fun talking point during sorority recruitment I once participated in (/endured). But I don’t think I really realized how wonderful of a place the South Jersey shore was to grow up until recent years. I went through a pretty long period after college where I didn’t appreciate going back home and taking in all this magical area had to offer.
But now that I’m dating a shoobie who really loves the shore, and had many different experiences in different towns than I did, we go down every chance we can. People say we should invest in a timeshare resort when they see how much we love traveling. At first, it might seem like a good idea, but you get to see so people investors trying to get rid of wyndham timeshare because of its high maintenance fees. Normal hotels are great anyway when we’re always discovering new places and showing each other our old faves. I am so thankful I was raised in a place that brings people joy, and I’m excited to share some of the places that have brought me the most joy at the shore.
Thanks to COVID, a few of you have shared you’re looking to do a fall shore vacation. With schools being virtual, many shore spots are staying open to accomodate more flexible schedules. What started as a question from my friend Neil on Twitter has transformed to a loooong list of faves, with editing and contributions from my sister, my mom, and of course, Jim. It’s pretty Ocean City heavy because that’s my town, but we tried to share the love. 🙂
I hope this list gives you a starting point on the best shore bops, hidden gems, and places you really should add into your next Cape May County trip. Enjoy!
Avalon Coffee Co. (Avalon, Cape May, North Cape May, Rio Grande) – perfect for an iced coffee and time to recap the night before (but you will always run into someone there)
Jon & Patty’s (Ocean City)
Hot Bagels And More (Atlantic City, Margate, Northfield, Somers Point) – the best bagels and breakfast sandwiches in South Jersey!
Dock Mike’s (Cape May, Sea Isle) – we went to the Sea Isle location all the time in high school.
OC Surf Cafe (Ocean City)
Hula Restaurant (Ocean City) – truly can’t express how delicious the Hawaiian-inspired food is. One of my hands-down favorite places on this whole list.
Yianni’s Cafe (Ocean City) – I waitressed here summers at home during college! Easy beach food & delicious Greek specialties.
Bella Vida Cafe (West Cape May)
Ventura’s Greenhouse (Margate) – right next to Lucy the Elephant if you want that photo op!
The Red Store (Cape May Point) – my favorite fancy place at the shore. It’s in a residential neighborhood attached to an old general store.
Menz Restaurant (Rio Grande)
Congress Hall (Cape May) – there are a few places to eat at Cape May’s most gorgeous hotel – all are fun!
Harpoons on the Bay (North Cape May) – Really fun drinks, and you can time your meal to enjoy the gorgeous sunset views!
Mack’s Pizza (Wildwood) – Jim’s favorite. I really love it, too. It’s very thick when you get toppings and just so delicious. A very consistent pie.
Bakeria 1010 (Linwood)
Tony’s Baltimore Grill (Atlantic City)
Circle Pizza (Avalon) – especially good if you have just finished up at the Princeton.
Manco & Manco (Ocean City, Somer’s Point) – the pizza of my childhood! Manco & Manco has a cult-like following so you were usually wait (unless it’s the off season!) but they have multiple boardwalk locations.
Springer’s (Stone Harbor) – my mom used to go here as a kid. It’s still so good.
Yum Yums (Sea Isle)
Kohr Brothers (Cape May, Ocean City, Stone Harbor, Wildwood) – a true classic! Get the orange sherbert twist with jimmies.
Little Danny’s (Green Creek) – this is not in a traditional shore town, but you’ll pass it as you’re driving around the area. I love the cartoon people and always stop.
Best Food Souvenirs
(outside of salt water taffy & fudge, obviously!)
Wards Pastry cookies (Ocean City) – another spot my mom always took us to growing up. Honestly everything is good there – including the rolls.
Hank Sauce (Sea Isle)
Johnson’s Popcorn (Ocean City, Wildwood) – a crowd pleaser!
Bennie’s Bread (Ocean City)
Ocean City Coffee Co. Beans (Ocean City) – they have *so* many different varieties! A really fun personalized gift.
Wineries & Breweries
Mudhen Brewing Co. (Wildwood) – Mudhen has delicious food & lots of seating, but it’s usually pretty crowded.
Cape May Brewing Co (Cape May) – in a cool spot (next to an airport!) and has really cool merch. No food, but you can bring your own in.
Cape May Winery (Cape May) – this place gets *crowded,* but they know what they’re doing! They do serve a limited food menu.
Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery (Rio Grande) – my favorite winery at the shore. They have food trucks and festivals.
Ludlam Island (Ocean View) – really fun and low-key spot just outside of the direct beach towns. There is not food but sometimes a food truck available.
The Princeton (Avalon) – a classic shore establishment (and one of the only bars in Avalon) and so fun for people watching.
1 Tavern (Wildwood) – Quintessential dive bar with a lot of history. Their Super Tully Nut drink is worth having at least once during your shore travels.
Ocean Drive (Sea Isle) – It gets pretty crowded at the OD, and people are going to be smashed, but there are really fun bands playing and it’s always a fun time.
Ugly Mug (Cape May)
Seagrass Boutique (Ocean City) – our favorite spot to shop at the shore! If you go in, tell Kevin I said hi!
West End Garage (Cape May) – a very popular shore shopping spot where you never know what you’ll find. There are 50 stores housed in an old garage/gas station – perfect for vintage finds, local souvenirs, and more.
The Preppy Palm (Avalon)
Suncatcher Surf Shop (Stone Harbor)
Colette (Ocean City) – I always find great things at Colette. One of my favorite places for Small Business Saturday!
The beach! – Jersey beaches all have their own personality and perks. Most require beach tags during the season, so be sure to see if you need a full season pass or a daily.
Sunset at Cape May Point
AC beach bars & casinos – We love spending the day in Atlantic City. There are tons of fun pool bars at the casinos or beach bars (we love Bally’s).
Cape May Walking Tour – Cape May is a gorgeous historic town – and they have tours year round to show off their architecture or holiday decorations!
Cape May County Zoo